Fridman on the frets

Israeli jazz guitarist Inbar Fridman returns to her home city to play the Holon Women’s Festival.

'The minute I discovered the guitar in high school, that was it.’ (photo credit: ALON GOLDMAN)
'The minute I discovered the guitar in high school, that was it.’
(photo credit: ALON GOLDMAN)
The palate of musical flavors at this year’s Holon Women’s Festival is as culturally diverse as the women themselves. Over the span of four days, the Holon Theater will see the likes of Israel’s most beloved electronic Yemenite trio, A-Wa, dance to an eclectic mix of Egyptian classics by Nasreen Qadri and get in the Afro-soul groove with the ever-inspiring, ever-soothing Ethio-Israeli artist AvevA.
Yes, many are traveling from far-away lands and farther away times to bless the city of Holon with their fugues, folk, and above all, femininity. One such musician completed her journey abroad years ago, and returns to her home city for this special event.
Born and raised in Holon, Inbar Fridman picked up her very first guitar as a teenager.
“I started playing classical piano when I was much younger,” she explains. “But the minute I discovered the guitar in high school, that was it.”
Upon taking to the strings, Fridman tossed the keys aside in pursuit of something greater than her cozy town, than Israel, and perhaps even herself. She enrolled in the Rimon School of Jazz, which only strengthened her musical choices and helped her wind up in New York, the land of endless possibility, or as Fridman puts it, “the most happening place artistically.”
Today, the axe queen is known for her lyrical compositions and enchanting melodic lines, yet she did not always think of herself as a composer. In fact, composition awaited the growing musician somewhere along the bohemian streets of Greenwich – maybe at Smalls or the Village Vanguard.
“It was only when I arrived in New York and saw as many performances as I could that I realized the essentiality of having your own repertoire – whether completely original or arrangements.”
In understanding this important addition to one’s aptitude on the instrument, Fridman began to write her own music during her studies at William Paterson University. And she grew quite fond of the process.
Growth, actually, plays an important role in Fridman’s narrative. Despite an open invitation for an ego boost, Fridman quite humbly rejects the claim made by Esther Berlinga Ryan of Something Else! Reviews that she was “wise beyond her years.”
Fridman believes that there is constant room for growth both in terms of sound and musicality, and for her, New York was the place to do so.
“It was only when I first arrived and encountered the higher level of performance that I was able to find my place in the jazz world,” her voice softens. “It opened my mind up to the opportunities out there.”
When asked what about New York encouraged her creative edge, Fridman explains, “There’s something more forgiving about it – about the way people look at music or its development. There was more room for error.”
It was this warm welcome to imperfections (an interesting insight into what might be perceived as the most competitive jazz scene out there) that also inspired significant musical relationships. For instance, it was in The City of Dreams that she met sensational jazz pianist Aaron Goldberg, who was recently featured at a show of hers in Switzerland playing repertoire from her
Time Quartet Project.
Released in 2013, Fridman’s first album embodied a refreshing collaborative nature, whereby pianist and dear friend Camelia Ben-Naceur composed a portion of the tunes.
“The original idea was to take compositions from every member of the band and put them together to create one combined sound,” Fridman shares. “Even the bass player wrote one or two, that sadly never made it onto the CD.”
As she dives head first into her newest recording project, Fridman is taking a more autonomous approach, whereby the music is entirely original and entirely her own. While details about the new project are still up in the air, her material is already grounded, though she remains uncertain as to whether it’ll spread its sultry seeds on French or Israeli soil.
In the meantime, Fridman is settled as a teacher at Rimon, the school that gave her her kick-start, and will be offering us a glimpse into her newest quartet material on March 9 at the Holon Theater in celebration of International Women’s Day at the city’s festival for “Women Like Us.”
Fridman was a perfect candidate for the festival, as she has not only succeeded in a genre that has been dominated by men since its inception, but will also be sharing the spotlight with another local feminine piano powerhouse, Katia Toobool.
“I’ve known Katia for over 20 years now, and I’ve played with her on many different occasions over the years. I didn’t intentionally choose another female pianist per se, but I guess my personal connection led me in that direction. There’s something in the connection between two women that differs from that of a woman and a man. Maybe the feminine connection is stronger; maybe it puts me in a more comfortable position.”
“Don’t get me wrong,” Fridman interrupts her own soliloquy. “I love playing with men and click with them musically and personally as well.”
Double bassist Yorai Oron and drummer Nitzan Birenbaum, who she called upon for her Holon show, are living proof.
Music, and jazz especially, is an incredibly vulnerable art form, which is why in Fridman’s eyes the most essential thing is to feel comfortable around the musicians with whom you choose to share your passion.
She also feels strongly about being as patient with herself as with her bandmates: “Don’t stretch yourself too hard, the key is tolerance towards your environment,” she says.
Finally, while she has come full circle and is ecstatic to play in her hometown this March, Fridman’s final words of advice stem beyond the local sphere.
“Existing beyond Israel is what made all the difference for me. It widened my scope and I believe that this is an important step for not only artists, but human beings.”
She may be off to Romania in May to broaden her scope even further, but for the moment Fridman is strumming away right here in our very own backyard.
Catch Inbar Fridman at the Holon Theater on March 9 as a part of the Holon Women’s Festival, taking place March 7-10.
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