Described by Downbeat Magazine as "A Volcano on the Ocean Floor", Oded Tzur's flair for mystery and narrative captivates audiences worldwide. Based in New York, the saxophonist's work draws influence from the art of storytelling and explores relationships between ancient and modern musical traditions. His records have earned his band the title "The Coltrane Quartet of the 21st Century", and won extraordinary critical acclaim in Europe, South Africa, Japan, South America, Russia and the US. Tzur's unique language of improvisation takes the listener on a journey many describe as "musical storytelling", and evokes deep contrasts between silent passages and dramatic crescendos.
Coming from the Tel Aviv jazz scene of the 2000's, Oded Tzur's background consisted of rigorous training in a number of musical styles. His curiosity for improvised music led him to discover the ancient art of Indian classical music, which had set him on the path to become what Downbeat Magazine later called "an explorer of the microtonal".
In order to pursue the rare undertaking of playing Indian music, a style heavily based on microtonality, on a western instrument such as the saxophone, Tzur embarked on a decade-long research to construct a new saxophone technique - A Middle Path - as it was later named. The technique enables the saxophone to slide between the notes and highlight specific microtones, and departures from traditional saxophone playing so distinctly that the Indian grandmaster Hariprasad Chaurasia once summed it up by saying: "If a curtain were to be drawn in front of him, no one could tell which instrument was being played".
In 2007 Tzur became the first saxophonist to learn from the legendary Indian flutist. Chaurasia's elegant phrasing, spiritual depth and rhythmic mastery have had a profound influence on the saxophonist's music. The work process consisted of countless sessions in which Chaurasia would play a melody on the Bansuri – the Indian flute – and Tzur would then have to translate it onto the saxophone. Following the flutist's intricate style has refined Tzur's technique to the point where it started attracting attention from the international saxophone community.
"Tzur is the first saxophonist I've heard to do what I have long thought was possible, but have been unable to successfully achieve myself: that is to bring the science and artistry of saxophone playing to produce the rounded, beautiful and expressive slides of Indian music" – Sandy Evans
Saxophonists from Sydney to San Fransisco have been learning about Tzur's technique and its possible implications. He was also invited to lecture on the subject at a number of key institutions, such as Trinity College of Music, London, the Copenhagen Conservatory, the Amsterdam Conservatory and more. "For a subject that started as a solitary practice and was deemed impossible at first, it's humbling to see the attention and interest the technique has received during the past few years", says the saxophonist.
In 2011, Tzur moved to New York and established the Oded Tzur Quartet. This step marked a shift in the scope of his work as a composer: sliding not only between the notes of the saxophone, but also between the melodic universes of Indian classical music and jazz.
Since its creation, the quartet has toured around the world, presenting audiences with its captivating language of improvised music. Its three albums, Like a Great River, Translator's Note (Enja Records 2015 & 2017) and Here Be Dragons (ECM Records 2020) were released to extraordinary critical acclaim and established Tzur as a singular voice in today's jazz scene.
Here Be Dragons is the ECM debut of New York based, Tel Aviv born tenor saxophonist Oded Tzur, one of the most strikingly original musicians to have emerged from Israeli's creative jazz scene in recent years, and the leader of an outstanding group.
Oded Tzur has found a new and personal sound for the tenor saxophone. Inspired by his extensive studies from 2007 onward with bansuri master Hariprasad Chaurasia, he has mastered the graceful slides of Indian classical music and brought raga's sense of pitch fluidity and microtonal shading into a jazz context. His pieces elegantly explore and unfold their melodic and atmospheric implications in a context of subtle group interaction. Structurally, each of Tzur's compositions on Here Be Dragons sets out to develop a "miniature raga" over a moving bass, juxtaposing two musical concepts. Oded: "The dialogue between these dimensions takes us wherever it takes us." The ragas deployed in the pieces "Here Be Dragons", "20 Years" and "The Dream" are of Oded's creation, while "To Hold Your Hand" uses an Indian scale called Charukesi and operates on similar principles. He stresses, however, that "raga is, for me, a universal concept. I hear its connection to synagogue prayers, or to the blues – a marvellous creation – and to music all around the world." Ancient and modern traditions are referenced in Oded's work, including traditions of storytelling. "If music has the ability to tell stories," suggested All About Jazz, "saxophonist Oded Tzur proves himself one of the jazz world's premier storytellers." Tzur's concept is also broad enough to embrace some unexpected song choices, and the album concludes with a tender interpretation of "Can't Help Falling In Love", made famous by Elvis Presley.
Israeli tenor saxophonist and composer Oded Tzur (who was actually born in the Netherlands) has released his first album on the prestigious ECM label. Oded, who is working in or from New York since 2011 (where else?), debuted in 2015 with "Like A Great River" which was followed in 2017 with "Translator's Note".
It seems as if his new-found home at ECM has somehow earthed him, grounded him, since this release is much more connected and quintessential than its predecessors. We have lived with the album for a month now and the beauty of its content has not vanished. From the opening notes of the title track, its introspective stance, immensely melodious structure, almost hushed playing by the leader, this album sometimes comes across as Americana meets the Eastern world. Pianist Nitai Hershkovits is the perfect, reflecting partner during the opening piece, and Jonathan Blake‘s drum work is deeply balanced. Greek bassist Petros Klampanis rounds out the team on this beautiful piece of work.
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"Here Be Dragons is Oded Tzur's debut on the legendary record label ECM….‘Here Be Dragons' (HIC SVNT DRACONES in the original Latin) was an inscription indicating unexplored territories on old maps. Tzur composed the album for a new quartet, featuring Nitai Hershkovits on piano, Petros Klampanis on bass (also appearing on Tzur's previous albums) and Johnathan Blake on drums." The interplay and cohesion is fabulous throughout this performance. Their performance insists that the group must have had scripts, but sometimes the best jazz discovers beauty and delight that hasn't been shared before. This is a wonderful disc. Click here to listen to samples of the songs on this disc.
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Here Be Dragons (ECM Records) by Oded Tzur, the Israeli tenor sax man now living and working in New York City, takes its inspiration from ancient times when the Dutch Society of Cartography commissioned Florentine artist Filippo Brunelleschi to board a pirate ship in 1439 to seek out dragons. They found no such creatures but got drunk on rum and managed to survive a monster wave or two. Tzur heard these tales as a kid and was always fascinated by them. He also listened to a lot of ragas growing up thanks to his parents. The mathematical extremes of the classical music of India has now entered his lexicon as a sincere purveyor of post-bop fusion. No, not jazz-rock fusion, but folkloric jazz-classical fusion, rooted in the mysterious ambiance of India. It comes out as a haunted soundtrack to a horror movie that doesn't exist. He calls these tracks "miniature ragas." Bassist Petros Klampanis, from Greece, plays in an ornate throbbing style that gives even more life to Tzur's compositions. He's like a heart-beat. Israeli pianist Nitai Hershkovits, also now living and working in New York City, is the perfect foil for these inventions. Philadelphia drummer John Blake rounds out this most unique quartet with a solid dose of swing to keep everything grounded. (Blake previously played with Ravi Coltrane.) Surprises abound. Tzur's elegant compositions-raga-jazz?-draw the listener in to its web of intrigue. So what one cover would an Israeli-Greek-American fusion quartet perform on its debut? The album ends with Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling In Love" from the 1961 movie Blue Hawaii.
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Oded Tzur makes an extraordinary sound with his tenor saxophone. I suppose the last time I was quite so struck – entranced might be a better word – with the sound of a specific instrument played by a specific musician was when I first became aware of Arve Henriksen. Just as the Norwegian can sometimes make his trumpet sound closer to the shakuhachi, the ancient Far Eastern bamboo flute, so the Tel Aviv-born, New York-based Tzur gives his tenor a distinctly flute-like timbre, though in his case it is the Indian bansuri which is suggested.
All becomes clearer when one reads Steve Lake's essay in the CD booklet: Tzur has studied with bansuri master Hariprasad Chaurasia, and the influence of Indian music extends beyond the sound of his saxophone to the inspirations behind and structures of individual pieces on this quartet disc. Four of the eight tracks have raga influences and one uses an Indian scale, Lake tells us.
On piano is fellow Israeli/New Yorker Nitai Hershkovits (he will be remembered from bassist Avishai Cohen's band), on double bass is the Greek Petros Klampanis, and the drummer is Johnathan Blake, from Philadelphia. It's a marvellous band, each player bringing their own "thing" but each also dedicated to honouring the distinct character of Tzur's music. The result is an album that has already spent a large chunk of time in my player and is likely to be making frequent visits for years to come.
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TOP 10 Downloads
Ted Poor - Push Pull – New Deal, Impulse!
Oded Tzur - Here Be Dragons - ECM
Shabaka And The Ancestors - Go My Heart, Go To Heaven – Impulse!
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TOP 10 Streams
Ted Poor - Push Pull Newl Deal / impulse!
Oded Tzur - Here Be Dragons - ECM
Shabaka And The Ancestors - Go My Heart, Go To Heaven – Impulse!