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Shai Maestro: Bio

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

1 Time  
2 Mystery and Illusions  
3 Human  
4 GG  
5 The Thief's Dream  
6 Hank and Charlie  
7 Compassion  
8 Prayer  
9 They Went to War  
10 In a Sentimental Mood  
11 Ima (For Talma Maestro)  

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."

Crossover Media Projects with: Shai Maestro