Thursday, May 01, 2014

Oran Etkin - Gathering Light

Israeli born Oran Etkin is among a number of distinctive voices (others include Chicago’s Jason Stein and Baltimore’s Todd Marcus) specializing on the bass clarinet. Etkin’s music has long incorporated elements from the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere and his new recording Gathering Light (Motéma Music) continues in this vein taking inspiration in part by tours the past few years in Indonesia, China, Japan, Israel and Europe. On this he is supported by his trio of bassist Ben Allison and drummer Nasheet Waits along with Curtis Fowlkes on trombone and long-time collaborator Lionel Loueke on guitar and vocals.

The compositions range from an Indonesian folk song to Louis Armstrong’s theme song and indicate the range of musical flavors heard here. The opening Gambang Suling is the Indonesian folk song referred to with just the trio as Etkin displays his mastery of the bass clarinet's full range from the deep woody low reaches to  saxophone like horn lines as the rhythm duo of Allison and Waits provide the groove and complement Etkin’s serpentine playing that sugests a klezmer clarinet. Taxi Dance has an African flair with Loueke’s guitar contributing with his chords and single run accents while Fowlkes adds color behind the leader’s clarinet. Loueke also solos with his mix of distorted staccato runs and rhythmic accenting before the three take off with some collective improvisation. The lovely Israeli song Shirim Ad Kan has lovely clarinet and a brief bass interlude from Allison.

African flavor characterizes the joyous, Gratitude, with the quintet that opens with Etkin's’s woody tone punctuated with squeaks while Loueke adds some prickly guitar and a vocal as the ensemble gets into an energetic groove. Takeda (Homesick Blues) has a more subued feel with Etkin’s clarinet (with Fowlkes’ trombone’s embellishments) casting a melancholic flavor on a composition based on a traditional Japanese song.

Tony’s Dance with its unusual structure is a performance in the spirit of some of Eric Dolphy, while Guangzhou Taxi is a fascinating  performance with changes in tempo and temperature of the performance as Loueke sets off some fireworks during his solo. Louis Armstrong was Etkin’s first inspiration and a rendition of When it’s Sleepy Time Down South is full of lyricism It is a marvelous performance that concludes a superb recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. His website is Here is a video of Gambang Suling.

No comments: