Ariel Bart: In Between

Israeli musician and New School graduate Bart adds a Middle Eastern flavour to the jazz harmonica's stylistic palette


One might not expect the chromatic harmonica to be a frontline instrument, and there haven’t been many prominent practitioners aside from Toots Thielemans and Hendrik Meurkens. Yet 22-year-old Ariel Bart from Israel demonstrates how well it serves in jazz. The harmonica, mixed with a traditional jazz piano trio and a prominent cello, makes for an unusual quintet: but one which definitely works.

Although being young, Bart is an experienced performer – she has played with the Jerusalem East West Orchestra, where she performed music of the Middle East, Andalusia and the Maghreb on a mixture of Western and Middle Eastern instruments. These Middle Eastern flavours can be traced throughout her work and bring a fresh approach to the harmonica in jazz.

What characterises Bart’s playing on In Between is her clear tone, which really stands out from the other musicians. That, as well as her ability to give the harmonica a nostalgic and longing feel in tracks such as Stranger On The Hill, sets her apart from the other musicians and establishes her and her harmonica as the main event. She really does manage to tell a story in all eight of her original compositions.

Although having that melancholy and soulful edge in many of her tracks, Bart also shows improvisational dexterity in more upbeat numbers such as Colors Palette – a skill her recently completed bachelor’s degree in jazz performance from the New School University in New York might have helped her acquire.

Although young, Ariel Bart demonstrates instrumental maturity on In Between. Full of originality both instrumentally and harmonically, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable and easy listening experience, in the best sense of the latter term.

Spiritual Wars; Colors Palette; Stranger on the Hill; Memory of a Child; Deep Down; The Year After; Intro; In Between (37.00)
Bart (hca); Mayu Shviro (clo); Moshe Elmakias (p); David Michaeli (b); Amir Bar Akiva (d). 20 May 2021.