Itai Kriss & Telavana: Supermoon

In bringing together his exquisite ensemble Telavana, the flutist Itai Kriss showed that he was eager to extend his wide musical hug in one embrace, sweeping up the Phrygian dyads and colourful ululations of the sounds of his native Middle East with the vibrant rhythms of Cuba and the Caribbean. However, the emerging kinetic energy of the music of Telavana made for a breathtaking sound that went far beyond any mash-up of strictly local traditional styles – a Moorish-Israeli-Caribbean-Ladino, mash-up for instance. All this goes one giant leap further on Supermoon, where Itai Kriss carries his musical conceptions and his wonderful flute-playing chops to a whole new realm altogether.

Album cover - Itai Kriss & Telavana: Supermoon
Album cover – Itai Kriss & Telavana: Supermoon

Mr Kriss has added stellar musicians – Wayne Tucker, César Orozco, Tamir Shmerling, Keisel Jimenez, Jonathan Hoard and Shai Maestro – from disparate disciplines and geographies to his entourage and thus widened the sound palette of his music. Add to that he has looked to the sky and, more specifically, to the effects of the moon on human behaviour; all with a view to express the fact that we are more alike as a human race than we would care to admit. His conception becomes all the more compelling because he doesn’t burden the listener with the density of obscure theories and pseudoscience. Rather he gently and unobtrusively relocates astrological activity such as expressed in [perhaps even evocative of the mysticism of the Sepher Yetzirah] blending it with views about astrological activity in the sky in a wondrous musical programme that evokes our singular, yet prismatic humanness.

And he does this in music so mesmerising that we all but forget that each song is named after a sign of the zodiac. Loaded philosophical questions about the effects of the moon on a human being at any given time, for instance, is distilled into extraordinary musical expressions.

Mysticism is couched in floating melodies – contrapuntal lines between flute and brass, glued together by keyboards as if each melodic line was personified as a dancer engaged in creating a complex web of harmonies linked to the waxing and the waning moon. With Afro-Caribbean rhythms thundering throughout, held together by a dramatic ostinato [on “Gemini”, for instance,] or together with what sounds like heavenly hosts [on “Taurus” and “Virgo”] the ensemble brilliantly addresses [Mr Kriss’] music’s intense rhythmic interplay with extended lyrical passages.

Mr Kriss has always been regarded as a fine virtuoso flutist who was making his way into the wide world of music outside his native Middle Eastern ethos. But with Supermoon he takes on task of telling the story of the cosmic unity of humanity and manages to bring that complex idea to life with the imaginative use of a myriad of mystical and musical sources. The tag-team of Michael Pérez-Cizneros and Dave Darlington provides gorgeously lifelike engineering.

Track list – 1: The Cusp; 2: Aries; 3: Taurus; 4: Gemini; 5: Crustacean Vacation; 6: Leo; 7: Virgo; 8: Libra; 9: El Alacrán; 10: Sagittarius; 11: Capricorn; 12: Aquarius; 13: Pisces

Personnel – Itai Kriss: flute; Wayne Tucker: trumpet and flugelhorn; César Orozco: piano and Fender Rhodes; Tamir Shmerling: bass; Dan Aran: drums; Marcos López: percussion; Special Guests – Keisel Jiménez: vocals [3]; Jonathan Hoard: vocals [7]; Shai Maestro: keyboards and synthesizer [1 – 8, 10 – 12]; Malaya Sol: backing vocals [3]

Released – 2021
Label – Independent
Runtime – 1:11:46

Raul Da Gama
Raul Da Gama
Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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