Keeping low in Haifa

Sefi Zisling performs at the SoLow music festival in Haifa.

Keeping low in Haifa (photo credit: ABIR SULTAN)
Keeping low in Haifa
(photo credit: ABIR SULTAN)
To paraphrase an oft-quoted triadic truism, music is music is music. In the context of art, that intimates that we should try to steer clear of cleanly partitioned genre or style categorizations, and keep an open mind and, more important, open ears. That, in a nutshell, is the way Sefi Zisling views his craft.
Most would readily associate the 35-year-old trumpeter with the jazzier side of the sonic tracks. However, closer inspection of his oeuvre to date reveals plenty of endeavor that seems only loosely associated with jazz, and lots more that is far removed from improvisational or blues- or swingbased sounds.
Zisling’s eclectic mind-set will be on show at the SoLow Festival in Haifa in just over a week’s time (November 7-8), when he performs there with his current band.
Zisling comes across as a gentle soul, and does not appear to be in a hurry to make himself heard or push his way to the front of the stage. That may be the reason it took him until last year to finally put out his debut record as leader, Beyond The Things I Know, on which he was ably supported, and prompted, by beat musician-record producer Yuval Havkin, better known as Rejoicer. That was close to a quarter of a century after he first pressed his young lips against a brass mouthpiece.
“I started on trumpet when I was 10,” he recalls.
He got plenty of encouragement from his social and familial milieu to enter the musical fray. “Yes, there was a lot of support for that where I grew up. That was on Kibbutz Ein Harod Meuhad in the Jezreel Valley.” Zisling’s parents wanted their offspring to get themselves a hands-on musical education. “There are nine siblings, and I have an older brother who plays saxophone and one who plays trumpet. So, I suppose, I wanted to follow in their footsteps. I thought it was really cool to play trumpet.”
The infant Zisling learned the rudiments of classical music, although he soon received a gentle push into very different fields of musical exploration. “One of my brothers moved to New York, and he used to send me CDs with jazz, groove and funk. There were a lot of Blue Note recordings among them.” Trumpeter Blue Mitchell was on the Blue Note roster, and he became one of Zisling’s first sources of inspiration, although the youngster was keen to spread his musical net as far and wide as possible from the word go. “I also got into [pioneering avant-garde saxophonist] John Coltrane and [soul icon] James Brown. I absorbed a lot of funk and jazz.”
The young trumpeter soon began mixing it with other budding musicians at a local conservatory, before furthering his education at the Thelma Yellin High School of (Abir Sultan) (Abir Sultan) the Arts. “That’s where I really got into jazz.” But Zisling was always looking to stretch his artistic borders. “I was considered a bit of an oddball at the school because I wanted to play funk and other stuff. It’s the same today.”
Zisling’s bio includes a plethora of gigs and recording sessions with a diverse range of acts, such as the free-roaming Ramirez Brothers, funk-psychedelic act the Kutiman Orchestra and rocker Alon Eder. The trumpeter is certainly no jazz snob. “I’m not a straight-ahead jazz player,” he notes. “Groove has always interested me.” And he got off to a flying start in that line of musical pursuit. “When I was 17 I met and joined [R&Bsoul outfit] Funk’N’stein. When I was still in high school I’d play gigs at Barby and all sorts of clubs which I couldn’t get into as a member of the audience, because I was too young,” he chuckles.
That was a full 18 years ago, and Zisling is now a fixture on the local music scene and, in between supporting all kinds of other acts, he is ready to get his own musical word out there. His sophomore recording is in the works, and his SoLow show will include numbers from the debut release and the next offering. “I am always on the lookout for new things, things that might surprise me,” he says. The SoLow crowd is clearly in for an interesting ride.
Elsewhere on the packed festival roster you can find soulfunk- groove queen Ester Rada, veteran psychedelic pop group Ziknei Tzefat, rappers Echo, Damsel Is Depressed and Avraham Lagassa, and less structured ware from the likes of Sam Hardali, Oren Amitai’s Stitches and underground foursome Mines.
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