From ECM: “The Dream Thief”

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The Dream Thief
Shai Maestro, Jorge Roeder, Ofri Nehemya

Release date: 28.09.2018
ECM 2616

The first ECM leader date for Shai Maestro (following his label debut with Theo Bleckmann on Elegy) features the gifted pianist fronting his superlative trio with fellow Israeli Ofri Nehemya on drums and Peruvian bassist Jorge Roeder, and also playing alone. A solo interpretation of Matti Caspi’s “My Second Childhood” opens the curtain on a programme of characteristically thoughtful Maestro originals, each one with a story to tell. “Hearing the Shai Maestro Trio is like awakening to a new world”, All About Jazz has suggested. “Expressions of joy, introspective thoughts and heightened intensity all come to the fore.” Maestro’s differentiated touch is special; he can convey a range of fleeting emotions in a single phrase. A deconstruction of “These Foolish Things”, the album’s sole standard, serves as a prelude to “What Else Needs To Happen”, a sombre meditation on inner city violence and its aftermath. The Dream Thief was recorded at Lugano’s Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI in April 2018, and produced by Manfred Eicher, and issued on the eve of a European tour with concerts in Spain, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, Italy, France, and Switzerland.


“Hearing the Shai Maestro Trio is like awakening to a new world – a world of wonders, excitement, beauty and uncertainty,” All About Jazz has suggested. The Dream Thief, the first ECM release by Maestro as a leader, presents the Israeli pianist fronting the latest incarnation of his uncommonly interactive, atmospherically expansive trio, featuring new drummer Ofri Nehemya, a fellow Israeli, and its bassist from the start, Jorge Roeder, a native of Peru. The album also includes several searching solo performances by Maestro. His solo interpretation of Israeli singer-songwriter Matti Caspi’s “My Second Childhood” raises the curtain on a program of characteristically vivid Maestro originals.

Maestro, who made his first ECM appearance on vocalist Theo Bleckmann’s 2017 album Elegy, made a name for himself playing in Israeli bassist Avishai Cohen’s popular band from 2006 to 2011. A resident of Brooklyn and a dual Israeli and American citizen, the pianist also played in star drummer Mark Guiliana’s quartet and has recently worked in a duo with saxophonist Chris Potter. After four trio albums with Roeder and drummer Ziv Ravitz, Maestro drafted Nehemya into the group, which gathered to record The Dream Thief at the studio in Lugano. Maestro chose the darker-toned of two Steinway model D pianos on offer, apt for what he calls “the dreamy, cinematic quality” of the music he had written for the session. With Manfred Eicher producing, the atmosphere in the studio was one of being “open to the magic of the moment,” Maestro recalls. “I had a clear intention for the pieces, but I knew that Manfred likes to let the music breathe, to get to the essence of the music. For instance, my composition ‘Lifeline’ had been a double-time burner live, but Manfred suggested that we take it down about 50 bpm and concentrate on making the melody sing, in the way Charlie Haden might do. That really transformed the tune.”

Another spontaneous creation was Maestro’s solo performance of Caspi’s “My Second Childhood,” a song about experiencing life anew via the eyes of a child. The Israeli composer is one of the pianist’s “all-time favorites – I grew up listening to him, and even took lessons with Caspi when I was 12,” he says. “I had arrived at the studio early before Jorge and Ofri, just to commune with the piano. I hadn’t planned to include that tune, but it just came out, as it’s so deep in my system. I have a real appreciation for the DNA of a great song, where the melody and the harmony go perfectly together. It’s the same thing with ‘These Foolish Things,” which is also such a beautifully crafted song. I was just improvising, and it morphed into a kind of avant-garde treatment – yet with the melody still like a red thread wound through it.”

Maestro and Roeder have played together for about seven years, developing a synergistic partnership even though they come “from the opposite ends of music in a way,” the pianist explains. “Jorge has experience playing a lot of free music, while I studied both classical and jazz and have played a lot more arranged, rhythmically defined music. I’ve become freer playing with him. He can travel back and forth from off the grid to in the pocket, and he has such great ears. I can take the music where I want to go, and he’s right there with me, where we can almost improvise in unison.” Although Nehemya is new to the group, he and the pianist have an innate kinship. “Ofri and I share a lot of influences – we don’t even have to talk about things to come to the same emotional expressions,” Maestro says. “But he also has an advanced, new-generation rhythmic understanding, so he can really push and challenge Jorge and me.”

