Strutting our stuff to the world

Dozens of international music industry experts fly in for a crash course featuring Israeli jazz and ethnic musicians.

MAALOX 311  (photo credit: Courtesy of Sonya Barshilon)
(photo credit: Courtesy of Sonya Barshilon)
Over 40 artistic directors, educators and heads of leading musical events and institutions around the world are about to get an earful of what some of Israel’s best jazz and ethnic artists have to offer.
The musical showcase starts Wednesday, with the first three days taking place at the Yellow Submarine in Jerusalem, followed by a fourth day at the Levontin 7 club in Tel Aviv. The expo will take place under the auspices of the Yellow Submarine, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture and Science, and the Jerusalem Foundation.
Naturally, the event’s artistic director, Barak Weiss, is looking for some decent returns on his efforts.
“The important thing is to generate momentum and to maintain continuity,” he says. “We want to get the message out there that we have some wonderful musicians here.”
To that end Weiss enlisted the help of Israel’s cultural attaches around the world, and of some highly respected experts in the relevant musical fields here.
“All the cultural attaches I contacted were extremely helpful,” notes Weiss, “and I couldn’t have done this without the connections and expertise of the artistic committee.” The latter comprised Israel Army Radio broadcaster Dubi Lenz, who is highly respected figure in the global world music community, veteran Voice of Music jazz show presenter Leah Lior and pianist and Levontin 7 club coowner Daniel Sarid.
The importance of the four-day event is underlined by the fact that several Israeli artists who have been doing their business abroad for some years are making the trek over here specifically for the showcase. These include jazz guitarist Nadav Remez, flutist Hadar Noiberg and singer Ayelet Gottlieb.
The list of acts lined up for the Yellow Submarine and Levontin 7 slots is impressive and wide-ranging, and opens with one of the big guns of the local jazz scene, saxophonist Eli Degibri, who was recently appointed joint artistic director of the Red Sea Jazz festival in Eilat, alongside Lenz. Elsewhere in the jazz section of the musical expo are pianist Omer Klein, who lives in Germany, saxophonist Uri Gurvich and trumpeter Itamar Borochov – both based in New York – and doyen of the Israeli avant garde jazz scene saxophonist Albert Beger.
The ethnic side of the program features the likes of Ehud Banai, percussionist Zohar Fresco – who will join forces with celebrated jazz saxophonist Daniel Zamir – and internationally renowned oud player and violinist Yair Dalal.
There are also a large number of jazzworld music crossover acts, including pianist Omri Mor’s AndaluJazz Trio, Ethiopian-born saxophonist Abate Berihun and his Shabate Quintet, trombonist-keyboardist Avi Lebovich and his 13-piece Orchestra, who play an eclectic range of jazz, funk, rock and ethnic music, guitarist-oud player Amos Hoffman and the Malox duo of saxophonist Eyal Talmudi and drummer Hagai Freshtman, who play a colorful mix of Balkan music with klezmer punk and free jazz.
WEISS IS delighted with the response of Israeli musicians to the event.
“We had 160 candidates for the showcase,” he says, adding that there was quality to go with the quantity.
“I could have easily doubled the number of bands [in the expo] and I would still have been very proud of what we have to offer.”
In the end the list was whittled down to 28 acts.
“We have lots to show the world,” Weiss continues. “In the past few years I think Israeli jazz musicians are up there with the very best, the world over. People in New York and the rest of the US know that, but it is mainly there that Israeli jazz artists have gained such a good reputation.”
Now, says Weiss, the message has to be promulgated elsewhere.
The foreign official guest list certainly reflects that ambition, and includes Prof. Ulrich Beckerhoff from Germany (who heads the European jazz showcase event Jazzahead!), British Song-lines magazine editor Jo Frost, Taipei International Jazz Festival director Chi-pin Hsieh, Romanian Sibiu Jazz Festival producer Hilarius Johannes, and Wiener Konzerthaus artistic director Amanda Rotter. Several years ago, the Vienna concert venue held a festival of Israeli and Jewish music, with a lineup that included Chava Alberstein, bassist Avishai Cohen and world music star Idan Reichel.
Weiss is particularly happy to be able to push Israeli jazz musicians with ethnic coloring out there.
“If there is an Israeli niche in jazz, that’s where it is,” he declares, “people like Amos Hoffman and Omri Mor.
The popular Israeli acts around the world are people like Avishai Cohen, Idan Reichel, [high energy klezmer group] Oy Division and Yair Dalal. We have a lot more to offer.”
Weiss is determined to keep the Israeli music candle burning brightly in years to come too.
“We have to keep this going. I would like Israeli artists to keep the dates of this, hopefully, annual event free on their calendar and, no less important, I want the music industry people to know this is happening and want to come to see what Israeli artists are doing.”
The hoped for end product of this week’s showcase, and similar events in years to come, says Weiss, will be for the world to sit up and take note.
“I want Israeli musicians to be invited to perform at festivals abroad but, even more so, for their work to be aired on commercial and public radio stations all over, and for the media to write about them. That’s why I asked several journalists to come here for the expo too. The media is a very important part of all this.”
All the shows are open to the public, with free entry to the three days in Jerusalem while Levontin 7 will sell tickets at discount prices.

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