According to Amit Golan, the Israeli jazz scene is bursting with burgeoning and blooming health. The pianist will put his money where his mouth is this Saturday at the Stricker Conservatory of Music in Tel Aviv, when he takes the stage along with New York trumpeter Joe Magnarelli and a local quintet. The repertoire will be largely based on Golan's hard bop compositions, with a couple of standards thrown in.
"We have some amazing jazz players in this country today," enthuses Golan. As a longtime teacher at various arts and music educational establishments here, he should know what he's talking about. "The level of jazz artistry is rising all the time. I have taught at the Thelma Yellin School of the Arts, at Stricker and at the Tel Aviv City High School, and I can tell you, we're in good shape as far as jazz in concerned."
The forthcoming gig will feature several graduates of the local jazz education system. "I have taught [bass player] Gilad Abro and [drummer] Doron Tirosh, and they are top-notch," Golan continues. The rest of the Israeli lineup includes tenor sax player Assaf Uria, baritone saxophonist Eden Bareket and tenor saxophonist Lior Peterstein. However, the jewel in the crown will be Magnarelli, who appeared in the recent Hot Jazz series at the Tel Aviv Museum. "Joe is one of the best hard bop trumpeters around today," says Golan. "It's wonderful to have him on board."
The hard bop style developed in the early Fifties, following the advent of modern jazz in the form of bebop. Early leaders of the hard bop style - an earthier and more rawly energized strain of modern jazz than its immediate predecessor - included the likes of trumpeter Clifford Brown, drummer Art Blakey and pianist Horace Silver. The latter two are personal idols of Golan's. "Those guys really put it out," he says. "Hard bop was less cerebral than bebop. Those guys were saying, 'We are black and proud of it.' There's a real groove and blues base to it."
Golan certainly isn't taking the easy route either. Rather than follow a more populist musical route, favored by the likes of bass player Avishai Cohen - who now regularly tours the world - and the Third World Love quartet (which comprises three Ã©migrÃ© Israelis and one American), Golan sticks to the jazz straight and narrow.
"I can't do that stuff. My heart and soul are in hard bop, and not in world music-oriented material," he declares. "It was tough putting together my own compositions for this concert, but it's good to break away from the jazz standards and play my own material. There are some demanding harmonic progressions in there, and it is going to interesting to see the way the guys improvise on them."
Golan feels Israeli jazz musicians have something of an advantage on their American counterparts. "The older American jazz players heard Frank Sinatra and [swing jazz artist Tommy] Dorsey, but we didn't grow up on that. That gives a fresh viewpoint on the whole discipline which we can use to good advantage. I'm sure being an Israeli, and having different cultural baggage, comes into my work somewhere."
That should be evident at the Stricker Conservatory this Saturday night at 9.
Reservations can be made by calling (03) 546-6228.