Whether it’s “going with the melody or really burning and playing free, we always try to be attuned to the moment, trying to find that magic in it,” Maestro says. “With ‘Lifeline,’ ‘The Forgotten Village’ and ‘A Moon’s Tale,’ we were concentrating on melody, while rhythmic interplay was the focus of ‘The Dream Thief’ and ‘New River, New Water’.” As for the deeply moving end piece, “What Else Needs to Happen,” incorporating parts of speeches by Barack Obama, the pianist explains: “An acquaintance of mine, the saxophonist Jimmy Greene, lost his little daughter in the massacre at Sandy Hook, Connecticut. These school shootings in America have become so common, almost ‘normal’ – it’s surreal, insane. When I realized what happened for Jimmy and the rest of those parents, it felt so close – it was heartbreaking. I understand that in jazz a piece like this I could be ‘preaching to the choir,’ but ‘What Else Needs to Happen’ is about being open to the moment in another way. I think performing artists, because we have a stage, have a responsibility to speak about the world we live in today. Maybe the combination of Obama’s words and the music will help people hear and feel the emotional reality a bit more. It is, for me, at least some measure of resistance to that horrible new ‘normal’.”

Reflecting on his influences when it comes to jazz piano Maestro concludes: “The tremendous history of jazz is a great inspiration but also a great challenge. We each have our own individual gift, which is the choices we make – whether we turn to major or minor, whether we play pianissimo or fortissimo at a key moment. I always try to remember to embrace history while not trying to be anything or anyone else – to let the music come out of me.”
Press reactions

Featured artists
Shai Maestro Piano
Jorge Roeder Double Bass
Ofri Nehemya Drums


1 My Second Childhood (Matti Caspi) 04:39
2 The Forgotten Village (Shai Maestro) 06:21
3 The Dream Thief (Shai Maestro) 08:29
4 A Moon?s Tale (Shai Maestro) 02:36
5 Lifeline (Shai Maestro) 03:54
6 Choral (Shai Maestro) 03:50
7 New River, New Water (Shai Maestro) 06:59
8 These Foolish Things (remind me of you) (Jack Strachey) 04:24
9 What Else Needs to Happen? (Shai Maestro) 06:56

October 08 Shai Maestro Trio Enjoy Jazz Festival, Heiliggeistkirche
Heidelberg Germany
“The Dream Thief”

October 10 Shai Maestro Trio A 38
Budapest, Hungary
“The Dream Thief”

October 11 Shai Maestro Trio
Vilnius Jazz Festival
Vilnius, Lithuania
“The Dream Thief”

October 12 Shai Maestro Trio
Mondriaan Jazz Festival
Den Haag, Netherlands
“The Dream Thief”

October 13 Shai Maestro Trio
Stockholm Jazz Festival
Stockholm, Sweden
“The Dream Thief”

October 14 Shai Maestro Trio
Blue Note
Milano, Italy
“The Dream Thief”

November 06 Shai Maestro Trio
Jazz Standard
New York
United States of America

November 11 Shai Maestro Trio
Cotton Club
Tokyo, Japan
“The Dream Thief”

November 12 Shai Maestro Trio
Blue Note
Tokyo, Japan
“The Dream Thief”

November 13 Shai Maestro Trio
Blue Note
Tokyo, Japan
“The Dream Thief”

November 17 Shai Maestro Trio
Tilburg, Netherlands
“The Dream Thief”

November 18 Shai Maestro Trio
London Jazz Festival,Ronnie Scott’s
London, United Kingdom
“The Dream Thief”

November 20 Shai Maestro Trio
Bremen, Germany
“The Dream Thief”

November 22 Shai Maestro Trio
Amsterdam, Netherlands
“The Dream Thief”

November 23 Shai Maestro Trio
Flagey Studio 4
Brussels, Belgium
“The Dream Thief”

November 26 Shai Maestro Trio
Cologne, Germany
“The Dream Thief”

November 28 Shai Maestro Trio
Munich, Germany
“The Dream Thief”

November 30 Shai Maestro Trio
La Spirale
Fribourg, Switzerland
“The Dream Thief”

December 02 Shai Maestro Trio
Freiburg, Germany
“The Dream Thief”

December 15 Shai Maestro Trio
Festival Jazz A La Grange
La Grange
Auc Lac, France
ft. Joshua Redman
“The Dream Thief”

December 18 Shai Maestro Trio
La Passerelle
Saint- Brieuc, France
“The Dream Thief”

January 11 Shai Maestro Trio
Winter Jazz Festival
New York, NY
United States of America
“The Dream Thief”

January 12 Shai Maestro Trio
Winter Jazz Festival
New York, NY
United States of America
“The Dream Thief”

February 01 Shai Maestro Trio
Silent Green
Berlin, Germany

February 02 Shai Maestro Trio
Dresden, Germany

February 03 Shai Maestro Trio
Leipzig, Germany

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