Gilad Atzmon, the expat Israeli saxophonist/clarinetist, combines thrilling jazz musicianship with a maverick political intelligence; anyone who knows him will look at this album's title and smell a rat. But it's not ironic; it alludes to Atzmon's nostalgia for the best of America's broad-horizon potential, what he calls "a memory of America I had cherished in my mind for many years". Atzmon found jazz through a Charlie Parker record when he was a 17-year-old in Jerusalem, and this set (with five standards and six originals) is inspired by the sumptuous harmonies and impassioned sax-playing of Parker's late-40s recordings with classical strings. Atzmon drifts in an uncannily Bird-like manner on a imploring Everything Happens to Me; brings a darker, old-Europe romanticism to his own song musIK; and mingles the string group's soft sweeps and his own crisp phrasing with a bright, funky groove on What Is This Thing Called Love. The title track (barely more than a minute long), is a street-collage of multilingual chatter with the horn interweaving over a thundering hip-hop pulse. The resourceful Atzmon tours the UK with this repertoire from next week.
John Fordham is the Guardian's main jazz critic. He has written several books on the subject, reported on it for publications including Time Out, Sounds, Wire and Word, and contributed to documentaries for radio and TV. He is a former editor of Time Out, City Limits and Jazz UK, and regularly contributes to BBC Radio 3's Jazz on 3