Shai Maestro (1987) is one of the most promising and talented pianists of his generation. Since his debut with his own trio in 2011, Shai has shaped a strong and unique personal identity and has portrayed an incredible musical fluidity, making Shai and his band one of the most powerful and harmonious groups in the jazz today.
2018 marked an important year for Shai, signing with major jazz label ECM and recording his first album "The Dream Thief" there, featuring his trio, but also him as a solo-pianist. Introspective, lyrical, virtuosic and differentiated.
In its review of ‘The Dream Thief', All About Jazz spoke of "a searching lyrical atmosphere, emotional eloquence and communal virtuosity that serves the music." All of which also applies to ‘Human', Shai's latest release on ECM, where Maestro's outgoing, highly-communicative band with fellow Israeli Ofri Nehemya on drums and Peruvian bassist Jorge Roeder becomes a quartet with the inspired addition of US trumpeter Philip Dizack. Shai's expansive pianism is well-matched by Dizack's alert, quick-thinking approach to improvising. And, as ever, Maestro is taking the music forward while also respecting its sense of tradition. ‘Human' was recorded at Studios la Buissonne in the South of France in February 2020, and produced by Manfred Eicher.
Shai Maestro began playing classical piano at age five and graduated with honors from the Thelma Yellin High School of Performing Arts in Givataim, Israel. After winning the National Jazz Ensembles Competition "Jazz Signs" in 2002 and 2003 and receiving excellency scholarships 2004-2010 from the America-Israel Cultural Fund for jazz piano, Maestro attended Berklee College of Music's Five-Week Summer Performance Program in Boston, where he was awarded a full scholarship to attend Berklee full-time-an offer Maestro ultimately declined.
Maestro's intuitions proved right: just a few weeks later, he received a phone call from bassist Avishai Cohen, known for his long-time collaboration with Chick Corea as well as for his successful band-leading career. The bassist called to invite Maestro to join the Avishai Cohen Trio with drummer Mark Guiliana. Maestro recorded four albums with the Avishai Cohen Trio, including two on Blue Note Records: Gently Disturbed (2008), Sensitive Hours (2008), Aurora (2009), and Seven Seas (2011). The trio toured the world and played at some of the world's most renowned venues and festivals.
In July 2010, Maestro formed his own trio and just a few months later, recorded their well-received first album, ‘Shai Maestro Trio', for the French label Laborie Jazz. The trio began an intense schedule of touring the world, playing up to 80 concerts a year and sharing stages with groups led by Chick Corea, Tigran Hamasyan, Esperanza Spalding, and Diana Krall. In 2012, the trio released their second album for Laborie Jazz, entitled ‘The Road to Ithaca', making an even more personal and intimate statement, going back to the essence of their being: unedited and raw.
Following that line of thought, the Shai released recent albums ‘Untold Stories' and ‘The Stone Skipper' in October 2015 and November 2016. Listeners and the media outlets alike, including DownBeat Magazine, NPR, BBC, JazzFM, TSF, and WBGO's The Checkout, received the albums with critical acclaim. With these albums, Maestro entered a new phase in his artistry: taking time, fearing less, daring more, and allowing the music to unfold organically, more than ever. Especially live, the natural developments made the trio one of the most powerful and harmonious groups in the jazz today. The past few years, the trio has performed at the most renowned stages, venues and festivals worldwide.
Besides his trio, Maestro recorded on vocalist Theo Bleckmann‘s album ‘Elegy' (ECM, 2017). Maestro has also received critical acclaim appearing on Mark Guiliana's Jazz Quartet's debut album ‘Family First' (2015). Most recently, Shai recorded on saxophonist Ben Wendel's album ‘High Heart' (Edition Records, 2020).
Within the past couple of years, Shai reached two important career milestones: he signed with Sony / ATV Music Publishing and was invited to perform with Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Keitaro Harada at Tokyo Metropolitan Theater. The program consisted of Miho Hazama's first piano concerto as well as Shai's original music. Photo by Caterina Di Perri
In its review of pianist Shai Maestro's leader debut, The Dream Thief, All About Jazz spoke of "a searching lyrical atmosphere, emotional eloquence and communal virtuosity that serves the music." All of which also applies to Human, Maestro's second album as a bandleader on the ECM imprint, which was recorded at Studios la Buissonne in February 2020 and produced by Manfred Eicher.
