A musical leap of faith

Tunisian born singer Corinne Alal makes an unusual foray into jazz for the Israel Festival

alal 298 88 (photo credit: )
alal 298 88
(photo credit: )
Over the last two-plus decades Corinne Alal has achieved almost iconic status in the local pop-rock industry. Besides putting out nine well received albums of her own, she has contributed to literally dozens of albums by other artists and had countless compositions performed and recorded by a wide range of colleagues. However, apart from her delightful French-infused 1988 album Antarctica, Alal has generally stuck to the pop-and-rock straight and narrow. So it comes as some surprise to find her teaming up with a bunch of bona fide jazz musicians at her forthcoming "Papua New Guinea" show at the Israel Festival. Alal begs to differ. "Yes, I am basically a pop and rock musician but I have always left room for improvisation in my live performances. In my rock shows I quickly learned that I wanted my band members to improvise, so that you never get exactly the same show. That keeps it fresh." For the "Papua New Guinea" slot, on June 7, Alal will benefit from the seasoned jazz services of bass player Yurai Oron, saxophonist Nitzan Ein-HaBar and drummer Eitan Itzkovitz. The show will be based on compositions written by pianist-composer-arranger Alona Turrel and there will be poetry readings by Agi Mishol in between numbers. In fact "Papua New Guinea" has, in a wider sense, been in the works for some time. Turrel contributed to Alal's hit 1992 album Zan Nadeer, and Alal performed a couple of Turrel's jazzier works at last year's Piano Festival in Tel Aviv. It was the latter that eventually spawned the new show and Alal says she has she has traversed an interesting learning curve in the interim. "When I first heard Alon's jazz stuff I thought it sounded quite simple but, when I tried to play them, I discovered just how complex they are." Jazz certainly wasn't part of Alal's early formative years. Born in Tunis in 1955 Alal was initially influenced by the French music of the Sixties, and like most of her contemporaries got into the pop and rock sounds pouring out of the States and Britain. However, in time, she learned to appreciate some of the less structured sides of the genres. "I love [experimental rock enfant terrible Frank] Zappa and the way he would always throw something new and unexpected into whatever he was doing," says Alal. "I've also been listening to more jazz music, by people like [stellar jazz guitarist] Pat Metheny. It's fascinating trying to follow what these guys do, to try and understand the harmonic progressions and the way that one idea leads to another. I really enjoy that." Still, Alal admits to a certain amount of trepidation ahead of "Papua New Guinea." "It really is quite a new area for me. I have learned a lot in the run up to the show and it's a great honor and pleasure to work with Alona and Agi, and the jazz guys, but I'm not quite sure how it's all going to pan out." But, isn't that all part and parcel of any improvisational art form? "Yes, that's true. It's about taking leaps of faith and just going with the flow. It's challenging and exciting at the same time." Corinne Alal will perform at the Jerusalem Theater on June 7 at 8:30 p.m.