Ayelet Rose Gottlieb has spread her wings. The 30-something Israeli-born and currently Canada-based jazz singer’s latest release, Roadsides, provides ample evidence of the breadth of her musical and stylistic embrace.
On her website, Gottlieb describes the album as “a modern jazz exploration of Israeli and Palestinian poetry.” But with all due respect to the artist, that, in this writer’s humble opinion, is tantamount to damning with faint praise. There is so much more to the new album, as will be apparent at Gottlieb’s forthcoming gigs here, to showcase the new recording.
Gottlieb has gathered a bunch of highly accomplished sidemen for the occasion, including longtime comrade-in-musicalarms pianist Anat Fort, who was the first – and, to date, only – Israeli jazz artist to record with prestigious German jazz label ECM. Then there is silkily skilled husband-and-wife team guitarist Udi Horev and double-bass player Ora Boazson-Horev, with oud player and violinist Ihab Nimer adding Middle Eastern coloring and subtleties aplenty, and rocksolid drummer Dani Benedikt completing a stellar lineup. Add to that a guest list of veteran crooner Alon Olearchik, with whom Gottlieb enjoys some emotional duets, and percussionist Gilad Dobrecky, and you have a genuine A Team for the venture.
Roadsides is Gottlieb’s fourth album as leader, and it has been a long time brewing. “Some of the songs have been around for 15 years,” she says. “The whole process has been very gradual. I have never put so much into an album before.”
That attention to detail and the painstaking gestation period are palpable throughout the end product. “Bridge” sets the Roadsides ball rolling with a tripping percussion-piano intro, with Gottlieb slipping into the fray with mellifluous vocals that are colored intermittently by Horev’s considered Spanish-orientated acoustic guitar support, and the tempo ebbs and flows with gay abandon. This is a vocal tour de force as Gottlieb flits effortlessly between insouciant-sounding lines, lyrical offerings and hell-forleather departures. There is never a dull moment on the entire 12-track project.
There are highly accessible parts to the CD, which would not go amiss on 88 FM or Reshet Gimmel radio stations, and there are some off-the-wall passages, such as on the burlesque-seasoned “At the Supermarket,” with Fort going great guns in setting the scene and complementing the vocals in seamless fashion. That segues into the delightfully funky “A Woman’s Song,” based on a poem by Esther Raab, the daughter of one of the founders of Petah Tikva, and Agi Mishol’s “Letter” is sumptuously read, with Fort’s velvety keyboard work providing the perfect foil for Gottlieb’s soaring honeyed singing.
In fact, not only did Gottlieb opt for a quality instrumental lineup, but she also delved into the textual offerings of a wide range of topnotch writers, such as Ronny Someck, Natan Yonatan, Natan Zach and Mahmoud Darwish. If you’re looking for a good lyrical substratum from which to leap into musical stratospheres, Gottlieb chose well.
“A lot of these poems have been a part of my life since I was very young,” notes the singer. “These poems and songs have been lying around for quite a while because I felt they were all part of the same project, which connects with Israel.”
Could the lyrical-musical bond with this part of the world serve to compensate for the fact that Gottlieb spends most of her time abroad? “Not really. I started writing some of these songs when I was still in high school, long before I left Israel,” she counters, adding that she has always performed in her mother tongue and maintained a strong grip on her Israeli identity.
“My previous album, Up to Here from Here, except for one song, was all in English, and there are two poems by Agi Mishol translated into English in there, too.”
The latter is an excellent case in point and demonstrates the difference the language of choice can make in the way an artist approaches the written word.
Gottlieb’s rendition of “Letter” on the new album is a more intimate, more intrinsically Israeli venture compared with jazzier Englishlanguage version on Up to Here from Here. You feel like you’re getting more of Gottlieb’s core this time around.
“There is something in Roadsides that references this place [Israel],” the singer continues. “I released all my previous CDs abroad before I released them in Israel. But I felt with this one that I wanted to make a statement in Israel first.”
That statement of intent is offered to the public through an expansive spectrum of subgenres and musical avenues. The dozen tracks incorporate straightahead jazz, blues, Israeli Songbook approaches, classical and Spanish coloring and more.
It is entirely possible that with several recordings under her belt, a globetrotting career of more than a decade and the maturity and selfconfidence that come with the years, Gottlieb feels more comfortable in her own skin and therefore is more given to presenting herself to the world through her music. “I made my first recording at the age of 22, that’s 12 years ago now, and I think that conveys my experience of myself as I was at that time,” she observes.
“Mind you, even though the new album has so many facets to it, I feel it is more cohesive. Like me.”
At Bar-Ilan University (October 15), Beit Jamal Monastery (October 19) and the Ozen Bar in Tel Aviv on October 27.