Kenny Garrett performs at Red Sea Jazz Festival, Eilat (370 .
(photo credit: Digi Deckel)
There was a strong sense of déjà-vu at this year’s Red Sea Jazz Festival, which
took place at the Port of Eilat last Monday through Thursday.
audiences appeared to be down on previous years, which conjured up the more
intimate atmosphere of the early festivals, back in the late Eighties. The
nostalgia feel was further enhanced by the appearance of the Zaviyot quartet,
which last performed at the festival in 1989. And it was a triumphant return for
now 80-year-old clarinetist Harold Rubin, bassist Mark Smulian and drummer
Reuben Hoch, who recruited young New Zealand-based Israeli guitarist Arli
Liberman for the occasion.
Rubin et al threw everything at us, from down
and dirty rock-blues, to straightahead jazz, highly improvised numbers and the
odd klezmer coloring. It was a tour de force which was both a throwback to those
halcyon days of the band’s beginnings, and a reminder that there is no
substitute for individual quality and silky teamwork.
solos drove the audience wild, and the patrons were equally appreciative of
Hoch’s powerful performance, Smulian’s velvety and driving bass lines, as well
as Rubin’s trademark lyrically adventurous offerings.
The surprise of the
festival was US bassist Christian McBride’s trio of drummer Ulysses Owens and
22-year-old pianist Christian Sands. Sands, in particular, was a revelation s he
reeled off fluid tripping solos which appeared to feed off the roots of New
Orleans jazz and had a delightful bluesygospely feel to them. Each of the trio
members displayed a sunny go-with-the-flow ethos as the well-oiled unit
delivered sumptuous textures, bluesy riffs and an uncomplicated delivery of
often complex passages.
Elsewhere in the Red Sea Jazz program, veteran
pianist Geri Allen’s trio performed with a tap dancer who, while clearly highly
adept at the technical side of his art and had done his homework on blending in
with the instrumental delivery, generally obstructing the main instrumental
As expected the shows by the Yes! trio of pianist Aaron Goldberg,
drummer Ali Jackson and longtime Israeli New York resident bass player Omer
Avital proved to be a highly popular slot – with plenty of groove and bluesy
intent - and the threesome gave the festival’s joint artistic director, sax
player Eli Degibri a chance to strut his highly experienced stuff when he joined
them for the encore. Israeli guitarist Gilad Hekselman’s show, with a quartet
that included acclaimed saxophonist Mark Turner, Eilat debut was also roundly
At the end of the day, it was one of the better Red Sea Jazz
festivals of recent years.