My Prophet Oded Tzur

Cover My Prophet

Album info



Label: ECM Records

Genre: Jazz

Subgenre: Contemporary Jazz

Artist: Oded Tzur

Album including Album cover Booklet (PDF)

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  • 1Epilogue00:45
  • 2Child You08:29
  • 3Through A Land Unsown09:56
  • 4Renata08:02
  • 5My Prophet11:02
  • 6Last Bike Ride In Paris07:27
  • Total Runtime45:41

Info for My Prophet

There’s a cunning intensity that inhabits this freshly etched programme of five extensive pieces plus an introductory miniature, presenting saxophonist Oded Tzur in a light that balances the extremes: bright inflections of fiery refrains go hand in hand with long passages of ruminative and deeply felt interplay. In the process, the saxophonist exhibits some of his fiercest playing yet. Accompanied by his quartet of pianist Nitai Hershkovits, bassist Petros Klampanis and the new group member Cyrano Almeida on drums, the saxophonist continues on the idiosyncratic musical path he has carved out for himself – a flowing jazz idiom that seamlessly combines multiple forms of expression –, while delving deeper into the meditative and highly concentrated realm of improvisation.

The Guardian’s John Fordham called Tzur’s last album Isabela “a bewitching session” and “a gem in the playbook of doing more with less,” while observing how his “saxophone tones materialise imperceptibly, (…) his fragile, meticulously-shaped notes seem to float in still air.” Indeed, The New York-based saxophonist’s uniquely soft, flute-like tone bears resemblance to none of his contemporaries and his uncompromising determination in forging a singular way through the realm of jazz and improvisation is unmistakably his very own, and has reached a whole new level of maturation on My Prophet.

A standout trait since the quartet’s tenure with the label has been the exceptional interplay between Oded and Nitai. Here more than ever, Hershkovits roams freely within the structures the leader and his accompanists provide, switching and combining inflections of jazz, classical and more left-field inspirations seamlessly as the plot thickens. Commending the pianist’s unique approach on his solo record, Stereophile magazine said: “as his thoughts and feelings flow, Hershkovits again and again comes upon unfamiliar iterations of beauty.” This holds just as true here. Oded keeps the sturdy centre, outlining the compositional seed, while Nitai performs pianistic pirouettes, orbiting the main themes like a whirlwind.

“’Freedom in the discipline’ is our philosophy between the heads of my songs,” Oded explains. “I feel very strongly about how the initial exposition of a theme should be treaded, and how it’s to be reprised at the end. But what happens in between is defined only by our individual voices in the quartet and how we navigate freedom within the form. The marriage of form and freedom is a beautiful notion to me. Two so seemingly disparate concepts, but resulting in no contradictions whatsoever”.

The absence of contradiction however doesn’t discourage the potential for musical tension. For there’s plenty positive tension to go around on the album. After the calmly introduced monophony of “Epilogue”, “Child You” starts things off kicking, with the band conjuring a tight-knit unison before Oded takes off in soloist flight. It’s a spiralling, tuneful demonstration with nuanced dynamics. Follow-up “Through a Land Unsown” by contrast turns the spotlight towards the firmly grounding bass-work of Petros Klampanis, whose earthy tone takes the lead in a blues-tinged exploration of seemingly simple changes framed in a large dynamic spectrum.

Oded confirms how “there’s this necessary tension when working with people who are great at what they do, as is the case with my colleagues in the quartet and especially with Nitai, who goes to far-out places within the structures and frameworks I provide. It’s a real 'more than the sum of its parts' type of situation, each person's unique voice collectively culminating in the band's sound. And then there’s also the special relationship with Manfred [Eicher] in the studio, a unique listener, again contributing to the same phenomenon. All of these energies pulling at the fabric from different angles is what leads to this unique result, as you hear it on the album”

Newcomer Cyrano Almeida on drums energises the ensemble from yet another angle, with a light-footedness that breathes air into the four-way conversations. Having grown up in the African-Brazilian “Candomblé” religion, the percussionist was exposed to a very musical culture from early on. Upon hearing him play with the house-band of a club in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Oded was “immediately taken with this totally different pulse he brings to the music. I immediately wanted that in my band.”

