Simply Honest

Russo and Weinberg introduce their new album at the Tel Aviv Piano Festival

Russo & Weinberg (photo credit: PR)
Russo & Weinberg
(photo credit: PR)
Erez Russo and Adi Weinberg clearly prefer the slowly but surely approach. The guitarist-vocalist and vocalist duo have just released their first album together, Stay , which will form the bedrock of their October 22 (10:30 p.m.) gig at the Israeli Gallery of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art as part of this year’s Piano Festival. The 17th edition of the piano-based program runs from October 21 to 24 and incorporates in excess of 60 shows and more than 250 artists. For the second year running, the festival shows will take place mainly in and around the Tel Aviv Museum, including the nearby Beit Ariella library, the Enav Center, the Cameri Theater and the Brodt Center for Jewish Culture. Over the years, the festival has gained a reputation for delivering top- quality shows and now attracts the biggest names from the local music industry, across the generations, with the likes of Shalom Hanoch, Ariel Zilber and Alon Olearchik on the roll call.
Quite a few of the shows are productions put together specifically for the Piano Festival, with several CD launch slots and other milestone appearances on the roster. The latter includes a 20th anniversary celebration of the Hayehudim heavy rock outfit, while Russo & Weinberg, as they are known in the business, will make the most of their concert to introduce the public to the nine English-language tracks that make up Stay .
Until now, Russo was best known as the guitarist of the Girafot rock group, which has been doing brisk business since 1992. Girafot lead singer Gilad Cahana will put in a guest appearance in the October 22 gig. Meanwhile, Stay marks Weinberg’s introduction to the business of recording and releasing a CD and, understandably, she would have been happier had the project come to fruition a little quicker. “It took around four years to get this album out,” notes Weinberg calmly. “Every time I mentioned that it was taking a while to finish the CD, Erez told me it took seven years to record and produce the first Girafot album.” “No, it was the second Girafot album,” Russo interjects, adding that as far as he is concerned, getting a CD done and dusted demands single- mindedness, if not bloody- mindedness. “When you record something, you should approach the work as if it was the last thing you were ever going to do,” he declares. Even with his street cred and wealth of recording experience with the Girafot lot, Russo says that working with Weinberg propelled him into a whole new ball park. “Working together and the dynamic between us as a duo – working together, writing the material and all the other stuff that goes into getting an album together – was a very different thing for both of us. The dynamics of all that evolved during the course of the project,” he says. The onus pendulum swung this way and that. “To start with, I was the one with the experience, and Adi joined in for the ride, and she gradually had to find her place. And I, to my consternation, had to leave a place for her,” laughs Russo. “All these things take time,” he adds on a more serious note, “but it all worked out in the end.”
It certainly did. Listening to Stay, you get a sense of harmony between the two in a musical and personal chemistry sense. The vibe is of a classic singer-songwriter venture, with Russo’s and Weinberg’s voices intertwining and following their own individual avenues, deftly underscored by Russo’s acoustic guitar playing.
Stay is a definitive joint venture, Weinberg’s learning curve notwithstanding. “We wrote some of the songs together,” notes Russo, “both the lyrics and the music.” The guitarist says that there was corner cutting along the way. “We considered all the texts and charts very closely to make sure we thought them worthy of being put out there to the public. We first had to convince ourselves that the material was good enough,” he says. Russo, too, had a learning curve to negotiate. “Neither of us had written lyrics in English in an organized manner,” he says. Even so, there were advantages to be had from putting something together in a foreign language. “I think that English is far more suited to rock and pop music than Hebrew,” Russo continues. “And when you write in a language that is not your mother tongue, you can sort of take refuge behind the words. And English, with its musicality, suits the music.” “English lyrics just sound so much better,” says Weinberg. “If you want to say something simple, it is easier to do that in English. When you try to be simple in Hebrew, it sounds pretentious,” Russo proffers. “Anyway, we liked the challenge of writing in English,” states Weinberg.
The conversation with the twosome dovetailed throughout our chat in the manner of the music on the album. Comfort zone regardless, Russo says that he and Weinberg express some heartfelt emotions and vibes on Stay , and that there’s a definite edge to the work. “It is not the one-dimensional ‘He loves her, she loves him, let’s go home’ thing. It’s more ‘He loves her, she loves him, but at home they really don’t get on at all,’” says Russo. “The simplicity in the album doesn’t come from a shallow place,” Weinberg adds. “It is an honest simplicity.”
For tickets and more information about the Piano Festival: *9080, zappa- and