A Little Bit Of Everything

The first show of last night was Yael Deckelbaum, with Shaul Eshet on piano and keyboards, Gil Lewis on electric guitar, Adam Ben Ezra on double bass and bass guitar, and Barak Kram on drums. Another show that at face value could perhaps end up not being all that jazzy, though from what I know of her material, she’s kind of a little bit of everything.
She comments on how the warm breeze is actually enjoyable. The wind on the stage at the festivals is often wild, with everybody’s sheet music scattering. I think that’s sort of an apt commentary on the essence of live jazz, maybe live music in general. Anything can happen.
Yael Deckelbaum may not be a jazz musician, but she is a brilliant vocalist, writes wonderful songs, and gives a hell of a performance. And just because we are at a jazz festival, she did give us several jazz numbers, starting with this.

Anyway, bottom line, it wasn’t all jazz, far from it, but I enjoyed it very much. A good start to a good evening.

The most surprising last minute booking of the festival, no doubt, was Dianne Reeves. She is stellar.
So, she was called to duty on Sunday and flew in right away, with pianist Peter Martin joining her, and bassist James Genus and drummer Clarence Penn who just happened to already be here (they’d been performing with Grégoire Maret at the festival). It’s kind of funny, but from where I’m standing, the international jazz scene looks sort of like classic “Beverly Hills 90210”, in the sense that everybody’s played with everybody, and they all know each other and have no problem putting together a seamless ensemble on a whim. You see this at festival jam sessions as well, where you’ve got the biggest names there are, like Reeves for example, playing with up and coming musicians and high school students, and all like they’ve been doing this forever.
Reeves is really your classic kind of jazz singer. Scat ain’t no problem, she seems like an endless fountain of standards taken and performed so as to knock one’s socks off. No lyrics? No problem. Any story can be sung. And who needs words anyway. This is her third time in the 25 years that the Red Sea Jazz Festival has been held, we had seen her once before and when we heard she was coming again, we immediately adjusted our show schedule to accommodate because we knew she is not to be missed.

The song that says “Dianne Reeves” most to me is definitely “Afro Blue”. And in the middle of it, she started singing that she has a friend backstage, whom she’d like to invite to come sing with her. And then this happened:

Michael Kaeshammer at first looks like another staple trio, with Marc Rogers on double bass and Roger Travassos on drums. And then after a few numbers, they are joined by a whole horn section, with William Sperandel on trumpet, Gilad Ronen on saxophone, and Yonatan Voltzok on trombone.

Even though he admits to being Canadian, the music has a good ol’ badass New Orleans vibe to it. And Kaeshammer is fantastic. He’s brilliant on the keyboard, and also uses the piano as a drum. And then himself. And he comes down into the audience and grabs one of the women for a quick dance. When he gets back up on stage he arranges a birthday surprise for Travassos, with the audience holding up lighted sparklers and singing Happy Birthday To You, and asking for a beautiful girl from the audience to give the drummer a kiss, because it’s “the custom in Canada”.

Nobody really wanted the show to end. If the festival were not outdoors, he’d be bringing the house down.
Even though there was barely any time for it, at the end of the show, to the audience’s standing and stamping ovation, the band gave a quick encore, crackling with energy. When it was over, we were just exhilarated.

The last show of the last night was Steve Smith & Vital Information. The program named them a “leading fusion force”. Fusion is scary to us. We still fear the dreaded Spyro Gyra effect, under which a group of perfectly skilled and talented musicians end up playing live elevator music with all the spirit and gusto of a bunch of dentists playing Guitar Hero.
This is not elevator music, but Tal for one finds them troubling. I’m worried for him. He says there’s a little bit too much self-adoration on stage. I get what he’s saying.
I think what’s bothering me is that these guys sound a bit too much like they belong on the set of a late night talk show. Tal says that’s harsh of me. It’s not that they suck, they’re even quite good. But they’re a little too polished and flashy. Tal put his finger on it. TOO EIGHTIES. Jazz for corporate climbers. POWER JAZZ. Where are my shoulder pads?

Anyway, we walked out of that show after finishing up all the snarky commentary we had, including declaring that they looked more like gynecologists than dentists and comparing them to Hamas.

I was planning to finish writing this up and posting it as soon as we got home Thursday, however we had the very unpleasant surprise of our air conditioner kicking the bucket on Wednesday, and ended up enjoying the 3.5 hour drive home in 43C weather with the windows rolled down and an awful lot of sweat. So it took me a bit longer. All apologies.

See you next year, Red Sea Jazz.

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