Sparks of Discovery

The first show of the night is Gretchen Parlato, with Justin Brown, drums, Alan Hampton, bass, and Gerald Clayton.
Tal and I were first acquainted with Parlato on Monday morning, when she kindly held the door open for us at the hotel. I love that we’re staying at the same hotel as all the musicians. We get the full groupie experience without the STD’s.
Not two bars into her singing, I know this is going to be good. She’s got a warm and soft voice, and her band carries her with a deep richness of sound. They all have an easygoing and intimate vibe going.
Just two numbers in, she asks if there’s a trumpeter in the room, and up to the stage comes Avishai Cohen for a beautiful performance of Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints”.

After that, Parlato and Hampton stay on stage together and sing their beautifully cowritten “Still”, and I’m completely sold.

If we’ve talked about thinking drummers, who make melody with the drums, Parlato is a thinking singer, who makes rhythm. With various instruments, with her hands, and with the dulcet tones of her voice.
Also memorable was a haunting rendition of Thelonious Monk’s “Ugly Beauty” in piano-voice duo.
Immediately after the show, we raced to nab her latest cd, and I’m expecting endless hours of pleasure.

For the next show, we had a dilemma, because neither of them was Liz Wright whom we were planning to see in that slot but had cancelled at the very last moment. So, Erez Bar Noy or Shlomi Shaban? We tried to postpone making any brash decisions and opted for hamburgers, and then decided to give Bar Noy a chance, because, as opposed to Shaban, he is an actual jazz musician and this is a jazz festival.
We approached Bar Noy with caution. He is of an older generation than the Israelis we’ve seen so far, the group of musicians we often feel are trying too hard for their own good. Tal says it looks like a teacher leading his class. And after less than a number, I have to agree that something’s missing, and it sort of looks like a jazz camp graduation performance, with the brilliant instructor showcasing his most talented campers.
I will never know if it’s just a bias that we can’t shake from the days in which the Israeli artists at the festival were billed as gap-fillers between the seemingly more prestigious big names from abroad, but still, it’s the impression we got and it became rather tedious rather fast.
Another thing that probably had a negative impact on our reception of the show was the fact that we were sitting in the back and there’s a lot more noise from surrounding members of the audience who feel comfortable having phone conversations and what have you while the band is playing.
So we got up and crossed over to Shlomi Shaban. It was packed. At first, we felt sad that the shows that attract the most audience are these last minute bookings that aren’t even jazz, what’s up with that?
But this guy is funny as hell. I’m happy. And talented. So maybe we don’t care that this one isn’t really jazz. His communication with the audience is leagues more enjoyable than Asaf Avidan’s drunken rants of last night.
Suddenly he’s joined onstage by Avishai Cohen. If Gilad Abro is the hardest working bassist in Israel, Avishai Cohen is the hardest working trumpeter. The dialogue between piano and trumpet is engaging and escalates into something explosive.

He’s also brilliant on the piano. And sticks it to Asaf Avidan with a hilarious impersonation. Made of win.
By now, his show is running into overtime, when he says, “I know that you think that all of the foreign performers cancelled…” and in heavily accented English, invites his friend “Jonathan”, with whom he says he’s been collaborating for many years, and out comes Yoni Rechter.

The, because the genius insanity onstage is not enough, the dude pulls out a Casio PT30, and delivers this:

except with a twist of Rechter and Cohen for an epic grand finale, ending with Shaban and Rechter abandoning Cohen unaware onstage while he’s wrapping it up with a trumpet solo.
Wow, what a fun show. We were pleased that we ended up ditching Bar Noy in favor of it.

We were late to Raul Midon because of the epic geniosity of the previous show.
Midon is interesting. He’s a one man show. And he’s blind. While the music itself is not quite our taste, he gives an impressive performance, and he’s quite funny. Take, for example, his description of house music. “Two characteristics: one that it goes (insert impeccable imitation of house drum beat here), second that it does that for a VERY LONG TIME.”

So, Midon plays guitar with one hand while beating percussions with the other, and provides very credible trumpet solos with his lips, bass solos too. The man is harmonizing with himself, taking the whole concept of a one-man band and setting a whole new standard for it.

Durimg the song “Invisible Chains”, Tal points out that it’s interesting that a blind man is singing about something invisible. Would that be like me writing about balance?

Funny how if I were just listening to this music, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it half as much. Is the fact that this blind man must be seen to be fully appreciated poetry in motion or what?

The last show of the night is the Shai Maestro trio. Very little audience, but a very promising start. It’s interesting to see how many different takes there are on the same classic staple of jazz, the piano, double bass, and drums. Their sound is so different from that of the Abro trio, for example, or so many other such trios I can think of.
Maestro’s piano has a lush beauty to it, and if the trio we had seen the night before was more a balanced trio, here, Maestro is definitely, well, the maestro.
At one point he said something nice about how his trio is a relatively new ensemble and every performance is an experience of getting better acquainted with each other, and about how they thank us for being a part of it.
There were moments you could actually see sparks of discovery occurring onstage, when their music reveals another new element in its evolving language.

Toward the end of the show, I tilt my head back and look up at the starlit sky. At once I am together and alone, and one.

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Filed under Jazz, Red Sea or Not

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