While jazz has been making great strides here
over the last 20 or so years, New York is still the genre's undisputed
epicenter. So collaborating with a venerable musical academic
institution from the Big Apple isn't a bad idea. The Center for Jazz
Studies, Israel Conservatory of Music, Tel Aviv - aka Stricker - runs a
four-year bachelor's degree in jazz in collaboration with The New
School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, NYC. Students spend the first
two years in Tel Aviv and complete their degree in New York.
it isn't a bad idea to periodically import some big names from over
there to offer the students - and the general public here - a taste of
what's going down on the Stateside jazz scene either. This will be
amply taken care of in the forthcoming New York Jazz Masters series,
which kicks off on January 23 at the Einav Center in Tel Aviv with
guitarist Peter Bernstein, with subsequent slots occupied by
69-year-old trumpeter Eddie Henderson and octogenarian drummer Jimmy
The ages of the incoming stars suggests that pianist-teacher
Amit Golan, who is co-director of the series along with drummer-teacher
Shai Zelman, was aiming for a representative generational spread.
"Yes, that was part of the idea," says Golan, who also teaches
at Stricker, as well as at the Thelma Yellin Arts High School's Jazz
Department in Givatayim. "But they are also all rooted in the
traditions of the art form."
That has always been of paramount importance to Golan.
"You have to constantly feed off the roots, and use them as a
base for your musical explorations," he continues. "Bernstein comes
from a younger generation, but you can hear he is steeped in the
history of jazz, he is conversant with everything that preceded him."
should know. He and Bernstein not only share the same profession, they
also shared a classroom at the New School back in the mid-Eighties.
"It's like bringing a friend over to do some concerts," says
Golan. "Peter and I know each other well, and he's a fabulous
guitarist. He's very melodic, with lots of tradition, and has a unique
sound. We all look for that. [Veteran jazz guitarist] Jim Hall rates
him very highly, and that's good enough for me."
Hall was, indeed, effusive in his praise for Bernstein, saying:
"He has paid attention to the past as well as the future. He is the
most impressive young guitarist I've heard. He plays the best of them
all for swing, logic, feel and taste."
Golan says he has fond memories of the New School and has tried to replicate some of the ambience from there at Stricker.
"I was at the New School from the start, when Arnie Lawrence was there," he recalls.
Saxophonist Lawrence founded the jazz department of the New
School, along with drummer Chico Hamilton, and moved to Jerusalem in
the late Nineties. Lawrence established a music school in Ein Kerem in
Jerusalem and nurtured a generation or two of budding jazz artists,
some of whom will play with the Stricker series frontmen over the next
STRICKER STARTED life in 2001 as a small jazz
department for ninth- to twelfth-grade high-school students, catering
for teenagers from around the country.
"We taught, and still teach, kids from Jerusalem, Afula,
Nazareth and the Golan Heights - all over," says Golan. "And I always
wanted to have that sort of family atmosphere that I had at the New
School. That's something that Arnie was very much in favor of. Arnie
was also a great advocate of experiencing live music, and getting the
flavor of music in the making."
The New School-Stricker academic collaboration began last
November and, although it takes in some other musical strands, the core
"We have [pianist] Alon Yavnai teaching Brazilian jazz at the
school but, as I always say, it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that
swing. So the basis is very much jazz," Golan says.
Golan is naturally delighted to have secured Cobb's services,
and to finally bring him to Israel. Cobb was due to play in the jazz
series at the Performing Arts Center in Tel Aviv a few years ago, but
he eventually canceled and his place was taken by Ben Riley.
"It is wonderful to bring Jimmy Cobb here for the first time,"
says Golan. "The man is a legend. He, of course, played on [Miles
Davis' landmark 1959 jazz album] Kind of Blue
, and he has just
finished a year-long world tour to mark the 50th anniversary of the
release of the record. That says something of Cobb's energy and his
ability to still do the business at his age."
The Cobb-Stricker synergy closes the series at the end of May
with the veteran drummer due to do three gigs here with an Israeli
threesome, including forty-something guitarist Ofer Ganor, New
York-based young bassist Yonatan Levy and highly talented Jerusalemite
pianist Omri Mor.
Mor - who will also support Bernstein along with another
Lawrence protégée, New York-based bassist Tal Ronen, with Zelman behind
the drum set - took his initial steps in jazz under Lawrence's aegis in
"Bringing Jimmy here is the realization of a dream, and also
for Omri," says Golan. "Jimmy's been around for a long, long time, and
has seen jazz go through a lot of changes, but he has always stayed
true to the roots."
Golan is no less enthusiastic about the forthcoming visit of the evergreen Henderson, which will take place at the end of April.
"He's 69 years old but very young in spirit, and he's been very active in jazz for many years," Golan says.
Henderson straddles a range of jazz genres, including some more contemporary styles.
"He played with [drummer Art Blakey's long-serving, fabled hard
bop-based group] the Jazz Messengers, but he also worked with [pianist]
Herbie Hancock when he was doing his fusion stuff in the Seventies,"
Golan says. "I wanted to bring a trumpeter with all the tradition, but
with a more modern and open view."
Golan also has a somewhat "ulterior" motive for bringing Henderson over.
"I am going to record my second CD with him when he is in Israel," he says.
Golan will also share the bandstand with
Henderson, on the trumpeter's three gigs here, along with New
York-based Israelis tenor saxophonist Assaf Yuria and trombonist
Yonatan Vulchuk, and locals drummer Yonatan Rosen and in-demand bassist
Henderson and Cobb are not exactly coming over here for a vacation.
Besides three concerts - at Tel Aviv's Einav Center, at the Lab in
Jerusalem and a fundraiser gig - all three will present no less than 10
hours of master classes.
"We have five groups at Stricker," Golan explains. "Each of the
artists will devote two hours to each group. It will be an invaluable
experience for the students."
Mind you, the stars may also learn a thing or two while they
are here. New School executive director Martin Mueller was very
impressed with what he saw, and heard, on a recent visit to Tel Aviv.
"To come here and to see these young people - 14, 15, 16, 17
year olds - playing on this kind of a level, in the exact spirit and
style, it's a remarkable thing," said Mueller.
For more information about the series: www.icm.org.il/jazz.