The pianist's outgoing and highly communicative trio with fellow Israeli Ofri Nehemya on drums and Peruvian bassist Jorge Roeder becomes a quartet with the inspired addition of American trumpeter Philip Dizack. Maestro's expansive pianism and differentiated touch is well-matched by Dizack's alert, quick-thinking approach to improvising. "There was always a special understanding between us on how we see music and how we see life," says Maestro. "It's one of those relationships that it feels like it's always been there." Before adding him to the band, Maestro and Dizack played together as sidemen on gigs with numerous groups in New York. "Philip's trumpet playing sounds to me like a human voice speaking to you," says Maestro, "and adding him to the trio takes us to our next level."
LONDONJAZZNEWS - Jon Turney writes.... For his second release on ECM Israeli pianist Shai Maestro expands his normal trio of bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Ofri Nehemya with US trumpeter Philip Dizack. He proves a fine foil for the leader, his horn sound as varied as the young pianist/composer's approach to the keyboard.
Their classical inflection, and richly atmospheric variety, invites comparison with many past ECM releases, from Jarrett to Tomasz Stanko, and this group looks well in that light. This effort isn't flawless. They Went to War, evidently a threnody for the victims, dips into cliche with its marching drums, and finds Manfred Eicher overdoing the reverb – an emotional nudge on a tune that would be more affecting without it. But that's a rare lapse. The set overall displays a luminous talent to great effect, and one intent on developing in new directions.
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JAZZIZ' MATT MICUCCI writes....The Week in Jazz is your roundup of new and noteworthy stories from the jazz world. It's a one-stop destination for the music news you need to know.
Acclaimed Israeli pianist Shai Maestro offers a program comprised almost entirely of original pieces that explore a broad range of temperaments and colors on Human, his second album as a bandleader on the ECM imprint. The album, produced by Manfred Eicher, features Maestro's outgoing and highly-communicative trio with fellow Israeli Ofri Nehemya on drums and Peruvian bassist Jorge Roeder, plus American trumpeter Philip Dizack.
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marlbank writes.....The only pianist ever to be a perfect match in every way for Israeli bass colossus Avishai Cohen, the most demanding jazz trio gig on the planet, Shai ''Seven Seas'' Maestro as a leader is a significant player in the new chamber-jazz of the 21st century and builds the Dream Thief sound up raising the bar higher than ever.
Enhanced spectacularly in the compositional voicings by trumpeter Philip Dizack who joins the dots between say the historic avant innovations of Don Ellis and the fragile bluesy ache of Enrico Rava, a deepening ''new melodicism'' operates imaginatively at the throbbing avant tinged heart of the record. If an artist really has not connected fully with me I play the standards and leave their originals to one side for mulling over later. Here it is the opposite: it is the generous stock of fine originals all the way for pleasure ('Hank and Charlie' most of all) and a quickly derived feeling of deep satisfaction and sense of better insight gained. SG.
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jazztrail writes.....The Israeli-born, Brooklyn-based pianist Shai Maestro appears on the ECM label for the second time as a leader with Human, an album featuring the same rhythmic foundation of his previous work - bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Ofri Nehemya - plus the excellent trumpeter Philip Dizack, who brings further melodic possibilities to the table. With huge ears, the members of this quartet achieve top-notch levels of musicianship in the course of a cohesive narrative that consists of 10 Maestro originals and one jazz standard.
Having jazz, folk and ambient sounds coalescing together, as well as a mix of tradition and originality at its essence, Human is a record to revisit.
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WBGO'S The Checkout: SIMON RENTNER writes......We've always admired Shai Maestro's fearless approach to music. When he sits down at the piano, especially in an improvisational solo setting, he checks the temperature of a space and lets the music come to him, allowing one idea to flow into another. But he wasn't always that free.
On this episode of The Checkout, Maestro remembers a difficult moment on tour with bassist Avishai Cohen and drummer Mark Guiliana - a moment that would shape his career. In the middle of a performance, while playing his tune, the trio took an unexpected detour and he completely freaked out. That meltdown would change his thinking, and approach to music, forever. To hear Maestro tell it, what he became after this experience was more human - which is also the title of his new album, which ECM will release on Jan. 29.
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