The bossa nova escape route

Guitarist Udi Horev conjures up Brazil as part of the Confederation House world music series in J'lem.

bossa nova (photo credit: Courtesy Confederation House)
bossa nova
(photo credit: Courtesy Confederation House)
It is a given that great music, regardless of genre, can often transport the listener to some far-flung spiritual and emotional vistas. It may come as news, however, that some performers also use their art to get away from it all.
“For me, it is a form of escapism,” says guitarist Udi Horev about his preoccupation with the sunny vibes of bossa nova music from Brazil. “This music is definitely not from here; it comes from a different world.”
Horev will offer us a rich window onto that colorful cultural domain on September 5 at 8:30 p.m. in Jerusalem, when he teams up with vocalist Victoria Serruya as part of the Confederation House’s current world music series.
“Bossa nova has a sort of rhythmic feel that is gentle but still very tangible,” the guitarist explains. “It is also such colorful music. It offers a way of accessing some other energies and sentiments.”
The guitarist set off for Brazilian musical climes around 10 years ago.
“I was just finishing my studies at the Rubin Academy of Music and Dance [of the Hebrew University] and [flutist] Dvir Katz asked me to join a band with [Uruguayan-born vocalist] Sabrina Lastman and [Mexican- born percussionist] Abe Doron. We played bossa nova all over the country for a few years. It was a very good experience,” he recounts His time with the band propelled Horev ever deeper into Brazilian musical territory.
“I listened to records of music by people like [iconic Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos] Jobim. I’d try to work out the different roles the musicians played and the types of rhythms in the music. It was both wonderful and challenging,” he says.
In fact, Horev brings a wide swath of instrumental exploration to his Brazilian musical exploits. He is trained as a classical guitarist and, as a teenager, got heavily into the rock scene. Considering the blend of origins that combined to spawn bossa nova, and Horev’s cross-genre background, it is not surprising that he eventually headed for the South American side of the musical tracks.
“Bossa nova is a mix of all kinds of things,” he observes. “There are all the indigenous rhythms and traces of samba and, of course, you have the jazz elements in there, too. There are many jazz musicians who have taken an interest in bossa nova.”
One of the first to do so was Jewish American saxophonist Stan Getz, who was instrumental in introducing stateside audiences to the music. His 1962 record Jazz Samba was a big seller, and his rendition of “Desafinado” from the album earned him a Grammy in 1963 for Best Jazz Performance. Getz’s subsequent collaboration with Brazilian singer-guitarist João Gilberto produced the 1964 hit record Getz/Gilberto, while “The Girl from Ipanema” off the LP brought Getz another Grammy and became a perennial favorite.
The multi-layered musical textures at the core of bossa nova were a particularly attractive prospect for Horev.
“I come from so many different musical directions, that it was hard for me to say, ‘I’ll do this and that.’ Also, the mix of bossa nova offers great opportunities for improvisation,” he notes. “You can feed off the different genres in there. You can hear that in improvisation on chord changes and harmony.”
Horev says he had an excellent start to his musical education at the age of five in more senses than one.
“My first teacher was a Russian woman named Rivka Mindel. She had also taught my mother when my mother was still at school, and also my brother. She was a wonderful person besides being a great teacher. I was happy to go to lessons with her. She was, first and foremost, a kind and warm person and was an amazing multi-instrumentalist. But she demanded discipline, and I had to keep up with my practicing between classes.”
It is an approach Horev eagerly took on board, both as a disciple and as a teacher himself.
“Today, as a teacher, I understand the importance of how the teacher behaves with a child he sees once a week. I learned from Rivka that the relationship between teacher and student is of paramount importance, which to me makes perfect sense. I think that what happens between the teacher and the student on a personal level is probably more important than the technical musical side,” he says.
Besides his work with Brazilian rhythms, Horev maintains interests in other musical areas. He is a member of the Mayura Trio, which marries Indian melodies with Western classical music and some sentiments from this part of the world.
He also collaborates in jazz and klezmer-tinted projects and writes and performs his own material. He also works with a cross-genre quartet that includes his wife, double-bass player Ora Boasson-Horev, as well as violinist Daniel Hoffman and percussionist Oren Fried.
The concert at the Confederation House will see Horev and Serruya perform works by Jobim, Baden Powell de Aquino and Vinicius de Moraes. The current project comes on the back of a long artistic association between the guitarist and the vocalist. Last year they combined in performances of Portuguese and Brazilian music that tended towards the fado-bluesy side and fed off stories related to the sea. They have worked together for some years now.
“[Percussionist] Oren [Fried] introduced me to Victoria, and we soon discovered that we share a lot of common musical ground,” says Horev. “Victoria also has all sorts of influences in her music, so it was a good fit.”
The last two items in the Confederation House world music series feature an intriguing encounter, on September 12, between Ethiopian blues, jazz and Middle Eastern melodies and rhythms featuring Ethiopian-born saxophonist-vocalist Abate Barihon, guitarist-oud player Amos Hoffman and percussionist Eli Yoffe, along with pianist David Ada and doublebass player Avri Borochov.
The series closes on September 13 with a rhythmic tour de force spearheaded by veteran Moldovan-born accordionist Emil Aybinder that takes in Balkan and Gypsy material, French and Latin works.
For more information about the Confederation House world music series: (02) 624-5206 and