Vinyl LP 2021 release
After paying his dues with Avishai Cohen, with whose Trio he recorded four well received albums, pianist Shai Maestro cut loose on his own, debuting with Shai Maestro Trio (Laborie) in 2013. Human is Maestro's sixth own-name album and his second on ECM, followingThe Dream Thief in 2018. The new disc is elegant, expansive, emotionally charged and beautiful. It contains ten Maestro originals and one cover, a playful version Duke Ellington's "In A Sentimental Mood."
This time out, Maestro has expanded his group with trumpeter Philip Dizack. It is a musical marriage made in heaven. Dizack comes from a similarly lyrical and expressive place as Maestro: one of his first professional gigs was with the Stan Getz / Clifford Brown Big Band, in 2003, and in 2019 he toured with fellow rising star, alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins. Inexplicably, Dizack's most recent own-name album was Single Soul (Criss Cross) in 2013.
ECM is widely seen as the exclusive preserve of austere, overly cerebral music, a perception that begins with the lingering legacy of its global cross-genre smash hit, saxophonist Jan Garbarek's Officium in 1993, but which has also been formed by plenty of other chilly and stand off-ish outings. A significant minority of the label's catalogue, however, is comprised of quietly expansive and emotionally intelligent music. The label ended 2020, for instance, with singer Elina Duni and guitarist Rob Luft's by turns heart-warming and heart-breaking Songs Of Love And Exile, a masterpiece of simultaneously soulful and thinking music.
Human is another fine addition to the Romantic strand of the ECM's catalogue. It is an intensely humanistic and societal affair, as track titles such as "Compassion," "Prayer" and "They Went To War" suggest. Three individuals are also spotlighted: "Hank And Charlie" pays tribute to the musical empathy shared by the late pianist Hank Jones and bassist Charlie Haden, and closing track "Ima" is dedicated to Talma Maestro. Wife? Sister? Mother? Someone, anyway, clearly loved. An ambiance of beatific calm suffuses the album with the exception, midway, of "The Thief's Dream." This thief clearly does not sleep easily at night.
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