First gently swaying, then nimbly driving, the drummer’s impulsions incite some of the quartet’s most lyrical interplay on “Renata”, his brush-work flaring up like tiny sparks of lightning. The group’s meditative tendency – Oded suggests that “music just may be the one true form of collective meditation” – reaches a concentrated peak on the title track. Here, the saxophonist’s expressive tone, combined with Nitai’s impressionist stirrings on keys invoke the kind of silent power one also finds in spiritual jazz. With “Last Bike Ride In Paris”, the group goes out with a bang – concluding the album at its most ferocious and outgoing.

Oded Tzur, tenor saxophone
Nitai Hershkovits, piano
Petros Klampanis, double bass
Cyrano Almeida, drums

Recorded at Studios La Buissonne, Southern France in November 2023
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Oded Tzur
Described by Downbeat Magazine as “A Volcano on the Ocean Floor“, Oded Tzur’s flair for mystery and narrative captivates audiences worldwide. Based in New York, the saxophonist’s work draws influence from the art of storytelling and explores relationships between ancient and modern musical traditions. His records have earned his band the title “The Coltrane Quartet of the 21st Century“, and won extraordinary critical acclaim in Europe, South Africa, Japan, South America, Russia and the US. Tzur’s unique language of improvisation takes the listener on a journey many describe as “musical storytelling”, and evokes deep contrasts between silent passages and dramatic crescendos.

Coming from the Tel Aviv jazz scene of the 2000’s, Oded Tzur’s background consisted of rigorous training in a number of musical styles. His curiosity for improvised music led him to discover the ancient art of Indian classical music, which had set him on the path to become what Downbeat Magazine later called “an explorer of the microtonal”.

In order to pursue the rare undertaking of playing Indian music, a style heavily based on microtonality, on a western instrument such as the saxophone, Tzur embarked on a decade-long research to construct a new saxophone technique — A Middle Path — as it was later named. The technique enables the saxophone to slide between the notes and highlight specific microtones, and departures from traditional saxophone playing so distinctly that the Indian grandmaster Hariprasad Chaurasia once summed it up by saying: “If a curtain were to be drawn in front of him, no one could tell which instrument was being played”.

In 2007 Tzur became the first saxophonist to learn from the legendary Indian flutist. Chaurasia’s elegant phrasing, spiritual depth and rhythmic mastery have had a profound influence on the saxophonist’s music. The work process consisted of countless sessions in which Chaurasia would play a melody on the Bansuri – the Indian flute – and Tzur would then have to translate it onto the saxophone. Following the flutist’s intricate style has refined Tzur’s technique to the point where it started attracting attention from the international saxophone community.

“Tzur is the first saxophonist I’ve heard to do what I have long thought was possible, but have been unable to successfully achieve myself: that is to bring the science and artistry of saxophone playing to produce the rounded, beautiful and expressive slides of Indian music” – Sandy Evans Saxophonists from Sydney to San Fransisco have been learning about Tzur’s technique and its possible implications. He was also invited to lecture on the subject at a number of key institutions, such as Trinity College of Music, London, the Copenhagen Conservatory, the Amsterdam Conservatory and more. “For a subject that started as a solitary practice and was deemed impossible at first, it’s humbling to see the attention and interest the technique has received during the past few years”, says the saxophonist.

In 2011, Tzur moved to New York and established the Oded Tzur Quartet. This step marked a shift in the scope of his work as a composer: sliding not only between the notes of the saxophone, but also between the melodic universes of Indian classical music and jazz.

Since its creation, the quartet has toured around the world, presenting audiences with its captivating language of improvised music. Its three albums, Like a Great River, Translator’s Note (Enja Records 2015 & 2017) and Here Be Dragons (ECM Records 2020) were released to extraordinary critical acclaim and established Tzur as a singular voice in today’s jazz scene.

Booklet for My Prophet

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