New port of call

Those who are still mourning the closure of the Avram Bar can find comfort at Jerusalem’s Port, which has the same owners and a stellar music line-up.

Yael Deckelbaum (photo credit: ASAF EINI)
Yael Deckelbaum
(photo credit: ASAF EINI)
Last summer, a sad event occurred in our beloved capital. Thankfully, no one was physically hurt and there was not even any physical damage.
Even so, music fans of all kinds of stripes were dismayed, if not to say mortified, when Avram Bar closed its doors for good last August after almost eight years of earnest musical endeavor.
But the company, and its dedicated team, were not ready to lie down and simply canter off into the sunset, and they are now coming back at us with all guns blazing. Yesterday, a new – and sorely needed – music venue opened on Hillel Street; the enterprise goes by the intriguing name of Jerusalem’s Port.
The seaside context is, of course, at least in physical terms, antithetical to Jerusalem’s landlocked location.
But as Avram Music Productions and Jerusalem’s Port artistic director and marketing manager Noa Melamed- Vazana notes, the harbor reference is entirely relevant.
“Look where we are, in the center of Jerusalem, where all kinds of people pass by,” she says. “We don’t have the sea here, but we have people from every culture and ethnic group, of all sorts. This will be a meeting place for all kinds of people – students, tourists, artists, chefs, families, religious and secular, women and men.”
Melamed-Vazana adds that the transit ethos will also come through strongly in the new/resuscitated venture’s artistic lineup. “We will have all kinds of music shows here – rock, pop, ethnic, jazz, you name it.” There’s more: “We’ll also have exhibitions – photography and other stuff – and if we find the right person and topic, lectures and movie screenings. As far as we’re concerned, anything goes.”
That is excellent news for all culture-mongers and consumers in Jerusalem. Since Avram Bar closed, performance venue options for various artists have been restricted, and the intimate ambiance of the street-corner bar-restaurant has been truly missed. While in strictly professional terms Avram Bar may not have exactly been in the Carnegie Hall league, cramped confines notwithstanding, there was something alluring and fun about catching some quality jazz or pop, or some silkily skilled ethnic music act do their thing on the small stage while Jerusalemites flitted to and fro through the environs of Mahaneh Yehuda, and light rail trains trundled up and down Jaffa Road in the background.
In that respect, Jerusalem’s Port is a very different affair. The owners have clearly spared no expense in putting together a highly professional restaurant and entertainment vehicle. “Just look at all of this,” enthuses Melamed-Vazana, gesturing to the generously proportioned stage, and lighting and amplification gear. “We have state-of-theart sound equipment, too. People will really be able to appreciate the shows we put on here.”
Melamed-Vazana and her cohorts have clearly pulled out all the stops in assembling the initial entertainment onslaught, mixing young and seasoned, as well as new and tried-and-tested, acts. Yesterday’s launch show, for example, featured stellar Ethiopian-Israeli singer Ester Rada. And the diverse artistic range is apparent from the word go, with rocker Yael Deckelbaum presenting material from her brand new CD, Enosh, due to perform at Jerusalem’s Port on May 21; veteran Kurdish music vocalist Ilana Elya lined up for the next day; and guitarist Shuki Shweiki fronting a flamenco evening on May 28.
Longtime Avram Bar faithfuls will, no doubt, also be delighted to note that Andalusian oud player and vocalist Nino Biton will be resurrecting his traditional Friday afternoon slot at the new place, while the decibel and energy level will jump several notches when the wild and woolly jazz-based Malox duo, of saxophonist, clarinetist and bagpiper Eyal Talmudi and drummer Roy Chen, roars into town on May 30.
Although she misses the old homestead, on the corner of the Clal Building, Melamed-Vazana says she and her colleagues in Avram Music Productions were keen to ensure that their beloved enterprise had a good home to which to go. “We recruited the best professionals around to build this place, and then we started looking for the kind of cultural content we wanted to have here. You could say we built our home, then looked for how we wanted to fill it.”
Mind you, it wasn’t as if Melamed-Vazana and the rest of the Avram gang exactly sat around twiddling their thumbs and bemoaning the closure of their former venue. “We were active, on the production side, all over the city, at festivals and that sort of thing,” Melamed- Vazana explains. “We ran lineups at all kinds of places, like Beit Avi Chai.”
With a capacity of around 150, Jerusalem’s Port will also offer a handy alternative to artists looking for a more intimate, although not too cozy, place to strut their stuff. “There are musicians who, for example, may not be able to fill the bigger places like Zappa or the Yellow Submarine,” clarifies Melamed-Vazana. “This is a good place for them.”
In addition to having their spirits uplifted, entertainment patrons will also have their corporeal needs suitably catered for and pampered. “This is a restaurant which works all through the day,” she says, producing a copy of the Jerusalem’s Port menu. “We have a top chef here.”
The latter will gladly provide a wide range of dishes for all culinary tastes, including a handful of dishes for vegetarians and vegans. Booze won’t be a problem, either.
The emphasis at Jerusalem’s Port, which is kosher and closed on Shabbat, will be on offering the public a good time with as relaxed an ambiance as possible. “The stage area is not sterile,” explains Vazana, “and people will be able to see the artists up close. We want people to feel welcome here. We want to reproduce something of the intimacy of Avram Bar, but with the most professional and quality conditions we can offer.”
The inaugural program notes spell out the Jerusalem’s Port ethos in succinct and consumer-friendly terms, with the requisite marine reference. “We invite everyone to anchor with us, to have a good meal from our chef’s kitchen, to drink some wine, nectar or liquor and enjoy a fine helping of soul food.” 
Evening shows will start at 9:30, with doors opening at; Friday slots will start at 2 p.m. A website is under construction but for now, ticket reservations can be made by calling (02) 625-4447.