Israeli-Canadian musician unveils first album at Tel Aviv piano festival

Assaf Shatil says the show will be a great way to celebrate his music in an intimate setting.

Israeli-Canadian musician Assaf Shatil (photo credit: Courtesy)
Israeli-Canadian musician Assaf Shatil
(photo credit: Courtesy)
For Assaf Shatil, music has always been about the journey. This Wednesday, the Israeli-Canadian musician releases his first solo album, Pine, as part of the Tel Aviv Piano Festival. The performance takes place at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Neve Tzedek at 8 p.m.
"This show will be a great way to celebrate my music in an intimate setting," Shatil told The Jerusalem Post during an interview in Tel Aviv. "It gives the audience an up-close and personal look at my music. It is like getting inside a painting."
Pine is Shatil's creation from start to finish. Single-handedly, he wrote, produced, arranged and performed every number. He even designed and drew the album cover. The album showcases a collection of 12 English songs that Shatil wrote over the past 10 years.
Pine explores the feeling to yearn,” explained Shatil. “As an artist, you are always on a journey. I find the psychological zone of the search fascinating. When I went abroad, I wanted to find something in myself. I was looking for my inner voice where I could channel my music.”
The concert debuts Shatil's career as a singer-songwriter. He will perform most of his pieces live for the first time. His jazz trio and cello player will accompany him. In addition, renowned Israeli television and stage actress Efrat Ben Zur will join him onstage. Shatil previously collaborated with Ben Zur on her latest album, Robin, as a pianist and strings arranger.
“Efrat and I will sing a few special song covers together,” Shatil said. “It will be very moving to share the stage with her. She is also a huge part of Pine. She recorded background vocals for several numbers. I loved working on Robin and joining her for the tour. Everything is coming full circle.”
With a Canadian mother and an Israeli father, Shatil identifies with both cultures. His mother made aliya and his parents met on a kibbutz in Israel. Shatil was born in Haifa in 1976 and grew up in various parts of Israel. His family settled in Yokneam Moshava in the lower Galilee. Shatil moved abroad to complete his education and he received his BFA in Jazz Performance and Print Media at Concordia University and earned a degree in Jazz Performance from McGill University in Montreal, Canada.  Next, he received a Masters Degree in Contemporary Education from The New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. During that time, he immersed himself in the music scene and studied with pioneers in the music field. Throughout his years living and studying abroad, Shatil says the Israeli side of him continued to shine brightly through his music.
“I am proud to be Israeli and I'm built to be in Israel. My music has a subtle Middle Eastern flair," Shatil explained.
As he explored musical communities around the world, he constantly crafted his art and once he was ready to release an album, he returned home to produce it.
“The album had to be recorded in Israel,” Shatil insisted. “I am connected to Israel. I’m connected to the geography, the ocean, even the weather. My music communicates better here.”
After eight years abroad, Shatil moved to an apartment in Jaffa. With the idea of a self-produced album in mind, he hunted for musicians. He went to local shows in search of his sound.
“I love the musical community in Tel Aviv and Jaffa,” said Shatil. “In the United States and Canada, it is a much bigger arena. Here, there is a more tight-knit feel. There is also such a human element to the music in Israel. People appreciate the sound and want to create something warm and genuine.”
Attending numerous local concerts, he discovered Aviv Cohen on drums and Avri Borochov on contrabass. He invited both musicians over for one rehearsal. The three hit it off and formed a jazz trio. Living within walking distance of his house, the trio bounced ideas off each other to perfect the sound. They decided, for example, to add cello and background vocals to enhance each track.
“My musicians truly helped develop the sound of the album. Without them, Pine would not be the same album it is today,” said Shatil. “We recorded the entire album live at Pluto Studios to create the fresh feel of a concert.”
Pine took over three years to produce. The album weaves together his experiences from both home and abroad. While the album is complete, Shatil’s musical journey is far from over.
“This is just one step in the process,” said Shatil. “I had to come back home to finish what I started. Israel gave me the platform I needed to produce my music the way I wanted it to be. It allowed me to live out my teenage dream of being a singer-songwriter. I have no idea where I will go from here, but as long as I have a piano and my music, I’m happy.”