Getting jazzy in Eilat

Red Sea Jazz Festival stretches the musical spectrum over three days in Eilat.

May 24, 2019 05:55
4 minute read.



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The summer edition Red Sea Festival, the biggest item on the national jazz agenda, will take place in Eilat from August 25-27. Eli Degibri is, once again, at the helm, with the 41-year-old internationally acclaimed saxophonist, and festival artistic director, due to take the opportunity strut his instrumental stuff over the three days. The second evening will see Degibri perform in a supergroup threesome format, along with veterans of the global jazz scene, 82-year-old bassist Ron Carter and 76-year-old drummer Al Foster.

Degibri’s predecessor at the festival, bassist Avishai Cohen, is also in the lineup. Cohen, probably our best known purveyor of jazzy material across the world, will open the proceedings in Eilat, when he fronts his trio of Azerbaijani pianist Elchin Shirinov and seasoned Israeli drummer Noam David. There are also guest appearances by ethnic-leaning flutist Shem-Tov Levy and trombonist Avi Lebovich, which should add up to some pretty wide-ranging stylistic and rhythmic fare. Lebovich and Cohen have known each other for many years, and they made up two thirds of what is considered the vanguard of the Israeli presence in the New York arena, when they moved Stateside along with bassist Omer Avital back in 1992. Lebovich also played on Cohen’s third release, Colors, which came out in 2000.

Ari Hoenig has been one of the most versatile drummers on the international jazz scene for quite a few years now. For his August 25 Eilat date, he will join forces with a couple of Israeli colleagues, pianist Nitai Hershkowitz and bassist Or Bareket, which may prove to be one of the better slots over the three days.

Bassist Avishai Cohen (Andreas Terlaak)

American saxophonist Donny McCaslin is also on the Eilat roster, and will head his band of Canadian vocalist Ryan Dahle and drummer Zach Danziger. While the reedman and Danziger have paid their jazz dues, Dahle is primarily a rocker. McCaslin, too, has done his fair share of work in more commercially-oriented climes and was a sideman on David Bowie’s final album Blackstar. Both he and Danziger dip into electronica, and you can expect the Eilat show to cut a meandering path through various genres, and probably also get a little loud.

Over the years, the Red Sea bash has proffered a decent dosage of gypsy jazz. The name of iconic French violinist Stephane Grappelli and compatriot guitarist Bireli Lagrene spring to mind. This year that side of the jazzy tracks will be taken care of by French guitarist Richard Manetti, whose CV includes tribute shows to seminal Belgian-born gypsy jazz artist guitarist Django Reinhardt. Manetti will come over here with a quartet, of pianist Frederic d’Oelsnitz, drummer Yoann Serra and bass guitarist Jean-Marc Jafet, will add some swing and groove seasoning to Reinhardt oeuvre.

THE JAZZ spectrum will probably stretch more than a little when Marquis Hill takes the stage on August 25, along with four top Israeli sideman, including pianist Tom Oren. A few months ago Oren did this country proud, by placing first in the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz International Piano Competition, the disciplines most prestigious contest. Together the quintet will doff their collective derby in the direction of trumpeter Roy Hargrove, who died last year at the age of only 49. Hill has gained a reputation for being one of the most inventive trumpeters on the global jazz block, incorporating hip-hop, Chicago house, R&B and neo-soul in his entertainment armory.

There are quite a few returnees in the program, including saxophonist Kenny Garrett, who will lead a quintet, while the Eilat faithful will, no doubt, be delighted with yet another showing here from stellar Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava, who turns 80 a few days before the festival. Rava’s appearance at the winter version of the Red Sea Jazz festival, around three years ago, was an unqualified success. Once again he will front an all-Italian sextet, most of whom could be his grandchildren. But the sum of the parts makes for a consummately polished and compelling whole. 

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the jazz home front the Piano Knights slot brings together four Israeli ivory ticklers of varying ages and artistic intent. The final day concert features France-based Yonatan Avishai, long-time Germany resident Omer Klein, Andalusian-leaning Omri Mor and the aforementioned 25-year-old Tom Oren. The blend of the four pianistic styles should make for an intriguing offering. And there is a large ensemble program headed by trumpeter Danny Rosenfeld, who will spearhead an octet with the likes of trombonist Yonatan Vulchuk and saxophonist Alon Farber, which will conjure up some big band specters of yore, playing numbers by such titans as Dizzy Gillespie and Tadd Dameron.

Over on the “beyond jazz” side of the festival lineup you can catch Malian couple Amadou & Mariam, feted Romani Flamenco gypsy singer Diego El Cigala and Spanish vocalist Buika, who also comes from the flamenco end of the musical, with plenty of jazzy vibes mixed in.

Fans of quality mainstream Israeli music should dig the Hava Alberstein-Shlomi Shaban confluence on the second day. And there will be a number of free entry workshops on offer.

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