Meet the new face of Jazz vibraphone: Eldad Tarmu. Tarmu differs as an artist from other relatively recent Jazz vibraphonists, such as Blue Note recording artist Stefon Harris, in that his music doesn't access the "modern" via cutting edge record production or electric, fusion-esque instrumentation. Rather, Tarmu's modernity is inherent in the music itself while still retaining the classic foundation you'd expect to find on one of your favorite Blue Note releases from the late '50s or early '60s. Exotic Tales isn't the first disc by Eldad Tarmu, but it may as well be. No other Tarmu release features the same lineup. Consisting of Cengiz Yaltkaya on piano, bassist Dustin Morgan, and drummer Daniel Glass (who also produced the record), it's very evident that the ensemble is as much responsible for the beautiful sound of this disc as Tarmu himself is. The Eldad Tarmu Quartet manages to get all the refinement in their approach to Jazz that a listener can appreciate along with a beautiful aesthetic to boot. And they manage that combination not in sacrifice of real feeling. That point is worth noting because many of today's modern Jazz artists make fantastic records, replete with color, tone, complexity; taking Jazz in general to a far out trip of musical advancement. Quite often, though, a probably unconscious compromise is made that can forego the human heart. Not so on Exotic Tales. "Stars Above The Desert" opens the disc. Reflecting the album title, the composition is American Jazz with subtle hints of Middle Eastern stylings. To Tarmu's credit, the 'exotic' is in the composition, as is the case for many other cuts on Exotic Tales. But the effectiveness of it all resides with the group. Pianist Cengiz Yaltkaya is a paradox waiting to happen. How do you describe a player whose craft is on par with the best, whose sense of chordal voicings is innate yet seems entirely thoughtful, and whose touch projects excellent dynamics and wild contrasts while still retaining a raw rhythmic approach that's entirely still in line with Jazz? At that point, it's better to just listen and get into the performance. Tarmu is great in that he's committed to the composition, not just himself as a player. Nor does he make a pretense of restraint, either; knowing exactly when to take you there as a listener without being overly calculated about it. Perhaps the musician with the most subtlety is bassist Dustin Morgan. That subtlety extends to every aspect of his playing. From technique to his super infinitessimal dynamics and the uncanny ability to be understated about the rhythmic aspect of his playing, Morgan also knows when to uncharacteristically hit on top of the beat. In fact, the whole group is adept at knowing how to reach the exotic, the involution of Jazz, without falling into the trap of eccentricity or coming off as "cerebral." As for Daniel Glass, there's a reason why he's become one of the top drummers in music today regardless of genre. His drumming alone, and really much of the record overall, is rather cinematic - not only in sound, but in the way everything is performed. In addition to running the VeryTall label on which Exotic Tales is released, Glass is a seasoned touring and session drummer who has performed with such artists as Bette Midler, Gene Simmons, Barbara Morrison, Debbie Davies, and others. Glass also has been the drummer of the nouveau swing group Royal Crown Revue since 1994. There's some fun music on Exotic Tales. "The Courting" is an apropo title for that track. As some sort of ceremonial dance, courtship is exactly what the piece suggests; exotic and sexy. Cinematic. On the other end of the spectrum, the controlled maelstrom of "Violent Undertones" swirls in the steady insistence of it's rhythms. It relents on occasion as a respite from the storm, picking up the force of nature again in a way only a quartet this strong could restrain. Cinematic. Powerful. The denouement of Exotic Tales, though, is in the menace of "Dancing On The Green Line." A straight, non-Jazz feel, the cut is played as Jazz in almost every other respect except the attitude is so "on" for this closer, you almost feel as though there's an element of Rock underneath the surface; and it's a tight enough composition to make it believable were it ever played in such a context. Producer Daniel Glass gives Exotic Tales an aural ambience that would make Rudy Van Gelder, engineer extraordinairre of late '50s/early '60s Jazz for Blue Note, proud. Exotic Tales is that classic in sound. It's also a new Jazz release of the early 21st century and is as top grade as anything you'd find on Blue Note, past or present. The major Jazz labels of today have pushed many fine records not nearly accessible in style as Exotic Tales.
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