The Borochov beat

Having made a name for himself in New York’s jazz scene, Israeli trumpeter Itamar Borochov returns home to perform at the annual Red Sea Jazz Festival.

Trumpeter Itamar Borochov 370 (photo credit: Courtesy PR))
Trumpeter Itamar Borochov 370
(photo credit: Courtesy PR))
Itamar Borochov is clearly not in any particular hurry. The 28-year-old New York-based Israeli trumpeter, who will be on the stage at the Red Sea Jazz Festival in Eilat this evening (9 p.m.) as part of percussionist Itamar Duari’s ethnically-inclined Unipulse band, has covered significant musical ground over the years.
He paid his academic dues at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in the Big Apple and has enjoyed creative synergies with musicians of varied stylistic leanings, and across several generations.
Including the likes of veteran trombonist Curtis Fuller, late American-Israeli saxophonist and teacher Arnie Lawrence, who was among the founders of the New School, and members of the next generation down, such as pianist Aaron Goldberg and stellar Israeli bassist Omer Avital.
Despite that impressive résumé, Borochov’s debut album as leader will only come out in the latter half of this year.
“I actually have lots of albums, and bits of albums, which I recorded but decided not to release,” the trumpeter declares.
“There was a really good live recording I made at the Yellow Submarine [in Jerusalem] in 2005 and Omer Avital and lots of other people told me I should release it, but I didn’t.”
It seems that Borochov has to feel comfortable with his work before he proffers it to the world, and that also applies to his brothers in arms. The personnel he lined up for the impending debut release include drummer Aviv Cohen, saxophonist Hagai Amir and his bass playing older brother Avri.
“These are the people I grew up with, personally and musically, so it was the most natural thing in the world for us to make the recording together,” explains Borochov.
In fact, Avri played a pivotal role in the trumpeter’s musical development, as did his father. Borochov Sr. is multi-instrumentalist, composer and band leader Yisrael, who was one of the pioneers of the crossover musical scene in this part of the world, as a member of Habreira Hativit in the 1970s and later with his own East-West Ensemble. Yisrael also runs the East-West House in Jaffa, where he hosts ethnic musical acts throughout the year.
With such an artistic pedigree it is no surprise that Borochov displayed strong musical leanings at a very early age.
“When I was two and a half I told my parents I wanted to play violin but, when we got to the music store – Weinstein’s – Weinstein told my parents I was too young and that playing the violin would distort my spine and that I couldn’t start until I was three,” he says.
But Borochov was made of sterner stuff.
“When my parents came to pick me up from kindergarten, on my third birthday, I said: ‘now we’re going to the store to get me a violin.’” That phase lasted a year, until the youngster decided to devote his spare time to something of a more athletic nature. “I started swimming,” he recalls. But there was plenty of musical endeavor left in him. Borochov moved on to piano until his older sibling decided he should follow a very different musical path.
“Everything changed one evening when Avri came to me, I think I was in grade three or four – back then Avri was a drummer – and said: ‘I am starting a rock group with Nissim Halifa from Jaffa. D. Nissim sings and plays saxophone, and you are going to play electric guitar with us.’ That was the most amazing offer anyone had made to me.”
Thanks to his father’s intervention, Borochov got his hands on an electric guitar, rather than the more child-friendly acoustic version, and he began to get serious about music.
“Avri and Nissim began to write stuff and to play all sorts of more complex things and I had to keep up,” says Borochov.
It was his habit of window shopping that eventually led to settling on the trumpet as his vehicle for artistic expression.
“One of my pastimes was to go to Klei Zemer [music store in the center of Tel Aviv] to see what guitars they had there, and one day I caught a glimpse of a black pocket trumpet. It looked shiny and sexy and really appealed to me.”
But it wasn’t just esthetics that fired the 10-year-old’s imagination.
“At that time I listened to a lot of singers and I began to realize that the wind instrument players played riffs behind the singer, and I thought I could play riffs on trumpet while Nissim played saxophone.”
A trumpet was duly procured for the youngster and it eventually became his main instrument.
Borochov had also developed an interest in the blues, but it was classical and classically- oriented music that eventually led him into the jazz domain.
“When I was very small I tried to play the theme of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition on piano. I only realized that was a trumpet role when I went to a concert of the work years later. That’s when I started to listen to trumpeters. My first two jazz records were Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue and Sketches of Spain. I think Sketches of Spain is probably the best record ever made.”
Said album contains Davis’s reading of Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez.
Other jazz trumpeters who have left their inspirational imprint on Borochov over the years include Freddie Hubbard, Chet Baker, Dizzy Gillespie, Kenny Dorham and Clifford Brown – an expansive stylistic spread indeed.
But, at the end of the day, Borochov is an Israeli and many of the ethnic strands that run through this part of the world, and which his dad imparted to him, are front and center in what he does today. For example, the trumpeter devotes much of his time to exploring how to incorporate Arabic textures in his jazz oeuvre.
“I am one of the few jazz trumpeters who can play quarter tones,” Borochov declares, “and I play some Arabic modes and scales too.”
The trumpeter also played a role in his father’s Debka Fantasia project, which featured in the Israel Festival three years ago, and which was based on works written by Ashkenazi musicians who incorporated local Beduin and Arabic tunes after making aliya to pre-state Palestine. Borochov is also a member of the singer Ravid Kalahalani’s Yemen Blues band, which feeds off Yemenite, West African material and the blues. The Yemen Blues lineup includes Avital and Duari.
This evening’s show provides Borochov and Duari with another opportunity to push their jazz-ethnic explorations out there, and one looks forward to hearing the trumpeter’s long awaited debut release later this year.
For more information about Red Sea Jazz Festival: (08) 634-0253 and