Gig Review:
Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble
At The Pizza Express Jazz Club
10 Dean Street, Soho, London W1, Thursday 10th March 2005
Photo of Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble
Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble
L to R: Frank Harrison, Guillermo Rozenthuler, Gilad Atzmon, Dumitru Fratila, Yaron Stavi, Romano Viazzani, Asaf Sirkis
All photos this page by Richard A. Sharma and Copyright © Richard A. Sharma 2005. All rights reserved. Any reproduction, copying, or storage by any means whatsoever including but not limited to electronic/digital means without written prior permission prohibited. Linking to individual photographs on this page prohibited.
Photo of Jazz Giant Gilad Atzmon
Gilad Atzmon - Jazz Giant of our time
(with, behind, Yaron Stavi, bass)


Gilad Atzmon - soprano & alto sax, clarinet
Frank Harrison - piano
Yaron Stavi - bass
Asaf Sirkis - drums
Guillermo Rozenthuler - vocals
Romano Viazzani - accordion
Dumitru Ovidiu Fratila - violin

Date of Review: 2005/03/14

Photo of Gilad Atzmon and the core Orient House Ensemble
The core Orient House Ensemble - L-R, Frank
Harrison, piano, Gilad Atzmon, alto, Yaron Stavi,
bass, and Asaf Sirkis, drums
Photo of Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble
Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble - L-R, Frank Harrison, piano, Guillermo Rozenthuler, vocals, Gilad Atzmon, soprano
Dumitru Fratila, violin, Yaron Stavi, bass, Romano Viazzani, accordion, and Asaf Sirkis, drums

Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble - The Legend Grows

The traffic was atrocious, parking space hard to find, and so we arrived at The Pizza just as sound checks finished. Gilad Atzmon is promoting his newly launched second satirical novel, My One And Only Love, with his latest tour. We briefly chatted about this and the recent Musik album as well as the current tour, then it was time for Atzmon and his team to grab a quick break and a bite while The Pizza opened its doors and quickly filled up to capacity.

At last, dinner was over and Gilad Atzmon And The Orient House Ensemble took their places on stage. And what a performance awaited! Atzmon, already a jazz giant and the first jazz legend of the 21st century, just keeps getting better and better still. As, indeed, does his equally world-class band. The core Orient House Ensemble of drum genius Asaf Sirkis, brawny as well as sensitive and the most exciting drummer of our age, Frank Harrison, the oh so young still fiercest improviser on the ivories since Tatum, and sensitive, lyrical but meaty master of the bass Yaron Stavi, would surely be impossible to match. Theirs is indisputably one of the finest line-ups to have ever graced the jazz scene, anywhere. They were very capably supported by "veterans" from the days of the Exile project, violinist Dumitru Ovidiu Fratila and accordionist Romano Viazzani, and wonderfully augmented by outstanding Argentinean Tango singer Guillermo Rozenthuler, with the band since the Musik album.

Rozenthuler's sensuous, sexy voice was perfection for the lyrics from a poem by Atzmon, almost huskily, seductively semi-whispering "...She inhabits his body, she bleeds him to death... and she is happy...", to Atzmon's equally sensuous, seductive soprano sax. If you know Atzmon and his writing, particularly his love of allegory, of which he is a master too, you will know that this refers to Prime Minister Tony Blair and Britain. For those not cognisant of this, Atzmon provided a verbal explanation, engaging in his usual easy, witty banter. Gilad Atzmon is not only the total musician but also a complete entertainer and raconteur, as devastating on his horns as he is charismatic and charming.

Photo of Frank Harrison
Fierce and sensitive at once - genius of the ivories Frank Harrison

Material from the Musik album included Liberating The American People, with Atzmon on top form on his simply improbable alto - Bird and Trane rolled into one, if you like. Its manic Star Spangled Banner section led into an explosive, awesome piano solo by Harrison. Newer material included the memorable Recreating The City of London, with a particularly sparkling performance from Asaf Sirkis' drums. This number was dedicated to London Mayor Ken Livingstone, Atzmon explained, with his customary sharp wit and irreverent humour. Add expert urine extraction to his vast skills and accomplishments.

Gilad Atzmon is as driven as ever. Provocative, evocative, subversive, irreverent, witty - his music is all those and more. Above all, perhaps, Atzmon's music is deeply spiritual as well as emotionally highly charged, running the full gamut from exalted ecstasy to pain, anger and despair, but with humour never too far away.

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Photo of Asaf Sirkis
Giant of the Traps -The one and only Asaf Sirkis

Photo of Yaron Stavi
Meaty and lyrical anchor - bassist
Yaron Stavi

Photo of Guillermo Rozenthuler
Sensuous and sexy - vocalist
Guillermo Rozenthuler
Photo of Gilad Atzmon, with Yaron Stavi and Asaf Sirkis
Gilad Atzmon, here on clarinet, with Yaron Stavi and Asaf Sirkis
Photo of Gilad Atzmon on alto
Gilad Atzmon on alto

Photo of Asaf Sirkis
Asaf Sirkis

Photo of Gilad Atzmon on alto
Gilad Atzmon on alto - devastating

Photo of Frank Harrison
Frank Harrison

Gilad Atzmon's horns sang, danced, howled, screamed and soared in turn, sometimes lyrical, always expressive and evocative, telling a story. His improvs were awe-inspiring as always, ever inventive. Once or twice he demonstrated his uncannily effective ability to play both alto and soprano simultaneously, and Atzmon also treated us to his equally effective technique of speaking/singing through his sax. He really is the supreme master.

Guillermo Rozenthuler proved the perfect complement to Atzmon and the rest of the OHE with his highly sensuous vocals on the tango-meets-cabaret-like vocal numbers. And, needless to say, the soloing all round was just phenomenal.

Photo of Gilad Atzmon & The OHE
Guillermo Rozenthuler, Yaron Stavi, Gilad Atzmon, Asaf Sirkis, and Dumitru Fratila

Throw equally superb and unforgettable ensemble playing into this heady mix, plus Atzmon's always memorable compositions, and you have a performance that will stay with you for a very long time. This performance by Gilad Atzmon and The Orient House Ensemble wasn't just driven, it was almost as if possessed.

Photo of Gilad Atzmon & The OHE
Gilad Atzmon on soprano, with Guillermo Rozenthuler, Yaron Stavi,
Dumitru Fratila, Asaf Sirkis and Romano Viazzani

Atzmon clearly runs a very tight ship, but it was equally obvious that this was a very happy one too. The empathy among the players is simply sensational, almost uncanny even, and they were very clearly having a very good time. This enjoyment and exuberant enthusiasm also extended to the Pizza crowd, who went wild at all the high points of this performance.

Particularly the core Orient House Ensemble, Gilad Atzmon himself, Frank Harrison, Asaf Sirkis, and Yaron Stavi, more than amply demonstrated why they are simply the best. Atzmon is totally mesmerising, and his and the OHE's performances generate the kind of excitement not seen since the days of previous greats such as Bird and Trane. And thus, the legend grows... Magic evenings like this should never end, but alas do.

If you're serious about jazz, you just cannot afford to not go and see and hear Gilad Atzmon and The Orient House Ensemble live. It would be as unforgivable as missing Bird (Charlie Parker) or Trane (John Coltrane) in their time. You'll remember the great 'Atz' and his band for the rest of your life and one day you may tell your children or grandchildren, you were there!


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