Leonid Ptashka has made quite a name for himself in the entertainment world over the past four decades. The 52-year-old Russian-born jazz pianist has wowed audiences here and in his country of birth with fare designed to induce a feel-good factor.
Judging by the programs he has devised for his upcoming international jazz festival, which will take place in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Ashdod, October 3-8, under the auspices of Pninei Hamusica (Music Pearls), Ptashka is fully intent on delivering more of the same next week.
The festival program divides into two distinct musical orientations.
Three of the four shows will feature ManSound an a cappella sextet from the Ukraine who will kick-start the festival at the Azrieli Amphitheater in Tel Aviv on October 3 (8:30 p.m.), followed by performances at the Donna Community Center in Ashdod (October 7, 8:30 p.m.) and at St.
John’s Holy Church in Haifa (October 8, noon).
On October 4 (8:30 p.m.), the Azrieli Amphitheater will also resound to the upbeat textures and rhythms of the Dixieland Parade led by Ptashka. In truth, there is quite a lot more to the show, which will also take in country music and blues and other early jazz styles such as ragtime and swing.
Ptashka has put together a seasoned lineup for the occasion, which includes veteran reedman Jacques Sany, Byelorussia-born saxophonist Dmitry Shurin, Britishborn banjo player and keyboardist Paul Moore, and Russian-born trumpeter David Felder. The vocal element of the show will be provided by Hillary Monica Sargeant, who hails from the US, and Jamaican-born Roy Young, who moved to England at age 13 and spent his formative years – certainly in a musical sense – in London.
A longtime resident of Ramat Gan, Young has been a fixture on the Israeli soul, jazz and blues circuit for some time now, but he made his professional foray here much earlier.
“I came to Israel the first time in 1969,” says the youthful-looking 66-year-old. “I met [Israeli promoter] Haim Saban in London, and he asked me if I had a band,” Young recalls. “The next day, I saw an advertisement in the Melody Maker [pop and rock music weekly], and it was him. We auditioned for him, and he took us to Israel in 1969.”
It was a successful debut in this part of the world.
“We played all over Israel,” says Young. “In those days, there were a lot of clubs – the Kaleidoscope, the Calypso in Ramleh, there was Ringo’s, Lions, the Sony Club,” he adds, reeling off an impressive list of long-forgotten venues. “It’s not like that now. There was no Eastern or Mediterranean music then. They took over. Before that, it was guys like Zvika Pik, Uzi Fuchs, Shalom Hanoch and Arik Einstein who were really popular.”
Young says he became enamored with Israel from the word go.
“I was here for six months, then I went to Switzerland and other places, and I basically toured until 1977,” he says.
In fact, Young’s initial success here, and that instant love affair with Israel, became something of a headache for the promoter.
“We did really well, then Haim [Saban] had to go the Ministry of Interior and tell them, ‘Don’t give these guys a new visa because I want to bring over a new band, and they won’t leave,’” Young chuckles. “We’d been here for six months, and we were only supposed to stay for two. We were called The Cocktails – that’s the name Haim gave us. In Britain we were called The Lurks.”
The singer was only 19 when he came here that first time, but he was already a seasoned soul music professional. He’d done the rounds of some of Britain’s biggest venues of the day, such as the famed Marquee Club in London’s groovy Soho district that hosted some of the biggest rock and pop acts around, including providing The Rolling Stones with a stage for their debut gig.
Before wowing audiences in these parts, Young had rubbed shoulders with some of the commercial music industry’s nobility and opened for the likes of Cream, the original lineup of Fleetwood Mac, then fronted by stellar Jewish blues guitarist-vocalist Peter Green and blues singer Long John Baldry, with The Lurks and with a sizable outfit called The Workshop.
“There were nine white guys and me,” says the singer. “It was a soul group, so they needed me out there, too.”
Young, who despite his early relocation to the UK speaks with a pronounced Jamaican accent, was attracted to soul music at an early age.
“All my friends were listening to blue beat and ska, and I was listening to [leading soul acts] Sam Cooke and Curtis Mayfield and The Temptations and all that lot,” he recounts.
Over the years, Young has also branched out to jazz and blues, and he regularly performs at places like the Shablul jazz club in Tel Aviv Port and elsewhere around the country.
The Azrieli Amphitheater audience will benefit from a full half century of vocal endeavor.
“I left school at the age of 16 because I wanted to sing,” says Young. “My parents didn’t like it, but there was nothing they could do about it. And that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.
I’ve never had ‘a proper job.’ This is all I’ve ever wanted to do. I’m the happiest guy around.”For tickets and more information: (02) 535-6954; https://www.pearl-music.co.il/ list/index.heb.html; www.facebook.com/musicalpearls