When a small jazz combo works in sync, and when the musicians seem to be effortlessly communicating with each other as they play, they rise to another level. Their music can be magical. The quartet that jazz composer/pianist Sasi Shalom has put together for his newly released album, Moments of Eternity, works together like they can read each other’s minds. Cohesion separates the artists from the journeymen, and Shalom works well with these musicians. The final product is something special.
Donny McCaslin plays tenor and killer soprano sax. Desmond White handles the bass with finesse, and Antonio Sanchez does yeoman’s work on drums. Indeed it is somewhat surprising, though truly exciting, how prominent the drums are on most of the tracks. Sanchez lays down a solid foundation of varied rhythmic patterns on which McCaslin and Shalom weave their sonic web.
The album’s seven tracks mix soulful ballads with uptempo burners. Shalom has a way with lyrical melody too. “Shari,” written for his wife, is a lyrically wistful bouquet, and “My Sons My Soul” revels in a rich, emotional depth. Both Shalom and McCaslin complement each other with their heartfelt solo work, and White adds some intensity on bass. The title song makes an interesting contrast at the beginning, between its spiritual piano theme and the earthy sound of the sax, but that begins to change very quickly as McCaslin begins to improvise.
Led by Sanchez, the quartet powers through the appropriately titled “Raging Bull” to a dynamic drum solo as the piece comes to its end. “Up and Down” and “Aba (My Father)” develop some interesting rhythmic ideas, and the album closes with a 10-minute exploration of the exotic thematic material of “Watch Your Back.”
Originally from Israel, Shalom has the kind of musical chops that may well have people talking about him with some of the same kind of admiration lavished on Israeli clarinetist Anat Cohen. After all, not only are they both Israeli transplants, both are graduates of the Berklee College of Music, and if Shalom has not yet garnered the kind of accolades afforded Cohen, perhaps all he needs is a little push.
Moments of Eternity is dedicated to the victims and heroes of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. Proceeds are earmarked for the Sandy Hook Promise.