Street Date: October 8, 2021
New York Based flutist and composer Itai Kriss presents his third album Supermoon with his multicultural ensemble Telavana. A prolific bandleader with a well-earned reputation as an ingenious composer, Kriss is known for his natural skill of combining a broad range of musical styles in an uncontrived fashion – notably that of Middle Eastern and Caribbean sensibilities. In 2018, Itai Kriss and Telavana released their eponymous sophomore album which was praised for meeting the musical minds of these two spheres in an original and cohesive way. On Supermoon, Kriss continues this tradition of amalgamation with a dynamic program inspired by astrology and heavy philosophical questions.
“The signs of the Zodiac also represent a connection between us humans here on Earth and the stars; up above and far beyond our reach, ever present, ancient and mysterious. The planets and stars have been there since before we existed and most of them will still be there after we’re gone,” Kriss muses in the liner notes. Each track on Supermoon is named for a Zodiac sign, and sonically reflects each sign’s attributes.
Itai Kriss and Telavana is made up of the formidable trumpeter and flugelhornist Wayne Tucker, powerhouse pianist César Orozco (who also appears on Fender Rhodes), in-demand bassist Tamir Shmerling, the inventive Dan Aran on drums and Marcos López, a fast rising star on percussion. Heavyweight percussionist Keisel Jiménez makes a guest appearance, as do creative vocal forces Malaya Sol and J. Hoard. The brilliant Shai Maestro is featured on keyboards and synths on multiple tracks.
Listening to Supermoon is a progressive experience, with each of the tracks taking on a distinctive life of their own as they go on. Selections such as “Gemini” begin with a gentle introduction before slowly transforming into a driving African 12/8 vamp. Horns repeat the refrain, punctuating the groove, and plunge Kriss into one of his most evocative solos on the record. Another highlight, “Virgo” begins as a slow and pensive reflection, before evolving into an exuberant, high-energy celebration featuring the always soulful vocalist J. Hoard.
Other tracks surprise because of their eclecticism. “Crustacean Vacation”, a crowd pleaser and fan favorite from live performances, is a dancing head bop with clear techno influences while “Taurus” is a rousing Timba featuring the prolific Cuban percussionist Keisel Jiménez, who spins verses as the lead vocalist. The ensemble shines on the brisk “Capricorn”, which features tight horns on the jagged rhythms with acute precision, supported by a rock-solid rhythm section.
It is no surprise that the fusion of all these musical styles comes off naturally, seeing that Kriss and the core members of this ensemble have been regular fixtures on the dynamic Latin scene in New York City. “I am so grateful to be able to create music with such incredible musicians, hailing from Puerto Rico, Israel, Cuba & New York,” reflects Kriss. “This album is about all of us, our planet, our universe and the most powerful and potent force which helps us make sense of it.”
The concept of Supermoon is one that attempts to grapple with the questions of our existence in the vast universe. “As we track the movements of the celestial bodies across the sky we are inspired to think of things that are bigger than ourselves and contemplate our lives and problems in the context of eternity and infinity,” Kriss muses. As the album draws to a close with the Middle Eastern-tinged “Pisces” one is inclined to feel they’ve reached the end of a momentous and exhilarating voyage.
Street Date: July 7, 2018
Release Show: July 7 2018, The Django, NYC & July 20 2018, Smalls, NYC
Presenting the dynamic sound of his eponymously-named esteemed ensemble, flautist and composer Itai Kriss bridges the musical spheres of the Middle East and the Caribbean by combining Timba, Soul, North African music and Jazz to create a unique and lively mix of rhythms and textures. Rather than simply combining and unifying the elements of Tel Aviv and Havana, Telavana explores the myriad of connections that have historically connected the east and the west, and the beautiful artistic and cultural fruits of this continuing cross-pollination. Itai Kriss will celebrate the release of Telavana at The Django, located at 2 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY on Saturday, July 7th and at Smalls Jazz Club in NYC on July 20th.
“Telavana is really a synthesis of my own musical identity, as it is a manifestation of my different cultural roots. As a Jazz musician born and raised in Israel, and coming of age in the Latin music scene in New York City, it feels natural to express where I came from, what I've been doing and the things I'm inspired by in a single band, and this is it”
The flautist, praised by Jazzwax as “one of the most exciting new flautist-composers” on the scene grew up in Israel and was exposed to its many musical traditions ranging from Morocco to the Balkans, Yemen to Turkey, Egypt to Russia. Upon pursuing his childhood dream of moving to New York City to study jazz, Kriss was naturally drawn to the enticing sounds of salsa, Afro-Cuban music and Latin jazz and was “adopted” by Puerto-Rican and Cuban musicians who became important mentors. Now, after spending the past fifteen years working at the forefront of New York City’s Jazz scene while performing, recording and touring with some of the world’s top Afro-Cuban, Latin and salsa artists, the virtuoso fuses the sounds of his native Israel with those of his adopted homelands in the Americas to bring you Telavana.
Stand out tracks from the album include “Sahadi's Serenade”, a dedication to Kriss’ favorite Middle Eastern grocery in Brooklyn and “Shabazi”, a festive tune titled for one of his beloved neighborhoods in Tel Aviv, which is notably featured in a music video starring dancer Elena Nayiri. While “Para Venezuela” combines elements of Merengue Venezolano (traditional Venezuelan folk music) with classical, jazz and Cuban elements, “Azules”, literally translating to ‘blues’, is a Spanish/flamenco inspired composition with a form that's based on the blues and melodies drawn from the Andalusian traditions of southern Spain. “Rak Beinatayim”, an arrangement Kriss created to a song by prolific Israeli songwriter Nurit Hirsh in the style of a Cuban danzón, is the only song on the album not composed by the band leader.
