After paying his dues with Avishai Cohen
, with whose Trio he recorded four well received albums, pianist Shai Maestro
cut loose on his own, debuting with Shai Maestro Trio
(Laborie) in 2013. Human
is Maestro's sixth own-name album and his second on ECM, followingThe Dream Thief
in 2018. The new disc is elegant, expansive, emotionally charged and beautiful. It contains ten Maestro originals and one cover, a playful version Duke Ellington
's "In A Sentimental Mood."
This time out, Maestro has expanded his group with trumpeter Philip Dizack
. It is a musical marriage made in heaven. Dizack comes from a similarly lyrical and expressive place as Maestro: one of his first professional gigs was with the Stan Getz
/ Clifford Brown
Big Band, in 2003, and in 2019 he toured with fellow rising star, alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins
. Inexplicably, Dizack's most recent own-name album was Single Soul
(Criss Cross) in 2013.
ECM is widely seen as the exclusive preserve of austere, overly cerebral music, a perception that begins with the lingering legacy of its global cross-genre smash hit, saxophonist Jan Garbarek
in 1993, but which has also been formed by plenty of other chilly and stand off-ish outings. A significant minority of the label's catalogue, however, is comprised of quietly expansive and emotionally intelligent music. The label ended 2020, for instance, with singer Elina Duni
and guitarist Rob Luft
's by turns heart-warming and heart-breaking Songs Of Love And Exile
, a masterpiece of simultaneously soulful and thinking music. Human
is another fine addition to the Romantic strand of the ECM's catalogue. It is an intensely humanistic and societal affair, as track titles such as "Compassion," "Prayer" and "They Went To War" suggest. Three individuals are also spotlighted: "Hank And Charlie" pays tribute to the musical empathy shared by the late pianist Hank Jones
and bassist Charlie Haden
, and closing track "Ima" is dedicated to Talma Maestro. Wife? Sister? Mother? Someone, anyway, clearly loved. An ambiance of beatific calm suffuses the album with the exception, midway, of "The Thief's Dream." This thief clearly does not sleep easily at night.
Time; Mystery And Illusions; Human; GG; The Thief’s Dream; Hank And Charlie; Compassion; Prayer; They Went To War; In A Sentimental Mood; Ima (For Talma Maestro).