The seventeenth year of the Tel Aviv Jazz Festival lacked leading intriguing musical character, unlike the previous year's program, which featured David Murray coupled with Archie Shepp and the Pyramid Trio (Roy Campbell with William Parker and Hamid Drake) in stellar form. This year's festival exposed the great interest of its artistic director, Nitzan Kramer, for Italian jazz (as well as his disregard of other fertile and more interesting European jazz scenes), and thus the festival was opened by septuagenarian mainstream bebop saxophonist Phil Woods, backed by Tony Pancella's Italian trio and augmented by an Israeli student of Woods, Robert Anchipolovsky. It ended with a septuagenarian Chicagoan founding member of the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians), saxophonist Kalaparush Maurice Macintyre. The main guest was supposed to be octogenarian saxophonist Sam Rivers, who cancelled his performance shortly before the festival began.
I skipped the Woods concert ("no rehearsal," he boasted), as well as Luigi Martinale's trio tribute to Bill Evans, and unfortunately missed the interesting meeting between Israeli sax hero Albert Beger and Italian drummer Roberto Dani. But I managed to enjoy Macintyre's performance and an enchanting concert by Austrian composer/trumpeter/flugelhornist player Franz Koglmann, with all its shortcomings.
Macintryre's band, The Light, this time featuring tubaist Jesse Dulman and hyperactive drummer/percussionist Ravish Momin without bass player Adam Lane, has recorded four discs since 2001, but on stage the group lacked any visible chemistry. Macintyre scolded Dulman shortly after the trio set has began, and after that point Dulman did not dare to play unless he got an affirmative nod from Macintyre. Momin, who incorporated Middle Eastern and Indian rhythms into his playing, bravely filled the space and always tried to keep the leader alert.
Macintyre has a recognizable warm, deep tone and he can still manage to outline some beautiful and clear solos, but he could not compete with Momin's energetic mastery and Dulman's (extinguished) interest, and after only 45 minutes he decided to end the performance. A roaring vocal protest from the audience brought back the trio for another short twenty-minute set, in which Momin led the trio again.
Koglmann presented two programs. The first set was based on his and Austrian pianist Oskar Aichinger's brief interpretation to some well-known songs by Burt Bacharach (documented on The Bridal Suite, Handsemmel Records, 2004), and the second set featured a loose program, called "Alte Meister" (Old Master), which presented Austrian drummer Wolfgang Reisinger. Unfortunately Koglmann and Aichinger suffered throughout from amplification problems, which often marred their playing. But it was still sobering to watch Koglmann's detached attitude to Bacharach's sentimentality-laden tunes, as well as Aichinger's singular performance.
Reisinger is a master European drummer who can play on textures and colors, moving beyond references to time patterns. His playing added surprising shades to standards like "Nature Boy" and intriguing songs by European composers such as Franz Grothe. This trio has not recorded yet; it is much more based on open-ended improvisation than Koglmann's last projects, and it deserves much better acoustics in order to really take off.
The Israeli Esthetics quartet, featuring soprano saxophonist Yuval Cohen, the elder brother of the gifted trumpet player Avishai Cohen and reed player Anat Cohen, presented a set of his well-crafted compositions and very thoughtful, pleasant playing from Cohen and the other musicians: guitarist Ofer Ganor, bassist Gilad Avro and drummer Shay Haziza. The performance lacked any real sparks, much to the enjoyment of a very friendly and supportive audience. Trumpeter Avishai Cohen managed to ignite this too-polite quartet on the three tracks where he guested, especially the free bop piece "Freedom," and his fiery and passionate playing swept forward the rhythm section of Avro and Haziza, who seemed to be waiting for such a push.
The other concert, by a local trio led by pianist and vocalist Ataila Paniel, turned out to be a disaster. Paniel, after a long absence from the stage, dedicated her concert to the standards of Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell (she even named her son Sphere and her daughter Celia) and offered original lyrics to their standards. But her playing was trivial and banal most of the time, and her lyrics were tasteless. Drummer Noam David showed signs of originality, but it would have been much better if a more determined artistic committee could have disqualified such an uncooked dish from the festival.
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