The imprimis track to the Assaf Kehati trio's Naked is a lengthy (7:04) balladic narrative recalling Charlie Byrd and other of the gentlest six-stringers but here within an afternoon's receding heat on a balmy desert day. It's one of the quietest guitar numbers you're ever going to hear but exceedingly captivating. The second cut, a take on Jerome Kern's Long Ago and So Far Away, uptempos considerably but still within very restrained pellucid atmospherics, guitarist Kehati's play now a cross between Martino and Abercrombie. Drummer Ronen Itzik and bass player Ehud Ettun get a lot of space to ratchet up their presence as well, making the song a highly interpreted and intelligently exhilarating track. Listen carefully and you can hear simul-synching going on here and there, Kehati sandwiching a second self between his own foreground and Ettun's backing stringwork.
The title cut returns to Long Ago in ambient understatement, again evoking a highly pacific domain contemplating itself, every note and chord as though from the brush of an aesthete sauntering through arid beauty, sketching with a considered hand, putting in only those shades and lines best accentuating the negative spaces, widening the horizon while imbuing the sand at the listener's feet with a presence and gravity all the more real for its non-intrusive nature. A rising and falling Mahavishnu-esque chord slowly brings a bit more speed to the lazy meditating enterprise, and then the drums well up for sharper contrast before receding again in the resolve. As in the desert, even amid changes, everything is changeless.
I am of course reminded of the brilliant Gabor Szabo whenever I hear work of this nature, and the kindredness of Szabo's Hungarian ancestry and Kehati's Israeli lineage—both affected by Arabic, Balkan, and other regional modes—may have everything to do with that, arising rather noticeably as Beneath the Almond Tree finishes its intro and gets underway…with increasing Abercrombie extrapolations the further it goes. I'd cite that cut as my favorite within the CD, as it's a killer, an 11:25 fusion workout, but, every time I start to say so, I think back to the other cuts as well, and realize that singling one track out above the others would be a foolish enterprise. There's a lot more here than first meets the ear.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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