Mojo, 4 stars!
Review: Talinka live gig
Nigel Jarrett, JAZZ JOURNAL
Nigel Jarrett is enthralled at Black Mountain Jazz, Abergavenny, by the quartet led by Tali Atzmon with her husband Gilad and others in close support
Gilad Atzmon was giving added value as a musician before the term was coined. That he should be mentioned before his wife, the singer-actor Tali, in a review of their four-piece band Talinka (pictured right) merely confirms that he remains irrepressible too. But his sardonic humour and his rapport with the audience could not detract at this outing from the way her unpredicated vocal delivery gave the band its consistent depth of emotion and breadth of vision. Not once did her subtly inflected voice lapse into mannerism or cliché, which in some better-known but lesser performers impedes access to the core of their songs.
To celebrate and promote their eponymous album, the Atzmons were joined by Jenny Bliss Bennett, doubling viola da gamba, baroque violin, flute and vocals, and Yaron Stavi, Gilad's Orient House Ensemble colleague, on double bass. Gilad himself looked like a multi-instrumentalist in the middle of moving home, surrounded as he was by bass clarinet, guitar, accordion and soprano sax. Not least of the band's achievements was the ability to express an unmistakable jazz feeling even when the conceptions derived from a Jewish folk tradition as well as a universal jazz lexicon. At first, with an 18th-century set of strings, the instrumentation looked eccentric, but it worked immediately, not least because Bliss's viola da gamba did not mimic a symphony orchestra cello in playing around with the same notes as the bass at the octave but had a virile life of its own in accord with whatever instrument Gilad had chosen and often in support of the singer. The same with her violin, its gut strings and its reproduction 17th-century bow both marks of the authentic. Bliss added vocals too. The second set opened with the violinist and Stavi steaming through a free working of Biber, so as not to deploy totally the baroque element on other duties.
That the combination of instruments enhanced rather than frustrated this blend of musical provenances was illustrated at the start, as Gilad's accordion and Tali's Arabic wail introduced Four 2 Tango, the echoes of the Middle East establishing themselves before the accordion drifted into Latin-American mode. It happened for this reviewer whenever Gilad strapped on the instrument, Lola established as a quirkily slow tango with Bliss on violin. It would be fair to say that Gilad's contributions on accordion and guitar were minimalist, his more aggressively brilliant flights reserved for the soprano, notably in an extended duo on Blue Monk with the double bass - actually, it was a community affair, Gilad encouraging a capacity house to copy his increasingly complex scat motifs, in the style of Dizzy Gillespie. As entertainers, Gilad and Diz have a lot in common.
He gave the bass clarinet a few outings, memorably on Losing Vision, a tune written by Tali, inspired by the Syrian conflict and dedicated to all those displaced by war. Her potent and unmediated vocal line turned it into a prayer for peace, enlivened by an animato bridge passage for bass clarinet and viola da gamba. The same instruments deepened the heartache of Billie Holiday's Don't Explain and an equal intensity was uncovered in You Don't Know What Love Is, another tune associated with Lady Day, as the chords created by soprano and viola da gamba set up a lamentation wholly justified by the lyrics. As another variable, the drone-like bass, viola da gamba and accordion on Scarborough Fair further illustrated the inventive use of a small range of instruments, to which Tali's vocalese on Hermeto Pascoal's Bebe was an addition. It seemed there was nothing this enterprising quartet couldn't do to make the most of a wide range of material. The gig also illustrated how live music based on recorded material can sound refreshingly different, even allowing for the absence on this occasion of pianist Frank Harrison, another OHE member. That's jazz.
REVIEW: TALINKA LIVE GIG
Ian Mann, THE JAZZ MANN
"Tali Atzmon has made a big impression with her début as a leader. The quartet’s combination of instruments must surely be unique and the group utilise their resources colourfully and imaginatively."
Talinka, Black Mountain Jazz, The Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 25/02/2018.
This rare afternoon event hosted by Black Mountain Jazz attracted a capacity crowd to the Melville Centre to witness this performance by Talinka, the drummer-less quartet led by vocalist and songwriter Tali Atzmon.
Also an accomplished actress Tali is the wife of the well known multi instrumentalist, composer, bandleader, producer, author and political activist Gilad Atzmon who was also present in the band line up. Gilad has been a regular visitor to BMJ with his long running working quartet the Orient House Ensemble and also with the band of singer, songwriter and guitarist Sarah Gillespie. The 2013 Wall2Wall Jazz Festival, hosted by BMJ, saw him fronting a free-wheeling trio featuring bassist Tim Thornton and drummer Asaf Sirkis as they paid homage to John Coltrane and Charlie Parker.
Prior to this afternoon Gilad’s most recent visit to Abergavenny had been in the company of the OHE at the 2017 Wall2Wall Festival which featured a more formal tribute to Coltrane based around the quartet’s most recent album “Spirit Of Trane”.
Gilad is something of a cult figure who has attracted a considerable following among the BMJ faithful and his presence undoubtedly helped to boost the audience but Talinka is very different from his other projects and is very much Tali’s band. The quartet features an unusual instrumental configuration with Gilad today contributing soprano sax, bass clarinet, accordion and acoustic guitar. On double bass was Yaron Stavi, a long standing member of the OHE and on violin, flute and viola da gamba was Jenny Bliss Bennett, a musician best known for playing baroque and early music but who is an open minded artist readily capable of moving easily between musical genres.
As a band Talinka adopt a similarly broad minded and expansive approach. The group’s eponymous début album was released in June 2017 on Gilad’s Fanfare record label and embraces a variety of musical styles ranging from jazz to folk to cabaret to baroque mixing original songs and tunes by Tali and Gilad with imaginative arrangements of jazz standards. Today’s programme included several items from the début plus a number of pieces scheduled to appear on the quartet’s second album. The material included songs embracing a broad stylistic and geographic range epitomising the group’s mission statement as printed on the cover of their début album;
“Talinka is a music-loving adventure. For us the love of music extends beyond style and genre; we blend folk, early music, jazz, tango and free improvisation. We believe in songs and beauty being vital forces of nature. We adhere to simplicity, harmony and warmth. The outcome is a natural breathing, deep and spacious sonic adventure”.
