(photo credit: Courtesy)
Ehran Elisha makes no bones about his intent when he gets behind his drum set.
“For me, it’s all about the sound,” declares the 43-year-old New Yorker who is
in Israel for the summer and has a couple of gigs lined up at Tel Aviv’s Hagadah
Hasmalit jazz club over the next week or so – this Thursday and next Wednesday
(both at 9 p.m.).
For the shows, Elisha will be joined by some of the
best avant-garde and improvising artists on the local scene, including (on
Thursday) pianist Anat Fort, saxophonist Yoni Kretzmer, guitarist Ido Bukelman
and bassist Assaf Hakimi, while veteran reedman Albert Beger joins the fray next
Wednesday with Bukelman and Hakimi on duty again.
And his classically
trained pianist-composer dad, Haim, will be joining Elisha on the bandstand on
For an artist who cites his avenues of breadwinning as
“drummer-percussionist, composer, improviser, teacher and music therapist,” it
certainly helps to whittle down all that endeavor to a simple monosyllabic
Elisha, whose parents are Israeli-born, has been pursuing his
artistic credo for more than two decades, taking in plenty of life-enriching and
character-forming work in the process. Besides recording and performing, he
teaches at a Jewish high school, has helped psychiatric hospital patients
express themselves percussively, and has marveled at the ability of small
children to produce complex polyrhythms without much ado.
“A lot of time,
education and parental upbringing can get in the way of our natural talent,” he
says. “I remember once going to someone’s house and a kid of about three or four
came in and began hitting a drum. Then his dad came in and said, ‘See? I told
you he has no idea of rhythm.’ In fact, that kid was playing very complex stud,
and I told the father, ‘Your son is doing stuff that people don’t achieve after
10 years of studying drumming.’ We’ve just got to let kids do what comes
Elisha’s own father certainly let his son go with the flow.
Now, despite taking very different paths to their artistic truths, father and
son have started playing and even recording together.
“My dad has never
performed in Israel before, so it’s going to be great to do a duo thing with him
on Thursday,” says Elisha. “He’s a very accomplished musician, and he works a
lot in opera, but I think we are finding a common musical language.”
Elisha Sr. doesn’t always get what the drummer- bandleader is looking for.
“Yeah, sometimes he’ll be playing something and it’ll be time to move on to
something different. It helps that we speak Hebrew and the other people we play
with in the States don’t, so I can tell him, ‘Dai kvar’ (that’s enough), so he
knows it’s time to change direction.”
Over the years, Elisha has fed off
a range of inspiration sources, including iconic drummer-percussionists Max
Roach, Ed Blackwell and especially Milford Graves and the recently departed
trumpeter Bill Dixon. He has led several creative music ensembles and performed
extensively in the US, as well as Europe and Israel. Despite keeping his gigs
here to a minimum, he visits Israel almost every year and last performed in Tel
Aviv at the Inbal Center in 2001. He has put out several albums and collaborated
with leading lights of the jazz and improvisational scene, such as trumpeter Roy
Campbell and bassist Drew Gress.
While maintaining a constant search for
new artistic vistas, the “sound” theme is omnipresent as is the kinetic
of his onstage work.
“Most of my stuff has been done in a quintet or
sextet setting because that gives you an orchestral sound,” he notes. “A
my music has to do with texture and chronology, about what happens to
as it progresses. In my extended pieces, I say everything is composed
the notes. I can give very specific impressionistic guidelines and
for the musicians to follow, and they also improvise the whole time, so
sort of expect-the-unexpected scenario, although it’s not free jazz. It
from that esthetic but, in compositional terms, it’s very structured.”