This Saturday, a jazz singer who was born in Russia and has been living in
Toronto for the past 12 years is coming home to perform. The artist in question
is Sophie Milman, who made aliya with her family when she was six, and left
Israel for Canada with her parents when she was in 10th grade. Milman is, to say
the least, delighted to have landed the gig at the Zappa Club in
“It’s going to be very emotional for me in Herzliya,” she says
in a telephone interview from Toronto.
“I am very emotional at the best
The club is going to be packed with people that I love that I
haven’t seen in almost a decade. I am not going to have a chance to connect with
most of them before I get on the stage. It might make for a really great
performance. I hope so.”
Milman is certainly coming back with something
under her belt. Since she left Israel she has developed a highly successful
globetrotting career in jazz and has released five albums to date.
most recent recording, Take Love Easy, will account for most of her repertoire
here, and there will be songs from her other CDs – one of which, “Make Someone
Happy,” won the prestigious Canadian Juno Award for Vocal Jazz Album of the Year
in 2008 - and other “extraneous” material.
“I like taking pop songs and
doing stuff with them,” she says.
“Jazz is such a wide medium and is so
As long as a tune has some decent harmonic meat to it, like a
nice interesting melody, you can really fit it into a jazz thing.”
Love Easy, for example, includes a rendition of Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave
Your Lover” and Milman has also covered the Everly Brothers 1950s classic “Bye
Milman first developed an interest in jazz as a teenager
living in Haifa. Considering her cultural milieu at the time it was a surprising
“I used to listen to my dad’s jazz LPs but there was
absolutely nothing going in jazz in Haifa back then,” she recalls.
spoke to any of my friends about jazz they looked at me like I was talking some
foreign language. I was probably the only kid in Haifa checking this stuff out.
There were no jazz clubs in Haifa and nowhere to really hear the music. Now the
Israeli jazz scene has exploded.”
ALL THINGS considered it is pretty
amazing that Milman has developed such a successful career or, indeed, get on a
stage at all.
“I sang in [children’s musical event] Festigal when I was
10 with Gidi Gov. I love Gidi but I was painfully shy. In the photographs of the
event you see all the other kids trying to get a picture with Gidi, but not me.
I was the Russian kid who’d only been in the country for three years among all
these sabras. I was trying to get as far away from the camera as possible. That
feels like four lifetimes ago now.”
That early performing experience was
quickly consigned to Milman’s memory bank and, in essence, no more progress was
made on the jazz front in this country.
“It was when I moved to Canada
that I started singing jazz with any sort of confidence because there was a real
acceptance of it here. I remember walking in to music class at school, in
Toronto, and they were rehearsing a gospel song.”
“I am 200 percent
Jewish but jazz and gospel are so intertwined, and my first experience of North
American musicals was through [legendary gospel singer] Mahalia Jackson. I
walked into the class and straightaway felt I fit in musically. By the second
class the teacher gave me a solo.”
Despite not having much in the way of
formal education in jazz Milman soon found herself settling comfortably into the
musical groove at school.
“I think that listening to lots and lots of
jazz records, and checking out great musicians in clubs, I a form of
I went to see [vocalist] Al Jarreau and [keyboardist] George
Duke at the Blue Note in New York a few weeks ago. That sounded like a master
class in improvisation and performance.
“I think that maybe I would have
benefited from some technique or theory, if I had studied jazz in a formal
framework, but there are so many great jazz records out there that you can like,
check it out, absorb it, this is how the shit is done.”
One added element
to Milman’s approach to the genre is the multicultural baggage which she has
picked up as she relocated to new countries. Today she performs in English,
Hebrew, Russian and French.
“I love the way French sounds in
Living in Israel for 10 years I learned to roll my ‘r’s, which I
adapt to French. Languages are very rhythmic and have their own lyrical flow.
Russian and Hebrew are very guttural and French is a combination of everything.
I find English very easy to sing in. It lends itself well to music.”
of the advantages of immigrating as much as I have is gaining exposure to
languages and cultures. I have a sort of European Jewish Russian approach to
jazz, which is a little different and is maybe why my music connects with
people. It differentiates me from the other good jazz musicians out
More than anything, however, Milman says she expects to feel her
most complete on stage this week.
“I feel I left a lot of myself in
Israel. I think it’s going to be a real homecoming for me.”
will perform, with pianist Paul Shrofel, bassist Kieran Overs and drummer Jim
Doxas, and guest artist veteran Israeli saxophonist Peter Wertheimer, at the
Zappa Club in Herzliyah on Saturday. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. and the show starts
at 10 p.m.
For more info and tickets: www.zappaclub.co.il or (03)