This afternoon’s performance began with Gilad’s “Four 2 Tango”, a tune from the quartet’s début album. This introduced the distinctive sound of the viola de gamba, a six stringed, fretted instrument, somewhere in size between a regular viola and a cello. It can be either bowed or plucked or strummed like a guitar and Bliss Bennett is able to move freely between the various techniques. Here her strummed arpeggios locked in with Stavi’s bass lines to complement Gilad’s folk like accordion melodies and Tali’s increasingly adventurous wordless vocalising, the singer sometimes deploying extended vocal techniques reminiscent of a Julie Tippetts or Maggie Nicols. As Tali’s singing became more exploratory she was complemented by Bliss Bennett’s switch to the bow to introduce another facet of the supremely versatile viola da gamba. I don’t recall having seen the instrument played live before and on this evidence it’s surprising that such a flexible instrument, with such a wide range of sounds, isn’t more widely deployed in all areas of music.
Introduced by Stavi’s rich, dark arco bass and featuring the muezzin like wail of Gilad’s soprano sax Bronislau Kaper’s song “Invitation” was the first of the jazz standards to feature in today’s performance. Following the duo introduction Stavi put down the bow and set up a pizzicato bass groove that provided the bedrock for Tali’s delivery of the English lyric and Gilad’s sinuous soprano sax solo. Bliss Bennett featured on violin, sometimes doubling Gilad’s sax melody lines. Some audience members felt that Tali’s voice had been too prominent in the mix on the opener but here the balance had been adjusted to give a more equilateral group sound that worked well for the rest of the afternoon.
Also from the quartet’s début album came Tali’s beautiful and achingly sad interpretation of Billie Holiday’s “Don’t Explain” . The singer’s blues tinged melancholy was enhanced by an arrangement featuring the grainy, sepia tinged combination of Gilad’s bass clarinet and Bliss Bennett’s bowed viola da gamba plus Stavi’s resonant pizzicato bass lines. Many of today’s performances differed substantially from their recorded counterparts. For instance the album version of this song features guest Frank Harrison on piano while “Invitation” also features Gilad on bass clarinet.
Gilad first tackled the English folk song “Scarborough Fair” on the OHE’s 2013 album”Songs of the Metropolis”, giving it a Coltrane-esque interpretation on a wholly instrumental arrangement. The piece was accorded a further lease of life here with an atmospherically droning introduction featuring the sounds of accordion plus bowed double bass and viola de gamba leading into Tali’s singing of the melody and lyrics. Bliss Bennett sometimes added vocal harmonies and also soloed on viola da gamba as Stavi put down the bow to supply plucked rhythmic momentum, his double bass complemented by Tali’s playing of a frame drum similar to the Irish bodhran.
Moving away from the album repertoire the quartet treated us to a breezy version of “Bebe” written by the great Brazilian composer Hermeto Pascoal. Introduced by Stavi’s pizzicato bass the arrangement also featured Gilad on acoustic guitar and Tali on wordless Brazilian style vocals. The piece also represented Bliss Bennett’s first outing on flute, her effervescent solo representing the main instrumental feature.
Returning to the record Tali’s moving original “Losing Vision” addressed the plight of Syrian refugees and other displaced people while simultaneously expressing a hope for a better world. The combination of deep, resinous bass clarinet and the melancholy sound of bowed viola da gamba expressed the ineffable sadness of the situation while Tali’s lyrics, with their allusions to the Barbra Streisand hit “People”, clung to an underlying sense of hope.
The first set ended on a less sombre note with the cabaret stylings of “Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets” which threw some musical humour into the mix courtesy of Tali’s theatrical vocals and hand clapping plus some dazzling but irreverent instrumental exchanges between Gilad on accordion, Bliss Bennett on violin and Stavi on double bass.
As one would expect from a performance featuring Gilad Atzmon a sense of humour was never far away with the married couple bantering in a stylised way and with Stavi also adding to the mix. Indeed it was the bassist who was to kick off the second half as he and Bliss Bennett duetted on an arrangement of a Sonata by the baroque composer Heinrich Biber (1644 – 1704) – “not Justin” joked Stavi. The piece allowed Bliss Bennett to demonstrate her virtuosity on violin as she soared above Stavi’s deeply resonant arco bass drone. This may have been nominally chamber music but there was still a pleasing element of musical humour about the duo’s exchanges.
The full band returned for “When You’re Gone”, one of Tali’s songs from the début album. Her emotive vocals with their theme of yearning and loss were augmented by the drone of Gilad’s accordion and the melancholy, cello like sound of Bliss Bennett’s bowed viola da gamba, the latter featuring as a solo instrument.
The group broke down into a duo again as Tali and Bliss Bennett joined the audience to watch Gilad and Stavi combine on soprano sax and double bass respectively with, Gilad leading the audience in a bebop inspired call and response session featuring hand-claps and Dizzy Gillespie inspired scat vocalising. It was a bit too early in the day for some audience members but it was still great fun and there was some fiery sax soloing too on a piece that also borrowed from Thelonious Monk.
An as yet unrecorded arrangement of Duke Ellington’s “Solitude” featured another emotive vocal from Tali and a melodic pizzicato bass solo from Stavi with Bliss Bennett’s violin and Gilad’s acoustic guitar rounding out the sound.
Another unrecorded song, “How Deep Is The Ocean”, was the second in a trilogy of standards. This time the arrangement included soprano sax and bowed viola da gamba in a spirited arrangement that saw Gilad soloing above a propulsive bass groove as Bliss Bennett supplied counter melodies before entering into a series of playful musical exchanges with the saxophonist.
From the album came a dramatic, slowed down version of “You Don’t Know What Love Is” . Another richly emotive vocal performance by Tali was augmented by Gilad’s plaintive soprano sax and Bliss Bennett’s earthy bowing .
The performance ended with Tali’s own “Every Now And Then”, the song that also closes the album. Introduced by the combination of Tali’s voice and Bliss Bennett’s strummed viola da gamba and with Gilad featuring on accordion this was a highly evocative composition that reminded many listeners of a Leonard Cohen song, praise indeed. Also hinting at Tom Waits and the sound of vintage Berlin cabaret this was a terrific way to round off a highly distinctive performance.
