Here for the Music

I would like to start summarizing the third night of the Red Sea Jazz Festival by noting that I couldn’t write much last night, because some freak insect bite made use of my left hand very difficult. Imagine the embarrassment when I had to clap by touching my right hand to my shoulder. And walking around with my left hand elevated for no obvious reason… oh, never mind. I’m here for the music.

Omri Mor & Andaloujazz Project
We kicked off the evening with this Israeli trio, a classic piano trio, with Omri Mor on piano, Gilad Abro on bass, and Noam David (no relation) on drums, performing Andalucian music. This combination spawned a very colorful experience.
Abro and David really well exemplified the meaning of the term “rhythm section”, both simply being the rhythm, with their instruments, their hands, their bodies, their faces. Tal at some point kvetched to me that he found the facial expressions disturbing, but I don’t know. I thought they were just beautiful on stage.
I was especially taken with Noam David. His relationship with his drums was so vibrant and clearly fun, and he really worked them in all sorts of ways, with all sorts of rhythms, using his bare hands at times.
Omri Mor was quite wonderful himself. His use of the piano is free and inventive, and just like the rhythm section, he was clearly really enjoying himself. The general atmosphere of the show was that the players were all very engaged with the music, and with each other, communicating seamlessly onstage with a very clear language of their own.
There is no album out yet, but this is one that I will be listening for, and definitely a show worth seeing.

Jeff “Tain” Watts Quartet
Obviously, when I state in a previous post that a drummer as a frontman is an unusual choice, we’re going to have another quartet led by a drummer.
Jeff Watts, drums; Jean Toussaint, tenor and soprano sax; David Kikoski, piano; James Genus, bass. Each one of these player has an impressive track record in his own right, they’ve all been around for some time and have played with some very big names.
The show was good, solid, honest-to-god New York jazz. Watts speaks between the numbers with a laid-back sense of humor, and the good time being had on stage is infectious with the audience.
One number that particularly amused me was, as Watts put it, “a drinking song, a song about drinking, about what it feels like to be drunk,” that he named “Vodville”, after vodka. Jeff actually assumes the posture and gestures of a drunkard on the drums, and the beat he’s making is very reminiscent of a highly shitfaced lush, stumbling his way home after a bender.
As part of what turned out to be a general theme for last night, watching this show reminded me how I will forever be amazed with how jazz players manage to be in sync with each other, through improvisation and changing rhythms, as if it’s a cellular thing, and instinct.
We were not blown away with the show, but we did enjoy it very much, and really, must we always be blown away? Can we always be?
Check out a drum solo of Watts, for just a taste:

The Oz Noy trio Feat. Dave Weckl & Will Lee
Now, excuse me. I’m pretty sure the bill for this festival said “jazz” and not “rock”. Because this show rocked. If it was “blown away” that we were looking for, we found it.
Oz Noy is an internationally accomplished Israeli guitarist, with a modest stage presence, backed by the brilliant Dave Weckl on drums, and Will Lee, of the David Letterman Show, on bass. Together, they performed original pieces by Noy, charged with electric funk.
Now, on the matter of Noy. This man does not need stage presence, because he is insanely brilliant, and besides, Will Lee, with his wild child rocker mannerism, who is a full extension of his bass guitar, or maybe the other way around, has so much stage presence, there was barely room to contain all of him.
This show sort of sounded what I always imagined tripping on LSD must be like, if you’re playing Super Mario Brothers on a large screen at the same time.
This is really one of those cases in which I don’t think I can muster the words to describe the experience. “Explosive” comes to mind, as do “57 varieties of awesomesauce, and a bag of chips”, but still. We’ve decided to go see them perform again tonight, and seeing as our usual strategy for the festival is to catch as many different shows as humanly possible, this speaks more than I could say in words. Or maybe I should just let the music do the talking?
You’re going to want to raise the volume for this one. To max.

New Gary Burton Quartet
There has to be at least one show every festival in which the combination of fatigue and the more subdued ballad-type selection leads us to feel that we would have enjoyed it more if it were not so late in the night and if the people around us could have their conversations a bit more quietly.
Gary Burton, vibraphone; Scott Colley, bass; Julian Lage, guitar; Antonio Sanchez, drums.
The music was lovely, and we were especially taken with Lage on guitar. They performed an especially lovely version of “My Funny Valentine”, that once again, along with the warm night breeze, and the moon and all, put us for a while into that state of mind that I seem to be able to achieve only for the four nights a year that we are here, of this perfect calm, when you’re just at peace with the world, and you know it will be over soon, but you don’t mind, because you are in that moment, and it’s all ok.

And now I must go. Berry Sakharof has been spotted at the pool, and it is my duty to fawn and sigh.


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