Pianist Shai Maestro was born in Israel on February 5th 1987. He began playing classical piano at the age of 5 under the instruction of Ms. Irena Krivatz. His first exposure to Jazz music was at the age of 8 while listening to Oscar Peterson’s records and particularly “The Gershwin Songbook”. “I couldn’t stop listening to that album. There was something about Oscar’s playing there… The combination of his light – crystal touch, Gershwin’s incredibly beautiful songs and the way the band swung got me completely captivated” says Maestro.
Maestro enrolled to the Thelma – Yellin High School of Performing Arts in Givataim, Israel, graduating with honors. While taking extended literature classes, Shai was one of the few students combining a major both in the jazz and classical departments along with his regular studies. Maestro later on continued his classical piano studies with Prof. Benjamin Oren of the Music Academy in Jerusalem.
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 ‘5 week Summer Program’ in Boston where he was awarded a full scholarship to attend the full time (4 years) program.
Maestro never took this offer.
“Receiving this scholarship was a great honor, but some inner voice told me that it was not the right thing for me.. I began feeling the urge to either move to New York or to go to India and study Indian Classical music, which I had already started doing in Israel with master (Sanjey Kumar) Sharma. I felt that it wasn’t right for me to go to school at the time.. I felt like I wouldn’t find my place there”
A few weeks later, Maestro 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) offering him to start collaborating together. Maestro joined Avishai Cohen’s Trio together with drummer Mark Guiliana where he played for 5 years around the globe.
“Since I was a kid, I have had this ‘sponge-like’ character. I absorb everything that’s around me… Being a part of Avishai’s group was the best school I could have hoped for”
Playing with Mr. Cohen from 2006 to 2011, they recorded four albums together (“Gently Disturbed, Aurora, Sensitive Hours and Seven Seas”) two of which are for Blue Note records. They toured the world intensely, playing at some of the world’s most known venues and festivals such as the The Olympia Hall, Salle Pleyel, the Bataclan Theater, Jazz á Vienne, Marciac Jazz festival, Cork Jazz Festival, Yoshi’s, Madrid Jazz Festival, Blue Note in NY, Ronnie Scott’s, Vienna’s and Berlin Concert houses to name a few.
At 2009, still during his time with Cohen, Maestro relocated to New York, where he currently resides. “The abundance of incredibly great, hard working and dedicated musicians that live and create in NY is overwhelming. There is so much to learn. The fact that you can share the stage with these musicians is the best school one can hope for and that’s what makes the difference for me”.
Since his move to New York, Maestro keeps a busy schedule, he can be found performing and recording with international artists such as John Patitucci, Theo Bleckmann, Jorge Rossy, Mark Guiliana, Donny McCaslin, Ben Wendel, Anat Cohen, Marcus Gilmore, Antonio Sanchez, Avishai Cohen, (trumpet), Avishai Cohen (Bass), Scott Colley, Ari Hoenig, Gerald Clayton, Justin Brown, Keith Carlock, Gilad Hekselman, Johnathan Blake, Camila Meza, Clarence Penn, Antonio Hart, Matt Penman, Harish Raghavan, Julian Lage, Jorge Roeder, Matisyahu, Kenrick Scott, Nate Smith, Nir Felder, Nate Wood, Jo Lawry, Will Vinson, Linda Oh, Joe Sanders among many others. Maestro and has recently recorded on Theo Bleckmann‘s upcoming album for German label ECM in collaboration with legendary producer Manfred Eicher as well as well as on Mark Guiliana‘s Jazz Quartet’s album “Family First” (Beat Music productions). He is a regular member in the groups of Mr. Bleckmann’s, Mr. Guiliana’s as well as Mr. Ari Hoenig. In 2011, Maestro left Cohen’s group to pursue his own career as a band leader. “It was the right time. I felt this burning energy inside that led me to continue my road and to take this difficult leap towards becoming a band leader”.