Vocalist Debs Hancock, one of several local musicians in an audience that also included violinist Heulwen Thomas and drummer Greg Evans, had little difficulty in persuading the group to return for a well deserved encore. This proved to be an arrangement of the jazz standard “I’ll Be Seeing You” featuring Gilad as the featured instrumental soloist on accordion alongside pizzicato viola da gamba and double bass.
Talinka – one of the proposed group names rejected was the more provocative Taliband – is a fascinating project and Tali Atzmon has made a big impression with her musical début as a leader. The quartet’s combination of instruments must surely be unique and the group utilise their resources colourfully and imaginatively. For what is nominally a ‘chamber jazz’ ensemble the group possesses a considerable amount of energy and their live performances are given an additional frisson by the kind of earthy humour that Gilad has been peddling for years. Tali’s voice is well suited to her own material but her interpretations of standards material are also highly original and draw on many musical sources from around the globe. It will be interesting to see which direction she takes this ensemble in next.
After the show the discussion moved to the timing of today’s event and the respective merits of afternoon and evening performances. Was the full house just due to the reputation of the performers or was the time of the performance also a factor? The early start seemed to suit many people on a cold February day but would they feel the same at the height of summer?
Perhaps BMJ could experiment further with afternoon shows in winter (November, December, January and February and maybe even March) with evening shows coming back in the summer when the clocks go forward. It’s certainly something to think about. In any event Talinka were delighted with the audience turnout and reaction. Abergavenny’s love affair with the Atzmon family seems destined to continue.
By Wesley Derbyshire
On their debut album led by vocalist Tali Atzmon, Talinka paints a colorful acoustic sound which extends the diverse talents of four distinguished British musicians. Group leader Tali Atzmon is a renowned actress and singer from Israel, baroque virtuoso artist Jenny Bliss adds viola da gamba, along with baroque violin, flute and vocals, world renowned double bass player Yaron Stavi holds down the bottom, with Frank Harrison gently playing the Piano,
and internationally acclaimed jazz saxophonist Gilad Atzmon weaving in bass clarinet, soprano saxophone, and accordion parts.
Sensitively arranged around Tali's heartfelt soulful voice, Talinka blends their deeply personal approach to music. They naturally transcend boundaries between jazz, folk, and world music with a splash of Tango and Baroque tossed in the set. The interesting choice of acoustic instruments and merging of artists create an intersection of past and present. Available on compact disc, which includes a download of the album in 24bit / 48kHz stereo when ordered through their BandCamp page. It is the hi-res 24b/48k version that is reviewed here.
Produced by Gilad Atzmon and recorded and mixed by Ben Lamdin at The Fish Factory Studio, London, the album features 10 tracks that make for a lush listening experience. The musicians play together as one voice that smoothly spreads across the stereo scape. There is a wonderful level of transparency and airiness which gives an extremely live feel to these high resolution recordings. Each part plays off the others with a fantastic balance where nothing is trapped.
The mix falls deeply into the sound stage with the use of ambient reverberation placing the piano from the center toward the right channel. Bass snuggly fills out the low end with an extremely warm and full round body that will move through you when enjoyed at higher volumes. All parts are crystal clear, free of distortion, allowing the music to sail across the listening room without any effort.
Vocals have been given a nice amount of space while centered in the mix, and clarinet and sax parts take the left channel revealing each nuance and timbre as notes soar by. On the occasion where percussion is added, the attack and decay mirror their pure staccato hits, with the shaker sizzling from the left channel on the fifth track “invitation.”
One may picture a smoke filled room for the jazzier pieces, but their pure aural tapestry paints a vivid scene where no haze can reach. The elongated accordion chords on “When You Are Gone” stretch across the soundstage with a crispness whereby the reed emanates. Viola is subtly placed in the right channel strung together by the remainder of the group.
Talinka is not only perfect for introspective listening, their songs are a wonderful journey of life performed in the most intimate of ways. The sound quality is fabulous making this required listening for audiophiles. Strongly recommended for fans of acoustic jazz who welcome an intriguing blend of folk based genres.
THE PROGRESSIVE ASPECT
Article by: Mel Allen
Talinka is a band project by Israeli born vocalist, songwriter and actress Tali Atzmon, married to noted jazz instrumentalist and composer Gilad Atzmon who is also part of this quartet. The remaining places are taken up by Jenny Bliss Bennett and Yaron Stavi, each member is distinguished within their own field, making it a sort of ‘dream team’ if you like.
They describe their music as, “…a music loving adventure. For us, the love of music extends beyond style and genre. We blend folk, early music, jazz, tango and free improvisation”. That statement is a perfect description as it is clear from the first listen that this is an album created by people with a love for what they do. It would be difficult to categorise their sound and would be unfair to do so, they have created a wonderful fusion of the above mentioned styles with added touches of Middle Eastern elements.
Tali is an amazingly soulful jazz singer, whose voice captivates while the music weaves a magical spell on the listener, drawing you in; almost warm, gentle and at times haunting. They have used an excellent collection of instruments to enhance their sound, from viola de gamba, violin, bass clarinet to soprano saxophone, along with some great piano and double bass work. Each instrument provides lovely textures, just when needed, to enhance the songs. The album is full of delicate touches, wonderful melodies and interesting changes, which always hold your attention.
There are ten tracks; seven original compositions with three cover versions, two of which are the jazz standards You Don’t Know What Love Is and Don’t Explain, previously covered by both Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. The band adds their own feel to both of these tracks to produce excellent renditions.
Things start off with the title track, a gentle stroll with some lovely jazz piano accompanied by Tali’s voice being used as an instrument, creating some great improv sounds. The double bass provides a subtle rhythm; there is also some lovely sax and clarinet work here. Losing Vision was written by Tali in response to the Syrian refuge crisis; a beautiful song, achingly heartfelt which packs an emotional punch (no matter on your personal views on this subject). Here Jenny’s contribution on the bowed violin de gamba stands out, with fine bass clarinet contributions too, Tali singing the lines, “People dream of leaving and people dream of loving”, creating a small message of hope in what could have come over as a solely melancholic song.
