Over the years our musicians have been quite adept at creating multistratified tapestries of sounds and textures. Considering the breadth of cultural baggage in this country that’s a perfectly natural development. What is surprising is that groups keep on emerging that, somehow, manage to find a new take on the multitude of styles and genres that flow through this stretch of the Middle East.
One of the new crop goes by the catchy name of Mosaico.
“I liked the name because of the connotation of the mosaic,” says pianist Dvir Sadeh. He got that bang-on.
The quartet has just put out its debut album, Loess, and is in the process of presenting the finished the product to the general public, with a slew of gigs lined up in the near future. First up is a show at Gula in Petah Tikva this Saturday (9:30 p.m.), followed by a slot at Hamazkeka in Jerusalem (July 15, 9:30 p.m.), a free gig at Halal in Tel Aviv on July 18, and a show at Pub Hapina at Hamadia, north of Beit She’an, on July 27 (9 p.m.).
In addition to Sadeh, the foursome includes percussionist Shimri Achiam, double bass player Dror Tubul and Liav Baruch who plays oud and hang, and contributes vocals to a couple of numbers. Baruch and Sadeh are the principal partners in creative crime, and wrote all the scores, with the arrangements credited to Mosaico Ensemble and internationally renowned pianist Nitai Hershkovits, who also produced the record and played Fender Rhodes on one number.
“Nitai had a crucial role in how the CD turned out,” notes Baruch, adding that some of the band members had something of a rude awakening.
“I was prepared for the fact that Nitai was going to bring his own ideas, and that they may not necessarily be in sync with mine. But that’s why you get a producer, to add something to what you bring to the table. It was a bit challenging at times, but it worked out really well.”
At first glimpse, Sadeh and Baruch don’t appear to be natural bedfellows.
The former is tall, bespectacled and religious, while Baruch is heavier set, impressively hirsute and clearly secular. They also come from pretty different musical beginnings.
Baruch was born and grew up in Ma’aleh Efraim in the Jordan Valley and was exposed to a rich and varied spread of musical styles as a kid.
Meanwhile, Sadeh grew up in the southern Mount Hebron region with very little in the way of musical horizon- expanding opportunities.
“My grandfather had a piano which I’d bang away on at any opportunity and at school I was always sneaking out of class to play on the piano in the corridor there,” says Sadeh.
The youngster’s persistence eventually paid off when he got his parents to buy him a piano, but the artistic growth problems were not over yet. Sadeh even got himself a piano teacher who, it seems, missed an important part of the boy’s tuition.
“I was lazy and I didn’t bother looking to read notes,” he recalls.
“I’d listen to the teacher when she showed me how to play the piece and I’d play it from memory.”
Sadeh’s musical world eventually opened up, incrementally, when he began attending the Kinor David arts yeshiva high school.
“I met other students who’d listened to pop and rock and all kinds of things I didn’t even know existed,” he explains. “I learned so much from the teachers and the other students.
It was amazing for me. Before that I’d only known about classical music and old-time Israeli songs.”
Sadeh soon got up to speed.
“I began playing rock and pop and all kinds of things – jamming, playing in shows and also writing music.”
He’d finally learned to read charts.
“I knew I wanted to be a musician from then.”
Baruch underwent a similar musical epiphany when he relocated from his cozy rural surroundings to the Kefar Hayarok boarding school in north Tel Aviv, at the age of 15.
“It was tough to begin with, being away from my family, but I was determined to stick it out,” he says. “I’d grown up surrounded by music and I started playing guitar when I was about 13 – Beatles, Led Zeppelin, that sort of thing – but I realized I needed to make more progress.”
Like Sadeh, Baruch’s musical parameters were stretched appreciably by his educational relocation and his eventual exposure to Arabic music.
“That happened toward the end of my army service, around the age of 20,” he recalls. “I bought an oud and I took some lessons with [veteran oud player and violinist] Yair Dalal.”
While both Baruch and Sadeh had made strides they felt they needed to take their artistic expertise several steps further. Both duly enrolled at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, and the rest is history.
“Initially, I didn’t really mark out Dvir as someone I would become friends with, we are very different in many ways, but, today, all of us in the band are very close friends.”
The die was cast one day shortly after the start of the first school year.
“I remember Liav was in a room playing a number by [internationally acclaimed Israeli jazz bassist] Avishai Cohen. I like Avishai’s music too, and I knew the number, so I just sat down at the piano and we jammed together. It felt right, to both of us.”
The two become fast friends and close musical collaborators and the idea of putting a band together eventually emerged. Achiam was a childhood friend of Baruch’s, and that was a seamless shoo-in, although it took a while to fill the bass spot.
“We looked for a bass player for a year or so, and I asked my teacher if he knew anyone, and he recommended Dror,” Baruch says. It proved to be a good tip. “We met at a cafeteria in the university and I could tell straightaway, just from the way he was talking, that it was going to work with him. Later we played a few pieces, with the others too, and that was that.”
While Sadeh primarily feeds off classical and jazz music, he also embraces ethnic music, as does Baruch. That, and more, comes through in Loess. The numbers are often mellifluously melodic.
“I think you should come away humming after you hear something,” Sadeh observes. “I think if you can’t hum it isn’t worth much.”
Not that Sadeh and Baruch are against less mainstream ventures.
“Actually, we played far more avant garde-oriented stuff to begin with.
Somehow we shifted to more lyrical material.”
The band’s audiences up and down the country should enjoy an evening of ear-caressing and heartstring-pulling entertainment over the next couple of months, although Sadeh says things may change in the not too distant future.
“We might get into electronics, and that sort of thing, for the next album. We’ll see how things pan out.”
For tickets: Gula: *9066, Hapina: (072) 888-1164, Hamazkeka: www.eventer.co.il/user/hamazkeka.