As he takes to the stage, elegant in a tailored black suit, very obviously comfortable in his skin and toting one of his Gibson Custom Shop hollow-body Les Paul or perhaps his L5, guitarist & producer *Albert Dadon* is every inch the consummate professional, nodding to his fellow musicians who return the compliment, all equals regardless of however many years individuals may have been serving their art. They're all there to serve the music after all, and that music is jazz.
Today, the jazz route Dadon, who creates his musical landscapes under the name *Albare*, is taking is very much the gentler, often introspective but always accessible and melodic one. He first came to my attention twenty years ago when his musical journey was taking him down a more "funk-driven'" route, his first Australian album, 1992's *Acid Love*, an energetic celebration of his musical evolution to that point, fired by the innovative jazz-rock that was very much the currency of his teenage years in the late 1970s early 1980s, yet skilfully understated nonetheless.
Over the next couple of years other elements were brought into Dadon's music, heady elements we tend to define as World, as nebulous as that catch-all term is, but in reality merely other elements drawn from the kaleidoscopic rainbow of sonic colours available to all and as much a natural part of his musical evolution as you'd expect from a man who has lived in a variety of cultural contexts, whether in his birthplace Morocco, in Israel, France or indeed his hometown for the past thirty years, multicultural Melbourne, Australia. After all, jazz long ago embraced those "World Music" elements - Gypsy, Latin, Arabic, Mediterranean, even Chinese - as part of its vocabulary, long before "rock" and "pop" audiences ever did, so how could they not also seep into the jazz of this most cosmopolitan of renaissance men.
Dadon's commitment to the jazz form is obvious not only in the music he makes but in his determination to raise its profile within the wider community in his adopted homeland. Over the years, I've interviewed several of the younger Australian jazz musicians who have been recipients of a Bell, the prestigious Australian Jazz Award Dadon established back in 2003 to recognise and nurture excellence in the genre, its name a tribute to one of Australia's pioneer jazz musicians and educators, the late Graeme Bell. It's made a hell of a difference to their careers, raising the profiles of emerging musicians and celebrating the artistry and legacy of some of Australia's "unsung" masters of the craft, from veteran vocalist Judy Jacques and drummer and poet Allan Browne, who were award winners in its inaugural year, to international trailblazers The Necks to pianist, accordionist and composer Joe Chindamo, whose debut album, *The First Take* (*A History Of Standard Time)*, Dadon produced.
Chindamo won the 2006 Bell for Best Australian Classical Album of the Year, *Live At Umbria Jazz '05*, recorded at the festival Dadon brought to Melbourne that year, and there of course is another extraordinary aspect of this remarkable man, so passionate about his chosen artform. In 2000, Dadon took over as Director of the Melbourne International Jazz Festival, becoming the Festival's Chairman in 2003 and then bringing the Umbria Jazz Festival to Melbourne, rebranding it as "Umbria Jazz Melbourne '05". Appointed Artistic Director of the Festival in 2006, he rebranded it once again as Melbourne Jazz, inviting more than 200 artists from around the world. Since 2007 however, Dadon has concentrated solely on writing, recording, producing and performing his own music.
For all that, you can hear the humility of the man - guitarist, composer, bandleader and producer - in his playing, never flashy, ever mellifluous, always subservient to the work at hand, always attentive to the sounds being created in the moment by his musical collaborators, a quiet smile lighting up his face as one or other takes his composition to another place for a few blissful moments. The beauty of music in general is that, once you know the language, a true musician can step into any configuration of fellow musicians and the magic happens. That magic can go even deeper in jazz. In Dadon's hands, it all sounds so effortless, flowing silky smoothly from one theme to the next, each musician within his always meticulously handpicked ensemble stepping up to add their ideas seamlessly to the mix.
Throughout his past two decades as a recording and performing artist, Dadon has surrounded himself with some of the finest exponents of the art of contemporary jazz Australia and the world has to offer. Among his Australian collaborators, he has shared his vision with the aforementioned Joe Chindamo, drummers Andrew Gander, Tony Floyd and Darren Farrugia, percussionist Alex Pertout, saxophonists Tony Hicks and Rob Burke, and bass players Jonathan Zion and, perhaps most importantly, Melbourne-based Australian-Greek Cypriot bass player and composer Evripidis Evripedou, with whom Dadon has performed for more than a decade and who accompanied him onto the international stage in 2012 with the recording of Dadon's first release for the prestigious Enja records, *Long Way*, under project name Albare iTD (International Tour Diary). That album maintained its place on the national Jazz Week Chart for an impressive 18 weeks. His next, 2013's *The Road Ahead*, sat in the US Top 50 jazz radio charts in the US for 16 weeks.
*Long Way*, produced by the head of Enja, Matthias Winckelmann, with whom he signed in 2011, and which was recorded in Brooklyn, New York City, saw Dadon joined by German-born harmonica virtuoso Hendrik Meurkens, three-time Grammy Award-winning Mexican-American drummer Antonio Sanchez (Pat Methany Group), American saxophonist George Garzone (Joe Lovano Nonet) and Argentine-born pianist Leo Genovese (Esperanza Spalding). Today, Dadon's regular international touring (iTD) band includes Cuban bass player and violinist Yunior Terry (Steve Coleman, The Latin Jazz All Stars), Venezuelan drummer Pablo Bencid (Labeque Sisters, José Conde) and, the latest recruits, Cuban-American keyboards player Axel Laugart (Afro-Cuban All Stars, The Roots, George Clinton) and New York City percussionist Sammy Figueroa, whose extensive credits embrace not only jazz but R&B through rock, having recorded with everyone from Miles Davis to Chaka Khan to David Bowie. If you measure the man by the company he keeps, need I say more?
The fact that Dadon is now finding the international audience he has deserved for so long must be very satisfying, though again, he seems to be taking it all in his stride - no fuss, just getting on with the music.