Born in cultural collisions, jazz is hyphenated at heart: Afro-, Euro- and Latin-tinged. But beginning in the aftermath of bebop, jazz started opening to the world, making for a music today that’s positively shaggy with hyphens and modifiers. Nordic, Turkish, South African, Brazilian, Moroccan, Arabic … you can get your jazz any old way you choose it. Which is where pianist Jeff Haas and his friends come in.
The classically trained son of renowned classical radio host and Temple Israel organist Karl Haas, Jeff uses jazz to explore and elaborate on his Jewish heritage, recording music that suggests Old World and New at once. Six years ago, his record, L’Dor Va Dor (Schoolkids), blended John Coltrane’s “Lonnie’s Lament” with a traditional melody, for instance. His new record takes this fusion further and deeper.
Haas is a modest soloist and rather than taking the spotlight, he hangs back with his rhythm section (bassist Chuck Hall and Blue Dog drummer Alex Trajano). Together, they set the stage for the solo turns by the formidable trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, the expressive saxophonist Rob Smith and a stunning find: the young violinist Miri Ben-Ari, a transplant from Israel. Musically they pray, dance and shout together, echoing precedents from Stephane Grappelli to Charles Mingus. And they do so stunningly at their best.
W. Kim Heron is the managing editor of Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].