The Israeli guitarist Idan Morim experienced a quiet revelation in the years after arriving in New York from his native Tel Aviv in 2013. After years of honing his craft, striving for precise metrical precision, he began to notice that the musicians around him embraced something looser and more human, which created a much more appealing tension. “The bulls eye wasn’t where I thought it was,” he says. “There was something different going on. The more I practice, played and tried to get to the bottom of it I realized that my favorite musicians weren’t trying to play ‘together’ in complete unison, but rather in a more abstract way. The discrepancies between them were actually what generated all of the beauty and groove.”
That attractive suppleness of rhythm can be heard all over I.M, the stunning debut album from the guitarist’s agile quintet of the same name. Initially a trio, I.M was formed not long after Morim arrived in the city, where he moved to attend theSchool of Jazz and Contemporary Music at the New School—where he studied under the likes of Adam Rogers, Reggie Workman, Sam Yahel, andGeorge Cables. After going through various line-up changes, the current quintet version with trumpeter Adam O’Farrill, bassist Almog Savrit, drummer Colin Stranahan, and keyboardist Micha Gilad–solidified in 2018, and the leader seized the opportunity to take the combo into the studio, sensing that it had achieved the kind of rapport he’d been seeking. Unlike so many debut albums where leaders show off every tool in their kitbag, Morim has forged a distinctive sound. He says his aesthetic goal involves “crafting the most meticulous, dense, multidimensional, deep, and representative of nature art as I can.” It’s an objective he’s definitely accomplished with I.M.
Together his quintet has crafted a refreshingly modern sound steeped in lustrous harmonic richness. As a composer Morim, 29, revels in the exploration of harmony. He says the tender ballad “Movement,” with its empathic introductory piano solo by Gilad, “is one of those tunes where the melody just comes out of the chords and doesn’t really feel like a stand-alone line.” He’s fascinated by form, too. The buoyant, brisk “Coleoptera” stems from an exercise assigned by Sam Yahel to use the form of the Beatles song “If I Fell” to inform a new tune, but while he misunderstood the assignment—mirroring only the number of bars per section–he was so pleased with the blunder he embraced the results, naming the piece after the order of insects that beetles belong to. The smoldering “Wildfire” was inspired by two of his favorite compositions by his guitar mentor Adam Rogers and bassist Eivind Opsvik, respectively, “Red Leaves” and “Silkweaver’s Song.” “Both of those pieces are very eerie and dark, but also walk a tightrope between time and rubato playing, which I think is a fascinating space.” Morim has created a piece that both follows that model, while carving out his own space. The exploratory, multi-linear communication of the band, filling in the gullies between fixed patterns, are sublime in their telepathic connection. His excellent combo is afforded plenty of improvisational freedom within the band’s gauzy, hothouse framework.
Morim picked up the guitar when he was 10 and within four years his ears began responding to jazz. Although he was gigging professionally at the age of 16 in pop and rock bands, jazz had become his obsession. After finishing high school he was accepted into the prestigious Israeli Defense Forces band, advancing his skills while fulfilling mandatory military service. He then enrolled in the Tel Aviv Conservatory to begin earning a BFA. After two years he transferred to the New School, suddenly finding himself in the company of some of the world’s finest jazz players. In the coming years he shared the bandstand with musicians like Anat Cohen, Fima Ephron, Joe Martin, and Ziv Ravitz, among others. He was specifically inspired by saxophonist Chris Potter’s electric band Underground. “I wanted to be part of that energy, that rigor,” he says. “New York pushed me to seriously look for and refine my concept. It still does, all of the time.”
Perhaps the greatest influence has been discovering that musical looseness, which he calls “imperfections.” “I think that’s what ‘imperfections’ means to me,” he explains. “This source of musical force that I feel like I’ve found my way into, the mysterious relationship between rhythm and notes that isn’t so empirically obvious, that feels more like gravity than math. More human, more evident. More true.”
RELEASE DATE: JUNE 28th, 2019