Showing off to the world

The jazz and world music showcase will get its boogie on in mid-November

The Avi Lebovich Orchestra (photo credit: ROEE FAINBURG)
The Avi Lebovich Orchestra
(photo credit: ROEE FAINBURG)
This year’s International Music Showcase Festival is almost upon us, kicking off with the jazz and world music section, which will take place in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv from November 11 to 14.
The largely Yellow Submarine-based project event is sponsored by the Foreign Ministry’s cultural and scientific relations department along with the Culture and Sport Ministry, and artistically directed by Barak Weiss.
The concept behind the showcase, now in its fifth year, is to bring in artistic directors of relevant festivals and institutions around the world and to show them the best of what we have to offer in their fields.
Over the years jazz purveyors reedman Daniel Zamir, trumpeter Avishai Cohen and guitarist Jonathan Greenstein, as well as top-notch ethnic music artists such as singer Neta Elkayam, Bukharan music troupe the Alaev Family and klezmer outfit Ramzeilech have gained ground in the global music circuit after strutting their stuff to the visitors from overseas.
The VIP jazz guests this year include North Sea Jazz Festival program manager Frank Bolder, from the Netherlands, and Sebastien Vidal. Vidal is one of the powerhouses behind the French jazz scene, as artistic director of the Nice Jazz Festival, Django Reinhardt Festival and leading Paris venue Le Duc Des Lombards, as well as presenting his own jazz show on the TSFJAZZ radio station.
Vidal is a perennial visitor to the showcase, which features three days of shows at the Yellow Submarine in Jerusalem, and another day at The Zone in Tel Aviv.
His support of the event is certainly a feather in the organizers’ collective hat.
France has been at the forefront of global jazz endeavor for many a year and, although well-to-do jazz musicians are few and far between, Vidal feels that the creative side of the art form is developing in leaps and bounds.
“French jazz is in very good health, just like anywhere else in the world,” he declares. “There is a new audience and there is a new generation of musicians which brings something absolutely new into the jazz world.
“For instance, [vocalist] Gregory Porter [who played at the Opera House in Tel Aviv earlier this year] and [Canadian singer- pianist] Diana Krall are having very big success in bringing their music to a very new and very big audience.”
According to Vidal, the age and gender spread is shifting.
“There are more women and more young people in jazz audiences today, exactly like in France. In France there is a new generation of musicians that is bringing into the clubs a new generation of audience.
“There are people like [Lebanese-born French trumpeter] Ibrahim Maalouf and [Paris-based Israeli pianist] Yaron Herman.
They are bringing a totally new audience into the clubs and the jazz world. That’s great, and we can see that everywhere, from here [in Paris] to New York and everywhere.”
Jazz, like any art form, must by definition evolve constantly. “I think jazz is a very flexible art form,” posits Vidal. “It is dying all the time; it is brand-new all the time. And, most of all, jazz is super-cool. It is a super-cool art form – very hip, very avant-garde, very flexible, very open to any genre and any influence. It is the only art form that has survived for almost a century while dying every 10 years.
“Every 10 years you get people saying that jazz is dead, because there is nothing new. Then, suddenly, you get someone like [34-year-old US saxophonist-composer] Kamasi Washington bringing out a 3-CD box set with four hours of incredibly new, talented, creative, modern and super-hip music. And he is also doing the arrangements for [stellar hiphop artist] Kendrick Lamar, which is probably the most avant-garde hip-hop mix of intelligent music that we have right now.”
It appears to be a phoenix scenario.
“Every 10 years jazz sucks and people don’t like it and people say jazz is dead, and every 10 years there is a new generation that brings something new.”
Israeli jazz musicians have been at the forefront of that ongoing life-out-ofashes process for quite some time now.
“Ten years ago it was you guys, the Israelis in New York, who brought something new to the scene,” notes Vidal. “They were alive and happy and creative, and that brings something to the music.”
There is, indeed, no shortage of Israeli artists who continue to put it out there in the Big Apple, and anywhere and everywhere where a jazz audience can be found. Trumpeter Avishai Cohen has been in the mix there for a decade and a half or so, and other Israeli leading lights in the New York and European arenas include guitarist Gilad Heckselman, who has just brought out an excellent album called Homes, flutist Hadar Noiberg and Germany-based pianist Omer Klein.
Klein will open the showcase performance proceedings at the Yellow Submarine, on Wednesday, and will return to Germany a few days later where he will attend a ceremony in Düsseldorf as one of the two recipients of this year’s prestigious NRW Förderpreis award given by the German Culture Ministry.
As leading members of the global jazz fraternity, even though they may not all be millionaires, Israeli artists pack quite a punch when it comes to dictating how the industry develops across the board.
“You need to separate the way you consider jazz in terms of what jazz is representing, in terms of percentage of the music business in the world, and how jazz is influencing the music in general. In terms of the music business, it is 2 percent of the world business; that’s it.”
That, says Vidal, does nothing to stem the tide of creative output.
“There are around 1,200 to 1,500 new jazz records a year, coming from everywhere; and out of that, around 10 percent are very interesting. That creates activity and TV appearances and gigs, and it has a tremendous influence on the world music business.”
The latter refers to the global music market as a whole, rather than just the ethnically inclined world music sector.
“Everyone is looking at people like Justin Bieber and [megastar American singer-songwriter] Meghan Trainor, but Meghan Trainor was trained at [prestigious jazz educational institution] Berklee College of Music in Boston, and she works with a lot of jazz people.”
In his capacity as an artistic director and radio show host, Vidal is one of the leading means of getting the latest jazz word out there to the public, which makes his presence in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv all the more important and gratifying.
“I am really looking forward to coming back to Israel,” he says, “and to hearing some new music.”
Over the four days of the showcase, the overseas guests and public will be able to hear high-energy, ethnic-funk band Yemen Blues, jazz ensemble Avi Lebovich Orchestra, the Hadar Noiberg Trio, Persian music vocalist Maureen Nehedar, the Mechilta band, and West African-influence fare from the Jali Ensemble. • For more information: