Colors of Red Sea Jazz

The four-day program is packed with big names from abroad, as well as some of the pick of the local crop.

AMERICAN JAZZ organist Lonnie Smith. (photo credit: MARK SHELDON)
AMERICAN JAZZ organist Lonnie Smith.
(photo credit: MARK SHELDON)
The 28th edition of the Red Sea Jazz festival will take place in Eilat August 24-27. Joint artistic directors Eli Degibri and Dubi Lenz have lined up a varied program for the four-day event, including some of the biggest names in the global jazz community, as well as our own leading artists, with ethnic music slots thrown in for music fans looking for entertainment outside the confines of the festival’s titular genre.
One of the most colorful characters on the jazz side of the program is 72-year-old organist Dr. Lonnie Smith.
Smith tends toward the souland R&B-inflected areas of jazz, liberally laced with the blues, and is one of the foremost players of the Hammond B-3 organ today. Fans of vocal jazz – and there are normally plenty of them around – should have fun at Diane Schuur’s concerts in which the singer will front an instrumental quartet that includes Israeli- born guitarist Roni Ben-Hur.
Dimona-born Ben-Hur was one of the first musicians form here to relocate to New York and has been an established member of the Stateside jazz community for close to 30 years. 61-year-old Schuur is a multi-Grammy Award winner and has worked with the likes of iconic pianist-singer Ray Charles, saxophonist Stan Getz, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and blues legend BB King.
The lineup also includes 59-year-old pianist Fred Hersch, who will come here with his longstanding trio of bassist John Hébert and drummer Eric McPherson. The trio’s latest album, Floating, came out earlier this year and will account for a substantial part of the band’s shows in Eilat.
No doubt the Eilat audiences will be intrigued to espy a diminutive figure behind the drum set when saxophonist Antoine Roney takes the stage with his quartet. The drummer is none other than his 10-year-old son Kojo, who has been wowing jazz fans across the globe for over two years.
Kojo is no gimmick and he has done the business at such venerable venues at the Village Vanguard in New York, and has performed all across the United States and Europe.
There will be more familial feelings at saxophonist Marcus Strickland’s shows, with his quartet of brother drummer E.J. Strickland, pianist David Bryant and bassist Ben Williams.
Israeli and longtime New York resident bassist Omer Avital also gets to strut his stuff in Eilat next month together with Third World Love colleagues pianist Yonatan Avishai, trumpeter Avishai Cohen and drummer Daniel Freedman, with saxophonist Joel Frahm adding to the sonic mix.
The local Israeli jazz community will be represented by guitarist Ofer Ganor, who will join forces with twin brother bassist Eyal and veteran drummer Shai Zelman, while celebrated trumpeter Terence Blanchard should also bring in the crowds at his quintet’s gigs.
Artistic director Lenz is an avowed fan of Latin American music, so the appearance of Brazilian singer Leny Andrade and her trio in the Red Sea program comes as no surprise.
And the ethnic plot will thicken appreciably with the intriguing pairing of octogenarian Algerian-born pianist Maurice el Medioni and 31-year-old jazz-educated pianist Omri Mor. Their show is billed as Pianoriental and the two will explore a wide swath of rhythms and cultural baggage.
There will be more cultural border-hopping at Israeli guitarist and oud player Amos Hoffman’s quintet’s Hotel Khaleeji show, which also features vocalist Rechela, ubiquitous bassist Gilad Abro, pianist Hod Moshonov and drummer Aviv Cohen. And the energy level should shoot up when singer Marina Maximilian takes the stage with guitarist Yonatan Albalak, Abro and Cohen. Maximilian burst onto the scene with her appearance on the Kochav Nolad (A Star Is Born) talent show seven years ago and has put out a string of pop hits since.
All in all, this year’s Red Sea Jazz Festival promises some quality jazz offerings and an allround entertainment package.
For tickets and more information:, *9066 and