Budding Israeli jazz musicians have been relocating to New York in droves for
two decades now, with varying degrees of success. Some, such as bassists Avishai
Cohen and Omer Avital, trombonist Avi Lebovich and pianist Anat Fort, have left
their mark on the New York and global jazz scene, while others continue to
maintain a busy yet lower-profile working agenda.
Shauli Einav is one of
the more promising Israeli jazz artists to have hit the Big Apple in recent
years. The 28-year-old Jerusalem-born saxophonist moved to the capital of the
jazz world two and half years ago, after completing a master’s degree at the
Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. On February 16 (at 10:30 p.m.),
he will be here to show us just how far he has taken his craft to date, with a
performance at the Tel Aviv Jazz Festival.
Most of the concert will be
based on Einav’s new CD, Opus One
, which came out on the French label Plus Loin
Music at the beginning of the year. In fact, it is Einav’s second release,
although he refers to it as his real debut offering. “The first album [Home
] was a recording I made while I was at university. It was a self-produced
CD that was distributed mostly in Israel and a little bit in Upstate New York in
the area around Eastman. It served as a kind of calling card and got me to a few
places, like the Tel Aviv Jazz Festival and Red Sea Jazz Festival in 2008. But
it wasn’t big-time at all. I call this second recording Opus One
because I do
believe that it’s my first major work.
And I think it reflects the
progress that I’ve made since finishing school and finding my way in such a
competitive and hard place as New York City.”
Challenging as it may be to
gain a solid perch in the New York jazz scene, Einav already had several years
of hard-earned grounding behind him. Prior to his studies at Eastman, Einav
earned a bachelor’s degree from the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance and,
before that, he imbibed the rudiments of jazz, and much more, from late US-born
saxophonist and teacher Arnie Lawrence, who galvanized the jazz community in
Israel, and specifically in Jerusalem, between his aliya in 1997 and death in
“What I learned from Arnie was to love the sound and to play the
truth. In my tunes, I try to tell the truth. Arnie was tough, and there were no
compromises with him when it came to the music. He brought so much experience to
Israel, and he was a very spiritual man.”
That adherence to purity of
sound comes through loud and clear on Opus One
, which Einav recorded with a
quintet that includes Israeli pianist Shai Maestro. Almost all the tracks were
composed by the 28-year-old leader. “If all you do is play standards, then
there’s no difference between you and a classical musician,” Einav declares.
“What sets you apart from the others is your writing, irrespective of technical
That’s how you get your career going in New York.
Sure, you have to play well but, anyway, you have to be a good player if you’re
going to work in New York.”
Judging by end product, Einav has come a long
way since he put out his first recording.
While Home Seek
was more than a
decent first effort, Opus One
offers more depth.
“A lot has changed in
the meantime,” he observes. “I feel more mature, and being in New York for over
two years has given me a lot. No one knew me when I arrived. I felt I was
starting from the lowest rung on the ladder.
I knew a few Israelis
playing here, but at the end of the day you have to do the work
Interestingly, Israeli jazz artists, such as Paris-based
pianist Yaron Herman, increasingly perform and record versions of Israeli
songbook classics, and Einav is no different.Opus One
delightful rendition of “Hayu Leilot,” although Einav says he took some flak
after a performance of the number at the Red Sea Jazz Festival in Eilat a couple
of years ago. “Someone criticized me for doing that, but I guess we all have our
Considering jazz musicians have been reworking classical
compositions, numbers from musicals, ethnic material and even pop and rock songs
for decades, Einav’s critic is definitely in a minority.
is happy to be coming here with his band to perform cuts off his latest album
and says there will be some new numbers in his Tel Aviv show as well.
am working on the next CD and trying to work out the instrumentation. I like the
idea of a sextet, a septet or even an octet, with lots of horns.”
again, the idea of a smaller ensemble also appeals to him. “I am also thinking
about a quartet, with a guitar, organ and drums. When you’re in a large band,
you can hide behind the other players; but I think maybe it’s time for me stand
out in front on my own.”
Einav certainly makes his voice heard to great
effect on Opus One.For more information about Shauli Einav:
www.shaulimusic.com. For more information about the Tel Aviv Jazz Festival: www.cinema.co.il and (03) 606-0800