Shai Maestro - The Dream Thief

Label: ECM Records, 2018

Personnel – Shai Maestro: piano; Jorge Roeder: acoustic bass; Ofri Nehemya: drums.

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Comprising six originals and two solo piano covers, The Dream Thief marks a strong ECM debut as a leader from the Israeli pianist Shai Maestro, whose trio includes longtime associate Jorge Roeder on bass and a new partner, the drummer Ofri Nehemya (replacing Ziv Ravitz). The band’s state of mind airs a candid sophistication that also feels gentle and literate, expressing carefully practiced mechanisms and spontaneity alike. However, Maestro decides to open solo with a rendition of Matti Caspi’s “My Second Childhood”, a rubato reflection eked out by yearning tenderness and profound beauty. The choice to include a song from Caspi is not fortuitous since Maestro is a confessed admirer of his work and even took some lessons from him in the past.

The Forgotten Village” is sculpted with a rich lyricism, adheres to a quintuple meter, and counts on subtle irregular beats to pave an irregular ground. The Peruvian bassist is eloquent in his solo, drawing vivid emotions with virtuosic deliberation.

Gently lit by the glow of legato/staccato cymbal moves in Nehemya’s brushwork, the title track also soars well above, feeling more spherical than polygonal in its reserved posture. This inclination is gradually dismantled as texture and rhythm step up in intensity. It culminates in a scintillating improvisation by the bandleader.

Tidal rubato waters wash “A Moon’s Tale”, whose deep sonority comes from the mallet drumming, whereas “Lifeline” shines through with an aching fascination for the impressive melody. According to the pianist, this piece was originally conceived as a 4/4 burner, but was conveniently slowed down here to fit the album’s introspective mood.

Instigating fondness through gracious developments and inspired interplay, “New River, New Waters” is a fulfilling experience that also proves the trio as high flyers. Even when there's a loud call for freedom, they never eschew melodic and motivic clarity in its statements nor ingenious rhythmic nuance.

A confluence of classical and jazz streams give a magical touch to “These Foolish Things”, another solo effort, before the poignant “What Else Needs To Happen” raises awareness of the gun problem with the assistance of a couple Obama speeches.

Emotionally charged atmospheres surround The Dream Thief, a definitive statement of maturity from Maestro, a refined world-class pianist.

 Grade  A-

Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
02 - The Forgotten Village ► 05 - Lifeline ► 07 - New River New Waters