Shai Maestro: Human (ECM 2688)

Shai Maestro

Shai Maestro piano
Jorge Roeder double bass
Ofri Nehemya drums
Philip Dizack trumpet
Recorded February 2020, Studios La Buissonne, Pernes-les-Fontaines
Engineer: Gérard de Haro
Mastering: Nicolas Baillard
Cover: Mayo Bucher
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: January 29, 2021

After making his ECM leader debut with The Dream Thief, pianist Shai Maestro returns with bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Ofri Nehemya, adding to their mix trumpeter Philip Dizack (in his debut for the label) for a sound that feels as solitary as it does tapped from the veins of collective experience. If this album’s predecessor was a reflection of past harmonies, this follow-up holds a mirror to the future. Forward-looking tendencies are immediately apparent in “Time,” which after a clear opening thesis dissipates into the gentlest of body paragraphs, and (speaking of mirrors) “The Thief’s Dream,” wherein new secrets abound. In these blushes of information, window-framed views outline the possibilities of constant change. Similar atmospheres in the title track and the brief “GG” uphold chance encounters as examples of purposeful living.

If any glimpses of permanence are to be caught, one might find them in tracks like “Hank and Charlie” (an elegiac tribute to Hank Jones and Charlie Haden) and Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” (the only tune here not written by Maestro). By focusing on ephemeral subjects, they reinforce the solidity of what’s left behind in the process of memorializing them. The same holds for the album’s deepest moments, reserved for such master narratives as “Mystery and Illusions,” which further highlights the musicians’ strengths. From the gentle way Dizack lays down the theme like a parent transferring a napping baby from arms to crib to the graceful drumming and piano aside, and Roeder’s dancing synchronicity drawing a thread through it all, the band’s sense of touch makes a statement of its age, for the ages. Like “Compassion” (a solo offering from Maestro) or the concluding “Ima” (a wonder to behold), it is a new level of music making that must be heard to be believed.

(This review originally appeared in the January 2022 issue of The New York City Jazz Record, a full PDF of which is available here.)

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