‘So Far’ so good

Ahead of his return to Israel from the US next week, jazz guitarist Nadav Remez talks about his debut album.

Nadav Remez 311 (photo credit: Courtesy of nadavremez.com)
Nadav Remez 311
(photo credit: Courtesy of nadavremez.com)
When you call your debut recording So Far, that naturally leaves the record store patron wondering whether the album is a summation of the artist’s musical endeavor and/or life to date.
“Yes, but it also alludes to the fact that I have been living in the United States for a few years, and I am far away from my home, from Israel and my family,” explains jazz guitarist Nadav Remez.
Remez will have some time “at home” next week when he pops over from the US to take part in the four-day exposition of Israeli musicians – jazz and world music – for 45 international festival artistic directors coming here to find some of the best talent this country has produced.
The 27-year-old musician lives in New York but has come a long way from his native Tel Aviv, his alma mater, the Thelma Yellin High School for the Arts, and his later educational sojourns at Berklee College of Music and New England Conservatory in Boston. So Far is an accomplished and surprisingly mature work for a first offering.
“There is quite a lot of sadness,” observes the guitarist, “because I live somewhere else, far from where I should be.”
Despite his six-year sojourn, and counting, Remez obviously still feels a strong bond with the country of his birth.
“Being away from Israel generates some sort of tension between me and my home,” he continues. “But maybe that’s the tension you need to create and compose.”
There are other fringe benefits to living in foreign climes.
“There is something about being in a different place that puts you in a situation whereby you feel removed, and it produces a sort of vacuum, which is easy to fill with some sort of artistic creation.”
Remez certainly isn’t looking for an easy life. Amazingly, he is left-handed but plays a “normal” right-handed guitar.
Isn’t making music tough enough without adding almost impossible manual logistics to the instrumental conundrum? Remez is evidently made of sterner stuff.
“I elected to play right-handed guitar of my own accord,” he explains. “I try to understand what my right hand, my weaker hand, needs to do in order to work as a naturally strong hand.”
He invests a lot of time and effort in that exploration. “When I take the subway I take two [guitar picks] with me and I try to understand where the movement in the left hand comes from and replicate that with my right hand, to find some balance, in my hands and in my mind.”
The choice to use a right-handed guitar was also a matter of convenience.
“When I was a kid I went to the [musical instrument] store in Ness Ziona, and there were almost no left-handed guitars there, and the ones they had weren’t very good quality,” Remez recalls. “And if I went over to friends’ places, if there was a guitar around it would never be for a left-handed player.
So it made sense to use a regular guitar.”
Remez continues to subscribe to a problem-solving philosophy.
“There are always solutions and ways to overcome difficulties, the only question is how intelligent your solution is.”
That comes through loud and clear on So Far, which includes nine original compositions. In fact, Remez didn’t go too far to find his sidemen for the project, with no less than four Israelis – trumpeter Itamar Borochov, pianist-keyboardist Shai Maestro, bassist Avri Borochov and drummer Ziv Ravitz – alongside Americans James Wylie on alto saxophone and clarinet and Steve Brockman on tenor saxophone. The high Israeli percentage in Remez’s band is not serendipitous.
“I think we all share something, in that we come from here, from this unique country. It gives us a shared language and helps the creative process.”
There is, indeed, a sense on So Far that Remez took all the time in the world to produce the numbers.
“You get all these musicians who play really fast, which is OK, but I think you miss some sort of essence when you take too a fast approach to the music. It all gets a bit dense and overcrowded.
That applies to writing music too.”