Personnel: Roy Assaf (piano); Robin Verheyen (saxophone); Roy Hargrove (trumpet); Eddy Khaimovich (double bass); Ronen Itzik (drums).
Audio Mixer: John "Babbacombe" Lee.
Liner Note Author: Bill Milkowski.
Recording information: Alley Cat Studio, South Orange, NJ (01/06/2007-01/09/2007).
Arrangers: Roy Assaf; Eddy Khaimovich.
Two Israeli expatriates who stumbled upon one another on the New York jazz scene, pianist Roy Assaf and bassist Eddy Khaimovich put together a debut that capitalizes on the theme of modernization, updating not only classic compositions with new arrangements and reworkings, but updating the stylings of classic players through the quartet's stylings. The album opens with a groove-heavy rendition of Cole Porter's "All of You," also unveiling the quartet's secret weapon: guest soloing courtesy of Roy Hargrove on a handful of tracks. Assaf makes some Keith Jarrett-style solo moves and Khaimovich pumps out the first of many bass solos beyond the standard for quartet recordings. Hargrove takes the stage somewhat more fully in "You Don't Know What Love Is," though simplifying the solos a bit. "Stuv" shows off Khaimovich's composition skills with a more contemplative feel and a cooler mood. Not to be outdone, Assaf contributes his first original to the record with "On the Way," making use of Hargrove and sax player Robin Verheyen in tandem for some jumping lines in the vein of Coltrane and Weather Report. Trading compositions back and forth, this combination becomes apparent again, with Khaimovich contributing easier going, more emotive pieces (though featuring at least one higher-energy sax solo in "The Saga of Imaba") and Assaf using phrasing and a strong playing approach to infuse a little more drama and power into his ballad than might be expected from a simple waltz. The album closes with a more sweeping piece, a dramatic tune with charging chords courtesy of Assaf and stunning soloing courtesy of Verheyen that makes the rest of the album seem a little pale in retrospect. All of the elements of the quartet come together in full force to close out the album, meshing together as a proper modern jazz quartet. Andarta doesn't plow headlong into new territory, but carries the traditions forward a bit, introducing them to fertile grounds of innovation. ~ Adam Greenberg