Nuphar Fey @ Amersfoort Jazz 2019 photo: Hans Speekenbrink
CD - NUPHAR FEY
(2020, Hypnote Records, Brussels)
text: Robin Boer
Before focusing on contemporary, improvised music with her own trio, the Israeli born Nuphar Fey explored a wide range of different styles, like classical, flamenco, cinematic and middle eastern music. Since 2016, with her trio, she creates a very interesting and colorful blend of jazz/impro elements and chamber music. But these descriptions are way to flat to describe the quality of this musician. With 'just' a trio of piano, bass and drums, it is a challenge to take a listener to a whole other world with dreamy stories. But the concert at the Amersfoort Jazz festival in 2019 proved that Fey owns the fine art of enchanting the listener.
Icings on the cake
After the already beautiful EP from 2017, we now have the first full studio album of the trio, called 'Serenity Island.' The beautiful blue cover of a nightly sky, with a bird flying over a sand landscape with footprints is much in line with the music we are about to hear. The trio is completed with Daniel Ashkenazy on double bass and Gal Petel on drums. Additional musicians, taking care of extra icings on the cake, are Telalit (cello, voice) and Rony Iwryn (percussion).
Mysterious and haunting
On the first track 'Wind of South' we can hear the flamenco influence, and fortunately, Fey doesn't put any harmonic clichés into the music; we hear mysterious chords, versatile percussions and haunting melodies. Ashkenazy has a beautiful sound and chooses his notes wisely, as well on 'Imagination' where we are treated by a beautiful bass solo, and the intro of 'In the Fall', where Petel showcases his architectures on drums and where the trio really delivers through rhythmic shifts.
Cinematic and universal
'Long Road To Serenity Island', which we consider one of the centerpieces of the record, is highly emotional and qualifies for superb contemporary classical music. This is a piece that will appeal to a lot of listeners, because of it's accessibility, and it's cinematic, universal character. The added voices and cello are a delight. We also hear harmonic similarities to another favorite: Philip Glass' 'Glassworks' piece 'Opening' from 1981.
Breathing and soothing
'Smooth Sailing' is another one we consider a highlight. The percussion gives the impression we listen to the sound of moving water and melodic percussion, together with (suspected) electric piano are trading with the themes. 'Rainy Mondays' is another extensive track with a lot of breathing room for the trio, and a very moving buildup of fantastic classical piano chord progressions and layers, joined by vocals, and the piece is finally breaking loose in a 7/8 full band arrangement, to conclude with a soothing, sonic, rainy completion.
Enchanting and breathtaking
The last two pieces, 'At Sea' (with very tasteful, creative drumming) and 'Dream' (which starts off as a drum solo), conclude the fifty-five minutes of enchanting music. Here, Fey delivers another breathtaking sequence of chords. After minutes of magic, she takes care of a very soft landing back on earth, where the listener peacefully can wake up again.
The whole record contains more than enough transparence and rhythmic variety to keep the listener in another world, and it's a real joy to hear how extensive Fey's vocabulary is on her instrument. The way she effortlessly combines chords with melodies and motives is worthy of appreciation. Apart from that, the production and mix of this recording are top notch. Piano, drums and bass are perfectly balanced and we like it when all cymbals are very clear and well-panned. Great work.