Koby Hayon: Gemini (2011)
While Israeli-born guitarist Koby Hayon has been Stateside since 2001, he still proudly displays his roots in his musical projects. His position as the director of a Westchester, NY-based Jewish music festivalNigunim: A Festival of New Improvised Jewish Musicand his work with fellow Israeli's Nadav Snir-Zelniker and Assaf Glizner in Trio Shalva are overt expressions of his background, and plenty of the pieces on Gemini also look out toward the Middle East.
For this outing, Hayon is joined by bassist Kermit Driscollbest known for his role in the now-famous line-up of the Bill Frisell Trio that existed from the mid-'80s to mid-'90sand drummer Jerome Morris, and he has no problem sharing the spotlight with these supportive souls. On the majority of these tracks, Hayon's guitar tone is reminiscent of his former teacher, guitar master John Abercrombie, with a little hint of Kurt Rosenwinkel mixed in, but it doesn't always reside in that territory. Hayon leans toward a classical sound for "Mirrors," which stands apart from the rest of the album, and adds some grit to "Galbi" and "All Around."
Hayon's Hebraic heritage presents itself most prominently on "Ask Me Again," a quirky vehicle in five that benefits from some impressive soloing on Hayon's part, and "Gemini," which settles in over Driscoll's catchy bass line. "Vertigo" is dressed in musical ambivalence, but Hayon hints at something darker on several pieces, like "What No One Can See" and the slow moving "Crumbs."
While bassists are often viewed as the unsung heroes, Morris actually plays this particular role on Gemini. Hayon and Driscoll are on near-to-equal footing throughout most of the album, while Morris gently propels things from beneath. He occasionally relies on automaton-like ride cymbal work ("Mirrors"), allowing the other musical elements to work around this sound, and demonstrates a strong ability to expand and contract while working through a given groove ("All Around"). When he isn't subtly altering the foundation beneath his trio comrades, he's guiding the band through waltzing numbers ("Norwegian Wood" and "Like A Clock"), settling into a comfortable conversation with Driscoll and Hayon, or pushing the music with some backbeat driven drumming ("Galbi")
In astrology, a Gemini is often viewed as extroverted, possessing mutable qualities. While only a few of Hayon's pieces showcase truly extroverted performances, the fascinating music on Gemini, which can't be pinned down to one particular place, is certainly deserving of the mutable tag.
Track Listing: Vertigo; Mirrors; Like A Clock; Galbi; Crumbs; All Around; What No One Can See; Ask Me Again; Norwegian Wood; Gemini; Waltz For One.
Personnel: Koby Hayon: guitar; Kermit Driscoll: bass; Jerome Morris: bass.
Record Label: Self Produced
Style: Modern Jazz