In the more tender areas of commercial music there is nothing better than a singer songwriter who has mastered the deft art of storytelling. Arkady Duchin has that skill honed to perfection.Mind you, it hasn’t all been soft stuff. The 56-year-old Russian-born vocalist-keyboardist has worked his way through out-and-out rock material, along with the quieter numbers, although his latest album, Digital Crises, is a techno-oriented, electronic affair. Presumably, there will be less of that, and more of the regular Duchin sonic fare in his upcoming four-date Arkady Duchin Winter 2020 Tour, which takes in three dates at Zappa venues: Haifa on February 12, Herzliya on February 13, and Jerusalem on February 27 (doors open 8 p.m., show starts 10 p.m. for all) – and a February 14, 9 p.m. slot at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. The timing first three shows means there will be a romantic, Valentine’s Day sentiment running through the first three concerts, with Amir Benayoun gusting in Herzliya, Rivka Zohar at the museum, and Yonatan Razael in Jerusalem.Duchin is a standout member of the local entertainment scene. Even when he lets rip with a plentiful supply of decibels there is always something tender, almost fragile in his delivery. With his languid looks, and with an almost bashful-looking smile never far from his rotund face, he exudes a sense of the clown spinning out the bittersweet take of his own life story.That may seem a little romanticized in the context of a professional performer who dons an audience-appreciation persona as soon as he steps on the stage. After all, Duchin has been polishing his act for close to four decades and, no doubt, can turn on the little-boy-lost charm at will. That may be so but, unfortunately, Duchin has plenty of firsthand experience of the sadder, rougher, side of life. He had a fractious relationship with his parents and, by all accounts, his father was not one of the gentlest characters.That and other challenging junctures in his life have left their imprint on Duchin. That comes across in his readings of such well-loved songs as “Melancholy,” “Yesh Zman” (“There’s Time”) and “Achshav Anee” (“Now Me”), written for and performed by the Friends of Natasha band he set up with old pal Micha Shitreet, and which succeeded the first Duchin-Shitreet outfit, Septima 5.THE GROUP broke up in 1996 after releasing three records, and Duchin went on to develop a highly successful career of his own. The Friends of Natasha reunited in 2013, and continues to perform intermittently.To date, Duchin has a dozen discs to his name as a solo artist, with emotive efforts such as “Tembel” (“Idiot”), off 1990’s gold album Rotzeh Veyihyeh (Want and Will Be), and “Hee Loh Doma,” from 2001’s release Lehargish (To Feel), cementing his place as one of the country’s most expressive stage performers. He has also written for, and collaborated with, numerous leaders of the pop-rock scene, including the likes of crooner Arik Sinai, Din Din Aviv and countertenor David D’Or. There has also been the occasional soundtrack.In a TV interview Duchin gave a couple of years ago, he was asked if he understood why some people relate to him as a depressed character. “I think I am a lot more optimistic than many people I meet,” he replied. “My sad songs, ultimately, are songs which have hope in them. I never aim for a tragic end in my songs.” If you look at the lyrics of one of his most stirring works, “Heder Misheli” (“My Room”), you get his point. “Get over it, get over it, the voice tells me... We all have the right to be weak, not to cover our ears, not to shut our eyes, not to let go, in the hard times too, even in the hard times.”Later in the same interview, Duchin relates how he witnessed an inordinate amount of violence as a kid in Russia. Tellingly, he says he largely managed to circumnavigate the full emotional impact that might have imposed on his evolving young soul by immersing himself in a world of music. Duchin’s musical sphere stretches far and wide. Between the tearjerker ballads there are some funky pieces, bluesy lines and even some rhythmic rap numbers. And when the mood darkens, you can generally trust Duchin to at least come up with a wry, smile-inducing aside. The forthcoming round of gigs is said to veer toward the more intimate side of Duchin’s oeuvre, but I wouldn’t bet against some arresting comedic tangents working their way into the proceedings.For tickets and more information, phone *9080 or online.