Thursday 7 March 2013

Eli Degibri quartet at Pizza Express

Saxophonist Eli Degibri shone tonight at his quartet's first ever London gig at the famous Pizza Express jazz club in the heart of Soho. Joined by piano maestro Aaron Goldberg, bass player Barak Mori and drummer Ofri Nehemaya (who looks even younger than his nineteen years), Degibri was warmly received by this, one of London's most knowledgeable jazz crowds.

Working his way through a number of his own compositions, we were treated to an excellent display of  "saxophony" and some great musical conversations particularly between Degibri and Goldberg who was outstanding. The first set included a nameless bossa nova-ish number that had hints of oriental piano to it as well as Story for Roni, a song Mr. D wrote for a previous girlfriend, and Big Fish from the movie of the same name. Big Fish included a lengthy work out for each member of the quartet allowing them to show off  a little. And very nice too.

During the second set, Eli spoke a little more and told us that he tends to refer to his songs by a number - according to the order they were written in, as well as by a title. He explained that this was a result of his having been a member of a big band as a teenager back in Israel and the band leader used to direct the musicians by calling out numbers rather than song titles. Eli has 53 songs in his repertoire so far - several of which appear to be named for former girl friends. Mika was one such piece and a showstopper it was too with the urgent and insistent piano intro, flailing sax playing and able support provided from bass and drums.

Jaffa born Degibri has recorded five albums now and played two tracks from his very first recording "In the Beginning" recorded back in 2003 - In the Beginning which he said was inspired by Chopin(!) and Painless which describes the feelings experienced when the pain of a heartbreak heals. His 2010 recording "Israeli Song" features jazz luminaries Brad Meldhau, Ron Carter and Al Foster, demonstrating how respected our host for the evening has become in the jazz world (you can hear the title track by clicking on the clip below). And although still not 35 years old, he is also the current co-director of the Red Sea Jazz Festival.

A cheeky semi-improvised encore and the show was over - two great sets and another chance to see him on Thursday. Go if you can.

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