Petr Cancura, TD Ottawa Jazz Festival Programmer, with Lulu Healey of the Halifax Jazz Festival, at Jazzahead! in Bremen earlier this year. It was at this conference where Cancura was turned on to the unique grooves and orchestral quality of the Shai Maestro Trio. Photo by Ken Pickering.
Shai Maestro Trio
Their Music Starts In “The Zone.”
Programming a jazz festival is a lot of work and goes pretty much non-stop around the year. There is a slight pause from the day-to-day tasks now and again in the form of a network where presenters and programmers get together to share ideas and think about what to do next.
This April, I had the opportunity to attend Jazzahead! It’s a fantastic conference in Bremen, Germany. (It is very fitting to have a music conference in a city made famous by a Brothers Grimm story The Musicians of Bremen).
Labels such as ACT and ECM, as well as up and coming labels like Whirlwind, were all present, along with agencies, embassies and of course a lot of artists. It is almost like a festival except the performances are showcases that last no more then 30 minutes.
The interesting thing about a conference as such is that you not only get to see the artists, but you get to see where the buzz is and what people are excited about. As might be expected, the artists that get the most rave reviews are usually incredible. Among the some hundred gigs, Shai Maestro Trio stole the show this year!
The piano trio is a sacred thing in a way. The lineage is pretty deep with groups such as the Bill Evans Trio or the Oscar Peterson Trio. It is a setting where the pianist gets to really shine and, in the best of trios, the three musicians become one. It is small enough that the group can change direction at any moment, yet big enough that it can take on an almost orchestral quality.
Shai Maestro is an Israeli-born, New-York-based virtuosic pianist that can pull out pyrotechnics that will spin your head, yet rarely does so, choosing rather to take the musical route.
Joining the pianist are two good friends: Jorge Roeder on bass, whom I went to school with in Boston, and who is probably the most incredible bassist I know. Jorge has this ability to be the solid anchor in whatever situation he is playing in, but also solo on the bass with the spirit of a singer and the virtuosity of a horn player.
The drummer in the band is Ziv Ravitz, also an Israeli living in New York. He is among the most spirited drummers on the scene today. As soon as the music starts, he is in the zone, creating unique and beautiful grooves that have, to me, become “That Ziv Thing!”
As if their individual craft was not enough, add to the equation that these guys are not only a band that has played a lot together, but they are also best friends. This means that they have a way of trusting and pushing each other that brings the listener along for the ride.
If there is one band that you probably haven’t heard of that will knock your socks off, this is it!