Friday, February 7, 2014

Eli Degibri represents a further advance for Israeli musicians in jazz

"Twelve" takes its title from the fact that the recording was made in Tel Aviv on 12/12/12. But there is nothing wheel-spinningly repetitive in Eli Degibri's music-making. The tenor saxophonist has a highly compatible quartet, with teenagers Gadi Lehavi (piano) and Ofri Nehemya (drums) complementing veteran bassist Barak Mori and the bandleader.

"Twelve" continues to display the fecundity of Eli Degribi.
Plus Loin Music has issued Degribi's first disc since he returned to his native Israel. His compositions are catchy and dare to be melodically forthright. He is capable as a soloist of staying loyal to the simplicity of his melodies but also getting a bit fancy with them, too, as on "New Waltz."

To study what he and the band bring to their musical excursions, it might be advisable to focus on the eight-minute excursion through the standard "Autumn in New York." You get the sense that more than chord structure is being kept in mind by everyone; rather, the performance is made memorable by incorporating something closer to the essence of the melody and what the song's most sensitive interpreters bring to it.

Among the originals (all tracks except "Autumn") there is particularly ingratiating swing and energy in "Mambo." The opportunity to give vent to their Latin souls finds the band alert and agreeably twitchy, reveling in the tempo changes and occasional pauses in the tune's ongoing rush.

Degribi brings in a charmingly rough-edged vocalist, Shlomo Ydov, for an original tango-infused ballad in Spanish, "Liora Mi Amor." The arrangement is novel yet direct in expression.

There is a wordless chorus to offer a gentle culmination to the disc's final track, "The Cave," on which Degibri plays mandolin.  These departures from the quartet sound don't seem forced or gimmicky, but extend the impression of naturalness the saxophonist and his band convey.

This is Degibri's sixth CD, and he lays down every compositional or improvisational thought like a veteran —a musician with plenty of fresh resources to draw upon.