On this hymn to the liquid magic which sustains us all, Rafi Malkiel offers his second statement as a composer, arranger and bandleader. What is most impressive isn’t just that Malkiel can create pieces which are exploratory and exciting, but that he also knows how to get unique contributions from each member of his sublime cast of characters.

Water plays a part in the subtext of the tunes as Malkiel details its importance while also allowing its elements to play as a subject, a role with differing layers, within the songs themselves. Malkiel furthers the liquid link by playing the aquaphonium (along with percussionist Nestor Gomez), an instrument he invented, which is a hose with a trumpet or trombone mouthpiece that is played submerged in water. Water drums are also played by percussionists for added symbolic and literal connections to the album’s ethereal thematic structure.

But none of that would matter at all if the songs didn’t sing (the opening quartet of tunes move with an exhilarating speed and attention to multi-dimension speed), didn’t inspire one to play these marvelous tunes over and over again (“Waves” is an elegant tapestry of melancholic bliss, while “River Blue” carries with it a romantic mystique that is compelling and free), and Malkiel strikes the proper chord here (“Eden Rain” features a thunderstorm and a playful motif, while the title track is somber yet mesmerizing). The composer’s arrangements are tantalizing, cantankerous, thrilling, and energetic. His admirably adventurous troupe also includes Anat Cohen on clarinet, Avishai Cohen on trumpet, Chris Karlic on bass clarinet and tenor saxophone, Itai Kriss on flute, Gili Sharett on bassoon, Jack Glottman on piano, Dave Hertzberg on bass, Gomez and Shane Shanahan on percussion and water, Mauricio Herrera on congas and timbales, and Anthony Carrillo on congas, bongo and clave, and Pablo Mayor on piano. Makiel, himself, leads his impressive legion of sound sculpturers while playing the aforementioned aquaphoniums, trombone, euphonium and tuba.

And that entire group of players, under the astute direction of Rafi Malkiel finds the instrumental, unspoken truths of our liquid essence which is the cornerstone of our lives. Indeed, on Water, literally and figuratively, the composer/arranger/bandleader dips down below the surface, and chases the timeless answers—symbolic, and otherwise—with his talented all-star band while also delivering a masterstroke of melody, sophisticated beauty, and a dozen tunes that glide and swim with an effervescent will.