While “groovy” may be considered by many under the age of, say, 50 to be just one of those old “hippie” words that were just so “hip” back in the 1960s, time lapse notwithstanding, Adam Waldmann does not have any objections to the epithet. The Jewish British saxophonist is a member of the Kairos4tet jazz band, which will make its corporeal and sonic presence felt in this country for the first time with a single gig at the Zappa Club in Tel Aviv on October 19 (doors open at 7 p.m., show starts 9 p.m.).
For the occasion, Waldmann and original band members bassist Jasper Holby and pianist Ivo Neame will be joined by Dutch vocalist Fridolijn van Poll and our very own young jazz drummer Ofri Nehemya, who will deputize for the band’s regular time keeper Jon Scott.
“I’d say groove is a pretty important part of what we do,” notes Waldmann. “Our bass player Jasper Holby is really into playing grooves. But we try not to do things by half measures. If I write something sad, I want it to feel really sad. And if we want to play something with a groove, we’ll get stuck in as much as we can.”
That comes across loud and clear from the band’s three albums to date: Kairos Moment, which came out in 2010; Statement of Intent, which came out the following year and brought Waldmann and his colleagues that year’s prestigious MOBO for Best Jazz Act; and the most recent offering, Everything We Hold.
“When we play groove-based music, we’d like to get people moving a bit,” says Waldmann.
Judging by some of the cuts on Everything We Hold, the Zappa Club audience will find it difficult to sit still.
There is also a romantic element to the Kairos4tet output.
“I’d say there are some influences from some classical Romantic composers,” the reedman continues, “but we try not to step over the line too much. I guess I am also very inspired by a lot of songwriters, as well as jazz musicians, and I think that comes through, too.” Waldmann takes the genre very seriously.
“I have studied a lot of song forms and the history of song in its various guises.”
The lineup on Everything We Hold includes a string quartet.
Interestingly, the sax player does not come from an orderly classical background, although he was exposed to the genre.
“I didn’t study classical music,” he says.
“I went to music college and we listened to classical music, but there was never any formal study. My father is a big fan of Chopin, so that was always in the background when I was growing up. I guess it all kind of merges into something.”
It certainly does, and the confluence of all Waldmann’s multifarious influences and the input of his music-making cohorts make for captivating listening that should appeal to music fans of many different stripes in this country.
Everything We Hold incorporates sensibilities from numerous avenues of musical expression, from classical music to folk, and there are also four vocal tracks on the album. Interestingly, Waldmann’s score for two of those numbers fed off lyrics written by a pal from his high school days, actor Rupert Friend of Homeland fame, while the duo worked the other way around on the other two with the music preceding the words.
In addition to his official college studies, Waldmann extended his educational boundaries with some extramural tuition, which included a spell with groundbreaking Dutch saxophonist Yuri Honing.
“I learned a lot from him,” says the British player. “It could be trying to play outside the theme and trying to make it sound inside or vice versa.”
Waldmann also learned a lesson about being in the moment and going with the contemporary energy flow.
“Yuri also talked about trying to reflect the times you’re living in and not just to focus on what you do naturally well. Yuri is a big influence on me,” he says.
Honing and his quartet put in a highly successful appearance at the 2013 Winter Red Sea Jazz Festival.
As the band’s website explains, kairos is an ancient Greek word meaning “the right or opportune moment.” For Waldmann, being in the here and now is much more than just a Zen-like musical state of mind.
“All the songs of the [latest] album are about different relationships, and ‘Song for the Open Road’ is about one’s relationship with their environment,” he notes. “We needed a voice that was sort of lived in and wise.”
The said vocals came from soul singer Omar Lye-Fook, whose contribution to the British music industry was recognized by Queen Elizabeth II when she awarded him an MBE (Member of the British Empire) in 2012.
Most of all, Waldmann says he is drawn to the vibe and mutually inspiring format of the working band.