Label/Year: Contagious Music Records, 2017
Lineup – Eden Ladin: piano, keyboards; Dayna Stephens: tenor saxophone and EWI; John Ellis: tenor and soprano saxophone; Gilad Hekselman: guitar; Harish Raghavan: bass; Daniel Dor: drums + guests Camila Meza: vocals; Yonatan Albalak: guitar.
Pianist Eden Ladin was born in New York and raised in Tel Aviv. He has been living in New York for nearly nine years and became a treasured sideman in projects led by great artists like Omer Avital, Wallace Roney, Ari Hoenig, trumpeter Avishai Cohen, and Myron Walden.
After all these years gaining experience and developing skills, it was more than time for him to express his own vision and self with the release of an album.
Yequm, meaning ‘universe’ in Hebrew, is a product of his musical sensitivity and evinces a very personal sound and tractable style. The ear-catching instrumentation is shaped with the help of first-rate bandmates like Dayna Stephens on tenor saxophone and EWI, John Ellis on tenor and soprano saxophone, Gilad Hekselman on guitar, Harish Raghavan on bass, and Daniel Dor on drums.
“Lonely Arcade Man”, originally written as an electronic track, opens the record with ecclesiastic organ plangency, living from a combination of serene melodies put out by Stephens’ EWI, Ladin’s soaring keyboard vibes and beautiful improvisation on the piano, and a syncopated rhythmic flux.
On the good-natured “Smell/Faded Memory”, Ladin revives some sensations from the past using nostalgic touches. A piano-guitar unison comes before Ellis’ solo but keeps echoing as he blows his soprano with impressive confidence.
“From the Frozen Cave” features a special guest: Israeli guitarist Yonatan Albalak, who also wrote it. The dark and often apprehensive tone affixed to this evanescent piece opposes to the brighter light emanated by the rest of the compositions, including the following “The One Warm Hearted Man Living in the Kingdom of Ice”, which blooms with strong cinematic spirit through a fruitful blend of classical, jazz, rock, and electronic influences. Stephens contributes with a gleefully expressive solo on tenor, followed by the bandleader, and all end with the jagged texture formed by Hekselman’s distorted guitar chords. Despite this finale, the guitarist adopts an understated posture until the sixth track, “Safta (Grandma)”, where he and Ellis embark on crisp, uncluttered soloing rides. Before that, a few embellished, scale-sweeping phrases had carved attractive Eastern figures in the ternary jazz core of the song.
Nonetheless, from that point on, Hekselman shines on “Times Square”, a Radiohead-style pop/rock song, “Gambit”, which is delivered with steadfast control, and also “Schlompi”, pushed forward with a naughty frolic and almost puerile happiness.
The appearance of another guest, vocalist Camila Meza (without her guitar), brings a celestial aura into the pristine “Dreams”, while the last track, “Autumn Song”, is probably one of the most beautiful on the album. The intricate tempo doesn't interfere with the lyricism of the tune whose melodic lines are simultaneously thrown in by Ellis and Hekselman. While assuring the song’s harmonic richness, Ladin shares with the saxophonist the time available for improvising.
Yequm is built on rich, amiable, and bracing sonic textures that enchant as they narrate both real and imaginary stories. Ladin’s openness to different styles is an asset in addition to the cohesiveness of a great band, which helped to tie everything together with plenty of light and color.
03 - The One Warm Hearted Man… ► 06 - Safta (Grandma) ► 11 - Autumn Song