Young tenor saxophonist Eli Degibri brings a seasoned and somewhat unique approach to his debut recording, In The Beginning. While it’s impressive that the Israeli native performed in circles with names such as Herbie Hancock, Al Foster, and the Mingus Big Band, it is more impressive to hear his own style and development come to the forefront. Paying your dues on the bandstand is one thing—but leading a band and creating your own music is quite another.
While In The Beginning rings with the familiar Coltrane sound, the music is delivered with thoughtful and refined performances that help to distinguish Degibri from other tenor saxophonists. It’s not necessarily the sound of his horn, but more the other aspects of his style which captures attention. Soulful, poignant, and delivered with stark control, Degibri has clearly honed the finer attributes of his instrument.
The eleven compositions span a tight area of modern jazz styles. The majestic “In the Beginning” carries a pervasive undulating guitar riff as the tenor sax sings the melody. On “Painless” the rhythm section shines bright as drummer Jeff Ballard and bassist Ben Street support each soloist on the lovely ballad. For those who prefer their post bop with a new outlook, the colorful “Shoohoo” should fit the bill, with its quirky interchanges that spin off some interesting guitar, drum and sax solos.
The recording’s sound quality is also a factor: the delicate nuance of each instrument’s sound is captured. On the duo “On All the Things You Are,” the free-flowing sound of the bass and saxophone are exquisite. Another added element is the skillful presence of notable guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, who delivers an array of effects that enhance but never overpower the music. All things considered this is a strong and memorable debut from an emerging artist who warrants a closer listen.