Riffing at windmills

With his first solo album in the works, 29-year-old Jerusalemite jazz guitarist Ido Bukelman ‘likes the idea of being a Don Quixote, playing music that not many people get.’

Ido Bukelman 311 (photo credit: Guy Eisner)
Ido Bukelman 311
(photo credit: Guy Eisner)
Ido Bukelman is in something of a quandary. The 29-year-old Jerusalemite guitarist is not quite sure how popular he wants to be.
“I do like the idea of being a Don Quixote and playing music that not many people get,” he says, “but, of course, I want people to listen to the things I do.”
It must be said that, if Bukelman wanted to pack stadiums, he could have chosen a more mainstream path to riches and glory.
Despite his relatively tender age, Bukelman has been one of the mainstays of the avant garde jazz-oriented scene in this country for some years now. He performs in all kinds of lineups, enjoying creative synergies with the likes of avant garde doyen saxophonist Albert Beger, saxophonist Yoni Kretzmer – who recently relocated to New York – and 78 year old clarinetist Harold Rubin.
Stadium-sized audiences or no, Bukelman is getting on with the job in hand, with gusto. His debut album, City Tail with the Ido Bukelman Trio of bassist Assaf Hakimi and drummer Udi Shlomo, came out in 2009 and he has put together a quartet outing intriguingly entitled Cracked Song, with Hakimi, Shlomo and cellist Yuval Messner, since then. A solo effort is also in the works and he also teaches at the Muzik School of Music Creation and Production in Tel Aviv, where he works with various ensembles, spawning more free-thinking artists of his own ilk.
And his gig diary is pretty full too, with shows lined up in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem over the next few weeks.
His artistic growth continuum follows a pretty steep trajectory. He came to notice around four years ago, as a member of experimental jazz foursome The Rats, alongside Kretzmer, bassist Daniel Spier and drummer Daniel Feingold. He’d set down his marker as an emerging force on the alternative music scene and has made great strides in the interim.
Bukelman’s main objective is maintaining an exploratory continuum, and there are no prisoners being taken.
“I have absolutely no interest in playing jazz like it used to be played. There are people, today, who still play jazz like it used to be. For me, that’s like going to a museum.” So, for instance, does Bukelman have a problem with someone like 58 year old American saxophonist Joe Lovano who feeds off the bebop vibes and rhythms initiated in the 1940s? “Lovano does it so well, so I’m OK with that. But there are lots of musicians out there who try to do jazz like the bebop artists. That, for me, is like raking over the past.”
YOU WON’T find much tried and tested jazz material in Bukelman’s oeuvre either.
“I don’t see the point in playing standards. I don’t come from New York,” he says. But Cracked Song has an interesting version of John Lennon’s “Julia,” and Bukelman doesn’t come from Liverpool either.
“I grew up on the Beatles so that’s natural for me. My dad used to play me Beatles records. I think I’m more connected with the Beatles than, for example, Arik Einstein who, by the way, I like a lot. I also like Meir Ariel and Shalom Hanoch.”
One thing is for sure, Bukelman always goes for broke and you always get the genuine article from him no matter what. “When I recorded Cracked Song I was on the edge. I’d had problems with my finger joints for some time and it was very painful for me to play guitar. I canceled a lot of gigs around that time but, maybe it’s true what they say, that you have to suffer for your art. My fingers are okay now.”
By definition, true art must involve risk taking and leaping into the great unknown. That is an ethos Bukelman embraces wholeheartedly.

“I did some stuff with an electronic group a few months ago. That’s really on the margins, but that’s the way I am. I try to go for things as freely and unfettered as possible. It’s like just dropping on to my guitar drunk and going for it, although I spend a lot of time thinking about what music I’d like to make.”
Despite the departure of his close friend and brother in musical arms Kretzmer, Bukelman says he is intent on working in his natural milieu.
“When Yoni left it was painful, and I have thought about moving to Berlin – there’s a great artistic scene there. I also work in Tel Aviv a lot but I live in Jerusalem, which is home to me. It has to feel right for me.”