Jerusalem of jazz

The ancient capital establishes itself on the international jazz circuit.

in the mood 88 (photo credit: )
in the mood 88
(photo credit: )
The second Jerusalem International Jazz festival, running Wednesday through Friday (June 19-22), proves that the capital has earned a place in Israel's rapidly expanding jazz scene. Artistic director Ache Bar (also a manager at Jerusalem's Yellow Submarine) notes with satisfaction that last year's event played to packed audiences and received overwhelmingly positive reviews. "Of course it's nice to know that my idea was successful and there's justification to repeat it this year," says Bar. "I think it's important that Jerusalem host an event to rival the big festivals in Tel Aviv, Caesarea and Eilat." He stresses, however, that the Jerusalem event, which takes place at the Yellow Submarine club in Talpiot, the Jerusalem Theater and the ancient courtyard of the Tower of David museum near Jaffa Gate - has its own character. "We're unique in terms of the diverse spectrum of local and foreign acts we've scheduled," Bar asserts. "Jazz is a big word, encompassing a far wider musical range than most people envisage, and our lineup reflects that. Our aim is to appeal to as broad and diverse an audience as possible." Headlining the international offerings is world-renowned US trombonist Slide Hampton. Hampton, whose career spans over five decades, has collaborated with jazz legends such as Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakely, Max Roach and Charles Mingus - experiences he claims were "very intimidating" but impressed upon him the importance of a "strong work ethic." His accolades include Grammy awards for his arranging on the albums Dear Ella (1998) and The Way: Music of Slide Hampton with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra (2005). At his Jerusalem shows, entitled Not Just Jobim after his popular recording of the same name, Hampton will perform mostly original arrangements dedicated to Brazilian Bossa-Nova composer Antonio Carlos Jobim, along with three other trombonists. "The beauty of Bossa-Nova music lies in its quiet, sensual strength," he enthuses. "By its very nature it evokes a powerful response from the audience without too much effort on the artist's part." In any event, according to Hampton, the audience in question requires little coaxing. "This is my third time performing in Israel, and on my previous visits the audiences struck me as being particularly demonstrative and energetic," he says. Hampton also has warm words for his fellow trombone frontline performers, world-acclaimed musician Steve Davis and home-grown talents such as 2006 Landau Prize recipient Avi Leibovich and New York-based Yonatan Volchock, a member of the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band. "I've worked with these guys before, and each of them is genuinely talented in his own right," he stresses. Other highlights from a long list of international performers include two-year-old American hard-bop ensemble The Cookers septet, all the members of which (James Spaulding, Eddie Henderson, George Cables and Cecil McBee) are celebrated jazz musicians in their own right, innovative British band Oi Va Voi, which combines traditional Jewish Klezmer with sounds as diverse as electronic arrangements, gypsy music and R&B groove to create a unique contemporary statement, and the US-based Al Foster Quartet. Foster, best known for his 13-year stint as drummer in Miles Davis's band, has recorded with many jazz greats of the past 40 years. Here, he performs with his own band, which includes acclaimed Israeli saxophonist Eli Degribi. Aside from the impressive array of local talent performing in conjunction with international artists, the home front is also represented by a selection of exclusively Israeli acts. Ethnic pop diva Ahinoam Nini, one of Israel's more successful international artists, and who counts among her accomplishments collaborative performances with Sting, Stevie Wonder and Carlos Santana, infuses classic numbers by the likes of Gershwin, Porter and Berlin with highly personal and sophisticated vocal interpretations in a program entitled Noa Sings Jazz, which also marks the debut of her international tour of the same name. Guitarists Amos Hoffman, Yona Silberstein and Ofer Ganor merge their unique sounds to create an original take on well-known jazz standards. Soprano saxophonist Daniel Zamir will collaborate with Asian-influenced percussionist Zohar Fresco. A number of the international acts will give master classes, and the event will also feature a street fair at David's Garden, adjacent to the Tower of David Museum. Guided tours of the Old City will set off from the Tower of David at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. each evening. For more information visit