© Alex Lacombe
Speaking literally, there was just one maestro on stage when the trio of the aptly named pianist Shai Maestro gave its TD Ottawa Jazz Festival concert Sunday night.
But really, there were three maestros, each remarkably poised yet living on the edge on their respective instruments, during that dazzling show. Most significantly, when Maestro, bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Ziv Ravitz made music together, their cumulative effort outshone any individual contribution.
Theirs was a remarkably in-the-zone performance, molten and deeply creative. It was moving, thanks to the commitment and spirit that propelled every note, and it was inspiring, due to the tremendous familiarity and trust that allowed Maestro, Roeder and Ravitz to make music that was as wide-roaming and free as it was vivid and evocative.
Maestro, 27, is a formidable composer and performer who frequently fashions the sounds of his native Israel into the stuff of improvised fantasias. Much of the music that his group played began simply and patiently, from lyrical, folkloric, triadic basics. But Maestro, Roeder and Ravitz could be counted on to masterfully and organically transition into more dense and intense music.
That the trio has spent much of the last few years on the road delving into their material must have helped. But there was never any sense that the group was coasting. Quite the opposite. They revelled in spinning heady new creations and finding new ways to interact, surprise each other and come together.
Gal, a Maestro composition, ushered listeners in gradually, with a initial tribal groove and plaintive, minor-key strains. But like so many selections, it built and built, generating sparks of excitement through its long duration.
Ravitz’s piece Cinema G began with another patient introduction, delivered by Roeder, who produced layers of sound using his electronic gear and bow. Eventually, an undulating melody, for bass and each of Maestro’s hands in succession, emerged, and the tune grew white-hot.
Ravitz was a wild card in the next tune Painting, triggering the sounds of children gabbing on his phone while the trio played gently. He even sang wordlessly but affectingly on that evocative song.
On the next tune, Ravitz was drumming in jazz’s best take-no-prisoners fashion, laying down a driving but ever-changing groove. The soundscape was soon roiling, but two or three members of the trio always united on a bit of daredevil unison playing.
The Other Road was in relative terms a short, focused ballad. The set’s final piece, Invisible Thread, began with Maestro casting a glance at his peers and saying to Roeder “You got it,” before the pianist walked away from the stage. Roeder and Ravitz grooved furiously before Maestro returned and the three of them made more exceptional, striving music.
After that, an encore was demanded and it was generously given. The musicians bantered a bit on stage, a decided to play a piece that they had not venture in two years, according to an admission from Maestro. “A disclaimer,” he kidded.
Once more, there was a simple start, a lyrical theme, and then a thrilling group exertion with many twists and turns. All of it sprang from music that was far from dimly recalled, but rather internalized beyond memory.
From Maestro, Roeder and Ravitz, it was one more exhilarating sample of music from their hearts and guts, art that makes listeners feel privileged and turns strangers into fans.
If you were there in the NAC Fourth Stage, you knew you had experienced something special. If you weren’t, you owe it to yourself to discover the beauty that Maestro, Roeder and Ravitz make.
Credit : Herbert Ejzenberg