Ron Magril – Until Now + Asaf Harris – Walk of The Ducks
(Ubuntu Records. Album Reviews by Adam Sieff)
For such a small and relatively young country Israel consistently punches above its weight with its jazz education programmes. Here are two young Israeli jazz musicians making their recording debuts as leaders with plenty to be excited about.
Ron Magril is a 25 year old guitar player who was awarded a scholarship in 2018 from The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York and is currently back in Israel on sabbatical following the pandemic. Until Now, his debut album, was recorded in one day last June at Bardo Studios in Ramat Gan (East Tel Aviv). He’s joined by pianist Avshalom Meidan, double bassist Oren Hardy and drummer Ofri Nehemya who together play eight of Magril’s compositions.
This record sounds like it could have been recorded back in the mid 50s or 60s but still comes over as fresh and contemporary…and it swings. Magril is a fine player with a warm classic jazz guitar tone and an ear for a strong melody. The high quality of the writing is established on the opening two cuts, the uptempo and catchy It’s The Cops and the plaintive For You which features one of many wonderful piano solos from Meidan. The interplay and the fact that the musicians are obviously enjoying themselves makes this a highly enjoyable hard bop influenced set.
Asaf Harris is a saxophonist now living in New York, and like Magril was also awarded a scholarship from The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, graduating in 2020 and receiving the John Coltrane Award for outstanding improvisors. He returned to Israel when the pandemic hit and also recorded Walk Of The Ducks at Bardo Studios (in August 2020).
Harris is a smart and highly skilful player and is well supported by some terrific musicians in guitarist Nitzan Bar, pianist Guy Moskovich, bassist Omri Hadani and drummer David Sirkis, with guest saxophonists on the title track Yehonatan Cohen (soprano) and Yuval Drabkin (alto).
The album is a more conceptual affair divided into three sections, each of the nine compositions having its own story ranging from the personal to the political. As Harris says, ’The first part is full of mystery and uncertainness, followed by the second part, which is stormy and full of anger, while the third and last part is comforting and full of optimism.’
It’s a more challenging listen, but it’s an engaging and rewarding one. The repertoire is well written and arranged and there are exceptional performances from everyone concerned. Among the highlights are The Gate Keeper complete with chanting crowds recorded at anti Netanyahu demonstrations, the title track with its fierce solos and the more relaxed and highly melodic Zoom Out with a fine Harris solo and a great drum break from Sirkis.
Ubuntu has rapidly become an important label highlighting upcoming all kinds of jazz artists and enabling them to take the next step forward. Both of these debuts bode well for the future and are well worth discovering and enjoying.
LINKS: Ron Magril Pete on YouTube