CD Review: Silvan Joray, Updraft

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Silvan Joray, the talented guitarist and composer based in New York City, graces us with his second album as a leader, “Updraft,” released under the Ubuntu Music label. A follow-up to his ambitious 2020 trio album, “cluster,” this offering is a testament to Joray’s forward-thinking original style, characterized by a transparent tone, creative rhythmic ideas, and innovative techniques that venture beyond the typical realm of jazz guitar playing.

The ensemble features the Israeli double bass player Nadav Erlich and the highly acclaimed drummer Jeff Ballard, known for his illustrious work with luminaries like Brad Mehldau, Chick Corea, and Pat Metheny. Joray, a Swiss native now based in New York City, has garnered recognition in the jazz community by winning prizes at the UNISA International Strings Competition in South Africa in 2022 and the Smietana Jazz Guitar Competition in Poland in 2019. In addition he has performed at festivals, including the Krakow Summer Jazz Festival, the Offbeat Jazz Festival Basel, and the International Jazz Festival Bern as well as touring extensively throughout in Germany, Norway, Poland, Spain, and Israel.

“Updraft” encapsulates Joray’s musical journey, embodying both the openness of European jazz and the foundational swing tradition of American jazz. The album is an exquisite blend of influences, carving a niche for itself rather than attempting to fit into predefined categories. The recording consists of seven original compositions and two short, freely improvised tracks, allowing the trio to fully display their musical prowess.

The album kicks off with “Kokodrillo,” an energetic track that sets the tone for the musical expedition. Joray’s solo exposition beautifully intertwines with the rhythmic foundation laid down by Ballard and Erlich, showcasing the trio’s exceptional chemistry and individual virtuosity. “Kaeppeleview” follows, transitioning into a more meditative ambiance, with an open straight-eight feel that invites listeners to immerse themselves in the intricate musical dialogue.

The title track, “Updraft,” echoes influences from the early albums of Pat Metheny, showcasing the trio’s prowess in a medium uptempo swinger. “Kurtish” continues in a similar vein, slightly more straight-ahead in its feel, presenting captivating bass solos that enrich the musical landscape. “Very Sweet Stuff, But Nice!” captivates with its simplicity and dreamlike atmosphere, showcasing Joray’s gift for creating evocative ballads.


As the album progresses, “Subterfuge” picks up the pace and rhythmic complexity, infused with an urgency that keeps the listener engaged. A standout track, “Something Ahead,” introduces more of a subtle rock feel, underpinned by an atmospheric chord-based melody, demonstrating the trio’s versatility. “Evening Breeze” serves as a brief interlude of calmness, paving the way for the closing track, “At Long Last Love,” a Latin-infused medium-tempo piece that leaves a lasting impression on the listener.

“Updraft” is a delightful album for any jazz guitar trio enthusiast, a showcase of the trio’s remarkable interplay and musical dexterity. An essential aspect that elevates this album is the exceptional sonic quality, a testament to the expertise of recording engineer Daniel Dettwiler, undoubtedly one of the foremost engineers for recording acoustic music on the European scene.

Joray’s innate talent for melody and lyricism shines through in both his playing and compositions, leaving listeners enriched and eager for more of his captivating musical stories.

Track Listing:
1. Kokodrillo 7:09 | 2. Kaeppeleview 6:33 | 3. Updraft 6:39 | 4. Morning Breeze 0:34 | 5. Very Sweet Stuff, But Nice! 5:43 | 6. Subterfuge 5:50 | 7. The Liar 4:56 | 8. Kurtish 5:01 | 9. Something Ahead 4:31 | 10. Evening Breeze 1:00 | 11. At Long Last Love 6:25

Silvan Joray, guitar | Nadav Erlich, double bass | Jeff Ballard drums

Release Date: 3 November 2023
Format: CD | Streaming
Label: Ubuntu Records

Last modified: December 3, 2023