Hadar Noiberg jazzes up New York

The 32-year-old Israeli flutist mixes jazz improvisation and Western harmonies with Middle Eastern tempos.

Hadar Noiberg performs in a concert based on the poetry Rachel Shapira. (photo credit: PR)
Hadar Noiberg performs in a concert based on the poetry Rachel Shapira.
(photo credit: PR)
The 32-year-old Israeli flutist mixes jazz improvisation and Western harmonies with Middle Eastern tempos • By VIVA SARAH PRESS At the age of six, while her firstgrade friends were playing off-key notes on their recorders in music class, Hadar Noiberg’s parents were informed that their daughter had absolute pitch, a rare auditory trait that enables a person to identify a pitch of a musical tone without a reference pitch. She got her first flute at age 10, hoping to emulate her older sister’s playing skills.
Fast forward to today and the 32-year-old Noiberg is a notable jazz flutist who wows audiences worldwide. This summer she’s been zigzagging across Germany, Canada, Israel, the US and Japan in support of her newest album, From The Ground Up.
Her solo work and the Hadar Noiberg Trio are her main calling cards, but this sought-after musician – who has headlined at Blue Note, WOMEX, Roskilde Festival and Central Park SummerStage – has had her original compositions performed in ensembles including The Jammin’ Divas, Hadar Noiberg Quartet, Regional de New York and Yemen Blues band, among many others.
“Noiberg is an extremely gifted flutist who manages to bring out the deep colors and soul of her flute. With it she presents music that is nevertheless jazzy, and yet still reminiscent of Israeli music, of home,” wrote a reviewer in the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot.
Listen closely to her music and you’ll hear her Israeli-American life story. Her pieces mesh and fuse jazz improvisation and Western harmonies with Middle Eastern tempos.
“The way I play is unique and I feel there’s something about the groove and how I connect to the audience that is special,” Noiberg says over Skype from the Brooklyn apartment she shares with her singer-songwriter life partner, Kath Buckell. “I try not to label my music. I try to break every musical boundary that I have. I’m giving strength, bravery and passion to the world of music.”
Noiberg had been playing and touring with the Young Philharmonic Orchestra and studying at the Tel Aviv Academy of Music when she decided that to really grow in music she had to leave Israel and head for a more diverse musical arena.
At 21 years of age, she transferred to the City College of New York where she would go on to complete her bachelor’s degree in flute and composition. She also started playing and composing on the world’s most condensed international music scene.
Like many other Israelis before her, this flutist/composer/arranger has made her mark on the New York music scene – and beyond.
She credits her roots for the fusion style that has made her a major force in the world-music, Cuban, Brazilian and jazz scenes today.
“Because it’s such a small scene, and it’s in the Middle East and music is influenced by the landscape, Israelis may not have the best techniques like the Japanese or Koreans but they’re really good at innovation in music,” Noiberg says, explaining the great jazz footprint Israelis have in the Big Apple.
“The melting pot in Israel – the combination of styles and origins there – is really good inspiration.”
And though she’s spent her adult life based out of New York, when asked how she identifies herself, “Israeli, for sure,” is the answer she gives, noting she returns twice a year to visit and perform.
“I feel more of an Israeli. My mother tongue is Hebrew, the many different styles of music and art I’m connected to [are Israeli],” she says, adding that she tries to bring this multiculturalism to her music and share it with her audience.
Noiberg isn’t sure how many jazz flute trios there are on the world circuit but she knows there aren’t many.
Indeed, the flute figures much more prominently in Middle Eastern music than in Western music. Noiberg has made it her mission to bring the flute to center stage.
“I’m trying to bring the flute as a strong leading instrument of Western music and show that it’s not only an instrument for doublers,” she says. “To me, the flute is a very spiritual instrument. It comes from nature; I love the wood. It can bring you to a higher spiritual realm.”
The flute could not have chosen a better marketing person that Noiberg. Her schedule is extremely hectic thanks to her insatiable desire to get the flute better publicity and bigger audiences.
When she’s not composing and playing with her trio or Brazilian band, or collaborating with other musicians, you can find her teaching classical musicians the art of improvisation.
“It fascinates me where improvisation comes from,” she says.
Her near future includes international concerts with other artists as well as introducing songs from her new CD. She is confident that she can continue winning over audiences and opening them up to the beauty of the flute as a lead instrument.
“The CD is not only for people who love jazz but it’s for people who love blues, people who love world music – it’s for everybody,” she says. “I’d like to break out from the jazz or Israeli audience and get to as many people as I can.”