Altered states of creation

Jazz pianist Yaron Herman will perform in Jerusalem as part of the Mezzo Jazz Mix Festival.

Yaron Herman (photo credit: Julien Mignot)
Yaron Herman
(photo credit: Julien Mignot)
Yaron Herman has been beating a steady path to his creative muses for some time now. At 31, the Paris-based Israeli jazz pianist has already produced several highquality albums and is set to showcase material from his latest release, Alter Ego – number 6 in his burgeoning discography – at his Jerusalem gig at the Gerard Behar Center (October 31 at 8:30 p.m.). The show will take place under the auspices of the French Mezzo music TV channel as part of the Israeli edition of the annual Mezzo Jazz Mix Festival. Mezzo will broadcast concerts by Israeli jazz musicians to 44 countries. The full program takes in shows fronted by some of our leading jazz professionals, such as guitarist-oud player Amos Hoffman and saxophonist Eli Degibri, with gigs by bassist Gilad Abro (Sunday at Levontin 7, Tel Aviv), pianist Omri Mor (Monday, Zappa, Tel Aviv) and trombonist Avi Lebovich (free show on Tuesday at the Yellow Submarine in Jerusalem) lined up. Herman’s show in the capital is also free.
Judging by the fare on Alter Ego, Herman has made strides since his 2010 release Follow the White Rabbit.
The trademark multi-pronged Herman style is evident on his new CD – polished technique, dense keyboard runs, robust percussive passages and a generous amount of groove-driven departures, as well as influences that range from classical music to contemporary pop, and sentiments taken straight out of the Israeli Songbook.
“I have gone through a lot in my personal life and otherwise over the past year, and I think that has helped me to develop and mature,” says Herman. “Everything is deeper for me and has greater meaning.”
Herman has also undergone a change of personnel and a change of format. He has broken away from the trio setting he used for his previous three CDs and has expanded into a quartet, with French saxophonist Emile Parisien beefing up the band’s textural and rhythmic output; and French bass player Stephane Kerecki and Israeli drummer Ziv Ravitz replacing Herman’s previous trio members.
Herman gathered a heavyweight cast for his latest recording. “I spent a year thinking about Alter Ego and writing it,” he says, adding that while he continues with his inner voyage, he also wants to communicate with his listeners and audiences and to leave them with something memorable. “I wanted the music to be melodic, I wanted to return to the roots of the melody. I wanted the melodies to be free flowing but, on the other hand, I wanted people to be able to sing them.”
That is certainly evident on the new album on numbers like “Mojo” and “La Confusion Sexuelle des Papillons,” with the band hitting strong and energetic grooves, and Ravitz driving hard from the back. Herman says he is delighted to have the Israeli drummer on board.
”Ziv has this vibe that is so close to my heart. Every recording I have heard on which Ziv plays goes to another, higher plane. He and I have this connection. I’m not sure where it comes from, but it is always great to play with him,” he says.
Herman says that Parisien also offers much added value to his work. “Emile understands the way I hear melodies.
He has a unique way of phrasing.
There are lots of places on the disc where Emile and I just flow together so naturally. When we play together, it is if our two instruments create a third one. It is wonderful having him on board.”
Energy is an important component of what Herman does, and he is always looking to keep things fluid. “I don’t play grooves just for groove’s sake. There has to be something flowing about it, not just repetition.”
Over the years, Herman has written and recorded numbers that feed off a wide range of musical sources, taking in classical composers, iconic Israeli songsmiths and some of the leading lights of the pop world.
The new album also features Herman’s reading of our national album and a stirring number called “Gideon Klein,” named for the Czech pianist and composer who was one of the mainstays of cultural life in the Theresienstadt concentration camp and perished at the Fürstengrube camp near Auschwitz in 1945.
Ravitz is the only member of the recording lineup who will make it to Jerusalem next week, with trumpeter Avishai Cohen adding nuggets from his lyrical arsenal on several numbers.
“Ziv and I flow so easily together, that I’m sure we – and the audience – will have a good time,” says Herman.
“We’ll play a few things from Alter Ego and some things from Avishai, and maybe a standard or two. We’ll go with the flow.”
Yaron Herman will perform at the Gerard Behar Center in Jerusalem on October 31 at 8:30 p.m. For more details: (02) 625-1139.