by Travis Rogers Jr. for JazzTimes.com and the Jazz Owl
Sivan Arbel Crosses “Broken Lines”
Incredible vocals and a hot band
Sivan Arbel has an old school approach to melody and harmony but a novel way to enforce what she understands and composes. There is a strength as well as a delicacy to her vocals. She makes me think of Sarah Vaughan who had the raw power but also the sweetness that made her irresistible. Sivan Arbel is irresistible. Her album “Broken Lines” proves that.
She composed six of the seven tracks, with the lone exception of the Miles Davis/Bill Evans grand work “Blue and Green.” She has also gathered to herself a splendid array of artists to support her vision and her compositions. Shai Portugaly is on piano, Nadav Shapira is on bass and Yogev Gabay is on drums forming the core trio. Joining them are Ron Warburg (trumpet), Jack Sheehan (alto saxophone), and Ori Jacobson (tenor saxophone) also with Caleb Mason, Seth Weaver and Ben Tiberio adding their vocals on the title track.
The album is introduced by “Over Sensistivity” with a herald of trumpet and saxophones. Portugaly starts in with a cool melody before being joined by Sivan herself. Her vocal style grabs your attention right away. Clear tones and bright lyrics are always a grabber. I like the way she pronounces “sensitivity” with a “d” as in “sensitvidy.”
The horns take up the action again with the addition of Shapira’s bass and Gabay’s drums. The horns kick up some great dust and the core trio is solid and strong.
“Open My Tube of Heart” is the second track. Again, her intonations and vocalizations are excellent. She gives a little groan that is charming as can be. There is great interplay between her vocals and Portugaly’s piano. Shapira’s bass is understated but meaningful as well as Gabay’s rhythmic choices. Gabay makes great work of the drumming with an energetic, then restrained, approach.
“Analysis” is opened by Sivan’s solo vocals and is then greeted by Shapira’s bowed bass. The trio lays down a hard swing and the horns ride it well. The rhythm section come alive and the set up for Sivan is brilliant. She projects in strength then scales back to the lyrical. The dynamics of the piece are vivid and lively. Her scat vocals are what called Sarah Vaughan to mind. The trio marches smartly and she weaves a double helix with them that is intelligent and cool as you like.
The Miles Davis/Bill Evans piece, “Blue in Green,” follows next. Her rhythmic vocalizations open the piece, laying down her own vocal groove before surrendering to the melodic as the trio and sax adhere brilliantly to her lead.
So help me, the trio is smoking hot and I can’t get enough of them. Shapira and Gabay groove like monsters and Portugaly is incredible. But Sivan is indeed the show. I am infatuated with her improv vocals and her enunciation. The arrangement of the classic is beyond reproach.
The smoking hot changes to smoky cool with “Active on Wheels.” The Soulful trio works in beautiful cooperation with the sultry vocals. A dash of Blues and a handful of Jazz create a catalyst for the active interaction. The emotional depths of Sivan’s vocals are fascinating.
“For Aba” is, obviously, dedicated to her father. The mural of devotion and emotion and humor is painted across a spectrum of color and shade that truly reveals the range of the relationship. It is warm, it is sweet, it is reflective. The vocalizations are gorgeous. The lyrics are lovely and profound.
The group locks in on beautiful eastern rhythms and melodic excursions. The sax is exquisite and Gabay and Shapira create a rhythmic portrayal of Ha’aretz that is intoxicating. Portugaly weaves in and out of the rhythm with percussiveness and precision and, indeed, power and persuasion. I love the chord changes and the propulsive rhythms. In the end, Sivan sings her love with all the devotion she has. This was the track that stole my heart.
The album closes with “Broken Lines”, the title track. The repeated single note of the piano is mirrored by Sivan’s voice. Shapira joins on bass then the drums and horns. Sheehan (alto) and Jacobson (tenor) and Warburg (trumpet) splash warm tones across the piano and bass lines. Gabay works steadily beneath it all but with a drive that keep it all fluid. The trio seizes the moment as the horns melt into the background. Then comes the male vocal chorus for a moment of triumphant exaltation. Sivan and the group closes it all out with a definitive statement that is rewarding and rejoicing.
“Broken Lines” is a wonder. Sivan Arbel has captured love and longing, respect and reflection, and then set loose an emotional and lyrical watercolor that remains fresh and lively long after the album has ended. To transmit such joy—and for it to remain so long after—must be the greatest gift one can give. So it is with Sivan, she imparts joy and it remains.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl