Home is where the music is

NY-resident Israeli guitarist Yotam Silberstein will reveal the ethnic side of his artistic aspirations when he performs in Tel Aviv.

Yotam Silberstein 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Yotam Silberstein 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
At 30 years of age Yotam Silberstein is, of course, still building his career but, it must be said, he has come a long way since he relocated Stateside around seven years ago. This Friday we will have an opportunity to check on his incremental artistic growth when he performs in Tel Aviv, as the next installment in this year’s Opera House jazz series, with a stellar quintet of mostly American musicians, but with a strong Israeli connection.
In fact, drummer Greg Ritchie is the odd man out. Pianist, organist Sam Yahel’s parents are Israelis, saxophonist Walter Blanding lived here for several years and the double bass player is longtime Silberstein cohort Israeli Gilad Abro.
With such a blue-and-white seasoned lineup it is, perhaps, only natural that the band’s program for next week includes a large number of Israeli numbers.
“[Series artistic director] Nitzan [Kramer] asked me to do jazz versions of Israeli songs, and I have absolutely no problem with that,” explains Silberstein.
“I grew up on all those songs. You could say that’s part of my musical DNA. I try to have at least one Israeli song in all my CDs.”
Next week’s gig repertoire will include jazzy versions of such Israeli classics as “Hayalda Hachee Yaffa” (The Most Beautiful Girl), which was a hit for Yehudit Ravitz in the late Seventies, and “Shir Ahava Taree” (Fresh Love Song) by Shlomo Gronich. There will also be some original jazz material in the program.
In fact, Silberstein’s discography has begun to grow in leaps and bounds. His debut offering was recorded back in 2003, with Abro on bass and Doron Tirosh on drums. That was followed by a recording hiatus, as the guitarist spent 4 years honing his craft and feeding off some of the jazz community’s elder statesmen as a student at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York. During that time he also performed at all sorts of venues around the Big Apple and began to develop some useful contacts in the artistic fraternity there. His sophomore release, Next Page came out in 2009 and his third recording, Resonance, appeared last year, and his next Brazilian music-based album is due out in July.
SILBERSTEIN HAS made great strides in recent years and constantly endeavors to feed off as many worlds as possible, in stylistic and chronological terms. While his colleagues on his forthcoming Israeli trip are all way on the younger side of 50, Silberstein has played, and continues to work with musicians who were well into their careers long before he was a twinkle in his parents’ eye. One of the jazz icons with whom Silberstein played was late saxophonist-flutists James Moody who was around when modern jazz was born in the 1940s, and who died last December at the age of 85.
“It was a fantastic experience to play with Moody, says Silberstein, “and he was always open to ideas and learning from everybody around him, even when he was an old man. I remember one time we were rehearsing together and he stopped me and asked me about something I’d just played. There I was a kid, and the great James Moody was learning from me! That’s a lesson I keep with me all the time.”
In between gigs with his own bands – the latest CD includes a stellar lineup of trumpeter Roy Hargrove, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Greg Hutchinson – Silberstein continues to enjoy fruitful synergies with the likes of octogenarian saxophonist Jimmy Heath and 89 year old saxophonist-flutist Frank Wess.
“I feel I have so much to learn from these guys,” says Silberstein.
“They were around when it all began.”
Then there are collaborations with Jamaican-born pianist Monty Alexander, the Dizzy Gillespie Alumni Big Band, and Latin jazz reedman Paquito De Rivera with whom he played recently in Uruguay.
“I try to feed off all artists of all ages and orientations,” says the guitarist.
“ I think that is the best place to be in, to learn from everyone.
There is an endless resource there. I don’t like to limit myself.” That is abundantly clear.
The Yotam Silberstein quintet will play at the Opera House in Tel Aviv on Friday April 15 at 9:30 p.m. For tickets and information: 03-6927777 and www.israeli-opera.co.il