Giving no quarter

Leading Israeli blues guitarist Ronnie Peterson will be performing a scintillating set with bassist Harvey Brooks.

Ronnie Peterson 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Ronnie Peterson 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Over the years, our local “King of the Blues” guitarist-singer Ronnie Peterson has made sweet music with a wide range of artists here and even shared a stage with blues legend BB King, but Harvey Brooks probably has all that lot beat for pedigree.
Sexagenarian bass player Brooks, who made aliya from the States last year, has definitely been there and done that across large parts of the musical genre board. Consider synergies with iconic jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, folk-rock idol Bob Dylan and rock supergroup Super Session, and you get the idea.
Peterson and Brooks, who was born Harvey Goldstein, will join forces at the Zappa Herzliya Club on May 26 at 10 p.m. in what promises to be a high-energy, high-quality musical meet infused with blues blood and guts.
“Ronnie’s a great player with great instincts,” says Brooks, adding that the current match-up is a work in progress. “We’ll play tunes that people know and go on from there. I’m sure this thing will grow.”
Brooks will bring a wealth of professional experience to the Peterson-Brooks act previously unseen on these shores. A producer’s berth at Columbia Records in the late 1960s led to an unlikely inclusion in the lineup for Davis’s landmark fusion Bitches Brew album. “I had the office next to [Davis’s legendary producer] Teo Macero, and one day he asked me if I’d like to go over to the studio – I think it was on 53rd Street – to play electric bass on the new Miles [Davis] record. I couldn’t believe it. There I was with all these great players, guys like [pianist-keyboardist] Joe Zawinul, [pianist] Larry Young, [pianist] Herbie Hancock and [drummer] Jack DeJohnette. Miles was great at making you feel comfortable and getting you to play your best. That was an unforgettable experience.”
Bitches Brew remains a Brooks favorite, and not just because of his own role. “DeJohnette really opened up drumming on that album. The whole concept of keeping time in jazz changed after that,” he says.
And there were plenty of golden junctures in the Brooks musical continuum to come. The bassist contributed to The Doors’ 1969 release The Soft Parade and the landmark Super Session recording of 1968, as well as Dylan’s acclaimed Highway 61 Revisited record from 1965. The latter also generated some rare discourse with Dylan. “We talked briefly about Judaism; I think it was just after he’d come back from the [Western] Wall. It might have been after his son’s bar mitzva.”
Besides making for an impressive CV, Brooks says that sharing bandstands and recording studios with such luminaries of the music industry has enriched his own musicianship. “There’s nothing like the experience of being on the spot, of having to come up with the goods. These were all quality players and writers of music and, with people like them, you have to make it happen to satisfy them. As a sideman, you get an incredible learning experience. Playing with such a diverse range of musicians rounded out my own musical education. I don’t really consider myself a master musician in any one genre, but I do feel comfortable with a lot of styles of music.”
Since moving to Jerusalem, Brooks has been checking out the local music scene, about which he knew very little before making aliya. “I had spoken to [folk-rock guitarist and vocalist] Ehud Banai, but that was it. When we made aliya, he invited me and my wife, Bonnie, to one of his concerts. That was a great experience.”
Mr. and Mrs. Brooks are about to relocate again, this time to Jaffa so that Brooks can be closer to Tel Aviv music venues. “We happily don’t have a car, so that makes traveling to Tel Aviv a bit of an ordeal,” he explains, adding that he is looking forward to his odyssey into various areas of the local music scene, and not just the blues.
“There is quality here and, very importantly, a discriminating music level. I love Arabic music – the time and the skills used in that genre. For me that’s natural, the bending of the strings to get those quarter tones and play such emotional music. Everything about the blues is about bending and looking for the angles. My musical roots come from basic country blues, bebop, guys like BB King, and ethnicity of the Semitic scales. That’s the direction the blues goes for me, and I’m in the right place to check that out.”