By Gary Fukushima | Published April 2021
Israeli-born Shai Maestro, whose classical piano lessons began at age 5, demonstrates all the traits demanded of his chosen discipline—sparkling facility, consummate control of tonal shading and voice leading, and a dynamic range borne of emotive resonance with the music. Maestro fits perfectly with ECM’s chamber-jazz aesthetic, and his second album for the European label, Human, places the bandleader in a grand lineage of pianists that Manfred Eicher has stabled over the decades.
Whereas Maestro’s 2018 The Dream Thief was a sublime trio effort with bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Ofri Nehemya, for Human, he adds trumpeter Philip Dizack, invigorating an already delicious, well-balanced blend with an explosive catalyst. Dizack also sports a lethal combination of warm-bodied sonority with deadly technical accuracy, on full display for “GG,” where he and Maestro play an unending string of blindingly fast unison lines. The density and virtuosity contrasts with moments of profound space, as on the title track, a chorale that ebbs and flows with poignancy. “Hank And Charlie” honors bygone masters Jones and Haden, as Roeder channels the bassist’s folkloric depth. Maestro’s surprising arrangement of “In A Sentimental Mood” is a joyful romp, jump-started by Nehemya’s backbeat, with Dizack’s melody treatment and Roeder’s daring counterpoint mirrored in each hand by the pianist. The leader leaves enough hints for us to find our way back to Ellington’s iconic version with Coltrane; a mood becoming a final sentiment.
Human: 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). (56:27)
Personnel: Shai Maestro, piano; Jorge Roeder, bass; Ofri Nehemya, drums; Philip Dizack, trumpet.