Be as still as a mountain, move like a great river – The Essence of Tai Chi Chuan

Originally from Tel-Aviv and now based in New-York, Oded Tzur is a young saxophone player and composer who has been exploring the connections between jazz and Indian classical music over the last 10 years. Joining the saxophone player for a first rehearsal in 2012, pianist Shai Maestro, bass player Petros Klampanis and drummer Ziv Ravitz immediately connected and started touring as the Oded Tzur Quartet. Released in April 2015 on Enja Records, Like a Great River is the quartet’s impressive début.

Oded Tzur - Like a Great River (2015)
Oded Tzur – Like a Great River (2015)

Admitted in 2007 to the Indian music program at the Rotterdam World Music Academy, Oded Tzur continued delving into Hindustani Classical music phrasing, rhythm and tones under the tutelage of Bansuri maestro Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia. Over the years, the musician developed his very own storytelling style inspired equally by the classic Indian meandering Ragas and by western jazz improvisation.

Indian Classical music has played a huge role in the musical trajectory of giants of modern jazz like John Coltrane for instance who found in Hindustani music a novel and spiritual way of approaching modal improvisation and scales. At the same time, several contemporary jazz saxophonists have borrowed circular breathing techniques from yoga and tailored them for playing their instrument. The focus of Oded Tzur is primarily acoustic.

From a technical point of view, the musician’s study of Indian Classical music and his desire to adapt its unique approach to sound and vibration to the saxophone gradually led him to develop what he calls his “Middle Path” method, a set of techniques destined to alter the acoustic conditions of the instrument and achieve the same microtonal shifts as on traditional Indian instruments such as the bansuri flute, the sitar or the tampura.

“Indian instruments tend to feel very comfortable playing in between the notes. You just pull the string on a Sitar, for example, and a seamless slide will take place. In order to bring the saxophone to this condition we need to understand its inherent acoustic behaviors, and how we can purposefully change them to enable pitch fluidity”. Oded Tzur

But more than a technique, Oded Tzur’s approach is also deeply spiritual. The centre piece of the album for instance “The Song of the Silent Dragon” ebbs and flows beautifully over 15 contemplative minutes. There is a deep sense that the music on Like a Great River has been carefully honed with the quartet over countless live sessions – and that no stone has been left unturned along the twisting and turning melodic path.