Elie Afif Quartet album review

By far the most memorable thing on Dubai’s first home-grown jazz album is the title track

Seven Steps to Heaven

By far the most memorable thing on Dubai’s first home-grown jazz album is the title track. After a tongue-twisting mishap on the bandstand, 26-year-old bassist Elie Afif had a brave idea: the resulting amalgamation of jazz standards ‘Giant Steps’ (John Coltrane) and ‘Seven Steps to Heaven’ (Miles Davis) is likely to make ears prick up across the globe, mingling two of the most memorable melodies in the genre. A thrilling edge-of-your-seat listen, you can hear the breakneck band on the verge of implosion as they rattle through the unfamiliar changes.

The rest of the record is made up of tasteful originals. In approach it falls firmly in the ’50s, safer than the chromatic runs and blazing speed of bebop, but not yet reaching the sanctuary of hard bop’s blues-blowing workouts. In fact there’s no blowing at all; backed by brother and long-time bandmate Rony on drums, pianist Oliver Van Ossen is left to make Monkian stabs beneath the sounds of vibraphonist Tigran Peshtmajyan, who sits in the primary soloist’s chair and contributes one composition to the mix.

As the first album to come from local agent The Fridge’s new house label, let’s hope future releases are as rewarding as this.

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