By: Dee Dee McNeil, MusicalMemoirs

SIVAN ARBEL – “CHANGE OF LIGHT” Independent label

Sivan Arbel, voice/composition; Shai Portugaly, piano; Pera Krstajic, bass; Yogev Gabay, drums; Shai Wetzer, percussion; Ron Warburg, Trumpet; Jack Sheehan, alto saxophone; Ori Jacobson, tenor saxophone. STRING QUARTET: Meitar Farkash, violin 1.; Audrey Hayes, violin 2.; Yumi Oshima, viola; Terrence Thornhill, cello.

Sivan Arbel’s lovely, expressive voice captures my attention right away. However, she’s hard to understand. Her lyrics get lost in the production and while the melodies are appealing, I would like to have enjoyed her lyrics. Since she is featuring her songwriting on this album, understanding her original prose is paramount. Perhaps she should have printed her prose on the CD jacket. According to the bio from her publicist, “Change of Light” is made up of seven original stories. With the exception of the classic Israeli folk composition, “Water Song,” Arbel is the composer of all other songs. The first track, “Change” has a very contemporary feel and a melody full of unexpected intervals. The musical arrangements are more modern jazz and once the vocals drop out, the band soars; full of crescendos and waves of improvisational opportunities. They sound like a cross between jazz and world music, in an unusual way. Ms. Arbel mixes international influences from Morocco, Brazil, classical Indian music and her Israeli Middle Eastern roots. The arrangements on this first song are often busy and sometimes over-power the vocalist with horn lines that could have been mixed down or dropped out entirely when the voice was soloing. Afterall, Sivan Arbel is the artist being featured.

That being said, without clear enunciation, this listener misses the stories that Ms. Arbel insists expose what is lurking in her heart. Some compositions sound more like chamber music than jazz; for example, her “Solitude” song. These melodies she creates are challenging and the average person will not be singing or even humming along. Clearly, Sivan Arbel is a unique artist with a fresh, dramatic perspective, apart from the average jazz vocalist and traveling the less trodden musical path.

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