Shai Maestro is popping up everywhere right now in Europe thanks in no small part to the success of his new record Dream Thief — released on the legendary ECM label. Sightings of Maestro in Spain, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, Italy, France, and Switzerland across the past few months speak to growing recognition of his talent and a celebration of ECM artists at LPR as part of Winter Jazz Fest was the perfect excuse for an American excursion.
‘There’s no set list tonight,’ says maestro ‘we’re just going to follow the music’. It’s a commitment to creating an organic, free-flowing musical experience and the band (completed by Jorge Roeder on double bass and Ofri Nehemya on drums) do well to deliver. With high melodic basslines complementing Maestro’s piano, the band’s sound is rich in melodic texture. They navigate into new grooves with an energy that is both frenetic and focussed. It’s a full trio sound where bits of Neil Cowley meet Avishai Cohen and elements of E.S.T. i.e. they’re very good.
With Roeder picking out lines high up on the finger board and Nehemya working the floor tom in a mellow, percussive manner, the LPR sound team do a grand job drawing us all in to the bosom of this warm sound. There are lots of smiles on stage which can only be a good sign and in ‘The Forgotten Village’ there is space and exploration to be found between the three comrades.
Ending on a poignant note, Shai introduces ‘What Else Needs To Happen?’, inspired by and dedicated to his friend’s daughter, a tragic and unnecessary victim of gun violence. In a very natural moment, music meets politics with a power and beauty that Winter Jazz Fest embraces and encourages. Shai’s use of this platform was judged to perfection and one imagines this will not be the last time he plays new material from an ECM record at WJF.
The Winter Jazz Fest Marathon weekend runs over 11 + 12 January — more info here.