The best of both worlds
Veteran piano man Danny Gottfried continues to take the Israeli jazz scene to new heights.
Classical jazz Photo: Courtesy
Danny Gottfried has been pushing the jazz boat out there, in this country, for
over half a century. Now 72, he started out as a classical pianist and even
started developing a promising career as a soloist. However, he soon switched to
jazz and became one of the pioneers of the field in this country.
jazz resumé covers practically every area of endeavor in the art form, from
founding and overseeing our biggest jazz event for two decades, to presenting
annual series and laying the bedrock of several generations of jazz artists with
his pioneering work in education.
But, it seems, old habits die hard and
old loves never really go away.
Between April 21 and May 5 Gottfried will
team up with his classical conductor son Yaron in a classical-jazz music synergy
across the country. The series features The Israel Netanya Kibbutz Orchestra,
with Gottfried Jr.
conducting, and bass player Yurai Oron and drummer
Ronny Holan supporting the pianist’s efforts.
The concerts will each have
two parts, with the first half featuring Gottfried and the trio, backed by the
orchestra, performing a program of jazz standards, including Thelonious Monk’s
Round Midnight, based on an arrangement by Gottfried’s other son, composer
Aviram; Every Time We Say Goodbye written by Cole Porter and based on an
arrangement by Amikam Kimmelman, another veteran of the local jazz scene and
head of the Rimon School of Music; and Sweet Georgia Brown, composed in 1925 by
Ben Bernie and Maceo Pinkard, and arranged for the series by
Gottfried makes no apologies for the familial confluences. “You
have to work with people with whom you feel comfortable,” he says, “and my sons
know a thing or two about music.”
The other part of the concert program
comprises Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony.
In 1981 he opened the jazz
department at the Rubin Academy of Music and Dance of the Hebrew University of
Jerusalem. Four years later, he laid the groundwork for the jazz department of
the Thelma Yellin High School of the Arts, and in 1987 he initiated the Red Sea
Jazz festival in Eilat.
In the ‘60s and ‘70s he kept the jazz lamp
burning as brightly as possible as he joined forces with other members of the
country’s first wave of jazz artists, including the likes of reed-man Albert
Piamente and drummer Areleh Kaminsky. In 1971 Gottfried and Piamente put
together the Sadnat Hajazz (Jazz Workshop) band and recorded the country’s first
instrumental jazz record.
“I have always done my best to educate people
about jazz and draw them closer to it, in formal and in informal situations,”
declares Gottfried. “I taught jazz at the [Hebrew University] Student Union, and
at Hillel House and at all sorts of workshops I set up.”
of such magnitude, Gottfried is also in an ideal position to pass judgment on
the health of jazz in Israel right now. It is, he says, a mixed bag. “I have
heard rumors that things are not going too well with the Red Sea Jazz Festival,
and that the artistic directors [Dubi Lenz and Eli Degibri] have threatened to
resign if the budgets are cut. And there’s the business of the Tel Aviv Jazz
Festival, which the Tel Aviv Municipality first thought about cancelling and
then decided to hold it every two years instead. I’m not sure about that,” says
Gottfried. “They say, for now, it will take place every two years and then they
may say it won’t happen at all. In Israel, the temporary often becomes
permanent. It’s all very disappointing.”
On the other hand, he says our
institutions of jazz education, which have proliferated over the years, keep on
churning out talented young artists. “It’s a problem when all the students
graduate and they don’t have good opportunities to play. I think it is awful
that some play for no money, and some don’t even break even on their gigs,”
Gottfried continues, adding that it is not all doom and gloom. “I am proud to
have started up all sorts of jazz series and events here which, in some guise or
other are still around today. I just hope they keep on going.”
feels that it is also up to the individual artists to do their bit to keep
audiences on their side. “You can’t go into a concert with the attitude of ‘I’ll
play what I like and blow the audience.’ You also have to entertain people.
Entertainment isn’t a dirty word, even in jazz,” he says.
says he’ll certainly be doing his best to keep his patrons happy in the coming
series. “I’ll play standards that people recognize.
subscription holders for classical concerts who are happy to hear some jazz too,
rather than hardcore jazz fans. When I perform at a jazz club I’ll play what I
want, the way I want, but not in this series. A lot of jazz musicians have
forgotten that it’s all about playing for the public. It’s not just about the
artists having a good time. I have no problems with entertaining
The Classical-Jazz series concerts will take place at the Tel
Aviv Museum (April 21, 8:30 p.m.), Kibbutz Dorot (April 22, 8:30 p.m.), Kibbutz
Brener Auditorium (April 28, 8:30 p.m.), Naharya Hechal Hatarbut (April 29, 8:30
p.m.), Kibbutz Ein Hashofet Auditorium (April 30, 8:30 p.m.), Netanya Hechal
Hatarbut (May 3, 8:30 p.m.) and Givatayim Theater (May 5, 8:30 p.m.).