Blood, sweat and jazz

Virtuouso trumpeter back for another round of shows.

lew soloff 88 (photo credit: )
lew soloff 88
(photo credit: )
It's because of musicians like Lew Soloff that jazz aficionados can feel a sense of normalcy here. Soloff, a virtuoso trumpeter who has been playing professionally for decades, arrives in Israel to play four shows, and give a lecture at the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music. A former member of the legendary jazz-influenced rock band Blood, Sweat and Tears, Soloff first picked up the trumpet at the age of ten after being introduced to some of the greats of the genre by way of his uncle's and grandfather's record collections. Having already been playing the piano for a number of years, it was a clear musical path that Soloff was on, which led him to Julliard Preparatory and then the Eastman School of Music. His professional life started early as Soloff spent his summers entertaining on the Borscht Belt circuit playing a number of Catskill hotels and country clubs. It was his participation in the Gil Evans Group, at the age of 22, that Soloff was introduced to the person he called his musical godfather. Soloff and Evans collaborated closely until the latter's death in 1988. In the mid-1960's, Soloff became a part of the intense jazz scene in New York City. It was in 1968 however, that he really became entrenched in popular American culture when he joined Blood, Sweat and Tears. A month later, fellow trumpeter Randy Brecker (who's also performed here over the last few years) talked Soloff into joining the then-unknown group just before they recorded their monster hit "Spinning Wheel." Soloff stayed with the band, also known for mega-hits "You've Made Me So Very Happy" and "And When I Die," until 1973. On an earlier appearance here in Israel, Soloff talked with The Jerusalem Post's Barry Davis about the BS&T experience: "I'm grateful for what the band did for me - for giving me a worldwide reputation. It gave me the life experience of once having been a sort of rock star - not individually but certainly as a member of the band. At one point it was the second biggest band in the world. I'm thankful for that, but there was never enough improvisational freedom in the band for me to consider that as one of my jazz gigs." Soloff's rich and varied repertoire runs the gamut from having played and recorded with musicians like Tito Puento, Tony Bennett, Elvis Costello, Aretha Franklin, Lou Reed, Frank Sinatra and Barbara Streisand to his work on movie soundtracks for The Big Lebowski, Carlito's Way and National Lampoon's Vacation - among many others. Soloff also heads up both the Lew Soloff Quartet and Quintet and has been the lead trumpeter of the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band and first trumpet in the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. Additionally, the untiring wonder plays in a handful of other big bands and brass bands, hosts a weekly show at the New York City lounge The Rhone and plays with The Absolute Ensemble, a 19-piece chamber music group that interprets everything from Stravinsky to Hendrix. He also serves as a faculty member at the Manhattan School of Music, Julliard and the New School. If that sounds too serious, not to worry: in his review of a show by Soloff here six years ago, Davis praised Soloff's "entertaining stage persona." Soloff is scheduled for four shows here, each with saxophonist Yuval Cohen. The first show is slated for Thursday at the Givatayim Theater (40 Remez, [03] 732-5340) and the second the following night up north at Hemdat Yamim (04) 698-9423 where Soloff will take the stage around 10 p.m. and tickets are priced between NIS 58-100. On the 15th, Soloff is in Tel Aviv for an afternoon show at the Zappa Club (24 Raul Wallenberg St, [03] 767-4646) with doors set to open at 1:30 p.m. and the show, for which tickets cost NIS 110, starts an hour and a half later. For his final show, Soloff will appear on the 18th at Levontin 7 (7 Levontin [03] 560-5084) at 8:30 p.m. with NIS 70-80 tickets.