Invitation, penned by Polish composer Bronisław Kaper, begins with an incessant double bass groove, as the piece is given a Middle Eastern flavour at times, before the accordion comes in to change the focus to more of a Tango feel. All this is weaving around the basic bass groove, Tali’s vocals here are different having, and the best way I can describe it, a Jazzy Zappa style of delivery, and it works. Four 2 Tango does what it says, the accordion very prominent giving a real Tango feel, but it is on this track that the band get to stretch themselves, lending the song a great improv feel. Tali’s voice is again used like an instrument, matching the violin in a near duel, and towards the end Jenny puts in some very deep, forceful sounds with the viola de gamba before it is over all too soon.
The last couple of tracks are beautifully paced, When You’re Gone has a melancholic feel with the accordion giving those Tango touches again. Jenny and Yaron combine so well, having a great connection which lifts the song to another level. The closing Every Now and Then is full of melody with a subtle Middle Eastern influence.
This will undoubtedly be classed as a jazz album, but there is so much more here, wonderfully blending these different styles. This, I believe, could be an album that might convince people who find that Jazz does not sit well with them to give it a try. You may find it has more to offer, pushing boundaries to create new and interesting sounds.
Talinka was recorded by Ben Lamdin at The Fish Factory Studio London in November 2016, produced and mixed by Gilad Atzmon in London January 2017, and finally mastered by Andrew Tulloch at The Blue Studio. The album is available on CD and download, go listen and hopefully buy it, I don’t think you will be disappointed; I have enjoyed every minute of it.
by Peter Thelen, Published 2017-08-09
This quartet is led by vocalist Tali Atzmon, a deeply personal and soulful jazz singer who guides this group, providing their direction, though this is clearly a transcendental fusion of folk, jazz, and Middle Eastern sounds. Joining her on this debut release are world acclaimed saxophonist Gilad Atzmon (here he plays soprano sax, accordion, and bass clarinet, and handles production), double bassist Yaron Stavi, and Jenny Bliss Bennett who also sings, plays flute, violin, and viola da gamba (a fretted six-string cello-like instrument typically played like a guitar, but can also be bowed) round out the quartet proper, with two guest players, pianist Frank Harrison and percussionist Enzo Zirilli making very essential contributions to the sound, track depending. The overall feeling of their sound is warm, gentle, and mellow, and the unique blend of instrumentation, especially the combination of viola da gamba and bass clarinet or accordion serve to underscore the power of Tali’s voice, which is at once soulful and soothing. The ten songs presented here are mostly written by Tali or Gilad Atzmon, with a couple group composed pieces, and interpretations of a couple classic standards, “Don’t Explain” and “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” both of which Tali makes her own, blending right in with the originals. In all, the ten pieces presented here are unique, intrinsically beautiful and elemental, enchanting the spirit, warming the heart and freeing the soul.
Ian Mann, THE JAZZ MANN 4 Stars
"An impressive leadership début from Tali Atzmon. The album touches many bases with its wide ranging and evocative arrangements while her lyrics are perceptive and intelligent and enhance the music."
Talinka is a new quartet led by vocalist, songwriter and actress Tali Atzmon. Israeli born but London based Tali is the wife of multi-instrumentalist, composer, band-leader author and political activist Gilad Atzmon, a well known and (mostly) well loved figure on the UK music scene.
Tali has provided backing vocals on a number of Gilad’s many album releases but as far as I’m aware Talinka represents her first musical project as a leader. Alongside Tali’s vocals the band features Gilad on bass clarinet, soprano sax and accordion and Yaron Stavi on double bass, the latter a long term associate of Gilad’s and a member of Gilad’s regular working band the Orient House Ensemble.
The inclusion of Gilad and Yaron may be fairly predictable but Tali’s other choice to complete the Talinka line up is less so. Jenny Bliss Bennett is a musician more closely associated with baroque music. A specialist on the viola da gamba she also contributes baroque violin, flute and backing vocals. The viola de gamba is a six stringed, fretted instrument, somewhere in size between a regular viola and a cello. It can be either bowed or plucked and strummed like a guitar. Bliss Bennett moves freely between both techniques and thus fulfils a rhythmic as well as a melodic role in the creation of the music.
The album also includes guest appearances by pianist Frank Harrison and percussionist Enzo Zirilli, two musicians also closely associated with the Orient House Ensemble.
The inclusion of Bliss Bennett helps to ensure that Talinka has a distinct and unusual group sound.
Perhaps this is best described by the band themselves who provide album liner notes that summarise their music thus;
“Talinka is a music-loving adventure. For us the love of music extends beyond style and genre; we blend folk, early music, jazz, tango and free improvisation. We believe in songs and beauty being vital forces of nature. We adhere to simplicity, harmony and warmth. The outcome is a natural breathing, deep and spacious sonic adventure”.
The programme consists of seven original compositions written by members of the group plus arrangements of “Invitation” by the Polish film composer Bronislau Kaper and the jazz standards “Don’t Explain” and “You Don’t Know What Love Is”.
Talinka blur both musical and geographical boundaries. The album begins with “Talinka” itself, a tune written by Gilad Atzmon. Paced by guest Harrison’s careful and exact piano the tune features the pure sound of Tali’s wordless vocals, which sound almost Brazilian at times. Meanwhile the inflections of Gilad’s soprano sax suggest that the music also has roots in the Middle East. Whatever its provenance the piece is a thing of quiet beauty, wholly in accordance with the group’s mission statement.
Tali explains her song “Losing Vision” thus;
“I wrote the song in response to the Syrian refugee crisis. The bass clarinet together with the viola da gamba creates a primordial auditory realm that evokes a deep sense of Sisyphean existential struggle yet is a cry for change”.
Not surprisingly the mood is sombre, with deep, resinous bass clarinet combining with melancholy bowed viola da gamba while Stavi’s bass acts as the song’s anchor. Tali’s deep, grave, evocative vocal expresses both the suffering and the inherent dignity of the refugees while subtly alluding to the song “People Who Need People” as she sings the lines “people dream of leaving” and “people dream of loving”. But despite all of the song’s sadness the ultimate message is still one of hope.
