Personnel: Ayelet Rose Gottlieb (vocals, balloons); Avishai Cohen (whistling, trumpet); Loren Stillman (saxophone); Anat Fort (piano); TaKe Toriyama (drums, percussion).
Audio Mixer: Randy Crafton.
Recording information: Kaleidoscope Sound (12/2005).
Illustrator: Gideon Kendall.
Photographer: Robbie Valentine.
Translator: Coleman Barks.
Arranger: Ayelet Rose Gottlieb.
Gottlieb's brand of jazz is far from smooth. Instead it's a thing made of knotty little moments, some beautiful, some more abrasive, that are stitched together into pieces that demand a lot of the listener. Even her cover of the standard "The Nearness of You" interrupts the song's flow to keep it tense. The opener, "Pomegranate Man," sets the tone, highlighting Gottlieb's excellent singing skills, and also her penchant to constantly drift into the avant-garde end of things, with jagged little flourishes. There are some light moments -- the uptempo "Hidden Forbidden" is playful, and where else are you going to hear someone play balloon? Also "And in the End" borrows from the Beatles, but places the lyrics in a much different musical context. It's an album of surprises, like the sampling of Gottlieb's grandmother on "Venezia," or the jarring "Life Is a Structure That Is (Accept It)." Constantly challenging, it draws on sources as wide-ranging as John Cage and Dr. Martin Luther King, but always filters things through Gottlieb's formidable musical intelligence. Her singing is a joy, a varied instrument she uses beautifully, ranging from a growl to almost kittenish in tone. So while it isn't easy to come to grips with this album, it is one that amply repays repeated listenings. ~ Chris Nickson