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Nitai Hershkovits - Call of the Old Wise (ECM)

1 December 2023

One of the most common criticisms levied against virtuoso musicians is that they often seem to be intent on cramming every music lesson they ever took down your throat. (AKA: shredding.) But sometimes we come across someone who knows how to draw on his education to bring out the best in his performance. Cue Israeli pianist Nitai Hershkovits, who usually plies his trade with NYC saxophonist Oded Tzur, and has history with his homeland’s jazz scene as well. For his fourth solo album, Hershkovits goes it alone, without even a sheaf of scores for company. Inspired in part by his piano teacher, he interpolates his classical and jazz training to improvise a series of tunes and set pieces that allow him to spotlight his prodigious chops without ever becoming self-aggrandizing. Rather than start with technique, Hershkovits begins with the melody, even if spontaneously composed. “Of Trust and Remorse,” “Late Blossom” and “Majestic Steps Glow Far” sound like great pieces from a couple of centuries ago, recently unearthed and put through their paces by a musician who’s excited to sightread them. Hershkovits also drops in a pair of covers, including Duke Ellington’s “Single Petal of a Rose,” and “Dream Your Dreams,” by Nick Drake’s mom Molly, and plays ‘em like he wrote ‘em. “For Suzan” (named for the piano teacher) best encapsulates his approach: a lovely melody played with both exceptional skill and maximum taste, made up on the spot. Beautiful.