Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 13, No.5, 2014

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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
  Contributing Editors
David Solway
Louis René Beres
Nancy Snipper
Farzana Hassan
Daniel Charchuk
Samuel Burd
Andrée Lafontaine
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Serge Gamache Emanuel Pordes
Diane Gordon
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Chantal Levesque Denis Beaumont
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Jazz Contributors

Tommy Emmanuel
John Stetch
Susie Arioli
Coral Egan
Diana Krall
Stacey Kent
Carol Welsman
Aldo Romano
Denzal Sinclaire
Madeleine Peyroux
Bireli Lagrene
Sonido Isleño
Provost & Lachapelle
Kevin Breit
Sophie Milman
Annie Poulain
Badi Assad
Donato & Bouchard
Ingrid Jensen
John Roney
Russell Malone
David Binney
Kurt Rosenwinkel
Mimi Fox
Voo Doo Scat
Coral Egan
Martin Taylor
Jordan Officer
Melody Gardot
Jean Vanasse
Yves Léveillé
Sylvain Provost
Louciana Souza
Patricia Barber
Jill Barber
Corrine Bailey Rae
Chet Doxas
François Bourassa
Sylvain Luc
Neil Cowley
Marianne Trudel
Florence K
Terez Montcalm
Cyrus Chestnut
Tord Gustavsen
Sarah MK
Julie Lamontagne
Vincent Gagnon
Arioli & Officer
Jean Félix Mailloux
Vijay Iyer
Lionel Loueke
Tia Fuller
Cécile McLorin Salvant
Emma Frank
2010 Montreal Guitar Show (Sylvan Luc)
2008 Jazz en Rafale Festival (Montreal) - Mar. 27th - April 5th -- Tél. 514-490-9613 ext-101 (featuring David Binney)
Montreal Jazz Festival 2010







Piano Keyboard


by Robert J. Lewis

Featured artist: SHAI MAESTRO TRIO


I remember well that blustery day in April during Montreal’s Jazz en Rafale festival, the barely containable delight and enthusiasm of the capacity crowd as it was discovering and getting swept away by the Shai Maestro Trio. But I also wondered if their no airs, uncomplicated approach to music – large sections of it unabashedly minimalistic -- would hold up to repetitive listening; in particular, the protracted monophonic compositions that refused to stray from the opening key signature.

Three months later, on a balmy summer day, for the auspicious occasion of their first appearance at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, those lingering doubts were excommunicated. They played at the same venue, l’Astral, and again to a full house, and again to a thoroughly entranced, levitated audience.

Shae Maestro’s music, in the main, consists of carefully wrought swells of sound, meticulously shaped and contoured in and around the jazz idiom. A composition typically begins in a quasi nowhere zone, with a simple teasing of melody that isn’t yet song, that hasn’t been fleshed out, like some primitive life form in a petri dish whose different parts are still inchoate.

The group’s collective restraint is integral to the ensuing build up and crescendo. The music evolves snailishly: a simple and repeating 4-note trill on the piano is floated on a frothy cymbal tap, buoyed by an arching bass note. Then a left hand piano rumble rises from the depths as the pedal drum joins the dialogue, and then the bass, radiantly delivered by Jorge Roeder, abruptly scales the fret board in voluptuous leaps and bounds until there is no choice but to surrender like a patient etherized on the table to the rocking and swaying of billowing swells of sound such that you’re not quite sure if you’re looking up at the tumult from below or from high. The dynamic keeps shifting along with the music’s continuously mutating form, but there is never any mistaking that you’re listening to jazz.

Maestro, Ravitz and Roeder have listened to their Bad Plus and aren’t afraid to take chances and go where too many jazz musicians fear to tread.

Pianist Shai Maestro thoroughly grasps and deftly exploits the dynamics of his instrument, and while he is not gifted technically he makes the ivories speak in concepts that are both clear and catchy. The trio eschews the use of synthesizers or studio gimmicks for the moods they create and the momentum they engender. The tinkling of bells we associate with the cradle or a meditation center is only one of many voices found in Maestro’s considerable piano vocabulary of sounds.

From Ziv Ravitz we discover that drumming, despite the habitual hammer and sickle application of drum sticks and mallets, can be a sensual experience. His gentle rolls, taps and feathery flurries seemed to be confectioned for his beloved. With the exception of Brian Blade, I’ve never encountered such a sensuous percussionist, who, when the moment calls for it, will dispense with the sticks for the pitter patter of the palm or the scratch of a nail or rub of the finger to better sculpt the emotions he wants to share.

For listeners curious about jazz and looking for ways to cozy up to the genre, I can think of no better music (along with Neil Cowley and The Bad Plus) with which to undertake that sometimes long and arduous challenge -- weaning oneself off rap and hip-hop -- than the Shai Maestro Trio. The sometime aleatoric feel to their compositions is belied by a very deliberate emphasis on development and directionality. Their extended melodies are unpacked, split open, spread apart and then expertly put back together again such that the dazzling surfaces reveal unsuspected range and depth of field whose achievement is owed to a tight-rope tight trio of musicians who are also the best of friends.

One leaves a Shai Maestro concert not so much feeling good but fulfilled, which is the natural outcome of being in the presence of musicians who insist on nothing less than their honest best for every performance, who serve up a somewhat unconventional slice of the idiom and plumb its depths for all its hidden treasures and possibilities.

This still relatively unknown group, now based in NYC, is out of the nest and into the skies and more and more listeners are looking up and liking what they hear and see. For all of that and more, check out their latest CD, The Road to Ithaca.

Photos© Hanna Donato



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