Late blossoming song

After the challenges and successes of a ‘regular’ life, Adina Even-Zohar has, over the last few years, devoted herself to her first passion of singing.

September 13, 2011 23:12
Adina Even Zohar

Adina Even Zohar 311. (photo credit: Courtesy of Adina Evan-Zohar)

Sir Humphrey, that most cunningly obsequious of British civil servants in the 1980s hit BBC satirical sitcom Yes Minister would, no doubt, have described the release of Adina Even-Zohar’s debut album, at the ripe old age of 55, as an event happening “in the fullness of time.”

But, as any musician will tell you, it’s all about the timing, especially in Even-Zohar’s chosen line of musical exploration, jazz. This Thursday the Israeli-born, New York-bred singer, who came back here to live in 1977, will mark the completion of her first professional recording with a private launch party in Tel Aviv.

The name of the CD says it all – For the First Time (in a long time) – and it took a while until Even-Zohar discovered her love for improvisational music and freed up the time and mindset to give it her all.

“I grew up listening mostly to classical music,” she says.

“As a kid in New York I was always going to concerts and operas and the ballet, and that was pretty much the music I was exposed to, except for the rock and roll I’d listen to in my bedroom, and there was a little bit of Frank Sinatra.”

Eventually, however, Even-Zohar began graduating towards Broadway musicals, like Fiddler on the Roof and Jesus Christ Superstar.

The latter, in particular, provided her with some added informative value.

“I learned everything I know about Christianity from that musical,” she laughs.

“There’s a line in it when Jesus is taken to [Roman ruler of Judea] Pontius Pilate which runs ‘I wash my hands of your demolition’ and many years later I took a tour of the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem and the guide said ‘this is where Pontius Pilate said I wash my hands of your demolition,’ and I realized that what they said in the musical was really true!” In fact, Even-Zohar’s first choice of profession, had she been given free rein, would have been acting. However her mother didn’t think acting was a job for a nice Jewish girl so she ended up studying sociology at university and decided to take a year off in Israel before continuing on to a graduate degree.

The gap year has yet to end, and Even-Zohar didn’t exactly take the easy road into Israeli society either.

“I never went back to New York and I began working as a social worker in the prison system here. That was an ‘interesting’ introduction to life in this country.”

Marriage, three kids, a four-year hiatus in Silcon Valley and divorce followed in succession.

“It may be a cliché, but the kids had grown up, there was more time and a little bit more money and, when it seemed everything was great, things started falling apart,” Even- Zohar recalls.

“I remember looking at my teenage daughter and thinking about myself at that age, just leaving high school, and feeling the whole world was waiting for me and everything was possible. Then I thought that if I were dying what would I regret, and the answer was that I never tried to become a singer or an actress.”

ONCE HER mind was set the world truly became her oyster. She had also started to get into jazz.

“I was drawn to the flow of it, and the improvisational side and the fact that you can really bring a lot of yourself to it.”

She soon got in touch with a voice coach with whom she struck an immediate rapport.

“I went to see her and she told me to lie down on the floor. I thought, what has this to do with singing? This isn’t breathing or scales. But I felt a wave of water wash over me and I thought, if this is what it’s going to feel like I don’t care what it is, I’m just going to keep it.”

A year later Even-Zohar took the plunge. “At some stage you just have to do it, so I arranged a show in my own home.” The initial gig was a happy occasion for all concerned and she began plying her newly found skills at venues up and down the country.

“I slowly began expanding my repertoire and I tried to play in as many places as possible,” she says.

“I liked singing stuff from the 1960s and ‘70s – like Carole King, Carly Simon, Otis Redding – a mixed bag. Now I can pull out of my hat almost anything I want. The CD has mostly jazz standards on it.” Even-Zohar also provided the lyrics for the title track.

Even-Zohar still goes to the same voice coach and now she has a CD to her name. For the First Time (in a long time) is a highly professional venture with a top-notch cast of instrumentalists, including Israeli keyboardist Adi Rennert, French double bass player Diego Imbert and French drummer André Ceccarelli, and stellar Israeli saxophonist Eli Degibri, and also features Israeli guitarist Amos Hoffman and Brazilian-born Israeli percussionist Joca Perpignan. Add to that the name of acclaimed producer Luis Lahav and you get quite a team.

“To tell you the truth when someone suggested Luis I had no idea who he was,” Even- Zohar confides.

“It was only later I realized what a big name he is, and that he’d worked with all those great musicians.”

During a furlough in the states, Lahav helped to produce Bruce Springsteen’s first records and, in this country, has worked with the likes of Arik Einstein, Shmulik Krauss, Danny Litani and Tamuz.

It may have taken Even-Zohar a while to get there but, at least, in terms of her vocal prowess and musical sensibilities, she has hit the jazz road running.

For more info about Adina Even-Zohar:

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