“This is my sixth year as Artistic Director of the Red Sea Jazz Festival, and like previously, I am proud and excited this year to present a rich and varied program: four days and nights of poetry to jazz, conversing and celebrating through a language that redefines creativity, fellowship, reciprocity, excellence, prayer, lamentation, and the pursuit of freedom. This year, too, we are bound to be overcome with astonishment and wonder. Dozens of musicians, from Israel and worldwide, will come to Eilat to share their gift with us, recharging us with fresh energy, and inspiring our thoughts, before returning to our daily lives that we can be free every day.”
– Eli Degibri, RSJF artistic director
Degibri began playing the mandolin at the age of 7 in the afternoon program of The Jaffa
Conservatory of Music. Three years later, after watching a jazz show, Degibri was captivated by
the saxophone and changed his studies accordingly. While only a high school student at the
Thelma Yellin School, Degibri began playing professionally with some of the greatest names on
the Israeli music scene and established himself as a leading musician in Israel. At the age of 16,
he received a full scholarship to the Berklee College of Music summer performance program.
The following year, Degibri won the same scholarship and took part in the summer performance
program at Berklee once again.
In 1997, Degibri was awarded a full scholarship to Berklee College of Music, and subsequently
moved to Boston. After one year at Berklee, he was chosen to be one of only six musicians from
all over the world to join the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance with a
full scholarship, where he studied and performed with famous jazz musicians such as Ron
Carter, Benny Golson, Jimmy Heath and Clark Terry.
After completing his studies in 1999, he was invited to join Herbie Hancock’s band, with whom
he performed around the world, playing Hancock’s music from the album Gershwin’s World,
which won three Grammys. Degibri toured with Hancock for two and a half years.
In 2002 he moved to New York and founded his first band, which included some of the best
musicians in the world jazz scene: Kurt Rosenwinkel, Aaron Goldberg, Ben Street and Jeff
Ballard. The quintet performed regularly at the most prestigious jazz clubs in New York. That
same year, Degibri joined drummer Al Foster and his band, and became an integral part of the
Al Foster Quartet.
In 2003, Degibri released his first album, “In The Beginning”. This album features Kurt
Rosenwinkel, Aaron Goldberg, Ben Street and Jeff Ballard. That year, Degibri was chosen
among the first artists of the Israeli Foundation for Excellence in Culture (IcExcellence), which
selects artists who serve as Israel’s best ambassadors for art and culture around the world by
contributing to society and promoting excellence.
In 2006, Degibri released his second album, Emotionally Available. This album again featured
Aaron Goldberg, Ben Street and Jeff Ballard. Later that year, Degibri released another album,
“One Little Song”, a duet with pianist Kevin Hays. That same year, Degibri was awarded the
Prime Minister’s Prize for Jazz Composers, which recognized his talent as a composer.
In 2007, Degibri appeared on Al Foster’s album “Love, Peace and Jazz,” a live recording from
the New York jazz club, Village Vanguard.
In 2008, Degibri founded his new band, which included Gary Versace and Obed Calvaire, with
whom he released his fourth album, “Live at Louis 649”. The trio performed a number of
performances in Israel and the following year they performed at the International Jazz Festival
In 2010, Degibri released his fifth album, “Israeli Song”. In this album, Degibri united two jazz
figures with whom he was honored to work and study over the years: bassist Ron Carter and
drummer Al Foster, as well as pianist Brad Mehldau.
In 2011, Degibri was awarded the Landau Prize for the Performing Arts for Jazz Composers,
and in October of that year it was reported that Degibri and radioman, Dubi Lenz, were chosen
as artistic directors of the Red Sea Jazz Festival, which bassist Avishai Cohen directed before.
In April 2012 Degibri was invited to be part of UNESCO’s first International Jazz Day, held at the
UN General Assembly in New York, along with many of the world’s best jazz musicians.
In August 2013, Degibri released his sixth album, Twelve. This album features two of his former
students in the excellence program for young musicians, pianist Gadi Lehavi and drummer Ofri
Nehemya, together with bass player Barak Mori. The album hosts singer Shlomo Ydov in the
song “Liora mi Amor”. Ydov wrote the lyrics to Degibri’s melody.
In November 2015, Degibri released his seventh album, Cliff Hangin’, once again featuring Gadi
Lehavi, Ofri Nehemya and Barak Mori. The album went on to receive a perfect 5-star review
from DownBeat Magazine, essentially dubbing the album a masterpiece.
The success of Cliff Hangin’ earned Degibri an invitation to perform at The White House in front
of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama on International Jazz Day in April of
2016, alongside some jazz superstars such as Hugh Masekela, Till Broenner, Dee Dee
Bridgewater, Lee Ritnour and Marcus Miller. Months later, Degibri was invited to perform Cliff
Hangin’ at the Nearness Of You Concert, a benefit concert honoring the late saxophone legend,
In Israel, Degibri has collaborated with artists such as Yoni Rechter, Alon Oleartchik, Shlomi
Shaban and Eran Zur, with whom he also contributed his singing skills.
For more information, please visit Eli’s website: http://degibri.com