Pianist Eden Ladin performs new album at Jerusalem Jazz Festival

Mirage at the museum

EDEN LADIN (seated) and his band: This is music which is just begging to be played live. (photo credit: NOAM LADIN)
EDEN LADIN (seated) and his band: This is music which is just begging to be played live.
(photo credit: NOAM LADIN)
We all have our ups and downs in life. The general idea is to get through the bad stuff and possibly come out at the other end stronger and wiser and ready to enjoy the good times.
Eden Ladin seems to have a handle on that outlook.
“Last year, 2019, was one of my best ever in terms of career,” says the 32-year-old Israeli jazz pianist when we meet up in Tel Aviv. “I got loads of gigs with great people, and things were going really well for me professionally. I even played at [legendary New York jazz club] the Village Vanguard.”
Then again, his personal life could have been better. “I went through difficult times emotionally and mentally because of several things that blew up in my face, and I felt like I've lost control of my life, so the whole year I was sort of depressed.”
They do say that artists often produce better work when they suffer. Ladin is living proof of that hackneyed tenet, and got some therapeutic benefits into the bargain.
“I got this whole creative urge from a dark place in my life,” he observes. “The music I wrote helped me to deal with that.”
The artistic upshot of Ladin’s emotional trials is Mirage, an album in the making – the pianist hopes it will be out by the end of the year – which informs Ladin’s quartet’s forthcoming show at this year’s Jerusalem Jazz Festival on September 10 (8:35 p.m.).
As befitting these strange times, the performance format of the three-day festival is a little left field. As we all know, to our continuing bewilderment, the corona cabinet directives can change at any given moment. An Israel Museum representative informed me that the capsule-based audience logistics allow for admission of 400-500 people per event. That’s not bad going at all, especially considering that, up to just over a week ago, audiences were capped at a paltry 20.
So, on Thursday the museum’s Rose Garden outdoor venue should be teeming with fans of jazz and other musical genres as, no doubt, many arrive to attend their first live show for many a moon.
The entertainment proceedings kick off with a high-profile bang, at 8 p.m., with stellar singer-songwriter Evyatar Banai performing some of his mellifluous material in a 35-minute gig. That may not sound very long, but at least Banai gets a more generous slot than Ladin and his band, who are due to play second in the evening’s schedule.
The Rose Garden will be kitted out with three stages, as shows follow each other – hopefully – in seamless fashion. All told there will be three 35-minute concerts and four of 15 minutes, or thereabouts, ending at 11:20 p.m.
LADIN NORMALLY resides in New York, where he was born during a work- and studies-related family sojourn there, but grew up in Israel. He relocated back to the Big Apple, initially to further his improvisational music education at the New School.
He didn’t do too badly there and quickly began earning a few cents on the local gig circuit, working as an increasingly appreciated sideman with such leading lights as saxophonist Myron Walden, trumpeter Terence Blanchard, saxophonist Dayna Stephens and trumpeter Wallace Roney. He also served nurturing berths with both Avishai Cohens – the well-known bassist, and the stellar trumpeter and perennial Jerusalem Jazz Festival artistic director – and longtime New York resident Israeli bassist Omer Avital. All that offered Ladin generous scope to put into practice some of the tricks of the trade he took on at school, studying with the likes of venerated pianist Joanne Brackeen, saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom and now-83-year-old bassist Reggie Workman.
Ladin’s quality Stateside gigging life went on for 12 years, before he hightailed it back to these shores in March, anticipating that he might not be able to get in a good portion of hummus in Tel Aviv for some time, as the COVID-19 restrictions began to take hold.
“I was actually here [in Israel] in February for a tour, so it is quite funny that I came back so quickly. This is the longest I have been in Israel since I moved to New York in 2008,” Ladin notes, adding that, at least in terms of his own life path, the pandemic did not cause too many seismic disruptions. “I was thinking of moving back to Israel anyway. I wanted to check out what it feels like, to be living back here again.” Nice of the global health pandemonium to help point him this way.
The pianist had a privileged start to his musical life, as the son of veteran Israeli drummer Gil Ladin, and naturally gravitated toward drumming at the age of five.
Three years later he made the transition to classical piano, although it took a while longer before he gave up the drum set entirely, and eventually began getting into more jazzy climes, initially in high school, and also benefiting from the learned guiding hand of celebrated late educator and jazz pianist Amit Golan, whose inestimable contribution to the local jazz scene is marked by a tribute show at the festival.
“I was in the jazz stream, so that was pretty clear to me,” he explains. “[Singer-songwriter] Marina Maximilian [Blumin] was also at the school, and Yonatan Rosen.”
The latter drummer and Ladin have enjoyed a long and fruitful performance and recording relationship, even though it will be Dan Mayo who will be keeping time for the quartet this Thursday. Guitarist Yonatan Albalak, who plays on Ladin’s debut release, Yequm, which came out in 2017, will also be in the Rose Garden this week, and Yonatan Levy will be on electric bass.
Ladin says there was never any doubt over his career choice.
“When I was a kid, when my dad went to work it was to play drums,” he recalls. “I used to go to sleep listening to him drum at home.”
The 35-year-old says he had a penchant for writing music, even as a youngster. He also spreads his gifts and accrued training over a broad sweep of sonic intent. That comes across in Yequm, and will inform the onstage soundscape in Jerusalem, and is central to the gestating sophomore album.
The material for Mirage – the festival show goes by the same name as the record – accumulated over two or three years, and dips into numerous genres, styles and approaches.
“We played stuff from Mirage here in February, and the audiences loved it,” says Ladin. “That was encouraging.”
By all accounts, it looks like the jazz fans in the Rose Garden this Thursday will be treated to quite a sensorial and emotive experience.
“We only have a quarter of an hour, actually it’ll be 17 minutes,” Ladin notes with a mischievous wink. “It’s going to be pretty intense.”
The leader will have no less than four keyboards at his disposal for the show, and intends to milk them for every sound they are worth.
“I actually used nine synthesizers on the recording,” he says.
And he can’t wait to come to Jerusalem to strut his stuff before an audience, together with the band. “The music on the album is really tight, and there is a pop concept side to it, with short numbers, too. This is music which is just begging to be played live.”
For tickets and more information: www.jerusalemjazzfestival.org.il