Gilad Atzmon & the Orient House Ensemble / Exile

Exile Gilad Atzmon
& the Orient House Ensemble

Enja Records TIP-888 844 2, 2003
Matthias Winckelmann GmbH
PO Box 19 03 33
D-80603 Munich, Germany

With his most recent album, Israeli expatriate jazz musician Gilad Atzmon achieves an awesome fusion of jazz and Middle Eastern music. Less genre-bending than the recent album by fellow expatriate Koby Israelite, this album is nonetheless solid and deep. Opening with the amazing voice of Reem Kelani, this is both an album about exile, but also an album in which a space for exiles, and for those in transit, is created. It is also disquieting, and will be especially disquieting to many given the current situation in Israel. To realize that the quiet, moving ballad, "Jenin" is a transposition of a Yiddish folk song about a Russian town in which a pogrom was carried about is not a quiet thing, especially in the light of recent history of Jenin (and myths about same). Similarly, the humor of "Ouz", out of the Israeli comedy "Salah Shabati", is darkened, considerably, by the commentary in the liner notes. Yet for the weeks before I read the liner notes, it was all simply brilliant fusion, beautifully and passionately done.

This is not a generic album about exile. Those who read the papers regularly know that the Orient House is the PLO headquarters in Jerusalem. Atzmon is explicitly anti-Zionist in his writing. The choice of words for the songs that have words, the choice of material, much of this is informed by explicitly championing the cause of Palestinians in exile as against that of his homeland, Israel. In being forced to come to terms with himself as an Israeli, Atzmon is, in other senses, in exile from his own people, and perhaps (but who am I to say?) in exile from himself.

What I can say for certain is that the music is compelling, wonderful jazz, expertly, indivisably fused with Arabic modes and music at times, but still, great jazz. Atzmon is an incredible saxophonist, and the ensemble is tight and expressive. The music is compelling. The words behind the music are also worth hearing.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow 6/8/03

Personnel this recording:
Gilad Atzmon: soprano and alto sax, clarinet, shabbaabeh flute
Frank Harrison: piano
Yaron Stavi: double bass
Asaf Sirkis: drums, bandir and tray


Romano Viazzani: accordion (tracks 4, 9)
Koby Israelite: accordion (tracks 2, 5, 6, 8)
Peter Watson: accordion (track 1)
Dhafer Youssef: vocals, oud (track 8)
Marcel Mamliga: violin
Gabi Fortuna: Romanian flute
Reem Kelani: vocals (tracks 1, 2)
Tali Atzmon: vocals (track 9)


  1. Dal'ouna on the return (trad. Palestinian) 4:45
  2. Al-Quds (Gilad Atzmon) 9:59
  3. Jenin (Gilad Atzmon) 5:50
  4. Ouz (Yochanan Zaray & Gilad Atzmon) 7:39
  5. Orient house (Gilad Atzmon) 6:00
  6. Land of Canaan (Gilad Atzmon) 5:57
  7. Exile (trad. Ladino, arr. Gilad Atzmon) 4:36
  8. La Côte Méditerranée (Gilad Atzmon) 3:28
  9. Epilogue (Gilad Atzmon) 3:29

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