It’s hard to find new words to describe the brilliance of guitarist Rotem Sivan. His previous albums, 2015’s A New Dance and 2014’s For Emotional Use Only, highlighted his shining ability, primarily in the trio format, as an adept composer and improviser, though more an elaborator than an improvisor. His little gems of ideas keep getting polished, like his fingertips are a fine sandpaper on his guitar, revealing the secret glistening present in his strings through constant, careful ministrations, all while Haggai Cohen-Milo on bass and Mark McLean and later Colin Stranahan on drums provide the best of support, doing some poking and prodding of their own. In their own regards, these are some of the strongest guitar trio albums jazz has seen of this modern era, and now Sivan is continuing this run with the equally excellent new album, Antidote, out July 11th.
Antidote continues to growth that Sivan, Cohen Milo, and Stranahan have built over the last few years, melding into quite the formidable trio. Sivan is a master at crafting a mood with Cohen Milo cleaving to it, the good and proper counterbalance. Yet it’s Colin Stranahan whose drumming is always a sound to behold that makes this album such required listening. The bounce and snap he adds to the the very fun “Reconstruction” or the rollicking “Sun Song” provide a dancing skeleton for Sivan and Cohen Milo to add so much meat to those jangling bones. Yet their interplay on ballads like aloof or their rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” alongside Gracie Terzian on vocals, who also has production credits on the album, prove that it’s not all just a day at the races with these folks, giving diversity and texture to yet another masterful collection of songs.
I didn’t even know I needed a redo of Sivan’s “For Emotional Use Only”, the title track of his aforementioned 2014 album, but this time Colin Stranahan gets a crack at the tune with these guys and his intro breakdown in the album’s penultimate track and the headbanging hip-hop beat he’s layering throughout is exactly what the doctor ordered. As brilliant as this album is on every track, this is most certainly a highlight infusing a new energy into this song and a distinct angularity that should be as much a part of Sivan’s original repertoire for years to come, like Brad Mehldau’s “Unrequited” or Jason Moran’s “Gangsterism”.
Over the years, Rotem Sivan has proven himself to be a guitarist to watch out for, and he hasn’t made a misstep yet in regards to his creative output. Once again, he’s released a tight 38 minutes of music that covers a range of feelings in the beautiful way that Sivan always does and that’s sure to bring folks back for more each time. Hopefully, this combination of Sivan, Haggai Cohen Milo, and Colin Stranahan (and the sensible guidance and sweetness of producer/vocalist Gracie Terzian) can keep plugging along. They obviously work so well together.
Rotem Sivan – Guitar & arrangement
Gracie Terzian – Vocals
Haggai Cohen-Milo – Bass
Colin Stranahan – Drums
Nextbop Editor-in-Chief Anthony Dean-Harris hosts the modern jazz radio show, The Line-Up, Fridays at 9pm CST on 91.7 FM KRTU San Antonio and is also a contributing writer to DownBeat Magazine and the San Antonio Current.