Jazz festival 311.
(photo credit: Alaev Singel)
In case anyone out there is wondering about the future of the jazz community in
this country, it appears that there is no cause for alarm and, indeed, plenty of
reasons to be upbeat.
This evening, a four-day jazz ensemble marathon
will kick off at the Shablul Club in Tel Aviv. The purveyors of the live music
comprise several dozen students of the Center for Jazz Studies of The Israel
Conservatory of Music Tel Aviv, their teachers, plus a number of budding
youngsters from the jazz school’s youth program. The program operates in tandem
with New York’s prestigious New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, and
increasing numbers of graduates of the Tel Aviv program end up studying in the
While the students are still quite unknown, there are plenty
of familiar names among the teachers/band leaders.
“We try to get the
best people to teach at the school,” says jazz program director, saxophonist
Erez Bar Noy, “and I think the students get the benefit of their skills and
The list of teachers at the jazz school makes for impressive
reading. Trombonistband leader Avi Lebovich, a former student at The New School,
is on the staff, while pianist Anat Fort – the first Israeli artist to release
an album on preeminent German record label ECM – will be around for the
marathon, as will guitaristoud player Amos Hoffman, pianist Omri Mor, drummer
Shai Zelman and reedman Daniel Zamir.
There is certainly something to be
said for the experience the students gain by accruing some stage time at
Shablul. “This happens once a semester,” says Bar Noy.
“Some of them
already play in all kinds of combos, but the Shablul marathon is an important
event in the study program. The relationship between the performer and
the audience is crucial and, naturally, that is something you have to learn in
Bar Noy says there is some stellar talent in there. “There
are so many good musicians at the school now. Some of the better ones include a
guitarist named Tal Yahalom, a wonderful drummer named Yehonatan Gittelman, and
a couple of vocalists called Dana Hertz and Gaia Feldheim Shor. But we really
have a lot of very promising musicians on the program.”
The marathon will
present a wide range of styles and genres, incorporating straight-ahead jazz
from different periods, music with ethnic touches and even a big band, the
latter orchestrated by veteran saxophonist Yuval Cohen. The more ethnically
inclined side of the marathon program features Hoffman’s Cross Border combo,
which includes nine instrumentalists plus Hertz on vocals.
brought music from all kinds of cultures for this,” explains Bar Noy. “They
arranged a song from [acclaimed Bulgarian female vocal ensemble] The Mystery of
Bulgarian Voices and a Turkish number and one original score. There are some
really exciting things going on there.”
Hoffman trained as a mainstream
jazz guitarist but later added oud to his instrumental arsenal and, naturally,
brings more than just a whiff of the Middle East to his teaching
Bar Noy admits to not being completely au fait with everything
going on at the school and is looking forward to being surprised himself during
the marathon. “There are 14 ensembles that play at the school every week, so I
really can’t keep up with everything that’s going on. It’s a nice problem to
Despite the broad spectrum of genres and subgenres on the Shablul
concert program, Bar Noy says he doesn’t want things to become too extensive.
“Yes, the idea is to delve into different areas of music, but we don’t want to go too
far,” he says.
“We aim to work in two main areas in which we believe we
are very good – jazz and what we call artistic world music. We don’t want to
slip into areas like rock and pop and fusion. Our teachers are all topnotch in
jazz, but we are also good at jazz with local influences, with people like Amos
Hoffman and Daniel Zamir.” The latter has made a name for himself on the Jewish
music-inflected jazz field. “We like to give our teachers free rein on the
musical territory they cover.
We don’t want them to adopt a sort of
robot-like approach and just teach traditional jazz.”
Fort, one of our
top jazz ambassadors around the world, also brings some star quality to the
educational fray. She will oversee the efforts of Music of the Fringe septet at
the marathon. It is an apt name for the band, as it alludes to Fort’s own take
“There is a lot of attention devoted to the quality of the sound
the students produce,” says Bar Noy. “It is a more free approach. There is no
obligation to specific chord progressions or a regular beat. The music is more
open but also more based on pre-planning and being open to ideas that spring up
during the performance.”
The ability to go with the flow demands a degree
of self-confidence and being grounded, both musically and personally. “We make
sure our students are well versed in the roots of jazz, so that isn’t a
problem,” says the jazz program director.
Bar Noy expects the young
musicians and their audiences to enjoy the experience over the four days. “It is
a golden opportunity to hear the jazz stars of tomorrow,” he declares. “We’ve
got some amazing talents in jazz in this country.” Watch this space.Jazz
ensemble marathon at the Shablul Club in Tel Aviv, January 27-30. For tickets: