Liran Donin’s 1000 Boats: 8 Songs review – seductive melodies and Led Bib thrash

Cavalo Records

In 2009, a riotously style-scrambling band of former Middlesex University jazz students called Led Bib made a big impression at that year’s Mercury prize. Like all the other jazz contenders who have ever made the shortlist, they didn’t win, but the sax-hollering, rhythmically wilful quintet managed to announce that dance-rooted music could risk improvisation and deliver edgy instrumentals with a vocal-like expressiveness, and that jazz could reach a wider fanbase without compromise if it only forgot about how cool it was supposed to be.

Led Bib’s bassist is Liran Donin, a Tel Aviv-born virtuoso who, after years as a sought-after player/composer, has now made an exceptional album of his own. Led Bib alto-saxist Chris Williams is part of a powerful improvising lineup, but the songlike repertoire is much closer to folk and world music. Tracks often end on exhilarating Led Bib-like thrashes, but their melodic warmth has already seduced the listener with sax harmonies recalling Carla Bley (The Story of Annette and Maurice), the earthy folksiness of Avishai Cohen (Alma Sophia, or Noam, Sea and Sand), or the joyous polyphonies of Hermeto Pascoal (Free). Williams’ biting alto sax is ruggedly complemented by the multiphonic tenor sax squalls of Josh Arcoleo, while Donin’s flying pizzicato bass improv constantly takes off on this kaleidoscopic music’s fast-changing hooks. Young Italian pianist Maria Chiara Argirò impresses, too, with calmly spun spontaneous lines and reflective chord melodies. It’s a treat both for those in the jazz backyard, and those looking over the fence.

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