Omri Mor Trio

Omri Mor Trio res
Photo: AlanS Photography

VJs, June 2

While there is little as gauche and offensive as using music to preach to one’s audience via the lyrics, a message implicit in the music itself is a different matter. And blessed be he who manages to espouse a skerrick of hope, peace and reconciliation through the blending source material that has Muslim, Jewish and Christian roots.

Not that messages are the main point of Omri Mor’s amalgam of north Africa’s traditional Andalousian music with jazz – and perhaps that makes the implicit one even more powerful.

The Israeli pianist has unlocked a treasure-trove of fresh musical possibilities that he calls AndalouJazz, incorporating the scales and rhythms of the traditional music into the harmonies, structures and instrumentation of jazz.

This was no dry, ethnomusicological exercise, however. Mor is a thrilling pianist, and he and his colleagues – bassist Simon Starr and drummer Noam David – play his music with rampant exuberance. Yes, some moments of collective virtuosity ran close to wanton bravado, but such flourishes are very much a part of the source material, and they were executed with keen ears for the differences between drama or verve and bombast.

Although Starr executed his parts with aplomb the real story lay in the fiery dialogues between Mor and David. Their rapport, especially for resolving complex phrases in odd time-signatures, allowed them to scale dizzy heights of energy.

Several Mor solos were articulated with singular finesse, as though the keyboard were a block of marble at which he chipped and chiselled, and thereby deftly sculpted melodies.

David, meanwhile detonated explosions at unexpected places, and drove Mor and Starr with a ferocity as though they might otherwise wilt before they reached the oasis at the end of the song. The one jazz standard, You And the Night And The Music, was blasted with percussive sand-storms until it sounded almost as Algerian as the other material was jazzy.

Remarkably Mor has yet to record his music. The time is ripe.