Ilia Skibinsky: The Passage (2013)
The youthful saxophonist/composer Ilia Skibinsky strikes a thoughtful pose, gazing down at his horn on the nicely designed cover of his debut, The Passage. The substitution of a much older visage would have been believable, given the depth and beauty of the playing, and the writing on the set's nine original compositions.
Born in Russia, but moving with his family to Israel in 1993, where he performed with the best of his adopted country's jazz artists, Skibinsky succumbed to the lure of the States in 2007, to attend New York's New School University on a scholarship.
Skibinsky's resume brims with television and show business work: Israeli adaptations of American Idol and Dancing with Stars, as well as working over 500 shows with Cirque Du Soleil, but the music on The Passage has a modern jazz sheen. Skibinsky, playing alto and soprano saxophones, leads a piano/bass/drums rhythm team, with guest slots for guitar, trumpet and tenor sax.
Opening with a one/two punch of "Part One" and "Two" of the title track, and joined by guest Matthew Silberman on tenor sax, the music has a sharp edge and an urgency, featuring long melodic lines and gliding rhythms.
Skibinsky's compositional voice is distinctive and consistently engaging. "Seven Skies" has a Middle-Eastern tint, with the leader's beautiful, rich tone on soprano sax up front and center, while "Beyond the Sun," a plaintive ballad, showcases Skibinsky's more introspective side and his gorgeous, hollow tone on alto saxophone. "Translucent" opens with a piano shimmer, leading into some striking two-horn harmony, with tenor man Silberman sitting in again.
A highlight of this superb debut is "When We Forget," featuring Joe Deninzon's string contributions, with Skibinsky playing piano as well as alto. The mood here is one of classical grandeur with a brooding, late night jazz tint.
With nine tunes and a mix of guest slots, The Passage could have become an unfocused mish-mash of a set, but rising star Skibinsky's sharp artist vision and stellar tune-smithing hold things together as a cohesive statement, on this excellent debut.
Track Listing: The Passage, Part 1; The Passage, Part 2; Seven Skies; When We Forget; Beyond teh Sun; Translucent; Distant Lights; Dorian Ways; What Words Cannot Express.
Personnel: Ilia Skibinsky: alto and soprano saxophones, piano (4); Glen Zaleski: piano; Edward Perez: bass; Colin Stranahan: drums; Mike Moreno: guitar (1, 2, 5); Matt Jodrell: trumpet (1, 2, 6); Matthew Silberman: tenor saxophone (1, 2, 6); Joe Deninzon: strings (4).
Record Label: Mythology Records