The lineup for the third annual winter version of the Red Sea Jazz Festival in Eilat (January 17-19) promises to get the audiences grooving. As usual, artistic director Dubi Lenz has seasoned the jazz part of the program with a liberal helping of ethnically oriented sounds and even some more commercially based acts.

Even so, there are some chestnuts for the jazz aficionados to enjoy.

Prime among the imports is New York-based French-bred pianist Jacky Terrasson, who will perform material from his latest release, Gouache, as well as the odd standard, with his trio of bassist Burniss Travis and drummer EJ Strickland.

There is more Gallic jazz on offer, courtesy of trumpeter Erik Truffaz and his quartet. Over the last twoplus decades, Truffaz has developed a wide-ranging discography of 16 albums and draws on such varied disciplines as straightahead jazz, hip hop, rock and roll, African and Turkish melodies and dance music.

Like Terrasson, the Erik Truffaz Quartet will play in Eilat on January 17 & 18.

As for fusion jazz, veteran American guitarist and pianist Stanley Jordan will provide that at his January 17 &19 gigs. Over the last 30 years, Jordan become one of the leading bass guitarists on the fusion scene.

Jazz fans looking for somewhat left field should find that at the two shows (January 18 & 19) of Dutch saxophonist Yuri Honing and his quartet. The 47-year-old Dutchman has mixed his musical offerings across wide stylistic domains throughout his career, putting out 18 albums and gaining a Grammy in the process. Honing draws equally on jazz and classical music roots, as well electronica, dance floor music and musicals. He first came to note with intriguing renditions of pop hits by the likes of ABBA, The Police, Bjork and Blondie, and has continued to stretch his oeuvre borders ever since.

Naturally, there is a strong local contingent lined up, with three of our top ethnic musicians – percussionist Itamar Doari, guitaristoud player Amos Hoffman and woodwind instrument player Amir Shahasar joining forces with Brazilian music-influence pianist Benjamin Taubkin and his vocalist son Joao (January 18 & 19). Doari, who made his name keeping time for such internationally acclaimed artists as Israeli bass player Avishai Cohen and world music star Idan Raichel, also fronts his own band in Eilat (January 17) with his Unipulse quintet – trumpeter Itamar Borochov, guitarist Eyal Heller, percussionist Rony Iwryn and guitarist and baglama player Elyahu Dagmi.

And if it’s the lighter side of the musical tracks that takes your fancy, head for the King Solomon Hall on January 18 for cellist-vocalist confluence with drummer Matan Ephrat.

Chief among our own exponents of the art of jazz is saxophonist Amit Friedman, who released his debut album, Sunrise, last year. The 31-year-old will perform with bassist Gilad Abro, pianist Katia Toobool and drummer Ofri Nehemya on the last day of the festival. Friedman has displayed impressive single-mindedness over the last decade as he has plied his craft in a somewhat unorthodox manner. “I thought about going to the States to attend some college or other. In fact, I thought I’d go to the airport and get on a plane to New York, straight from the IDF demob unit (after serving in the army orchestra) but, somehow, it never happened,” he says.

Friedman says that Sunrise is the product of accumulated on-the-road and life experience, as well as the charts themselves, which he penned over the years. He, and many of his professional cohorts from this part of the world, are also the product of their cultural and social milieu. “I think you can hear that Israeliness in the way we all write and play,” says the reedman. “I am influenced by different Israeli jazz artists, like both Avishai Cohens [the bassist and his namesake trumpeter] and [bassist] Omer Avital and [Trombonist and band leader] Avi Lebovich.”

Friedman is a member of the latter’s highly popular 13-member Orchestra, which is about to put out its second album.

On Sunrise, Friedman enjoyed the services of a sextet and he says that the quartet format, which he will employ in Eilat, leaves him and the rest of the band more room for maneuver. “I have played the music from the album with both lineups, and I have seen that playing with a smaller band actually allows the music to go into more adventurous areas. With a quartet there is more space than with a sextet, when the renditions have to be more planned, and it is great fun to play with a different lineup and to discover new things.”

One pleasing development at the festival is that, after two years of enduring the cold – physical and emotional – atmosphere of a hangar in the port of Eilat, the winter edition of the Red Sea Jazz Festival has relocated to halls in a number of hotels in the city. It is a welcome move which, no doubt, will offer better acoustics, greater intimacy and a warmer ambience all round.

For more information about the Red Sea Jazz Festival: (08) 634-0253 and www.redseajazzeilat.com.


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