Some people may be surprised to hear that the piano is basically a percussion instrument. True, pianists produce wonderfully melodic sounds from the keyboard, but the mechanics of the sonic process involve strings resonating to the touch of hammer strings. The percussive way is fine with 20something New York resident jazz artist Eden Ladin, who is one of three pianists lined up for next week's Beer and Jazz in the Capital program at the Jerusalem Music Center (August 25 to 27).
The other instrumentalists are internationally acclaimed Israeli musicians: Germany-based Omer Klein and New York resident Shai Maestro. All three performances will be preceded by lectures.
Ladin's rendition of works by George Gershwin will follow a talk on the Jewish American composer's life and oeuvre presented by composer, pianist and conductor Rafi Kadishson, while Klein will talk about his musical influences and playing style before he performs with his trio of bassist Or Bareket and drummer Amir Bressler. Maestro will close the three-dayer with a lecture entitled “Improvisation and Creation,” which he will follow with a solo concert.
As the name of the festival implies, there will be plenty of alcoholic refreshment available betwixt and between.
Ladin's musical path began from behind a drum set. That was down to genetics or parental guidance.
"My dad is a drummer [Gil Ladin], and I started on the drums at the age of four or five. I made a lot of noise," he recalls with a chuckle.
A couple of or years later, the youngster gravitated to his current instrument.
"I started with classical piano,” he says. “Basically I wanted to be cool, so I learned drums and piano at the same time for a while. I was in the music stream of Ironi A School [in Tel Aviv]. I gave up the drums and concentrated solely on piano when I was about 13." The teenager quickly left the classical world and threw himself into more improvisational endeavor.
"I started studying jazz. I had perfect pitch, and I was into harmony," he says.
But classical music is not exactly devoid of harmonic structures.
"That's true,” he says, “but I was really into jazz at the time. I was in the jazz department at school and I really got into people like [pianist] Herbie Hancock, and I also liked [pianist] Wynton Kelly." It was late pianist and educator Amit Golan who really did the trick.
"He turned everyone on to jazz," explains Ladin. "I owe him a lot." Golan died four years ago at the age of 46. Ladin's next guide was pianist Alec Katz.
"He's a genius in harmony, and he showed me his technique, which is basically the same method as [iconic now 84-year-old pianist] Barry Harris.
I really got into jazz piano, and I practiced for hours every day," he says.
The youngster soon began to put theory into real time practice and started to accumulate some street cred.
"When I was 16 I started playing all sorts of gigs around Tel Aviv," he recalls.
Naturally, most of his bandstand colleagues were much older than he was, so he could glean from their experience.
"I played with [trumpeter and saxophonist] Mamelo [Gaitanopoulos] and [saxophonist] Jess Koren – all the older guys. Mamelo really brought me up. I met him through my dad, and all sorts of people heard about me through my dad," he recounts.
Eventually, Ladin began playing with musicians closer to his own age and played at places such as Tel Aviv avant-garde jazz venue Hagada Hasmalit.
"My first trio was with [bassist] Avri Borochov and [drummer] Yonatan Rosen. We played at Hagada Hasmalit around 2005 or 2006," notes Ladin. "We didn't play together again for many years – in fact, until a few months ago. It was then I realized how well they know me and how much I enjoy playing with them in a trio format," he says.
Although the piano normally takes the lead role in such trios, Ladin says he doesn’t have a leadership complex.
"I always liked to play as a sideman.
I like to accompany other artists.
Herbie Hancock and Wynton Kelly, when they started out, were mainly sidemen," he says.
That may explain why Ladin is not, for now at least, one of the better- known members of the sizable Israeli jazz community in New York.
He moved to the Big Apple six years ago and attended the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in Manhattan.
Ladin made the most of his time at the school, electing to extramural tuition with the likes of octogenarian alto saxophone player Lee Konitz, who is due to perform at this year's Red Sea Jazz Festival in Eilat.
Coincidentally, Ladin will follow up his Beer and Jazz in the Capital gig with a sideman berth in American saxophonist Dayna Stephens's show in Eilat.
Ladin credits Konitz with helping him develop his approach to music.
"Lee told me to play what I sing, and don't sing what you play. That has stayed with me. It was a very important lesson for me," says the Israeli.
Bassist William Parker also left his mark on Ladin's learning curve.
"He told me to sit by the piano and to play in silence, without touching the keys. That helped me connect with my inner feelings and thoughts," he reveals.
So when can we expect to see Ladin's debut release? He doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to make his mark as a leader.
"I think it will be soon, certainly some time in 2015," he declares. "I have written hundreds of compositions.
I'll get around to it when I'm ready." For tickets and more information about Beer and Jazz in the Capital: (02) 624-1041 and www.jmc.co.il
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