Credited to the entire band “Baroque Bottom” begins by featuring the ethereal sound of Tali’s wordless vocals, subsequently joined by those of Bliss Bennett, floating above Stavi’s sparse bass accompaniment. The introduction of Gilad’s soprano sax, which subsequently combines with Bliss Bennett’s flute and Tali’s now soaring voice steers the music into the kind of territory inhabited by Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble. I suspect that the joky title is probably a homage to Robert Wyatt, with whom Gilad Atzmon once worked, and specifically Wyatt’s landmark 1974 album “Rock Bottom”.
Harrison’s piano returns for Tali’s supremely melancholic interpretation of Billie Holiday’s “Don’t Explain” which sounds even sadder than the original. The piece is measured by Harrison’s piano and the sorrow in Tali’s voice is complemented by the sepia tinged combination of bass clarinet and viola da gamba.
Bronislau Kaper was a Polish born composer who emigrated to the US where he wrote songs for film scores, some of them becoming jazz standards. Talinka’s arrangement of his piece “Invitation” begins the deeply resonant sounds of Stavi’s double bass and Gilad’s grainy bass clarinet. Stavi subsequently strikes up a groove, augmented on this occasion by Zirilli’s subtle percussion shadings. Tali’s sultry vocals are accompanied by a combination of reeds and accordion as Gilad overdubs himself. In a typically genre bending performance the accordion hints at Argentinian tango, the soprano sax and bass clarinet at the sounds of the Middle East.
Gilad’s own “Four 2 Tango” is arguably less ambiguous. He’s worked frequently with tango groups, notably Tango Siempre and features himself on accordion here. However Tali’s wordless vocals, which extend into some quite extreme areas (shades of Julie Tippetts and other vocal improvisers here), plus the sound of Bliss Bennett’s viola da gamba take this particular tango to some interesting and unexpected places.
The group penned “Heimat” also features wordless vocals with Tali’s larynx teamed with bass clarinet and viola da gamba on a brief but atmospheric piece, again with echoes of Garbarek and the Hilliards but with a pronounced Middle Eastern flavour.
The piece acts as a kind of overture to an extraordinary version of the jazz standard “You Don’t Know What Love Is”. Despite the presence of Harrison’s mellifluous piano in the mix the power of Tali’s voice allied to the keening of Gilad’s soprano and the dramatic bowing of Bliss Bennett brings out the bleakness and pathos of Don Raye’s lyric.
Interestingly there’s an equally arresting interpretation of this song on “Nightfall”, the recent album by the trio Quercus featuring singer June Tabor, saxophonist Iain Ballamy and pianist Huw Warren, another drummerless line up. It’s intriguing that both of these ‘chamber jazz’ groups should have chosen to tackle this song and that both of them imbue it with such a visceral emotional impact. Presumably they came to it wholly independently of one another. Both versions are stunning and I wouldn’t like to choose between them.
The melancholic mood continues with Tali’s song “When You’re Gone” a song featuring the composer’s emotive vocals teamed with drone of her husband’s accordion. Bliss Bennett and Stavi also combine well with the mournful ring of Bliss Bennett’s strings enhancing the sense of yearning and loss expressed in Tali’s lyrics.
The album concludes with Tali’s evocative “Every Now and Then”, a song whose melody and lyrics remind me of a Leonard Cohen number as Gilad’s reeds and accordions add an element Middle Eastern exotica.
Released on Gilad’s own Fanfare imprint “Talinka” represents an impressive leadership début from Tali Atzmon. Musically the album touches many bases with its wide ranging and evocative arrangements and the standard of the musicianship is excellent, as one would expect from players of this calibre. The arrangements are consistently interesting and exotic and the combination of baroque specialist Bliss Bennett and multi-instrumentalist Gilad is highly distinctive.
Some commentators have cited the lack of range of Tali’s voice but it is well suited to her chosen material, both her original songs and her interpretations of jazz standards. Her background as an actress has helped to ensure that she is able to “get inside” a song, just as June Tabor does. And let’s not forget that on wordless pieces like “Four 2 Tango” she’s prepared to push her voice into more adventurous areas. Meanwhile her lyrics are perceptive, evocative and intelligent and thoroughly enhance the music.
Supported by Robert Wyatt, Talinka is one of those releases that will make you tug your heart of beautiful, soft, and gentle releases that is very deep, distinct, and efficient that MoonJune Records have released. Back in August of 2015 in my review of Gilad Atzmon and the Orient House Ensemble’s The Whistle Blower, I once described Tali Atzmon’s vocals was a nod to Combustible Edison’s Miss Lily Banquette on the closing title-track which showed their sense of humor. Listening to Talinka, it’s different.
You can feel Tali’s presence on Talinka’s sole self-titled release as if she’s singing right behind you as if you are walking through a ghost town as the pin dropped at the exact moment. Her vocals reminisce of the late great Peggy Lee. The album is this combination between Jazz, Folk, Tango, and the Great American Songbook. There are moments that the music is haunting and ominous at times with a chilling atmosphere at times.
With the album cover in which Tali did the image for, it’s very much a nod to Black Sabbath’s sole self-titled debut release in 1970, alongside Tali’s vocals, it considers Jenny Bliss Bennett on Viola de Gamba, Violin, Flute, and Vocals; Frank Harris on Piano; Enzo Zirilli on Percussion; Yaron Stavi on Double Bass; and Gilad Atzmon on Bass Clarinet, Soprano Sax, and Accordion. He also produced the album as well.
The album was recorded last year at The Fish Factory Studio in London in November last year and mixed there also in December of that year. You can close your eyes and imagine it’s either 1939 or 1942 in the smoky nightclubs and it’s something straight out of the movies between Casablanca or Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy, Tali is hypnotizing the audience of her singing and it fascinates the crowd and giving her a big stamp of approval.
Not to mention the six highlights on here that just made listeners open the doors more and more opened than ever before. Invitation begins with this haunting introduction by Gilad’s bass clarinet followed by Stavi’s Brazilian bossa-nova bass line along with Jenny’s violin and Enzo’s brushes on the percussion. The accordion makes you walk along the sandy beaches in the Northwestern part of Brazil in a place called Bahia as the team follow Tali right behind her.
Losing Vision is a response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis that happened last year. Gilad’s bass clarinet and Jenny’s Viola de Gamba create this mourning loss as you can hear the cries and whispers and knowing the struggle of a cry for a change, is going to be a gigantic long and winding road. Gilad and Jenny make you walk into an empty street from an aftermath that just happened that was once peaceful, turned into rubble.
