Getting hotter all the time

The Red Sea Jazz closes quarter-century this year, featuring an increasing number of non-jazzy shows

Pianist-vocalist Eddie Palmieri (photo credit: courtesy)
Pianist-vocalist Eddie Palmieri
(photo credit: courtesy)
The Red Sea Jazz Festival is our longest standing venture in the genre. It started out as a fairly modest late-fall affair – some might argue that is a far more suitable time of year, meteorologically speaking, to hold cultural events down South – and has grown incrementally over the years.
This year’s four-dayer – moved for the first time from its traditional slot of Monday-Thursday in the last week of August to Sunday-Wednesday of the third week of the month – features the usual mix of imports and local jazz talent, with an increasing number of extracurricular non-jazzy shows.
For hardcore jazz fans the biggest draw is likely to be 36-year-old American pianist Jason Moran, (Pictured on the cover), one of the brightest burning stars in the global jazz firmament these days. Moran will come over with his longstanding trio – in itself a rarity in the jazz sector – of bass player Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits. The group will mostly play material from its latest release, Ten, recorded last year to mark the band’s 10th anniversary, with the odd standard thrown-in.
Another member of the younger jazz star brigade booked to play in Eilat this year is 36-year-old Swiss-born harmonica player Gregoire Maret, who will bring a quartet with him of bassist James Genus, Uruguayan pianist Federico Pena and drummer Clarence Penn.
Vocal jazz has always featured strongly at the Port of Eilat bash over the years, and this year’s main draws in the category include 31-year-old Georgian-born Lizz Wright, the daughter of a pastor, who will deliver a program of jazz, gospel and blues material with her trademark deep, warm vocals, and soft-rock influenced singer Gretchen Parlato.
Jazz lovers looking for some high-energy jazz output, which feeds off a wide range of subgenres, should enjoy Canadian pianist-vocalist Michael Kaeshammer. In recent years Kaeshammer has gained reputation for his no-nonsense, rapid-fire, dexterous approach to his keyboard as he belts out boogie-woogie, bebop and blues-inflected numbers in a highly entertaining manner.
Kaeshammer will be ably supported by double bass player Marc Rogers, horn player William Sperandei and drummer Roger Travassos.
Stepping out of the strict confines of the jazz discipline, guitaristvocalist phenomenon Raul Midon should blow his audiences away with percussive strumming, quickfire fret work and drumming on his guitar. Midon, who has been blind since he was a few days old, also packs a highly malleable vocal technique, which he often utilizes to replicate a trumpet sound. His musical oeuvre incorporates numerous styles, including soul, folkpop, jazz and Latin music, and his lyrics address social awareness issues with sharp insights about betrayal, fear, loss and the American dream.
Before he embarked on a solo career Midon worked as an accompanying vocalist in the Latin-pop world, with front liners such as Julio and Enrique Iglesias, Shakira and Ricky Martin.
Meanwhile 74-year-old Grammy Award-winning Puerto Rican-born pianist-vocalist Eddie Palmieri and his merry orchestra should have the Red Sea Jazz Festival faithfuls up and out of their seats or, at the very least, tapping a toe or two.
Back to the roots of jazz, the Tuba Skinny sextet should provide fans of the more traditional side of the genre – and several others – with an entertaining show. The band, which includes a trombonist, tuba player, washboard player, cornetist, guitarist and vocalist, combine blues, jazz, Eastern European folk songs, country and traditional American music in a captivating performance style.
On the local side of the jazz part of the festival, the main draws include pianist Shai Maestro and his trio of Peruvian bassist Jordi Roeder and long-time New York resident Israeli drummer Ziv Ravitz. Fellow Big Apple resident trombonist Yonatan Voltzok will front a sextet that includes veteran drummer Shai Zelman, pianist Hila Kuli and bassist Gilad Abro. Abro will also lead his own trio, of drummer Amir Bresler and pianist Nitay Hershkovitz, while Hershkovitz will join forces with saxophonist Daniel Zamir in a jazz program infused with Jewish themes.
Seasoned jazz festivalgoers should have fun at the festival opener, at the Hall Stage, of the Israel All Stars band. The sextet includes five stalwarts of the local jazz community, including pianist Danny Gottfried, who served as artistic-director of the festival from its inception until Avishai Cohen took over the reins for three years, trumpeter Mamelo Gaitanopoulos, saxophonist Jess Koren and drummer Areleh Kaminsky, with American bass player Simon Starr completing the lineup.
Another local jazz act that should deliver is the Moving On! Concert led by saxophonist Erez Bar Noy, with his sidemen including Voltzok, Abro, reedman Hagai Amir, pianist Omri Mor and drummer Ofri Nehemia.
At the other end of the age scale, the young Israeli Burlesque trio and Organic Sound Unit gig will combine Burlesque’s jazz, rock and folk music, with electronic music and classical material and a liberal sprinkling of comic intent, alongside the Organic Sound Unit’s more experimental ventures, in what promises to be one of the highlights of the festival.
On the extra-jazz side of the roster, veteran softrock, pop pianist-vocalist Yoni Rechter will present a program of his own material, with the odd, jazzy seasoning. On the last day of the festival, folk-pop vocalist-guitarist Yael Deckelbaum will present a program based on her Joy & Sadness.
Red Sea Jazz Festival 2011, August 21-24. Eilat. For more information: