Wow wow wow! Just back from this evening's jazz set at Levontin 7 in Tel Aviv. Billed as the Shai Maestro quartet, Mr Maestro on piano, Amos Hoffman (electric guitar), Gilad Abro (bass) and Amir Bresler (drums) showed us that there were four maestros in this edgy basement bar in a quiet side street in South Tel Aviv.
We were treated to about 90 minutes of great jazz in a single set which included interpretations of some standards - Sunny Side of the Street, Body and Soul and a heart stopping version of Misty. There were also some new(to me) numbers including a fantastic swing piece that showcased each of the quartet with a lengthy solo. The encore (again unknown to me) was again a showcase for each of these excellent musicians with some teasers thrown in - a riff stolen from George Benson's version of On Broadway and what I swear was the killer piano riff from the old Linx track - Intuition.
The intimate nature of the venue means that you are never very far from the stage and although they had "packed them in" and things were very cosy, it was still possible to watch the different facial expressions of each musician and their different ways of engaging with their instrument. Shai Maestro seemed in extremely happy mood as he practically danced across the piano keys; Abro is all fury and passion, grimacing, grunting and teeming sweat with the effort of it all; Bresler is a study in concentration with occasional outbursts of laughter at the interplay between Hoffman and the others,whilst Hoffman himself is the "elder statesman", solid, relaxed and a bit cheeky leading the quartet and keeping them guessing about the end of the number! He is also the joker in the group telling funny stories about each of the others to the extent that Abro had to hide behind his bass in embarrassment. I must improve my Hebrew so I can get more of the jokes!
Hoffman is an accomplished recording artist with several albums to his name. As well as playing guitar he is also known for being a great oud player. Maestro has his first album out any day now (I am assuming its not out yet in Israel as none were on sale at the gig - shame). I have seen each of these musicians perform before in different line-ups, two of them, Maestro and Bresler with the king of Israeli jazz, Avishai Cohen at gigs in London. All four are leading lights in Israel's world class jazz scene and have played widely overseas.
Levontin 7 is a great venue. No frills, but cosy, good acoustics (to my untrained ear at least), a ground floor bar that feels as cosy as someone's lounge and interestingly a young audience. All of this for just 50 shekels entry fee - which is less than ten quid. Can't beat it. Who's on next?