Little did I know that the Sunday afternoon line-up on the International Stage of the Atlanta Jazz Festival would prove a musical joyance, that'd spread an intoxicating euphoria out over the audience from the stage. The Assaf Kehati trio started it off with a enthusiastic set, wide in variety as it was skill.
The Israeli-born Assaf Kehati - who hails from Brooklyn these days - started off with Sunny. But I thought the two best songs of his set were the trio's arrangement of The Devil In Your Eye and Kehati's original composition Naked, the title track from the trio's new release. If you were present at the festival, Kehati promised to email everyone a free download of Naked who emailed him. I did and hopefully, will receive my link when he returns home.
Kehati was a throwback - and I mean that as a compliment - to the jazz and swing guitar pickers of the 50's and 60's. I knew a couple famous ones as a kid and I found it refreshing to hear that sound again. He blended that style right in with the jazz arrangements, showing his skill and a versatility many guitar players lack. He didn't sing, but it didn't matter for the trio blended perfectly together and the audience basked in the enjoyable entertainment.
I particularly was fascinated by the drummer in the trio, although even after looking, I can't find his name (sorry, Mr. Drummer!). But the crowd enjoyed the drumming and at a couple points in the show, we almost got an "I Am Spartacus" breakout. He held back, in part because the sets were held to 45-50 minutes.
A quick word about that. I don't understand the Atlanta Jazz Festivals thinking on this at all. The crowd could've easily listened to Mr. Kehati for another 1/2 hour, as well of many other acts I will review later on this blog. Instead, the festival held everyone to under an hour and then let the stage sit empty for over an hour. WHY??? We came to see music. The musicians came to play. On Saturday, one act was a no-show and instead of letting someone fill in or extend their set, the organizers went with an empty stage. This makes no sense to me and I hope in the future, the organizers - well, you know - get organized.
Mr. Kehati was clearly pleased to be at the festival. He thanked the audience and his band members who got a nice round of applause. However, there was one awkward moment and I doubt he could tell it up on stage.
At one point, Mr. Kehati thanked the Israeli Consulate, who apparently was the force behind securing the gig. When he mentioned the Israeli Consulate, you could hear a couple low-breath comments in the crowd and there was this tense moment that swept through everyone on the grass that basically said, Hope you aren't going to say anything political because we like the band, not so much the Israeli government.
There is of course irony in the Israeli Consulate of Atlanta being involved. The Israeli government has been increasingly persecuting artists who disagree with it, having projects pulled from festivals in Israel, banning artists from the country and doing P.R. against any singer involved with the BDS movement. The further irony is that the P.R. usually relies on the argument that artists should stick to art and not politics and yet, the Israeli government, which helped get two groups into the festival, apparently has no qualms about doing so and using artists for propaganda purposes (not in Mr. Kehati's case but online you regularly see appearances turned into propaganda).
That said, Mr. Kehati left it with the obligatory thank you to the Consulate and the crowd breathed a collective sigh of relief because they really did enjoy his music. You will as well and you can check his work out at http://assafkehati.com .