Music in context

While jazz guitarist Dekel Bor has taken a big bite out of the Big Apple, he is fine-tuning his taste level here at home.

Dekel Bor_311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Dekel Bor_311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Dekel Bor says he is getting there. The “there” of the 32-year-old jazz guitarist’s ethos is gaining the maturity and self-awareness to do his own thing on the stage and in the recording studio without the crutch of the masters of the genre’s yesteryear.
“I am at the age when you change from being a young person to a man,” says Bor, who will perform at the Enav Center in Tel Aviv on Wednesday (8:30 p.m.) with Ronen Itzikon drums and Assaf Hakimi on bass and rock singer Maor Cohen filling a guest slot. “We are educated [in the jazz world] to look upon someone like [iconic saxophonist John] Coltrane as some kind of deity instead of as a human being. The absurd thing is that I have played with so many people who performed with him – like [septuagenarian bassist] Reggie Workman and [late drummer] Elvin Jones – and they all talk about him as a human being. But I am finally trying to find my own context, my own domain for expressing myself.”
Bor has come a long way in terms of his art and personal development.
He grew up in Kiryat Ono and imbibed a heady diet of classical music, largely due to the fact that his father is a classical percussionist.
As a teenager, Bor developed an interest in rock climbing, and it was the outdoor pursuit that led indirectly to where he is today. “We climbed up a rock face near Qumran [near the Dead Sea] and camped out and some guy had a guitar and played Dylan’s ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.’ Until then I had heard very little other than classical music, but that simple guitar playing really threw me. I went home and told my parents I wanted a guitar.”
The instrument was duly procured, and the rest is history.
He soon asked to transfer to the Thelma Yellin Art School in Givatayim, which has a strong jazz department, and he embarked on his current artistic quest. At the age of 21 he moved to the US to attend the New School of Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York, where his teachers included the likes of Workman and stellar saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom. During his three-year course, Bor took the opportunity to gain as much street-level experience as possible, and he is now a regular at such notable New York venues as Smalls and the 55 Bar in Greenwich Village.
“I’ve played at so many places in New York, although I haven’t appeared at the [76-year-old jazz club] Village Vanguard yet. I hope that happens soon.”
To date, Bor has released a couple of jazz CDs – (The Long Way) Home with French bassist Francois Moutin and Israeli drummer Nadav Snir which came out in 2007, and Emuna (2005), with Moutin and Snir, with Odaya Nini adding vocals on one track.
But the guitarist is keen to explore new vistas and has opted for a surprising avenue of discovery which, in a way, represents something of a musical homecoming. “I am working on a Bach composition with a trio,” he says, adding that he has taken on quite a challenge. “It is not a problem to play the piece in technical terms, but artistically it is incredibly difficult. I approach this project with utter humility, which is very different from the way I’d go about playing jazz pieces when I was younger. When you’re young, you feel you can do anything and that the world is there just waiting for you to conquer it.”
Bor says he has battled hard to rid himself of some of the negative society-induced baggage to enable him to make strides with his art. “I come from a generation that was taught to be a consumer and to make more money so that you can buy more stuff that you really don’t need.”
He says he has been helped along the way by a decision to spend more of his time in Israel.
“It has been really good for me to get out of New York. There are some fantastic musicians there, but there is a clear New York sound that comes straight from the [1960s] second quintet of Miles [Davis], and everyone around is trying to be the fastest and most complicated player. I played with about five or six bands, with really top musicians, people I always dreamt of playing with, but I felt something was missing. Everything started sounding the same. I felt I needed a change and to get away from their context and find my own context. When you’re in New York, there’s this pressure to fit in [with the jazz scene]. I have more freedom here.”
Dekel Bor will perform at the Enav Center in Tel Aviv on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. For tickets and more information: (03) 521-7766. For more information about Dekel Bor: