Year by year, Guitarist Roni Ben-Hur has been building an increasingly stellar reputation for himself since he first migrated from his native Israel to New York City, back in 1985. A passionate leader, player, composer-arranger, published author and respected educator, Roni now stands as one of the elite players in modern jazz. Keepin' it Open, his fifth release and his debut on the Motema imprint elevates his game yet another notch or two as he leads a company of fellow jazz greats - pianist Ronnie Matthews, drummer Lewis Nash, bassist Santi Debriano, percussionist Steve Kroon and new trumpet sensation Jeremy Pelt through a very personal and multicultural jazz adventure.
A virtuoso guitarist with impeccable swing, Ben-Hur acquits himself with equal parts fire and finesse on Keepin' it Open, a versatile collection that runs the stylistic gamut from the engaging standard Can't We Be Friends to the exotic, emotionally-charged treatment of the Sephardic folk melody Eshkolit. There is a gorgeous rendition of Dori Cayimi's Like a Lover, a dramatic arrangement of the hauntingly beautiful Spanish classical number Andaluza, and Roni's connection to his mentor Barry Harris is honored on the swinging tribute track My Man, Harris, which the guitarist and his stellar crew take at a breakneck pace. Other highlights include Roni's hip interpretation of Thelonious Monk's Think Of One, his lush take on the Tommy Dorsey-Frank Sinatra chestnut Indian Summer and a rousing rendition of the challenging but eminently hip One Second Please by the great pianist-composer Elmo Hope. The band hits a relaxed stride on the guitarist's affecting mid tempo swinger Back When and they close out the collection in energetic fashion with the lively samba Recado Bossa Nova.
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Top-notch guitarist Roni Ben-Hur is known to the growing number of listeners who have been captivated by his lyrical playing. He invests his solos with genuine emotion, never sounding as if he is merely running through the changes. Check out any of his recordings and you will wish to hear much more of this special talent.
— Mark Gardner, Jazz Journal International
(cover feature, Nov., 2006)