Finally leading from the front

Jazz saxophonist Eyal Talmudi will bring his unfettered energy when his quintet takes the stage in TA and Jerusalem.

January 21, 2018 21:15
4 minute read.
Finally leading from the front

EYAL Talmudi.. (photo credit: GAYA SA’ADON)


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It is difficult not to be charmed by Eyal Talmudi, either on or off the stage. In everyday life the thirtysomething jazz saxophonist is a soft-spoken, smiley-eyed character who, nonetheless, exudes a captivating sense of pure love for his craft.

On stage he’s a whirlwind of unadulterated energy. Almost childlike joie de vivre simply pours out of him as he sets to the piece in question with unapologetic gusto.

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That was evident at his quintet’s gig at last month’s Tel Aviv Jazz Festival – a tribute to legendary modern jazz pianist Thelonious Monk – and it’s odds-on that the audiences at Levontin 7 in Tel Aviv, on January 23 (8 p.m.), and the School of Music and Silence in Jerusalem, on January 30 (8:30 p.m.), will be treated to a similar dosage of unbridled enthusiasm when Talmudi et al perform material from his new album, Even If.

Talmudi is not exactly a newcomer to the business. In fact he is one of the busiest performers on the music scene, and not just in the jazz section of the industry. Over the years he has lent his polished skills to the likes of veteran rocker-cum-ethnic music purveyor Berry Sakharoff, high-energy multidisciplinary outfit Balkan Beat Box and klezmer-driven group Oy Division, as well as pumping out calories by the bucketload with his madcap punk-jazz Malox sax-drum duo. Add to that, Talmudi’s expertise on clarinet and, yes, bagpipes and you have yourself a pretty comprehensive wind instrument base for heading for stratospheric realms of sonic exploration.

After so long on the scene, and umpteen gigs here and around the world, not to mention sterling contributions to recordings by the aforementioned acts, and others, Talmudi has finally gotten around to leading a record from the front.

“Yes, this has been simmering for quite a while,” Talmudi notes when we meet up in Nahlaot, a stone’s throw from the Mahaneh Yehuda market, and from the School of Music and Silence where he teaches.

Talmudi comes across as a go-withthe- flow character, so it comes as no surprise to learn that Even If just sort of happened.

“The record came about very much thanks to Momo [iconic soundman Uri Barak],” the reedman recalls. “He said I should get some music down, and we should make use of the studio downtown. He said I should bring the musicians and just make the music I want. The new album is the result of a nighttime session at the studio.”

If you are going to off at the creative deep end, it can help to have a trusty support group along for the ride. Talmudi gathered the requisite personal substratum for such a musical caper, with Sefi Sizling on trumpet, Uzi Feinerman – aka Uzi Ramirez – on guitar, Gilad Abro on acoustic bass and Aviv Cohen on drums. Big brother Asaf Talmudi was also on stage in Tel Aviv last month, on accordion.

“This quintet has a special sound,” Talmudi purrs. “We started around 9 p.m. and just ran with the jam session, and got down as much as we could by around two in the morning.”

It wasn’t entirely off-the-cuff stuff.

“I brought with me a few lines for [opening track] Ayalon Tzafon and Gili the Jets, and we just ran with it.”

In case anyone over the age of 50 was wondering, the name of the latter cut is not a nod in the direction of Benny and the Jets, from Elton John’s seminal 1973 album, Yellow Brick Road.

“It’s for Gilad Abro. There’s a long bass solo in there,” says Talmudi with a chuckle.

Talmudi says he got what he was after from the all-nighter with Momo and the gang.

“I really liked what came out of the session. I felt it was something I hadn’t been missing out on recently – an acoustic session, totally improvised, and it came out really dynamic – powerful and delicate, without any forethought about the structure of the music, or the order of the numbers and that sort of thing. It flowed really easily. It was a change from the things I’ve been doing of late – Calo Wood, Rejoicer, Ester Rada and suchlike.”

Calo Wood is an ongoing series of releases overseen by Tel Aviv producer- instrumentalist Rejoicer together with Talmudi, whereby each album is fronted by a different vocalist.

Rada is one of the featured singers.

“I’ve been doing things more on the mellow side, with a gentler tempo.”

In fact, quite a few of the numbers on Even If start out in a surprisingly conventionally jazzy direction, albeit across a broad stretch of subgenres.

But, as veteran British jazz cornettist and broadcaster Digby Fairweather pointed out about Sarah Vaughan, shortly after the jazz diva passed away in 1990, she could be as straight-ahead as you’d like but there was always a twist in the performing tail. The same applies to Talmudi.

“Yes, this album is pretty much jazz, but later on it becomes freer, with more improvised parts. ‘Ayalon Tzafon’ and ‘Gili the Jets’ were written just before the studio session. I just hum things to myself while I’m driving. There are a few numbers that started out like that, and then they take on a form and life of their own. I like working like that.”

It does the business, both on stage and off.

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