Bass virtuoso Omer Avital offers an emotionally honest hybrid of hard-played mainstream jazz blended with Yemeni, Moroccan and Arabic influences on The Ancient Art of Giving. It's an accessible album, romantic and generous, but never simplistic. Both the leader and trumpeter Avishai Cohen (not to be confused with the bassist of the same name) are Israeli-born, yet on a tune like "Ras Abu-Galum" their playing comes straight out of the Jazz Messengers. That's one of the attractive aspects of the album: the band moves from idiom to idiom with total assurance. Everyone sounds good.
Pianist Aaron Goldberg plays a clever Herbie Hancock-inspired solo on the aforementioned tune that just nails the pocket. Tenor saxophonist Mark Turner shows on "Shimi's Tune" why he's one of the most thoughtful improvisers currently on the scene. The leader displays his big tone on "Bass Introduction," which leads into "Yes!" featuring a thoroughly articulate trumpet solo by Cohen. Throughout the set (played in front of a supportive audience), Ali Jackson powers the ensemble forward. The Ancient Art of Giving adds a small new international wrinkle to the kind of swinging jazz that anyone can enjoy.