Jazz Fest review: Haggai Cohen Milo: The Secret Music Project

Souls restored with shoulder-shaking, foot-bouncing Middle Eastern music.

Friends, the secret of The Secret Music Project can now be revealed. Last night in the Sonic Temple's intimate surroundings, Israeli composer/bassist/improvisor Haggai Cohen Milo revealed over a set of ridiculously infectious music that he's in the soul restoration business. Yessiree. He is! Bandmates, exquisitely talented Spanish pianist Alex Conde Carrasco, Keita Ogawa, a flash-hand on percussion and Milo's musical partner of five years, irrepressibly likeable Matan Chapnizka on tenor sax—Milo on double bass—delighted a near-capacity crowd with shoulder-shaker, foot-bouncing Middle Eastern music in effervescent time signatures: 7/4 and 5/4. This music defied you to sit stolidly frozen in place.

One of the solid plusses of catching this wonderful group in The Sonic Temple (apart from the crystalline sound quality) was the audience's closeness to the musicians. Like a house concert really. That meant we could see expressions on the players' faces. Like for instance: Milo's open-mouthed beams of pleasure as ripping solos were unleashed; soaking-in-a-warm-bath looks of utter bliss listening to a bandmate's instrumental offering; and the hawk-eyed attentiveness to leader Milo's musical cues and shifts. Thus you felt a sense of inclusiveness. Alluring Yemeni melody (chants in the Arabic scale) and rhythmic strictures, Israeli dance synchopations each gloriously benefited from Milo's always gem-like crafted, tune-filled compositions. These were well-served by his band's consummate musicianship: Carrasco's precise, cool, smart piano work, Chapnizka's joyfully passionate sax interplay, Ogawa's astonishingly fast-witted musical transits on percussion and Milo's own powerfully assured, melodious bass playing. One unexpected mid-set oddity. A bebop bass/sax duet. "Our intermission," Chapnizka cracked. A great evening. Souls restored, I believe.

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