Making musical ends meet
Jazz oboist Yoram Lachish opted off the beaten path of classical music in a search for unbridled expression.
Jazz oboist Yoram Lachish Photo: Allard Willemse
These days, straddling musical genres is hardly a revolutionary idea, but Yoram
Lachish has taken the crossover business a step further. “There aren’t too many
oboists in jazz,” points out the thirty-something resident of Kibbutz Ramat
Hakovesh near Kfar Sava, “so I didn’t really have any role
Lachish has done a good job of spanning the gulf between
classical music and improvisational endeavor, and that was evident at his
concert at the recent Jazzahead international jazz expo in Bremen, Germany,
along with the three Dutch members of the Kepera Trio, which make up the
The eponymous album is subtitled East-West
Intercultural Adventures in Music, and that neatly sums up the intent of all
Lachish’s jazz-educated Dutch cohorts have all delved
deeply into the rhythms, techniques and energies from the Middle East, while the
oboist has fed off the pan-Israeli multicultural mix all his life. The CD also
includes numbers with giveaway titles, such as “Adon Haslichot (Master of
Forgiveness)” and “Maimonides.”
But it was classical music that first
engaged his mind, heart and artistic explorations.
“I originate from
Kibbutz Givat Brener, which was founded by yekkers and Lithuanian Jews,” he
notes. “The yekkers brought a very rich classical music tradition with them to
That was bolstered by some strong familial ties to the
discipline, which led Lachish straight to his current breadwinning
“I come from a very classical music-oriented family,” he
“My father and uncle are musicians, and my grandmother played,
mostly string instruments. I played cello for a while as a child but I
gravitated towards wind instruments. But, you never really know if you play an
instrument because that what’s expected of you, and you are surrounded by music,
or you choose it yourself. I’m not sure it matters. Today, music is part of my
essence, of my personal DNA.”
While in terms of his artistic development,
classical music was the be-all and end-all, there was some extraneous presence
in the teenaged Lachish’s world.
“I listened to loads of classical
records but I also liked rock – bands like Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, Joe Jackson
and Prince. I lived in both those worlds.”
Despite being surrounded, at
Givat Brenner, by fans of classical music Lachish was something of an oddity in
his peer group, although he soon found new friends, who shared his love of
“I was the only one who took playing classical music seriously,
and I made rapid progress,” recalls the oboist. “I played in the Young Israel
Philharmonic Orchestra (YIPO) and all sorts of frameworks to which you
automatically develop a social connection too.”
Lachish soon slipped into
a clearly defined professional track.
“You are not really aware of it,
but when you play classical music, seriously, from a young age you naturally
start to think in terms of having a career in it.”
Lachish says there is
also a price to pay.
“Classical music is very demanding. You have to be
very precise about how you play something. You have to follow the conductor’s
instructions, and be aware of the composer’s intention.”
But, by the time
he moved into his early twenties Lachish started getting itchy feet, and
fingers. After giving his all to achieve a comfortable professional standing, he
discovered that the Shangri-la left something to be desired.
“I was a
full-time, reasonably well-paid musician,” he recalls, “but I realized I wasn’t
happy there. I felt I needed to create something new, to
Still, Lachish had to make up some mindset ground before he
could fully devote himself to jazz.
“I didn’t play saxophone which, of
course, is a standard jazz instrument. Where do you find oboe players in
rock, pop, jazz or improvised music? That has almost never happened in jazz.
There’s Yusef Lateef [now 91 years old], but he’s a saxophonist who also played
oboe, not an oboist who plays jazz. There’s also Paul McCandless, from
[jazzworld music, fusion band] Oregon, but that’s about it.”
It was at
this point that Lachish received a brotherly helping hand.
Nimrod studied bass guitar with veteran guitarist Kobi Shefi, and the latter was
looking to put together a jazz-rock band, which eventually became known as
Common Bond. Lachish grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
opened for me into the world of jazz,” he declares. “In many ways I felt I had
arrived at the right place. Being in Common Bond opened up a lot of things for
me. I suddenly rediscovered my passion for music, which had been ebbing away in
Lachish mostly found his own way through the jazz
“I am almost entirely self-taught,” he says. “I took the odd
lesson, read books and listened to records of jazz artists.”
included pianist Keith Jarrett and saxophonist-flutist John Coltrane.
Considering Lachish’s current cultural direction the latter is a natural
“I listened to Coltrane a lot,” says Lachish. “He explored
eastern music. There something about his music which is very
Over the years Lachish expanded his instrumental arsenal
to take in the shofar and an Indian woodwind called the shehnai, which shares
common ground with the oboe. Lachish was inspired to take up the shehnai when he
heard Indian master Ustad Bismillah Khan playing.
Much of his tuition on
shehnai was gained in India, where he studied with renowned Varanasi-based
musician and teacher Ali Abbas Khan.
Since breaking free of his classical
music shackles Lachish has maintained a determined exploratory course, in as
many channels as possible.
“I got into experimental music, with the Tel
Aviv Art Ensemble,” he says. “We played at [alternative Tel Aviv music venue]
Hagadda Hasmalit [The Left Bank]. I learned a lot with them. The search is very
challenging. When you play free improvisation you don’t have a safety net, like
harmony and rhythm that you have in jazz, you just don’t have that. You are
entirely dependent on your own skills and your ability to communicate with
Lachish has been doing that well for some years now, with
Levantasy – which has gigs in India and North Africa coming up – and with a
fruitful synergy with the Adama Ensemble quartet, which features Itamar Erez on
guitar and piano, Urai Oron on bass and Danny Benedikt on drums.
end of the day Lachish says all his musical endeavor follows the same
“You know the Gestalt theory about extremes meeting in a circle?
For me free improvisation is the furthest extreme from classical music, but they
can also be very similar. If players in an orchestra don’t listen to each other
you don’t have that moment of pure harmony and bliss.That’s what I look