Originally from Israel and now residing in Brooklyn, guitarist and composer Nadav Remez is nothing if not adventurous. His So Far, the debut recording from the Berklee and New England Conservatory alum, is the sum of his life experiences thus far – and then some.
A bright, absorbing lattice of Jewish folk, modern jazz, traditional orchestral arrangements and alt-rock, the recording is a set of eight original pieces and a traditional Jewish number. Out now on Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records, So Far is well worth a few repeat spins.
On the record, Remez plays with Shai Maestro (piano, organ, Rhodes), Steve Brickman (tenor sax), James Wylie (alto sax, clarinet), Avri Borochov (bass), and Ziv Ravitz (drums). Trumpeter Itamar Borochov sits in on two numbers.
Beginning with the title track, the record opens with an ensemble piece that showcases the power of unity. “So Far” is a engrossing piece, brief but well-designed. It features no solos and introduces the full voices of the band in accord, allowing their sounds to blend into a communicative medley of joy and confidence. It could be considered an overture.
Elsewhere, the individual players come out to shine. Remez’s beautiful guitar work takes form on the lovely “Pinchas,” a piece inspired by the writing approach of drummers Brian Blade and Eric Harland.
“Untitled” is the bridge of the record in many ways, signifying a shift to some more rigorous playing. It opens with a lovely flourish of instruments, blossoming like flowers under a soft, comfortable sun. The horns emerge gracefully, leading into a fair clip of percussion, organ and guitar.
The wonderful moments of “Untitled” lead into the Jewish traditional “Lecha Dodi.” The song is sung in synagogues around the world to welcome the Sabbath, but Remez brings it to life with his arrangement and the inclusion of Borochov’s dramatic trumpet. There are two variations on the melody at play here and that forms a dynamic, crisp piece of music from the splashes of cymbals and plodding bass.
Remez is the type of player who likes to let the arrangements speak louder than any individual musician. This is evident in his approach to So Far, as he is a very modest musician.
Remez’s guitar, striking as it is, never cries for attention or pulls the limelight to it. Instead, the strings blend handsomely into the larger whole and he presents a piece of work that is stirring, brave and ultimately captivating.