Bassist Noar Carmi is a first-call studio musician and a former member of the two most influential Israeli ethnic music ensembles, Bustan Avraham and Habrera Hativit. Now this professional accompanist is stepping onto the front line with the nationwide release of the debut recroding of his ensemble, Hatizmoret Ha'amamit (The Nation's Orchestra).
The self-titled CD consists primarily of Carmi's eclectic instrumental compositions, which seamlessly mix Balkan and Turkish music with klezmer, salsa and jazz.
Recorded two years ago, the disc was completed a year ago but has not been publicly available until now. Following a distribution deal with the Nada music label, the CD can now be found in stores through the country. "I don't work fast," says Carmi. "It's like food cooked slow."
As befits its name, the Nation's Orchestra has a big sound: a brash horn section led by New York saxophonist Daniel Zamir riding on top of the crack rhythm section led by Carmi on bass. Noam Chen plays drums and Ami Balilty provides percussion work on the CD. The ensemble is rounded out by accordionist Avishai Fisz, oud (Middle Eastern lute) player Gershon Waiserfirer and a guest appearance on three tracks by violinist Nitzan Chen Razel. Also featured is Carmi's delicate playing on the yayli tanbur, a rare Turkish long-necked lute that is played with a bow.
The first track, "Rikudi," is one of the strongest, an infectious oriental-influence salsa number featuring tight horn arrangements and extended solos, followed by "Back," a haunting Armenian influenced composition with a lush, mysterious opening that transforms into a driving, backbeat-oriented finale with horns wailing. "Palmtrees Talk" is a Middle Eastern jazz ballad with a delicate melodic interplay between the oud and yayli tanbor. Another genre-bender is "Tizmoret Makes You Happy," which features a Seventies TV-style Latin/funk groove and a Balkan brass band melody and rhythmic breaks.
The rest of the tracks display similar creativity, and the whole recording features beautiful melodies, with that certain something the causes notes to linger long after listening. "A lot of it is children's music, what I sing to my kids," Carmi says. "It's not so thought-out."
For the past few months the ensemble has been making quiet waves on the Jerusalem wedding scene as word of its new sound has spread. Now that the disc has been released, plans are in the works to appear at festivals and more weddings with an expanded line-up and new compositions.
Carmi, who became religious several years ago, says Tizmoret's music is for people from all walks of life. "In the band, we have secular and religious people playing together, and the music we make is for everyone."
Given religious/secular divide in Israeli society, such music is a welcome bridge between sectors of the population that might not be so far apart after all.