As jazz enters its second century, a remarkable reality has taken hold. The music is not only loved around the globe, it’s constantly expanding to encompass a world of unlimited cross-fertilization. Roni Ben-Hur is an Israeli guitarist from a Tunisian family, Santi Debriano is a Panamanian bassist who grew up in Brooklyn and Duduka Da Fonseca is a Brazilian drummer. With a melting pot of musical influences that spans four continents, they have recorded one of the most exciting jazz albums of the year.
The most obvious ingredient in the mix is the relentlessly imaginative guitar playing by Ben-Hur. He’s not only as fast and fluid as any guitarist on the contemporary scene; he’s always ready to venture into adventurous musical territory. But not so fast; when Debriano solos on bass, he is equally compelling. And as a composer Debriano lights up the album with four excellent tunes including the catchy title track, the exotic “Afroscopic” and the beautiful ballad “Suave.” Although he doesn’t get equal billing, Da Fonseca is superb throughout whether playing drum set or a host of other percussion instruments.
Of course Ben-Hur is no slouch when it comes to composition. “Anna’s Dance” is an eloquent mid-tempo tune and “Earl’s Key” is the perfect vehicle for his slinky melodic style. Da Fonseca’s contribution, “Iabella,” is a fresh take on the waltz form. In fact, there’s not a weak link on this album. All four of the well-chosen standards - “Fotografia” and “Ela É Carioca” by Antonio Carlos Jobim, “Green Chimney’s” by Thelonious Monk and “Let’s Face the Music And Dance” by Irving Berlin - are nicely transformed by this wonderfully inventive trio.