Thursday, June 13, 2013
Philippe El Hage piano concert at The Fridge with the Afifs
The latest show in The Fridge's current Concert Series season featured Lebanese pianist and composer Philippe El Hage, supported by Dubai resident jazz musicians, the Afif brothers Elie and Rony.
It took some mental adjusting for me in the first couple of pieces, as the event was categorized as "Jazz" in publicity, and I therefore came primed for the kind of jazz to which I am used. But I detected hints of what I know to be jazz in only a few of the pieces he played, such as "Byblos", "Memories" and "Song For You". There was also a bit of Middle Eastern influence in some of them, such as in the solo "Hymn Variations" and in "Memories".
However, the overarching sound was one of contemporary piano-centered instrumental composition, rather like Yanni. Not that there was anything wrong with that; El Hage's compositions were beautifully vivid and uplifting to hear. He also plays with a visible passion, almost dancing and sometimes even getting up when his feet are not on the pedals. "Memories", "Song For You", "Sunday Afternoon" and "Where We Used to Hide" were especially good, I thought. Despite what seemed an odd combination, Elie Afif and Rony Afif did a commendable job in providing accompaniment.
El Hage also took the opportunity to premiere a piece called "Diane in White", dedicated to his new bride. He finished his program with a dramatic final piece, in which he put one of his hands "under the hood" and manually damped and strummed the piano strings.