The Omer Avital quintet - Mr Avital (bass), Omer Klein (piano), Joel Frahm (tenor saxophone), Avishai Cohen (trumpet - not the "other one") and Daniel Freedman (drums) were fantastic, formidable and מצוין (Hebrew for excellent) at the tiny Duc de Lombards club in Paris tonight.
Playing a short, four nights residency, with each gig sold out, Avital had an excited crowd waiting to go in for the second house - and we weren't disappointed. This quintet contains some of the finest jazz musicians in the world, with all five being worthy of headlining as was demonstrated through both the solo and ensemble playing this evening.
Opening with Top of the Mountain from his current Suite of the East album, Omer Avital led the quintet through a number of new songs - the brilliant Avishkes, dedicated to Avishai Cohen who particularly shone in this piece, Song for Amos, which is dedicated to Amos Hoffman, another great Israeli jazz musician, and from the Arrival album of a couple of years ago (and which might just remain my favourite - especially the title track) and a new piece called Hafla.
It was interesting to watch the different demeanour of each of the musicians. From my seat, Avital was the only member of the quintet whose face I couldn't see (!), but interestingly I could see his hands and was mesmerised by the elasticity of his fingers and the sounds that he produced from what seemed a mere touch of the strings.
Avishai Cohen and Joel Frahm are of the stand and play school, squeezing some amazing sounds from their instruments. Seated right at the front of the club, I could see Cohen's lips squeezed unbelievably thinly around the trumpet. Omer Klein was in jovial mood. Some pianists grunt and make noises as they perform. Not Omer Klein, he almost dances his way through each piece, feet jumping and stamping, shaking and swaying on the stool and generally enjoying himself - including joking and laughing with Daniel Freedman in particular. And by the way, sartorially speaking Avishai, that was a great shirt you were wearing but overall Omer (Klein that is) took the prize for me for his "collars and cuffs" shirt and jeans turned up as a third "cuff".
Back to the music. Each piece as given a through workout lasting anywhere between 7 and possibly 15 minutes, allowing a good stretch for each instrument and some terrific, loud and exciting interplay within the group. They came back for an encore and gave us Song for Peace, also from the Suite of the East album. They saved the best until last - that piano playing was red hot. It is amazing to think that a small country like Israel has managed to produce such a fantastic group of musicians and even more amazing when one realises that there are many more Israeli jazz musicians at or entering world class.
Red hot and cool, or as they say in Israel םבבה (sababa - meaning cool). Oh, and P.S. - could you please come and play in London?