|One Final Note Review Assif Tsahar's first recordings as leader suggested nothing short of the sonic reincarnation of first generation "energy" players of the ESP-Disk / Frank Wright school. Unfortunately, Tsahar's early approach was more repertory than revelatory and although there was abundant fire present, the music lacked progression and variation. What he did well (passionate overblowing) he did too often, and some of those discs succumbed to a numbing changelessness.
Not so on the latest string of releases on Tsahar's own Hopscotch label, of which Come Sunday is the most recent and perhaps most impressive. What once was unvarigated has now been replaced by a wealth of moods and styles, and on the Ellington title track, Tsahar, along with the versatile Tatsuya Nakatani on drums and percussion, lays down an inspired, melancholic interpretation of the masterpiece, full of knowing and wonder.
This succinct (and indeed, only two of the eleven tracks break the six-minute mark) statement aside, there is indeed a great deal to savor in Tsahar and Nakatani's collaboration. Assif has much to say on both tenor and bass clarinet and has a command of all registers on his chosen instruments. On the introductory "rap ace slot", he gets off to a roaring start, with passionate, sweeping lines that convey both power and control. Even more impressive is his earthy bass clarinet playing on "j walk", a meditative, resonant exploration of the instrument. The aptly-titled "street cleaning", also taken on the bass clarinet, is full of tongue slaps, blurps, and lightning runs—a tone poem for a frenetic romp through the urban landscape.
Nakatani's contributions are crucial to the proceedings, taking a lead voice on more than one occasion. Standouts include another appropriately titled piece, "sawing clouds", filled with portentously sonorous drum taps and ethereal, bowed cymbals. Nakatani's approach takes in both conventional and extended techniques, and his unique use of a variety of percussion (including what sound to be bongos and Roto-toms) is compelling. He uses a variety of implements to pull sound from his assorted collection including the aforementioned bow, mallets, bundle sticks, and even cymbals struck and rubbed against his drums. His opening statement on "missed rehearsal" sets up a stuttering swing, which he embellishes to great effect throughout the rest of the piece. Another standout is his woods, metals, and tom-tom work that eases into the beginning of "j walk", evocative of some great mystery.
Come Sunday is a profound, exciting statement by two players working in full collaboration, a detailed session that deserves attentive listening.