Gilad Abro seems to be everywhere. Whenever a foreign luminary of the jazz world
comes over, sans regular group, 32-year-old Abro is generally the bass player of
Despite his relative youth, Abro has been on the scene a long
time. “I started working at the age of 17, and I had regular gigs by the age of
19,” he says.
“It was a great honor to play with people who were much
older than me. People like [veteran bass player and senior Jerusalem Academy of
Music and Dance staff member] Michael Klinghoffer influenced me
In the latter’s case the impact was of a wider educational
nature, rather than just helping to move Abro’s musical development along in the
“Michael is such a positive person and he performs
without an ego,” Abro notes. “He plays with everyone, together, you know with
everyone all in the same boat, but without anyone trying to grab the
Klinghoffer’s positive, sunny disposition seems to have
rubbed off on Abro. In addition to the sounds and rhythms he produces on bass,
Abro exudes an unrestrained sense of bonhomie and joy.
He puts his whole
heart, body and soul into his work, and it provides for a captivating and
Abro is a great believer in spreading the good word,
and putting it out there for the benefit of all and sundry. “There is room for
everyone,” he declares. “If you look at the world’s great artists, not just in
music, you get a sense of their humility. They are all constantly learning. And
there is always something to learn.”
I caught up with Abro as this year’s
Jazzahead international jazz showcase in Bremen, Germany, where he performed in
the high-energy experimental LayerZ trio, along with guitarist Yonatan Albalak
and drummer Aviv Cohen.
“You have to go with the flow,” says Abro. He,
Albalak and Cohen certainly did that on the night in Bremen, as did the audience
at the singular Schlachthof venue.
Despite his youthful entry to the
world of professional musicianship, in fact, Abro began his musical path
relatively late. “I started playing bass guitar when I was 16, which isn’t too
early at all,” he notes.
It was a saxophonist who pulled him into the
word of jazz.
“I heard Joshua Redman and that was it for me,” he recalls.
“That really got me into jazz.”
In fact, Abro had been hankering for a
bona fide musical instrument of his own for quite a while and, when it finally
materialized, he was good and ready.
“As I didn’t have a guitar I’d
‘play’ on a tennis racket, doing all the fingering and chords to heavy metal and
stuff by bands like Guns & Roses and Metallica,” he recalls. “I’d invite
friends round to watch the ‘show.’ When I got my first bass guitar I already
knew how to play it.”
With his first bass guitar finally in his hands
Abro could get right down to the real deal. Mind you, he took a somewhat
unconventional approach to the instrument. “I played it upright, like an
acoustic bass,” he says. “I really wanted a double bass.”
happened but, meanwhile, Abro threw himself into honing his playing skills. “I
used to practice every day, for seven hours a day. I used to go to shows by
other bass players, like Avishai Cohen and Omer Avital, and I really liked [US
bassist] Larry Grenadier. Grenadier does magic stuff.”
Steve Swallow, Bill Frisell and John Scofield also feature in Abro’s
inspirational guitarist lineup.
Many of our top jazz artists relocate to
New York to further their academic and street level musical education, where it
really matters, at the epicenter of the jazz world, but not Abro. The bassist
says that instead of moving Stateside he manages to experience something of the
Big Apple scene in his own way.
“I play abroad a lot, and have worked
with so many amazing musicians there and also in Israel. I played with the great
[late iconic saxophonist] Johnny Griffin, and also with [now 83 year old
drummer] Jimmy Cobb.”
The latter, who played with Miles Davis on the
milestone 1959 record Kind of Blue, the biggest selling jazz album of all time,
boosted Abro’s confidence no end when they played together here.
playing a solo, and he turned towards me, smiled and just grunted. It was a
grunt of approval.
That was really special. It was a magical gig for me
and everyone else in the band.”
Abro feels he is getting along just fine,
even without doing time in New York.
“I believe strongly in my
musicianship. Some musicians feel you need to get something from New York, to
make you a better jazz player. I think that, because I get the opportunity to
play with all these great players from America, to some extent I am aware of
what’s happening over there.”
But Abro prefers to plot his own course
through the creative minefield. “I think I would rather play and develop my own
music than be in New York and be the sideman of this or that well known
It is a bit strange for a bass player to say that, because I
always want to play with other people but, at the end of the day, you have to
play your own music, and that’s what I am trying to do with the [LayerZ] trio
and other things. It is your own music.
In the final analysis, that
endures. That’s the really important thing.”
And Abro is currently in the
process of sharing his best work with the rest of the world.
looking for a label to put out the trio CD,” he says. “The material has been
around for a while, and we recorded the tracks a few times because I wanted to
make sure we got the right sound, and that we were getting the best out of
ourselves. I believe that, if you do your best it will work, and people will get
what you’re doing.”