Given even his brief biographical sketch—born in Morocco, raised in Israel and France before emigrating to Australia where he has emerged as a prominent business leader as well as a major force on the country’s jazz scene—it is not surprising that guitarist Albert Dadon, playing under the stage name Albare, is a musician that seems to defy easy classification. Listening to his latest album, appropriately titled The Road Ahead, it is clear that in many respects his music is a blend of the many influences engendered by his life experience. He is clearly looking to the musical road before him, but he doesn’t fear turning into a pillar of salt if he does his share of looking back.
The music he composes for The Road Ahead is at times quite exotic, at times quite traditional, if it makes sense to talk about contemporary jazz ideas as traditional. What seems clear is that Albare is consciously interested in expanding the idiom. He begins the album with “The Road Ahead A” and ends it with an eight-minute redevelopment of the piece in “The Road Ahead B.” In some respects this can be seen as a kind of manifesto.
As he explains in the liner notes, The Road Ahead is “a prayer for what lies ahead of us,” ahead of us in the music which he says combines elements of the Jewish Sephardic Moroccan tradition with the blues tradition in a new kind of fusion. At its best, the album tempers the exotic Middle Eastern flavors with the more familiar Western vibe. It is a fusion that makes these perhaps strange flavors more palatable to the parochial ear.
Listeners who can find themselves quite comfortable with more or less traditional tunes like the lyrical “Tender You” and “No Love Lost” may be much more amenable to the exotic elements of the “Road” tracks. They may even be open to looking for those themes in some of the other tunes as well. A fairly conventional blues like “Give Me 5” may work much the same way.
That Albare, an exceptionally inventive guitarist, has gathered around him an ensemble of fine talent that seems to have bought into his vision doesn’t hurt either. Pianist Phil Turcio, a fellow Australian, does some fine work. Yunior Terry is a terror on the bass, and Pablo Bencid does a virtuoso job on the drums. Vocalist Allan Harris guests on the album’s single track not from the pen of Albare, Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed.”
The Road Ahead is a road worth traveling, especially with the likes of Albare and the quartet.