Last night on its California tour, after a successful performance in L.A., Jaffa Road came to the central coast with two sets at the Clark Center for the Performing Arts in Arroyo Grande. The quintet dazzled audience members with stellar musicianship and Aviva Chernick's haunting vocals. Hailing from Toronto, Canada, where the band has won multiple awards and appeared in numerous jazz festivals, Jaffa Road was named after the iconic thoroughfare in Palestine/Israel that is one of the oldest roads in the region. For these musicians, Jaffa Road represents the power and the inevitability of coexistence.
Jaffa Road's repertoire is a mix of jazz and Jewish roots music inflected with Arabic tones from the oud and Sundar's bright-colored saxophone rifs (he is also a masterful flautist). The influence of Iraqi Israeli Yair Dallal on the much younger Aaron Lightstone's oud interpretations is unavoidable—he studied with the elder musician, along with Lebanese maestro Ali Jihad Racy. Aaron is one of two Jewish members of the band, along with Aviva (who is also a cantor), while Sundar and Rakesh have their roots in India, and Justin is half Indian on his mother's side. Together and with sustained solos, they created a great deal of magic on stage. The audience connected with the music emotionally, and sang along when prompted by Aviva. Afterwards people crowded the CD table, demanded autographs, and asked when Jaffa Road would return.