Like A Virgin

RSJF – 2nd night, 24.8.10
At the beginning of Musica Nuda’s second show, last night, Petra Magoni said that we can all just act like it’s a continuation of the show from the night before.
The crowd consisted of quite a few people who had seen the previous show, with a scattering of virgins, who did not yet know what pleasures await.
They did a different set than the night before, and the energy of the show was different. Yellow, not black.
With a show like theirs, it’s hard to call any specific number more memorable than others, because they are all memorable, but still, when they performed “Like A Virgin”, I could really relate to the subject matter, that it feels like being touched for the very first time.
I dunno. I could go on and on about them. They are truly amazing. She just bends the air around herself with her voice, and he is there, an anchor deep in the ground.
They had quite a few numbers there that just gave me goosebumps, and believe me. It’s too darn hot for goosebumps.

Manu Katche Third Round
It’s not typical for a jazz quartet to have a drummer as its frontman (Manu Katche, drums; Alfio Origlio, piano; Laurent Vernerey, bass; Petter Wettre, saxophone). Truth is, I do not have much to say about this show. It’s not that it wasn’t good. Clean and simple French jazz. Just the thing for Eilat’s warm summer breeze, the full moon, and a nice glass of wine. They gave a good, solid show. There was nothing particularly unique that would compel me to buy an album of theirs, but in jazz music, I think that for the most part, it’s the live ambiance that really counts, and they delivered.

Shem-Tov Levy Ensemble
Up until last year, we would rarely ever make the effort to catch the Israeli shows at the festival because the format of the program always had the Israeli shows wedged in the intervals between the international shows, and seeing an Israeli show would necessarily mean missing the edges of the international shows, or having to run around a lot between venues, without any downtime between shows.
The new format, which was introduced last year, put the Israeli shows on par with the international shows, and keeps the production committed to bring shows that are really good, so there are really no longer shows that might seem a bit like time fillers, as there used to be.
Shem Tov Levy is a prominent figure in Israeli music, whom I have always considered to be a major contributor to creating a brand of music that is very unmistakeably local. I am not going into any academic tripe, there are enough other places to get that. He performed on piano and on flute, with Zur Ben Zeev on bass, Gadi Ben Elisha on guitar, Gershon Viserfirer on oud and baritone, Sharli Sabach on oud, and Noam Chen on percussions.
Oud music. The ouds lend a deeper, more soulful sound to Levy’s already beautiful compositions and arrangements. They performed several covers of classic jazz standards last night, including “A Night In Tunisia”. First of all, on oud? Yay. Second? Whimper.
The ensemble on stage has a beautiful harmony, a genuine sense of fraternity among the players, who are just there to share their music and do it together. Their vocal harmonizing, with all singing except the percussionist, was warm and inviting. It felt like a family getting together to play.
At some point during the show, I could not hold back anymore, dumped my shoes on Tal, and went to dance with all of the teenagers, because it was just too good not to.

Stefon Harris & Blackout
I had a vague recollection of Stefon Harris from quite a while back, when Tal and I saw him in Tel Aviv. Tal at first did not remember having seen him, and then had the audacity to argue with me that it was not, as I said it was, when we were still in the service. More on that later, let’s talk about the show.
They started the show with Gershwin’s “Gone” (linky), from Porgy and Bess. Which is, in my mind, always a good place to start.

Now, visually, before they even start playing, the band sort of looks like the guest stars of a “Yo Gabba Gabba” holiday special, if there’s a holiday that celebrates space exploration. Our special guests today are the inhabitants of Planet Blackout. Super cool. Terreon Gulley on drums and Ben Williams bass make a powerful rhythm section. Tal and I at this point last night christened this “Festival of the Bass Players”, because really, so far, they’ve all been intense. Sullivan Fortner piano and keyboards is slightly evocative of that supergeek in all our lives, the one who will be typing into two separate computers at the same time (who, me?). Stefon Harris is contained between a vibraphone and a marimba, and he flits from one to the other effortlessly.
Casey Benjamin on the saxophone is really otherworldly. What madness possesses a man to wear leather pants in Eilat at the end of August? Why is he wearing a model of Eilat’s coral reef on his head? And why is he putting his sax down? What is that? A KEYTAR???!!! But wait, it gets even better. It’s not just any keytar. He’s singing and using the keytar as a vocal tuner. This, ladies and gentlemen, would have knocked my pants off, if I had been wearing pants.
It’s not even the end of the first number yet, and I am already quite inebriated, on music, no less.
The marriage between the vocal tuning and the vibraphone remind me of the first time I dipped a salted pretzel in chocolate. The thought of it might make you uncomfortable, but it is actually quite delicious.
Then, Stefon Harris says that they don’t have a set list, and that they are just going to play, and see what happens. He asks the audience to tell him which instruments start, and sax and drums are chosen. They start off, playing with each other, tossing back and forth, and you realize at some point that the other players have all come in, too. Most of the show was a state of delirium, in the epic cool of Planet Blackout. It’s a bit of a blur, but a pretty amazing blur at that.
They scored extra points with me for performing Andre 3000’s “Prototype”, which Harris said he hopes will become an American jazz standard. Since “The Love Below” came out, I’ve had a lot of respect for Mr. 3000’s ability to bring some jazz to the mainstream, and I think he has a place of right in the mainstream of jazz, as well.
I couldn’t find any good live footage that reflects the show we saw last night, but here’s Stefon Harris, to give you a feel of just how sweet this guy is.

Later, at the jam session, when I was stealing wifi again, the group sat down at the table next to ours, and we were all this crazy Apple central – Macbooks EVERYWHERE, with the occasional starry-eyed teenager coming to have hir picture taken with Stefon and get the album autographed (I cannot tell you how really cool I think it is for teenagers to be going gaga over jazz players – it gives me a lot of hope for the future of humanity).
Tal kept arguing with me about the time we saw Stefon perform in Tel Aviv, so at some point I decided to end the argument and ask the man himself. So I went up to him and told him I need him to settle the argument, and asked if he remembers what year he was in Tel Aviv. He looks at me and says, “Oh, it must have been… something like… 2003?”. Now, I’m usually right about these things, and have not yet learned not to be terribly disappointed on the rare occasions that I’m wrong. “Oh, really (*pout*)?”, I asked. “No,” he says, and points at Tal, “he just told me to tell you that. It was probably more like 2000.” So I upturned Tal’s chair and felt really vindicated.
Another victory was that after going to sleep at 5am, I managed to sleep until past noon today. Win.



Filed under Jazz, Red Sea or Not

2 responses to “Like A Virgin

  1. Karen Kennedy

    thanks for the great wrap up – Stefon and I just landed at Newark and have to say the entire band had a wonderful time performing at the Red Sea Festival and having a chance to meet some incredible people.

    • yberry

      Ok. I just squee’d quite loudly at receiving your comment.
      I am still quite delirious from yesterday’s show. I really hope it takes less than a decade until the next time I get to see the band perform live again!

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