The Mason-Dixon line never rocked like this

It's no secret that striking differences between the northern and southern ends of Tel Aviv exist.

clubbing 88 (photo credit:)
clubbing 88
(photo credit: )
It's no secret that striking differences between the northern and southern ends of Tel Aviv exist. Despite the development of certain southern quarters, such as Florentin, the big bucks are still found north of Gordon Street, in swanky environs like Tzahala. The socioeconomic divide is also reflected in the décor, atmosphere, and choice of entertainment offered by two music locales on opposite sides. The Zappa Club in the northern reaches of Ramat Hahayal, with its gleaming high-tech office buildings, offers a cabaret style milieu where up to 250 patrons can be ensconced around tables, or seated by the bar, while feasting on a sumptuous repast and a wide range of musical entertainment, from top draw foreign jazz acts, such as octogenarian saxophonist Yusef Lateef, to top local poppers and rockers: Aviv Geffen and Shalom Hanoch. The club also has standing room only shows, with space for up to 600. Meanwhile 200-capacity Levontin 7, located on Levontin Street near the less fashionable southern end of Allenby Street, exudes the air of an archetypal underground New York music joint. In any given month you can catch around 70 shows there by avant-garde jazz artists, experimental folk bands, classical music, hip-hop, ethnic ensembles, electronica, and reggae. Nevertheless, both clubs have found a winning formula. Zappa opened its doors four years ago this month and Levontin 7 is celebrating its second anniversary. Neither establishment displays any signs of slowing down. "We knew it wouldn't be easy," admits 39-year-old free jazz saxophonist and Levontin 7 co-owner Assif Tsahar. "We never dreamed it would be so successful. But here we are, two years down the road and doing well." Tsahar came onto the scene from the outside. Prior to joining fellow club owners Daniel Sarid - a jazz pianist who cut his management teeth at the Hagadah Hasmalit alternative music venue - and feted classical conductor Ilan Volkov, Tsahar worked on the free music scene in New York for 16 years. True to his artistic ethos, Tsahar says the club has evolved exponentially. "We really go with the flow. We never dreamt we'd have a festival here with [American Jewish radical music leader] John Zorn." Local talent constantly surprises him, "We are still learning the scene, but there are lots of quality young musicians, as well as the older ones. [Singer-songwriter and HaBanot Nehama band member] Yael Deckelbaum has been performing at the club since the first month, and we had [Arab oud player-vocalist] Samir Makhoul here recently. It's all good stuff and I think we've galvanized the local scene by giving artists a stage, with great sound equipment." Levontin 7 has a ground floor bar and is about to open a café next door, celebrates its second birthday on July 6 with a rich and eclectic roster of acts starting from 8 p.m. Admission is free. Zappa, apropos the national economy, isn't exactly struggling either. But, in such times, mixing and matching is often the secret to success. In the coming month, for example, the Zappa Club will host veteran Israeli alternative rock band Minimal Compact, soft rocker Rami Kleinstein, and stellar U.S. jazz-funky bass guitarist Stanley Jordan. And in mid-July, the Zappa enterprise will spread its wings when it takes over the former Camelot Club in Herzliya. North or south it seems the Tel Aviv music is still swinging hard and fast. For more information: www.zappa-club.co.il and www.levontin.com