The chilling short instrumental Heimat is an eerie composition with crying vocalization and into the deep waters of classical-avant-garde jazz while the menacing tango vibrations of the Jazz standard, You Don’t Know What Love Is gives my arm-hairs go up at the right momentum as if they strike you like thunder crashing down towards the small little town with powerful notes.
When You Are Gone is a nod to Bali H’ai. It’s a sad and beautiful song that Tali does. You can close your eyes and imagine walking through a sad-and-lonely club of people who lost their loved ones through tragedy and sympathizing with what they had to go through and the struggle to move on, is hard and slow baby steps. The accordion, violin, and double bass set the scenario of what is happening.
The characterization of this person is coming to an end after what has happened to them. The music on here, I got this feeling that is this nod to perhaps one of the most amazing bands to come out of the Rock In Opposition movement thanks to Jenny’s improvisation on her violin, is a band called Univers Zero. And then there’s Baroque Bottom.
You have this soaring soprano sax and the flute delving into the bright clouds and hope there is a new day. The vocalizations set this characterization of a person at being at the lowest low, knowing as I’ve mentioned a second ago, there’s a new beginning and a new chapter for them.
Talinka’s self-titled release is a return to real good music and real Jazz music. For me, listening to this album, is like a breath of fresh air and knowing that there is some good music who want to keep the flaming fires of the genre of the sound of Jazz, Classical, Folk, and Tango alive and well. Talinka has done that. And I hope they will continue to do more in the years to come.
By Zachary Nathanson
London Jazz News ( Album Launch gig review)
Having reviewed Talinka’s debut album earlier this month (LINK), I was keen to see how their beautifully orchestrated recording would translate into a live performance. In the warm friendly setting of Jazz Cafe Posk, the quartet, led by vocalist Tali Atzmon, convened to produce an evening of exquisite music, making a strong case for combining elements as diverse as seventeenth century baroque and South American tango into the jazz idiom. The start seemed tentative – perhaps because the PA was a little off in the first couple of numbers – but they soon gelled, resulting in affecting renditions of their album material such as Tali Atzmon’s mesmerising song Losing Vision and Invitation, a Polish standard by Bronisław Kaper, as well as a lovely Brazilian number - not included on the album.
The second set was even more assured, opening with bassist Yaron Stavi and early music specialist Jenny Bliss Bennett playing one of the flamboyant Mystery Sonatas for violin by Biber. A couple of tunes later, guest pianist Frank Harrison and Gilad Atzmon on soprano saxophone also did a duo turn, playing a very free interpretation of the haunting tango Oblivion by Astor Piazzola.
It has to be said that on this occasion, however amazing Gilad’s musicality (he also played bass clarinet, guitar and accordion), it was Bliss Bennett who stole the show, with her pitch-perfect, superb projection whether on viola da gamba, violin or flute. Tali Atzmon’s vocal range and unaffected grace was equally engaging, and she demonstrated an incredible emotional range too, from deep melancholia on In My Solitude and You Don’t Know What Love Is, to flirtatious cheekiness on Whatever Lola Wants. The set ended with the Kurt Weill-esque Every Now and Then, to rapturous applause. To judge by the reaction, this unusual band, with its fearless use of light and shade, looks set to subtly expand the horizons of the jazz world.
By Sarah Chaplin
TALINKA – Talinka (2017 / MoonJune)
Good grief but what a constellation of stars and beauteous mellifluity is herein showcased for starving aficionados world-wide! Tali Atzmon was an acclaimed Israeli singer and actress…and I say “was” because it appears she gave up the celluloid gig; I could be wrong. Regardless, of the two professions, she obviously made the right decision because Talinka is a gem, everything flowing, gently adventurous, soothing, highly sonorous, and pregnant with earthy jazz refrains.
I’m betting you noticed Tali’s surname right off the bat, and, yes, sax maestro and mega-Humanist Gilad Atzmon is her husband, present in the disc from beginning to end, not just on that axe but bass clarinet and accordion as well, all serving his spotless tastes in piquancies and colorations. Yaron Stavi plays a deceptive contrabass, a non-demanding accompaniment rooted in the ground and as constant as systole and diastole, enveloping. Jenny Bennett, an acclaimed virtuoso, plies the viola da gamba, violin, and flute (as well as occasional vocals), all standing out, quietly stately, perfectly flanking Stavi.
“Four to Tango”, written by Gilad, is an airy Venetian melisma while the cover of “When You’re Gone” is a yearning plaint. Tali’s take on Billy Holiday’s classic “Don’t Explain” expounds the anguish of a cheated lover who yet wants what her heart desires above all other things. Every inch of this release is confident, sympathetic – Tali wrote “Losing Vision” in response the Syrian refugee crisis – overflowing with pastoralities and then with perfectly placed angularities, near-neo-classicalities Bartok would have taken note of. This is not at all MoonJune’s usual progrock or intriguingly crazed experimentalism, but, lord, is it ever so needed in this era of political insanity! Take your shoes off, ratchet the Barcalounger all the way back, and relax into this highly intelligent CD; you deserve it.
By Mark S. Tucker
Talinka – Talinka (Moonjune): Talinka is a new quartet led by vocalist, songwriter and actress Tali Atzmon. Israeli born, but London based, Tali is the wife of multi-instrumentalist, composer, band-leader Gilad Atzmon (bass clarinet, soprano sax, accordion). Other members of the group are Yaron Stavi (bass), and Jenny Bliss Bennett, a musician more closely associated with baroque music (viola da gamba, baroque violin, flute and backing vocals). “For us the love of music extends beyond style and genre; we blend folk, early music, jazz, tango and free improvisation. We believe in songs and beauty being vital forces of nature. We adhere to simplicity, harmony and warmth.” The combination of folk, jazz, and multiple stylistic, instrumental and vocal contributions is unique and remarkable: it’s a mixture of blues like “Don’t Explain” (previously performed by Nina Simone and Billie Holiday) with an original “When You’re Gone” (Tali Atzon) with it’s accordion, and the Eastern cabaret tune “Every Now And Then” (Tali Atzon). The performance on this disc haunts, connects with deep moody jazz standards and introduces a new international form of world music.
