Fostering his percussive power

There can't be many more jazz musicians with more impressive "been there, done that" credentials than Al Foster.

al foster 88 (photo credit: )
al foster 88
(photo credit: )
There can't be many more jazz musicians with more impressive "been there, done that" credentials than Al Foster. Over the last four decades, the 64-year-old drummer has mixed it with practically every top jazz artist around. Most noteworthy is iconic trumpeter Miles Davis. He said of Foster, when he first heard the drummer play live at the Cellar Club on 95th Street in Manhattan in 1972, "He knocked me out because he had such a groove and he would just lay it right in there. That was the kind of thing I was looking for. Al could set it up for everybody else to play off and just keep the groove going forever." Kudos don't come much more gilt-edged than that. Foster's around these parts with his quartet for the next few days, kicking off at Levontin 7 in Tel Aviv tomorrow at 8:30 p.m., followed by a double header there the following evening (8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.), and more gigs lined up at the Zappa Club in Herzliya (December 2 at 9 p.m.) and Jerusalem's Yellow Submarine (December 3 at 9:30 p.m.). The band includes the familiar face and saxophone sound of our very own Eli Degibri, who has a pretty decent resumé himself. In addition to his long-term slot with Foster, he has played with jazz titans such as Herbie Hancock and Brad Mehldau. Foster is also supported on his Israeli tour by pianist Benito Gonzalez and bassist Doug Weiss. Admired by fellow players, fans and critics alike for his sensitive playing, Foster, as well as his eclectic approach, are well known . Unlike many other drummer-bandleaders who follow a more in-your-face ethos, Foster is often content with the more traditional anchor role of the jazz drummer playing behind the front man. Still, when he does throw his hat in the ring he reels off highly exploratory solos that span freewheeling spectrums from deft skin touches to powerhouse displays that blow away his audiences - and probably his band members too. Considering Davis's comment, it is hardly surprising that Foster is probably best known for his work with the stellar trumpeter in the seventies and eighties. Foster's all-round artistic attack was tailor made for Davis's rock-inflected jazz fusion of the time. But he has also put out his fair share of bebop and post-bop endeavor with the likes of Hancock, sax heavyweights Sonny Rollins and Joe Henderson. On the forthcoming tour here, Foster and the quartet will showcase material taken off the band's recent Love, Peace and Jazz release which, naturally enough, includes a couple of numbers readily associated with Davis - Davis's "Blue in Green" and former Davis sideman saxophonist Wayne Shorter's "ESP," which Davis recorded in the sixties. The album also features a couple of Foster originals - "The Chief" and "Brandyn" - with the composer demonstrating his almost surreal sense of textual and color nuances on an emotive opening drum solo. The recorded tracks are all on the long side, which leaves his sidemen plenty of room to shine, and that will be evident at the band's Israeli gigs too. Over the last decade or so, Degibri has gained a reputation for his warm and sinewy playing. No doubt, he and his bandleader will make us proud in the coming week. For ticketing information: Levontin 7, Tel Aviv - (03) 560-5084, NIS 90/110; Zappa Herzliya - (03) 767-4646, NIS 135; Yellow Submarine, Jerusalem - (02) 679-4040, NIS 85.