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Aficionados take note. Israel is host to a number of successful jazz festivals, but a new event is coming that aims to bring the best international and local stars to the holy city: the first annual Jerusalem Jazz Festival, scheduled to run from June 19-22.
Supported in part by the Jerusalem Foundation, the Municipality of Jerusalem and the Caesarea Foundation, the four day event features performances, master classes and jam sessions held in well-known locations around the city, including the old train station compound, the Cinemateque and the rooftops of Mishkenot Sha'ananim.
The festival is the brainchild of Atcha Bar, the director of the popular Jerusalem night-spot the Yellow Submarine and an accomplished jazz guitarist in his own right. The artistic director is Barry Davis, a music writer for this newspaper as well as the Israel correspondent for Down Beat, the venerable American magazine chronicling the jazz world. Together they have lined-up an impressive mix of American traditionalists, European innovators and young Israeli players.
Scheduled artists include: Cuban-American drummer Ignacio Berroa and his Quartet featuring Grammy Award winning saxophonist David Sanchez, stellar NYC-based pianist Geri Allen; a quartet led by legendary bop drummer Louis Hayes and trombonist Curtis Fuller, jazz singer and five time Grammy nominee Nnenna Freelon, free-jazz trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, Dutch avant-garde saxophonist Mete Erker, British pianist/composer Richard Fairhurst, and Paris-based trumpet player Damon Brown.
The local talent is represented by Avi Lebovich and his Orchestra, Ladino singer Odelia Dahan and the Yellow Submarine Ensemble, jazz/funk/world fusionists Hagiga and Jerusalemite pianist Avi Adrian and his trio.
Many top Israeli jazz musicians will also be leading the late-night jam sessions at the Yellow Submarine, which are scheduled to take place after the main concerts and will be free of charge.
With more and more international performers coming to Israel, the time seems right for a new event that brings top-quality artists to the capital, and according to Bar, not one of the musicians contacted expressed reservations about making an appearance. The Jerusalem Jazz Festival does face some stiff competition however: the World Cup, the Israel Festival and an appearance by former Pink Floyd front-man Roger Waters. But Bar is upbeat about its prospects: "We are already planning for 2007."
For a complete schedule, visit www.jjf.org.il.