New sounds of the Red Sea

A colorful selection of musicians are on the roster for the Eilat Jazz Festival, August 23-26

dave douglas311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
dave douglas311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The biggest jazz event of the year is once again upon us, and there will be no less than 32 shows on three stages spread out over the fourday Red Sea Jazz Festival at its regular Port of Eilat.
There is a wide swathe of artists lined up for the festival, from mainstream jazz to rock and poporiented items and a long list of local acts, including some of a strong ethnic inclination. The big guns in the straightahead jazz sector include a couple of vibraphonist-led groups, including one headed by veteran Gary Burton (August 25 and 26), who spent 33 years teaching at and presiding over Berklee College of Music in Boston, and another by 37- year-old Stefon Harris (August 23 and 24). Harris will also lead a marimba and vibraphone master class at the Agamim Hotel on August 24 at 4:30 p.m.
Burton’s cohorts in Eilat include bassist Scott Colley, guitarist Julian Lage and drummer Antonio Sanchez.
50-year-old powerhouse drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts and his quartet should also enthuse the festival audience (August 25 and 26), while highly inventive Panamanian pianist Danilo Perez makes his return to Eilat in the company of bassist Ben Street and drummer Adam Cruz (August 25 and 26). Perez will also host a master class at the Agamim Hotel on August 25 at 3 p.m.
There is also plenty of entertainment to be had from outside the strict confines of jazz and improvisational endeavors. Fans of pop music with attitude and some bluesy touches should dig the Rickie Lee Jones shows on August 24 and 26. Meanwhile, Ivory Coast-born French drummer Manu Katché’s two Eilat gigs (August 24 and 26) should draw on the band leader’s eclectic musical style, ranging from jazz and blues, to pop, electronic, and ethnically-seasoned sounds. And 16-year-old Canadian starlet vocalist Nikki Yanofsky should wow the Eilat audiences with her poplaced delivery.
Jazz fans looking for something with an edge should jot down Dave Douglas’ two shows on August 23 and 25, as well as his master class at the Agamim Hotel on August 24 at 3 p.m. The 47-year-old trumpeter has been one of the most inventive members of his generation on the jazz scene for the last two decades.
He is a virtuoso player and searching composer and band leader, and has explored numerous styles and genres over the years, including classical music, European folk and klezmer. His current lineup, the Brass Ecstasy quintet is quintessentially non-standard and includes four horns and a drum set, with Luis Bonilla on trombone, Vincent Chancey on French horn, Marcus Rojas on tuba and Nasheet Waits on drums.
Considering Douglas’ instrumental choice, and the quintet’s name, it doesn’t take a genius to tie that in with late mercurial trumpeter Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy band. “An homage to Lester Bowie is the most succinct explanation I can give you for the existence of this group Brass Ecstasy,” explains Douglas.
“We don't play his music, or even sound like his music. I don't think an homage or a tribute should be an emulation or recreation of anything, rather, I think of honoring a great musician by thinking about their creative spirit and sharing what that can mean for us today.”
But it is not all about Bowie.
“We play some rearranged pop tunes, which in a sense is a very traditional thing to do in jazz,” Douglas continues. “We mostly play my original pieces written for the group. Some of them are throughcomposed and quite rigorous in terms of form and structure. Some of them are more open musically. All of them include improvisation and invite in the language of the individual players.”
The quintet’s Spirit Moves album conjures up thoughts and vibes of New Orleans, the cradle of jazz. While admitting to that Douglas says that the album’s points of reference of many and varied. “Because of the brass instrumentation there are certain links to New Orleans brass band traditions and to Macedonian and Mexican brass bands. But for me this is really American Music. It is a melting pot of different sounds, quite sincerely blended through the prism of my own compositional inspirations.”
Elsewhere on the Red Sea Jazz Festival roster there is a plethora of homespun acts purveying straightahead jazz through to ethnically-laced jazz efforts and pure ethnic material. Guitarist Ofer Ganor and his trio (August 26) are among the quality local bands while veteran flutist Shem-Tov Levy and his ensemble (August 23 and 24) will put out a rich offering of Gypsy, Balkan and Arab music, with some jazz music and classical motifs thrown in for good measure. And if you’re looking to shake a leg or two, the colorful and high-energy 15-member Marsh Dondurma band (August 23), with its intoxicating mix of Balkan, African, Arabic, jazz, funk and Gypsy music should do the trick.
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