There are dozens, actually it seems like hundreds, of bright, talented Israeli jazz musicians doing the country proud out there in the big wide world. New York is, of course, the epicenter of the global jazz scene and, as such, attracts the greatest number of our talented boys and girls.
But there are a few who prefer to peddle their polished wares in other domains. Saxophonist Shauli Einav did his stateside time, completing a master’s degree at the University of Rochester in Upstate New York, followed by a five-year stint in New York City itself. It was a formative period for the now 34-year-old saxophonist.
“The fact that you could go and see the greats play live was so important,” he notes. “And, of course, there is always so much going on there.”
But, after his seven-year sojourn in the US, romance came into play and Einav’s then girlfriend Naama – now his wife and mother of their two-year-old son, Yoel – triggered a European relocation plan.
“Naama is an opera singer and there’s a lot more opera in Europe,” explains Einav. “And I also connected with a French record label at the time.” The couple duly upped stakes and moved to Paris.
Einav is currently back in Israel to visit family and friends, to give some master classes and also to officially launch his latest CD, Beam Me Up, out on German label Berthold Records. The new offering, Einav’s fourth release, will be unveiled at a gig at Jerusalem’s cozy HaMazkeka venue on Tuesday (9:30 p.m.).
For anyone who caught the original popular sci-fi Star Trek television series, or repeats, or YouTube excerpts, the name of the album will instantly ring a bell, as the request made of the Starship Enterprise’s chief engineer Scotty to transport Captain Kirk back to the ship. Einav would like his music to have a similar moving effect, in the galvanizing sense of the term.
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“I liked Star Trek as a kid, but it’s not from that,” he explains. “I want my music to infuse people with energy, and to take them to higher places.”
Judging by his output to date, Einav has been following a pretty sharply inclined creative trajectory of his own. He has a robust yet lyrical sound to his horn playing.
Beam Me Up, which includes seven originals plus a hidden bonus track that kicks in around 80 minutes after the last official track, shows that the Parisian resident has taken his writing skills to a new level.
Intriguingly, the entire album is inspired by a work from very different musical climes – the Visions Fugitives series of short piano pieces by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev between 1915 and 1917.
“This album is a sort of commentary on Prokofiev,” says Einav.
“I don’t know if the listener will immediately get that, but every piece I worked on is inspired by a specific piece, or pieces, of Visions Fugitives series.”
The opening track goes by the enigmatic name of “1415” which, as Einav explains, feeds off pieces 14 and 15 of the Prokofiev opus.
“The series is really special for me,” he continues. “You can hear a bit of it and you think it sounds familiar, but it really isn’t. As a jazz musician who is interested in harmony and rhythm it really grabbed me. I don’t know if he was a jazz artist at heart, but he was a real groundbreaker. He could write neoclassical stuff that is sort of reminiscent of Mozart or Haydn, but he would write all sorts of weird harmonies and tempos. He is a composer I really admire.”
Beam Me Up is far from a neoclassical outing, however. Einav brings all his impressive evolving arsenal to bear in the project, which he recorded with a quartet of fellow Parisians – keyboardist Paul Lay, double bass player Florent Nisse and drummer Gautier Garrique, with guitarist Pierre Durand joining in the fun on “76 San Gabriel.” The latter title comes from the Rochester address of pianist Don Friedman where, as a master’s degree student, Einav would go to jam on weekends.
Einav received a good education in the states, following a bachelor’s degree from the Rubin Academy of Music and Dance of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
But, in fact, the reedman started out on a very different instrument.
“I was the Boyer boarding school in Jerusalem and I started on piano but I didn’t like the teacher,” recalls Einav. “Then I started on alto saxophone. I felt good with that.”
Shortly after the instrument transition, the youngster got a push in the requisite direction from his aunt.
“She lived in the United States and she sent me a double CD of [modern jazz pioneering alto saxophonist] Charlie Parker numbers,” says Einav. “I listened to that a lot.”
Einav made decent progress, and his learning curve took an incremental leap when he encountered Arnie Lawrence, a seasoned jazz saxophonist and educator from New York who made aliya towards the end of the 1990s.
“I used to walk from school to his place in Ein Kerem,” Einav remembers, adding that it wasn’t love at first sight.” I didn’t really understand what he wanted from me to begin with. I lacked confidence. Arnie was pretty tough on me but he was so passionate. I eventually got what he wanted from me.”
Lawrence, who died in 2005 at the age of 66, was a guiding light for generations of budding musicians here, the likes of pianist Omri Mor and trumpeter Avishai Cohen.
He also cofounded the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City.
“I wouldn’t be doing what I am today without Arnie,” Einav declares. “He was the link between the real deal, American jazz, and Israel. I think that anyone who did not study with Arnie missed that connection.”
Einav certainly didn’t miss that link, and continues to take Lawrence’s formative jazz guidance to ever higher levels.
For the HaMazkeka CD launch gig Einav will enjoy the accomplished sideman services of pianist Nitzan Gavrieli, veteran Jerusalemite bassist and educator Tal Gamlieli and 20-year-old drummer Evyatar Slivnik. This is a rare opportunity to hear some cultured Paris sounds from a top homegrown artist.
For more information:http://www.mazkeka.com
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