Siren Song

Yesterday morning Tal and I woke up in Beer Sheva, to the sound of a blaring siren, and marched ourselves downstairs to the safety room, aka the bomb shelter, in our house. It took two more such sirens for us to finish packing and get on the road to the 25th Red Sea Jazz Festival in Eilat.

The trip was the longest drive we’ve had to Eilat since moving to Beer Sheva, between us having to stop more frequently on the way for the benefit of my aching back and being stuck for over an hour in the entrance to Eilat, because after last Thursday’s terrorist attack on highway 12 outside of Eilat, security is insanely stringent.

Still, we made it here, we napped, we had dinner, and set out for a night of shows, overcast with last minute schedule changes due to last minute cancellations of artists deterred by Thursday’s attack and the ensuing exchange of fire between Israel and Gaza.

So, let’s get on to the music. I doubt I will be going into as much detail as I did last year, because, well, my health is not much to write home about these days (nothing lethal, just really annoying), and as much as I’m enjoying the music, my expressive skills are somewhat diminished. This first draft of this post looked something like this:

Live jazz music is the shit.

Yeah. You get the drift.

The first show we saw was Daniel Zamir with Nitay Hershkowitz, with Zamir on saxophone and Hershkowitz on piano. The show started considerably late, after the gates for the festival were opened *after* the opening shows were slated to begin. So some of us, and I’m not naming names, were a little disgruntled and were not particularly excited by the opening number, which was a jazzy take on very clearly Hassidic musical themes (for the record, I loved it).

There was a moment on stage, when they were starting what turned out to be a beautiful cover of Shem Tov Levi’s “Shuvi Le’Beitech” (“Come Back To Your Home”), when Zamir first started playing some solo notes, that the first memory that came to mind was of opening notes on a Joshua Redman piece. Something soulful and peaceful to carry you into the depths of the music. While still in this solo, a plane crossed the sky, and while the sound of its engines threw me back to the sound of rockets careening through the air back home, it took me just a few seconds to realize I couldn’t be farther, and to sink back into the peace of the music.

After several numbers as a duo, Zamir invited Gilad Abro, double bass, and Amir Bresler, drums, to take stage for several numbers. Watching them all perform together made me think that something really good is happening to the younger generation of Israeli jazz. I think back to the first festival Tal and I attended, 9 years ago, and how we stayed away from the Israeli jazz performances because for the most part they seemed to be just, well, excessively academic and pretentious. But what was happening here onstage was just the music. Alive and flowing and vibrant and captivating. Beautiful.

The next show we saw really reaffirmed our thoughts about the Israeli jazz scene. A show that was patched together to cover up for one of the last minute cancellations, featuring Jason Lindner on piano, Anat, Avishai, and Yuval Cohen (aka the three Cohens) respectively on alto sax and clarinet, trumpet, and soprano sax, Gilad Abro on double bass (yes, you’re seeing a theme here), and Alon Cohen (no relation) on drums. Apparently Lindner was on tour in Greece and decided to swing by to visit his friends in Israel, and after throwing together an impromptu show in Tel Aviv, they were all asked to get their butts down to Eilat and fill in a hole. Lucky us.

The three Cohens are siblings, and their parents must be wonderful, because those kids play very nicely with each other. They’ve got this family groove thing going for them, weaving in and out of brass cacophony at its finest and mesmerizing harmony.

The whole sextet on stage was everything you hope for in a good jazz show. Wonderful music, with no unnecessary delusions of grandeur. Sort of an all for one, one for all, and all with the audience thing going on. Hence, my above original draft. When it gets this good, what more can you say? Live jazz music is the shit.

We saw two more shows last night. One of which included Gilad Abro on double bass. Because apparently he is the hardest working bassist in Israel. We are going to see him headlining a trio tonight, after which I will no doubt expound on the immense justification for this status of his. I was, however, very dizzy and tired by this time, so I’m just going to let you sit back and enjoy a sample of the music, very much as I did last night.

So, it seemed that contrary to the original myth, for us, the siren song, rather than calling us to crash on the rocks, called us away from the rockets, to the peaceful jazzy waters of the Red Sea. Not bad, sirens, not bad.

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Filed under Jazz, Red Sea or Not

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