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Eli Degibri: Israeli Song

Dan McClenaghan By

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Saxophonist Eli Degibri's name may be the least familiar one on the cover of Israeli Song. His quartet mates on this superb disc are of the highest level; it would be hard to find higher profile or finer accompanists. With that lineup—two legendary stars in drummer Al Foster and bassist Ron Carter—and, in pianist Brad Mehldau, a newer huge talent who keeps gathering momentum—it becomes a matter, for the leader, of holding his own. He does so with high energy, aplomb and originality, with both his playing and composing.

Degibri penned six of the eleven tunes in the set, but the quartet kicks off with Mehldau's "Unrequited," offered originally on the pianist's Art of the Trio, Volume 3: Songs (Warner Brothers, 1998). Degibri, on soprano saxophone, gives the tune a yearning mood in front of Mehldau's adroit accompaniment and extraordinary solo, evolving from pensive sadness and peaking with anguish, before settling, perhaps, into wistful acceptance.

Full of smooth flowing jauntiness, Degibri's "Mr. R.C." features the saxophonist on tenor. Another Degibri-penned gem, "Judy the Dog," rushes full speed ahead, with the leader's tenor sending out flurries of notes in a well-told story, beginning with a smolder and gathering into high flames.

The saxophonist covers Dizzy Gillespie's classic "Bebop" in a duet with Foster. The pair seems to push each other into new territories—two eloquent musicians arguing a point, batting ideas and back and forth, and coming to a tentative agreement in the end.

"Manic Depressive," written by Degibri and Barak Mori, wends its way through the bluesy wee hours, on a tune that sounds like something Ben Webster would have dug into—a delivery by the leader and his cohorts full of feeling and deep down soul.

Foster and Carter each contribute a tune to the set: the drummer's funky and upbeat "Look What You Do To Me," and bassist's quirky and tight-grooved "Third Plane," which gives the leader another chance to stretch out on tenor.

Degibri explores the ever-familiar "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," played straight in simple, beautiful glory, with just a hard-blowing tenor horn and Carter's big, solid bass lines. Degibri then wraps things up with the title tune, an inward piece featuring the leader's tenor and Meldau's lovely, near-classical piano explorations.

Degibri, with four previous CDs as a leader to his name, has crafted his breakout set with Israeli Song.

Track Listing: Unrequited; Mr. R.C.; Judy the Dog; Jealous Eyes; Manic Depressive; Bebop; Liora; Look At What You Do To Me; Third Plane; Somewhere Over the Rainbow; Israeli Song.

Personnel: Eli Degibri: tenor and soprano saxophones; Brad Mehldau: piano; Ron Carter: bass; Al Foster: drums.

Title: Israeli Song | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Anzic Records

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