“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,” reflects saxophonist Eli Degibri in the notes to Twelve, his sixth recording. Featuring two emerging young talents—18-year-old drummer Ofri Nehemya and 16-year-old pianist Gadi Lehavi—it is anchored by the steady beat, bounce and fervor of seasoned bassist Barak Mori, and traverses a diverse program composed primarily of the leader’s compelling originals.
This new album finds Degibri back in his native Israel, following an extended period in the U.S. playing with luminaries such as Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Al Foster, and leading his own hard-hitting bands. Degibri plays tenor throughout, picking up the soprano on “Liora Mi Amor,” a tender tango with lyrics and vocals by Israeli treasure Shlomo Ydov, and surprising on mandolin with the pensive “The Cave,” where a choir adds spacious, wordless vocals. Vernon Duke’s “Autumn in New York” becomes a poignant reflection on the city Degibri lived in for 15 years, showcasing his big, warm tenor tone. Odd-metered and frenetic, “The Spider” highlights the quartet’s cohesiveness and agility, while the captivating ballad “Old Seven” returns to the theme of age and maturity.
Noted for his stellar technique, the sense of urgency in his playing and his sometimes bristly, splintering compositions, Degibri here seems focused on storytelling, exploring melody and feeling. His artistry as a songwriter, bold improviser and skilled leader are in full effect.