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One of the more intriguing items at this year's Israel Festival features pop-rock singer, songwriter and pianist Ariel Horowitz as part of the Hatav Hashimini pop-rock series at the Jerusalem Theater on May 28.
Thirty-seven year-old Horowitz came to notice in 1998 when he put out his first album on the Helicon label, Yalla Bye. At the time, much was made of the fact that Horowitz's mother was none other than legendary singer/songwriter Naomi Shemer. The "son of" tag was further compounded by the fact that Shlomo Artzi's son, Ben, also released his debut offering around the same time. Suddenly, the music publications and the entertainment sections of the leading nationals were awash with "second generation" profiles.
While eager to shake off the familial connection - at least in professional terms - Horowitz says he has no problems with the genetic context. "I am very proud that I am Naomi Shemer's son," he declares. "But I am also, and mainly, my own person, and an artist in my own right."
And Horowitz has certainly put his money where his mouth is since Yalla Bye. Two more CDs followed in which he explored numerous areas of music. You could never accuse Horowitz of attempting to follow the Galgalatz trail to instant stardom and market-oriented consumer friendly products.
"The one artist who has influenced me more than anyone is Costello," he says. Needless to say, the gentleman in question is British rocker Elvis Costello and not one half of the 1930s and 1940s slapstick duo Abbot and Costello. "Costello did practically everything, from pop to rock, punk and jazz," Horowitz continues. "I don't do punk, but I do everything else, including a bit of avant garde and intellectual rock."
Horowitz writes all his own material, and provides others with his songwriting services too. While he wouldn't mind drawing the kind of audiences that attend the shows of the likes of Aviv Geffen and Artzi Sr., he has always stuck to his artistic guns. "I never compromise when it comes to music," he says. "Of course I'd like to be a millionaire but you have to stay true to yourself. That's far more important for me."
His altruistic ethos also led to a change of record company. "I recorded my first two albums with Helicon, but when I brought them my third one - Menasseh Sefer - they said it was too refined and they wanted me to rewrite the songs. That wasn't right for me so I made the album with Barbi Records. It's very important to retain artistic freedom and integrity." A fourth album is due out soon on Hatav Hashmini.
HOROWITZ'S THREE albums to date indeed cover expansive terrain. Some of Horowitz's early classical training comes through in snippets, and there is the occasional glimpse of other early influences like the Beatles, Pink Floyd and jazz superstar pianist Keith Jarrett. But typically, Horowitz followed his very own learning curve. "My mother sent me to study classical piano with Daniel Barenboim's mother," he recalls. "I lasted a year with her. Ever since, I've been my own teacher."
Besides the music, Horowitz has made a name for himself as one of the sharper lyricists on the contemporary music scene. His penchant for textual calisthenics was keenly enhanced when an army buddy introduced him to the works of late legendary poet-singer songwriter Meir Ariel. "Meir was amazing," says Horowitz. "There's never been anyone quite like him, with the ability to mold words."
Horowitz also has a romantic side to him, and that will be evident on May 28 when he includes some material from the forthcoming release at his Jerusalem Theater gig. "The new album will have influences from [French chansonier] George Brassens. I like the storytelling side of music, and Brassens was one of the best around."
Does Horowitz think the new album will boost pan-market appeal? "Meir Ariel once said a clever thing - 'Success is like a bird that flies high in the sky, and sometimes it craps on you.' I move around a lot so, you never know, maybe that bird will hit me sometime."
Ariel Horowitz will perform at the Jerusalem Theater on May 28 at 8:30 p.m.