The internationally recognized saxophonist-composer, Eli Degibri, possesses many gifts as a musician. He boasts a seemingly bottomless fount of artistry as a composer, and was a recipient of the honorary Israeli "Prime Minister Award for Jazz Composition", recognizing his great talent as a melodic composer and songwriter. He has been called, "an exceptionally melodic improviser with a big, bold tenor tone" (Bill Milkowski, JazzTimes), and the thirty-five year-old artist is simply, "a bewitching fellow who shows impressive chops, as both a player and a composer." (Karl Stark, The Philadelphia Inquirer). Herbie Hancock added that Degibri is, "a very talented composer, arranger, and performer", one who's music, "treads uncharted waters", and that the saxophonist-composer, "has the potential to be a formidable force in the evolution of jazz." Substantiating these accolades, in April of 2012, Degibri was invited to be a part of UNESCO's first International Jazz Day at the UN General Assembly in New York, alongside many of the finest jazz musicians in the world. Degibri is perpetually invited to perform at the world's most prestigious venues and festivals, and in 2011, was chosen as the successor to bassist Avishai Cohen as the Co-Artistic Director of The Red Sea Jazz Festival.
Degibri's gifts, his immense talents, were earned, molded and burnished from, not only his highly productive early days as one of the top young musicians in Israel, his time at Berklee (on a full scholarship) and The Monk Institute, but also from more than sixteen years of sharing stages with the likes of Herbie Hancock (1999-2002), Kenny Barron, Fred Hersch and Al Foster (2002-2011), and leading bands consisting of musicians such as Aaron Goldberg, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Ben Street, Jeff Ballard, Kevin Hays, Gary Versace, Obed Calvaire and many others, resulting in five critically-acclaimed recordings under his name.
Degibri now presents his vibrant new album, Twelve, the follow up recording to Israeli Song (which featured Brad Mehldau, Ron Carter and Al Foster), recorded in Tel Aviv, Israel on December 12, 2012, and scheduled for release in the U.S. on January 28, 2013. Twelve is simultaneously reflective and pioneering, as the album represents two significant elements in Degibri's life today, youth and age. He explains, "joining me on this recording are two very young and astonishingly talented musicians: pianist Gadi Lehavi (16 years old), and drummer Ofri Nehemya (18 years old), as well as my best friend, the extraordinary bassist Barak Mori. When you listen to Gadi and Ofri, can you really tell their age? Watching and hearing Mori's playfulness and enthusiasm, can you really tell that he is the 'grownup' of the rhythm section? And yet, Mori's 'established' beat glues the band together because of his experience and maturity, while Gadi's and Ofri's fresh angle on music makes both Barak and me take more risks and strive for something new. We have the best of both worlds in this band!", explained Degibri.
As an established and prominent musician on the international jazz scene, and by employing these talented, emerging musicians featured on Twelve, Degibri is now engaged in the long-standing tradition of mentorship in the jazz world; in essence he is now the teacher, and no longer the pupil, and takes the transference of love, respect and dedication to this music very seriously. However, when Degibri puts horn to mouth in the studio or on stages around the globe, part of him becomes that kid back in Israel completely fascinated and elated by the saxophone and all things jazz. Degibri explains, "when I go on stage I try to enter a creative world where I find, and I hope that my audience finds, waterfalls full of harmony, thick forests pulsing with notes of all shapes and sizes, and many unique animals full of rhythm. In a way, for me, music is like a fairytale: ageless, immortal. And we musicians are eternally 'Peter Pan', no matter if we are 16, 18, 35, or 80 years old. I hope that the music we created together on this album will remain both young and old forever."
About the music on Twelve, featuring:Eli Degibri, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, mandolin; Gadi Lehavi, piano; Barak Mori bass; Ofri Nehemya drums; Shlomo Ydov, vocal on "Liora Mi Amor"; Eli Degibri, Gadi Lehavi, Barak Mori, Yaron Mohar, Yael Shapira, Pini Shavit, choir on "The Cave"
Twelve opens with the gentle intensity, and the soaring melody of the title track, complete with an immensely satisfying chord resolution! "Twelve" is the product of a melody and a set of chords growing in the musically fertile mind of Degibri. He explains, "many times I find myself composing, laying a melody over chords without knowing why, or what I am trying to express with this composition? 'Twelve' was just like that. Sometimes I find an answer and sometimes I won't! When we recorded the album on 12/12/12, I found the answer for this composition on that day!"
The lightning quick, odd-metered tune, "The Spider," is up next, showcasing the dexterity of the quartet, with a spotlight on the maturity of the young drummer, Ofri Nehemya. "I can hear the spider conspiring to catch its prey at the intro of the composition, then right to business and back to work to build those webs fast and elegant," said Degibri.
"Roaming Fantasy" is an optimistic, hopeful song about musicians creating new fantastical worlds for their audiences around the globe. This composition and notion from Degibri relates to the famous quote from drummer Art Blakey, "jazz washes away the dust of every day life."
Degibri's swinging "Mambo" is the first mambo that the composer ever crafted, "I just had to call it MAMBO!," Degibri stated.
"Autumn In New York" is not only beautiful for it's wonderful melody, but also for the immediate feel of New York City that it gives the listener. It is a deeply meaningful standard for Degibri, "this song helped me imagine NYC before I even set foot on its streets, and this is my heartfelt version after living there for fifteen amazing years of my life."
"New Waltz" was new, and a waltz when Degibri composed it; now, it's just a waltz . . .
"Liora Mi Amor," featuring Shlomo Ydov on vocals, and Degibri on soprano saxophone, is a song for Lior (Liora is her nickname); a sensual tango dedicated to her.
The lovely "rock" ballad, "Old Seven," tells the story of a young individual of seven years old, with an old soul, while highlighting the wonderfully sensitive playing of sixteen-year-old pianist Gadi Lehavi.
Twelve closes with the contemplative, entrancing, "The Cave," featuring Degibri on mandolin, and providing an opportunity to fully appreciate bassist Mori's colossal, enveloping sound. The composition also features the wordless vocals of the quartet, with special guests. "'The Cave' is about my imaginary place where I can hide from all that's wicked and evil in the world," said Degibri.
On Twelve Eli Degibri speaks and sings through his horn eloquently, powerfully, and in a sophisticated, urbane manner, back by a group of musicians utterly committed to every note. This stellar album finds Degibri clearly an artist completely at home, physically, emotionally, and certainly musically.