Telavana is presented by a group that aptly mirrors the serene amalgamation of these diverse musical cultures. Representing the sounds of the East is Israeli bassist Or Bareket, Jerusalem-born drummer Dan Aran and special guest qanun player and Turkish-native Tamer Pinarbasi. Kriss completes this multi-regional line-up with Puerto Rican percussionist Marcos López, Cuban pianist César Orozco, New York jazz trumpeter Michael Rodriguez, and world renowned multi-instrumentalist and Cuban-native Yosvany Terry (who on this occasion lends his talents on shekere). Each of these accomplished musicians bring their own individual, distinct cultural backgrounds and flair to this nine track opus. Kriss is thrilled to have these particular musicians bring his vision to life as each of them truly bring the flavours from their own lands to his music. Although each member of the band hails from various corners of the world, this ensemble showcases the ease of communicating through and with music. For Kriss, this music evokes the feeling of being in a world that isn’t actually so big as people think. While geographically the Middle East and the Caribbean are distant, the people of both lands channel a range of musical similarities with each other. Undoubtedly, both regions share a strong and congruent passion for rhythm and music and Kriss hopes that his listeners immediately hear this connection on Telavana.
MORE ABOUT ITAI KRISS
Itai Kriss commands a variety of musical genres with an eclectic style infused with Jazz, Latin and Middle Eastern sounds. According to Downbeat Magazine, there is a “tangy, exotic flavor” to the New York musician’s style, which can be heard on his first album, The Shark. Growing up in Tel Aviv, Kriss was surrounded by a range of musical and cultural stylings; From Moroccan to Balkan, Yemeni to Turkish. Beginning his jazz education at Thelma Yellin High School for the Arts, Israel, Kriss moved to New York to continue his jazz journey at the age of 22. While jazz was what primarily lured Kriss to the city, the accomplished musician found himself particularly exposed to the music of Cuba, Puerto Rico and Latin America. Playing with Salsa and Cuban groups, he naturally developed his knowledge of the sounds and stylings of the Caribbean. With so many musical styles and traditions in his ear, Kriss never had to make a conscious effort to blend each of his influences, but rather does so fluently and intuitively. During his time in NYC, Kriss has had the fortune to be a part of several bands with long-running weekly dance parties where the sound of the band would be honed and deepened by weekly interactions with dancers who became regular patrons. The dance aspect is very important to Kriss because all Latin and Caribbean music is essentially dance music and it always has a strong pulse which is like its heartbeat. Kriss is a vital member of the New York Jazz, Latin Jazz and Salsa music scenes. He can be heard performing, touring and recording with his own ensembles and some of the most exciting Jazz and Latin musicians in town, including Los Hacheros, Dafnis Prieto, Elio Villafranca, Edmar Castañeda, Jorge Glem, Yemen Blues, Gregory Hutchinson, Burning Spear, Pedrito Martinez, Jerry Gonzalez, Omer Avital, Yosvany Terry, Avishai Cohen, Eric McPherson and Aaron Goldberg, to name a few. When not touring, Kriss performs regularly at premiere New York music venues including The Blue Note, Birdland, S.O.B.’s, Jazz at Lincoln Center and The Copacabana.
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"The jazz flute meister leads his recent crew through a new voyage across the horoscope, doing it in his Latin/Middle East fusion signature." Read the full review here.
THROW THE DICE AND PLAY NICE
"Supermoon effortlessly holds listener engagement and keeps one’s attention gravitating around the record, going from the beginning all the way to the end." Read the review here.
"..the effortless combination of idioms, both musical and cultural, get along on this note-tied utopia." Read the review here.
RAUL DA GAMA
LATIN JAZZ NET
"..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." Read the complete review here.
RAUL DA GAMA
LATIN JAZZ NETWORK
"When thrown into the volcanic, molten mix of Latin Jazz music Mr Kriss’ music comes across in fascinating, fluttering and rippling Middle Eastern melodies that can just as quickly morph into Afro-Caribbean dance forms such as son and danzón." Read the full review here.
WBGO - TAKE FIVE
"It’s a musical synthesis as appealing and unforced as the cultural mix of the band." Read the full track feature here.
NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD
"With this strong, effervescent set of motley influences, and animated soloing now behind him, it will be interesting to hear where Kriss is headed next." Read the full review here.
RAUL DA GAMA
"Itai's music undulates with Phrygian, Middle Eastern cadences melded into a molten mix that evokes the shimmering hot imagery of rippling Afro-Caribbean percussive grooves subsumed by the swagger and and jiggle of ululating Bedouin North African rhythms laced with eloquent secular Israeli folk forms." Read the full review here.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"What comes of all of that through his own imagination is an amalgam that speaks both to roots and the act of branching out. All is one in this music, and the project, as a whole, is a true sum of Kriss' experiences." Read the full 4-star review here.
"But although it's his name that's up there in lights as bandleader and composer, Kriss doesn't hog center stage: this is essentially an album of ensemble playing in the best salsa traditions."
DOING JAZZ PODCAST
"Telavana beautifully combines latin and middle eastern rhythms and melodies in the most uncontrived way possible, highlighting the excellent musicianship of all the players involved." Listen to the full interview here.
"The mix of flutist Itai Kriss and the band Telavana (Michael Rodriguez/tp, Cesar Orozco/p, Or Bareket/b, Marcos Lopez/perc and Dan Aran/dr) create a rich salsa mix of sounds and grooves on this alluring album." Read the full review here.