Aiming high

Adi Rennert leads an evening devoted to the legendary High Windows Trio at Holon’s Yemey Zemer Festival.

High Windows Trio 521 (photo credit: Yossi Zwecker)
High Windows Trio 521
(photo credit: Yossi Zwecker)
Israelis under the age of 30 might find it hard to believe, but until 20 or so years ago Israel was something of a backwater, in pure materialistic and, to a degree, culturally-Western terms. You simply could not find foreign-made products in supermarkets, and it generally took a while until pop and rock songs made it over here.
Go back another couple of decades and the lapse between record release, fashions and all kinds of trends and their eventual appearance in Israel was even greater.
Back in 1967 the High Windows Trio (Hachalonot Hagvohim), appeared on our pop horizon and brought Israelis a breath of “the real thing.” That was due, in no small part, to the role of American-born singer Josie Katz in the group and, with her endearing looks and de rigueur dress code (blond hair and mini-dresses) she put out a sense of West Coast insouciance on stage.
She was the perfect foil for her colleagues in the threesome, Shmulik Krauss, whom Katz married and subsequently divorced, and Arik Einstein – both of whom were already mainstays of the Israeli pop scene by the time The High Windows emerged.
For pianist-trumpeter-arranger Adi Rennert, more than anything, it was Katz’s singing that transported him to another world. “I was just a kid back then but I loved her voice,” says Rennert who will oversee a concert at this Yemei Zemer Festival at the Holon Theater (April 8-11) devoted to sings by the legendary pop trio. “Josie Katz had a cool style of singing, which was unknown in Israel in those days,” says Rennert. “Back then vocalists sang powerfully, with lots of vibrato. She really brought something new here – something from out there in the big wide world.”
Rennert says the advent of The High Windows – in the wake of the socalled “rhythm bands,” who mostly aped the big rock acts from Britain and the States – really shook up the local scene. “Before that there was a lot of French pop and some Italian stuff on the radio. Mostly French.
Eventually, the Anglo-American music got here and took over, just as it had done all over the world.”
The High Windows were one of the bands that came from this direction. The band became very popular, for among other reasons, singing in Hebrew, which added greater accessibility.
Rennert will have plenty of seasoned colleagues on call to present at the show, with the lineup including such rock and pop stalwarts as Shlomo Gronich, Eli Magen, Yirmi Kaplan, Hemi Rudner, Eran Tzur and Efrat Gosh. That’s quite a roster.
Rennert was also something of a natural choice to oversee the High Windows tribute. “I think they went for me because I already did a tribute show to Shmulik Krauss, to mark his 75th birthday,” he explains. “And I am delighted to have all these wonderful artists on board, too.”
Magen says Rennert provides something of a living, kicking and performing link with the iconic trio’s heyday. “Eli replaced Arik Einstein in the group on a few occasions,” he notes, “and he sang with Josie in the Cape of Good Hope band [which performed and recorded in 1970]. Eli is also a wonderful singer.”
Most people associate Magen with his role as a bass player on the jazz and pop scenes, but he has recorded material as a lead singer, too.
The lineup for the show was chosen by Rennert along with some of the festival organizers, and Rennert says it was an easy choice. “We went for artists who have a natural connection with rock music sung in Hebrew,” he says.
Rennert was responsible for all the arrangements of the songs in the show, which will also include renditions of some of Katz’s later solo work. Despite his jazz background, Rennert says he didn’t season the final product with too much improvisation.
“I stuck pretty close to the originals,” he explains.
“The songs of The High Windows are so well structured and so tasteful. I didn’t see too much reason to change the style. We don’t do the songs exactly like the original versions, but we have retained much of the spirit.”
The program for the show includes such perennial favorites as “Einech Yechola” (You Can’t), “Yehezkel” and “Etzli Hakol Beseder” (All’s Fine with Me) - all of which have been rerecorded by younger singers over the years. “There is no doubt at all that their songs are quality material, and they certainly stand the test of time,” says Rennert, adding that the group’s output is still considered by many as an elusive benchmark.
Rennert and his cohorts in the Yemei Zemer tribute show may not manage the exact same sonic output as Krauss, Einstein and Katz achieved four-plus decades ago, but it is sure to be an entertaining evening – especially with comic Shai Avivi, as MC, adding some of his trademark comic turns to the proceedings.
“We’re going to have fun,” says Rennert, “and I’m sure the audience will, too.”
For tickets and more information about The High Windows tribute show, and the Yemei Zemer Festival: 03- 5023001-3 and