Steven Bernstein's Diaspora Soul & Nicole Mitchell's Indigo Trio Tel Aviv Jazz Festival Cinemateque Tel Aviv, Israel February 15-16, 2011 The 2011 edition of the Tel Aviv Jazz Festival did not feature big names but, instead, focused on musicians who have solidified their unique way of bridging the past with the future, musically speaking, but with much broader cultural aims. New York Downtown trumpeter and arranger Steven Bernstein
on electric bass, and Gilad Dobrecky on percussion. This septet delivered clever arrangements of Jewish traditional holiday songs. Everyone in the audience knew these songs in their traditional form and melodywhether from family gatherings or via the education systembut few were prepared for Bernstein's highly imaginative and entertaining versions, first featured on Bernstein album Diaspora Soul (Tzadik, 1999). Bernstein's arrangements took these songs through a busy and winding road of jazz history, from marching blues to swinging New-Orleans dances, referencing Dizzy Gillespie
blend of Afro-Cuban rhythms, be-bop hard blowing, and even psychedelia and fusion elementsall done with tons of cool humor and joyful passion, and delivered with fantastic interplay from these great musicians. Bernstein dressed as if he were coming from a Las Vegas show, and was clearly so well-versed in jazz history, with a rich and multi-layered vocabulary, that it was a joy to hear every solo. Shapiro, a Bernstein collaborator for over thirty years now, developed the leader's ideas with elegance and beauty. Rodriguez is a massive drummer and, in this concert, bonded immediately with Dobrecky, as the two kept pushing the rest of the septet, with Deutsch sounding, at times, like a lost son of Stevie Winwood. The highlight of the set was the transformation of the prayer, "Avinu Malkenu," into an emotional bluesa reminder of how much is shared (and can be shared) by different cultures and traditions.
On the second night of the festival, Chicagoan flautist Nicole Mitchell
and bassist Harrison Bankheadbrought their interpretation of the AACM movement (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians), from past to future. The trio was built on the endless rhythmic possibilities and constant groove produced by Drake and Bankheadtwo musicians so total and powerful, that they could hold any gig by themselves, as soloists. It is always a joy to see Drake (who recorded a duet with Israeli sax hero Albert Beger
, was the trio's anchor, often playing both harmony and rhythmic structures at the same time, with sheer power, sensitivity and imagination.
Mitchell added short and beautiful melodic interludes, singing while blowing the flute. Her expressive playing balanced the intensive and muscular interplay of Drake and Bankhead, and even though Mitchell lacked the energy of her partners, she offered enough nuance and joy to the overall outcome.