By Dave Rogers
Shepherd Express, USA
On its self-titled album, Talinka brings together an unusual set of instruments (viola de gamba, bass clarinet, double bass) behind Tali Atzmon’s exotic art song vocals. The original songs are dreamy and often undefinable, infused with elements of jazz, echoes of klezmer and abstractions of tango. Talinka also borrows a few pages from the Great American Songbook in torchy, after-hours renditions of “Don’t Explain” and “You Don’t Know What Love Is.” The album’s closing selection, the mordantly romantic “Every Now and Then,” is a dead-ringer for latter-day Leonard Cohen.
For anyone with a concern to keep music in neat categories, jazz in all its splendid variety is the irrepressible resistance. Improvising musicians can start anywhere, with any material and with any combination of instruments and create sounds that are at once familiar and recast afresh. While it’s true that the viola da gamba is a rare bird outside of renaissance and baroque circles, what enthusiast for improvised music could fail to be intrigued to see that it was to feature in the performance by the vocal quartet Talinka?
Tali Atzmon’s voice features unerring sensitivity to pitch and highly expressive but never overelaborated lyrical delivery. Her approach to lyrics—a combination of her own material and standards—had a directness and sensitivity that favoured simplicity and nuance over the familiar range of vocal techniques which have become a staple of jazz singing over many years. Her choice of material tended toward the elegiac, which perfectly matched the strikingly unusual combination of instruments supporting her—not least the combination of bass clarinet (or accordion) and viola da gamba. There was another creative dimension in the way in which even familiar tunes such as “How Deep is the Ocean’ and ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is’ were delivered with a jazz singer’s flare, but with instrumental tempos and harmonies subtly shifted eastward.
As ever, Gilad Atzmon’s instrumental fireworks—now extended to guitar as well as bass clarinet, soprano saxophone and accordion—were a treat, closely patterning or supporting Tali Atzmon’s vocal lines; and on a solo excursion, blasting off past the known boundaries of the musical universe before landing back precisely for the re-entry of the vocal line. Jenny Bliss Bennett moved with ease between viola da gamba and violin; and the harmonies she and Gilad achieved were a particular delight: when else are we likely to hear the viola da gamba and bass clarinet supporting a song, or the plucked strings of that instrument against the extended chords of the accordion?
Special mention goes to bass player Yaron Stavi whose musical judgment is a match for the beauty of his tone. With only two other instrumentalists, both at times in a continuo mode, his bass playing was critical in maintaining the forward momentum, but always supportively: the group sound was quite spacious, allowing the qualities of Tali Atzmon’s singing to shine though. But Yaron also had his star turns: an instrumental blast with Gilad on soprano saxophone, which took ‘In A sentimental Mood’ on a wild klezmer excursion; and—purists beware!—a duet with Jenny Bliss Bennett on violin, playing a 17th century sonata by Heinrich Biber. His bass line was wholly in keeping with the character of that music, but with technique to spare, we didn’t need to strain to hear the occasional embellishment, too.
Jazz gets everywhere; and because it doesn’t have any closed doors, forms and instruments both new and old find their way into jazz. The possibilities are endless, extending in every direction. The Talinka Quartet needs no instruction in that.
© J. Whitman
London Jazz News
Every now and again you come across a jazz album which dispenses with all the usual features and starts afresh: instrumentation, form, melody, harmony and soloing protocols are all reworked here with simplicity, depth and maturity. The project brings together vocalist Tali Atzmon and her multi-instrumentalist husband, Gilad, with Yaron Stavi on bass, baroque specialist Jenny Bliss on viola da gamba, violin and flute, and on some tracks Frank Harrison on piano, and has created a format in which this newly configured band can explore original material and jazz standards in an appealingly dark and brooding way.
The eponymous opening track is a taut yet delicate interplay between wordless vocals and soprano saxophone, setting the scene for an enticing range of combos that follow: viola and bass clarinet, accordion and piano, voice and bass, bass and bass clarinet. A strong feature of the album is a series of precise rhythmic textures which the vocals can cut across, picking out an unexpectedly fresh melodic line or tonality, breathing new life into songs like the bittersweet Don’t Explain or the elegiac You Don’t Know What Love Is, and moving chamber-like between tangos and baroque flavours. It’s like tasting a very complex malt whisky in which you can sense the landscape it came from and the time taken to reach this moment from its inception. The intensity and topicality of Losing Vision is a particular highlight.
At times, especially when Gilad is playing his soprano, it’s like listening to a pared-down balkanised version of Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble working through some early Piazzola. The provocative, disturbing turns on some solos are artfully balanced by the overall sense of lush restraint. It’s creative without trying too hard, and impressive throughout is the colour and control in evidence in Tali Atzmon’s voice, which bestows an emotional timbre to the band’s offering that is full of tenderness, of warmth touched with sadness.
By Sarah Chaplin
KIND OF JAZZ MAGAZINE
An album to put on when you are in a good mood in the knowledge your mood will still be good at the end.
Talinka is the debut CD from Tali Atzmon's Talinka ensemble released on Fanfare Records. Tali is an actress, film maker and musician from Israel and here she teams up with Jenny Bliss Bennett on Viola De Gamba, Violin, Flute and vocals, Yaron Stavi on double bass and Gilad Atzmon on bass clarinet, soprano sax and accordion.
This is an album of atmospheres, ethereal mists and wisps of evocative erudition snatched from the air and captured, held in place by the steadfast hands of the musicians and over ridden by the gentle, tuneful vocals of Tali. The CD is a great introduction to Tali and her musical class and style. From the gentle, lilting wordless opening track, Talinka to the moody and dark tinged, Losing Vision the CD shows a range and wealth of vocal ability. On Losing Vision the bass clarinet works some magic whilst the vocals sear their words into the slightly vacuous atmosphere left open by the sparsity of the arrangement - this was penned by Tali and the arrangement is intriguing in that it works its way into upper register almost subliminally and is basically a duet between bass clarinet and voice. Baroque Bottom is atmospheric and light of tone, with a deliciously quirksome interlude from flute, soprano sax and gentle, slightly overworked but still interesting vocals. Billie Holiday's Don't Explain is given a breathy delivery and suits Tali's voice well and benefits from not trying to be anything like Holiday's version so it takes on its own identity.
