At first glance it seems a bit of a stretch to equate the music of one of our
iconic Russian-born songsmiths with the work of two of the foremost African
American figures of the jazz world but Nitzan Kramer evidently believes there is
a strong connection between the work of Sasha Argov and the jazz standards of
legendary pianist-composer-bandleader Duke Ellington and his longtime sidekick
pianist-composer-arranger Billy Strayhorn.
Kramer is the artistic
director of the three-show jazz series taking place at Tel Aviv’s Reading 3
venue this summer.
First up, on July 13, is 36-year-old Italian
clarinetist Nico Gori who performed here a couple of years ago, at the Opera
House, together with compatriot pianist Stefano Bollani with – surprise,
surprise – a program of jazz workings of Argov tunes. Gori obviously enjoyed the
experience and, like Kramer, sees expansive common ground between Argov,
Ellington and Strayhorn.
In fact, Gori confesses that the latter were not
his first choice avenue of attack for his July 13 here.
“I first thought
of mixing Argov’s tunes with the music of [Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos]
Jobim, but then I realized that the connection between Argov and Strayhorn and
Ellington is even stronger, that they are closer in spirit. I recognized
something in the music of Sasha Argov that is similar to the music of Ellington
and Strayhorn, although there are many differences too.”
program includes a Gori blend of Strayhorn’s ballad “Lotus Blossom” with the
Argov song “The Purple Dress,” which, incidentally, Gori performed here with
Bollani although with a different approach.
“I also take Argov pop songs
and change them into jazz but, I stress, with the greatest respect for the
original material,” Gori explains.
“If you have a sad song talking about
sad things you cannot change it into jazz and play it in a happy way. My
arrangements do not change the basic original song.”
Even so, Gori is
completely cognizant of the fact that he does not share much cultural baggage
“His music is not of my generation and I do not come from
Israel or Israeli culture,” he notes.
“I will just try to put across my
point of view.” The clarinetist is bringing a heavyweight Italian band with him
for the occasion, including longtime collaborator pianist Dado Moroni, bass
player Marco Panascia and drummer Enzo Zirilli.
If, however, we bear in
mind that jazz evolved in the multicultural melting pot of New Orleans the
Argov-Ellington- Strayhorn crossover does not seem too far-fetched.
think about the melodies,” Gori continues.
“If you think of the great
melodies of Ellington and Strayhorn, they have a lot in common with lots of
other melodies, like the ones Argov wrote. I changed the tempo of [Strayhorn
composition] ‘Take the A Train’ so that the atmosphere is different but the song
is the same.”
DESPITE, AS Gori says, belonging to a very different
generation and epoch than those of his featured composers Gori got a good early
grounding in the music and its roots.
“I started playing the clarinet
when I was 6 years old, and I played in my town’s marching band,” he
That was followed by some solid classical training at the music
conservatory in Florence, with Gori graduating at the tender age of 16. He also
spread his wings instrumentally, learning piano and saxophone and joining an
orchestra which performed in Italy and Switzerland.
Gori’s hands on
interest in jazz began when he was 14, and he also earned a crust playing more
“I played with pop bands, and also mazurkas and tangos.
I played a lot with Italian pop singers but my first love was jazz.”
latter was sparked by Gori’s father.
“He was an amateur clarinetist and
he loved [iconic jazz clarinet player] Benny Goodman. When I was 7 or 8 my
father gave me a Benny Goodman record. I had never heard anything like that.
From that moment I thought I had to become a very good clarinet player, and I
think I have done that.”
Gori’s jazz trajectory was further enhanced when
he got into the music of legendary saxophonist John Coltrane.
that was a revolution in the way I approached the music,” he says. “I learned a
lot from that.”
In fact, Gori found his own way through the discipline in
his first years as a professional jazz musician, although he eventually resorted
to more conventional educational means.
“I taught myself, and I only took
some formal lessons in jazz when I was 27. I felt I needed to know more so I
took a threeyear diploma in jazz, and I have never stopped studying since
That has been borne out by Gori’s studio and concert work which
includes synergies with the likes of trumpeter Tom Harrell and pianist Fred
Hersch, as well as four albums as leader in the past decade.
“I like lots
of different kinds of jazz, and I enjoy Argov’s music very much,” says the
“I hope the audience in Tel Aviv enjoys what I do with
it.”For tickets: 03-7624000 and www.reading3.co.il