Bronislau Kaper's Invitation begins with deep, sonorous bass clarinet before percussion and double bass pad out the beat between them, developing the swingy, sassy number but here it has a distinctly eastern promise added by the soprano of Gilad Atzmon which is playful and technically superb. Four to Tango is a Gilad Atzmon written piece developed around a rhythmic theme set by the accordion which is deftly counterpointed and textured by the bass and later vocals introduce an over arching gentle modus. There is a lovely section where vocals and soprano sax interact in eerie cacophony and a bit of exploration seems on the cards, in delightful opposition to the theme until it is re-introduced bringing the piece back to ground again.
Heimet is a group penned number with a slightly bonkers arrangement centred on several registers and works itself into the opening of Raye DePaul's You Don't Know What Love Is which is almost perfectly positioned to ambush the listener with its dark take on this number. From the gapped chorded opening to the gentle, sensual lyrics and tune, this is delivered well. When You're Gone is slow, gentle, easy on the ears and contains a gorgeous and well defined string interlude with bass and viola literally speaking in song to each other, I just wanted the accordion to stop at times. Every Now and Then closes the album and tells a dark story reminding us the importance of remembering.
This album is decent, fine and everything a good album should be. The vocals are low, soothing and strong with a touch of Kitt thrown in now and again for good measure. There is not a huge range but the songs are well penned and chosen to suit which is sometimes just as important. The arrangements have Mr. Atzmon stamped firmly on them and personally thinking, there is a sense that just a touch more generosity to the vocals would have been interesting but here there is folk, jazz and Eastern blended together, with a touch of the Baroque with the use of the gamba in a genre transcension which defies categorisation and time- just good music should be. The musical backing is excellent and the arrangements sound and full of texture, which makes this an album which is easy to listen to - the slight problem is there is nothing to woo or wow in terms of exploration but there is a sense that is maybe around the corner. The sleeve notes say the musicians believe in simplicity and have a hope the listener will enjoy the CD and this is fulfilled. It is an album to put on when you are in a good mood in the knowledge your mood will still be good at the end.
Written by Sammy Stein
HI-FI NEWS & Record Review
Talinka @ St Ives Jazz Club - May 23
Gilad Atzmon (bass clarinet, sorprano sax, accordian and classical guitar); Tali Atzmon (vocal); Jenny Bliss Bennett (viola da gamba); Yaron Stavi (bass).
(Review by Peter Jones/ Photos courtesy of Trevor Lever)
A good-sized St Ives crowd gathered at the self-styled ‘last jazz club before New York’ on Tuesday night. As Talinka took the stage, many were wondering how the band would compare with Gilad Atzmon’s other musical ventures. In fact, though, the brains behind this project belong to his wife, the singer Tali Atzmon.
Looking at the line-up of bass clarinet, viola da gamba, double bass and vocals, one might predict a coalition of chaos. But one would be wrong. Very wrong. Talinka have a strange yet distinctive musical style whose main feature is an intense other-worldly melancholy, part middle-eastern, part Brazilian, part Berlin cabaret, part Tom Waits.
Gilad switches constantly between bass clarinet, accordian and nylon-stringed guitar, but the band’s real wild card is viola da gamba player Jenny Bliss Bennett, who wears a happily bemused expression throughout, even when singing vocal harmonies with Tali. In case you’ve never seen one, the viola da gamba is a fretted, six-stringed instrument a little smaller than a cello, played upright, and either bowed or plucked like a guitar. Bliss Bennett sometimes switches to violin. The last element of the rich Talinka stew is energetic double bassist Yaron Stavi.
A good example of their style is Don’t Explain, a bleak enough song when rendered by Billie Holiday, but now imbued with an almost unbearable sadness and longing. Another is Gilad’s composition Four 2 Tango, also their opening number, which sounds like someone trying to awake from an unpleasant dream. Or Duke’s In My Solitude, another one Billie used to sing, here redolent of deep melancholy and world-weary resignation.
Wait, come back – all this is a good thing: Talinka’s sadness is mixed with much human warmth, and this gives the music terrific emotional depth, whilst the unusual instrumentation lends familiar songs a whiff of the exotic. Tali herself is a wonderful songwriter – I particularly enjoyed Every Now And Then, which could have been composed by Leonard Cohen, and When You’re Gone, a bolero with gorgeous minor/major modulations. And throughout, the joker, provocateur and controversialist Gilad keeps up his usual banter with everyone in the room, including his wife. Very entertaining and richly enjoyable.
Bebop Spoken Here (album review)
Although far less well-known than her multi-instrumentalist husband Gilad, Tali Atzmon deserves better recognition for the quality of her writing and singing on this debut album of the group that includes both of them, along with Jenny Bliss Bennett on the baroque instrument the viola da gamba, and Yaron Stavi on double bass. Not included in the live line-up but heard occasionally on the album are pianist Frank Harrison and percussionist Enzo Zirilli.
Musically, Talinka follow a similarly winding path to the one trodden by Gilad over the years; it’s the sound of people around the world who have had a hard time of it - keening, remorseful music, but full of beauty. On the sweet, gentle title track, Tali sings wordlessly in the style of the Brazilian Minas Gerais region. More typical perhaps is Tali’s composition Losing Vision, a song about refugees, on which she is backed only by bass clarinet, bowed viola da gamba and bass. Her other two tunes – When You’re Gone and Every Now And Then – are among the strongest on the album.
The jazz standards are not neglected: that icon of passive suffering, Billie Holiday, is represented by Don’t Explain, whilst a similar mood is evoked by Gene de Paul’s You Don’t Know What Love Is. Invitation, with its sinuous, hard-to-sing melody, sounds Brazilian but is really of Polish origin, like its composer. Here it’s rendered as a tango (so now we’re in Argentina), with middle-eastern soprano sax thrown in. We hear the tango again on Gilad’s composition Four 2 Tango, with another beautiful, wordless melody, plus some rather alarming vocal improvisation.
It all sounds like a recipe for musical chaos, especially with no drummer, so why does it work? The answer, I think, is that the band doesn’t care about musical, historical or international boundaries. They play what sounds good.