The Italians are our neighbors, right? After all, they are only just down the Mediterranean coastline and we can practically hear them from here. Actually, we did hear them loud and merrily clear, albeit via virtual means, a few weeks ago when people across the country over there ventured out to their balconies, in mid-coronavirus lockdown, to share their vocal talents with their fellow isolators around them.
It was a stirring, morale-boosting initiative that sparked a slew of similar activities elsewhere across the pandemic-strapped globe. Yarden Klayman was suitably inspired and thought it was high time she got out there herself, at a safe social distance, to play her horn.
The sonorous cheery result was a rooftop solo gig in Tel Aviv’s Basel neighborhood last week, with the 26-year-old saxophonist blowing away the movement-restriction blues, at least for a while.
In more normal times Klayman spends much of her waking hours on the road, flitting between festivals, parties and all kinds of performance events around the world. And she took her first steps toward her professional musical path way over at the other end of the planet. “As a kid I lived with my family for a while in New Zealand. My father was sent there by the [Foreign] Ministry,” she explains.
The posting proved to have a lasting formative effect on the youngster’s creative trail through life. “In New Zealand children are encouraged to take up some instrument or other. I started on saxophone, even though it is normally boys who get offered that instrument, at least that’s what I see here in Israel,” she laughs. “I thought the saxophone was the coolest thing around.”
Jerusalem-born Klayman duly made progress. “I played in all sorts of ensembles and, after we returned to Israel, I went to the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Art High School. I studied jazz there.”
The educational accent may have been on jazz but it was not to be the professional domain of choice for the young horn player. “I joined the army, but not as a musician. I served with the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit. It was kind of nice to do something different.” The alternative enjoyment factor quickly wore thin after Klayman was demobbed. “I thought it was fine to do office work for a while but, after I got out of the army, I realized that what I really wanted to do was to play live.”
Klayman is clearly her own person, and was keen to make her mark on the entertainment scene in her own unfettered singular way. High school training notwithstanding she opted for a solo avenue of expression, and quickly got up to speed. “I took performing very seriously, and I began to play at different kinds of events, and I played with DJs and festivals. After I finished school I realized that what I really liked was electronic music and pop.”
While the latter genre offered rich pickings for sax players in the Seventies and Eighties – smash hits like Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street,” with Raphael Ravenscroft’s memorable horn lines, and reedman Dick Parry’s haunting contribution to “Money” from Pink Floyd’s seminal 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon spring immediately to mind – the saxophone had largely been knocked off its pop pedestal by the time Klayman started getting in on the act. “Yes, I know that electronic music and pop are not necessarily identified with the saxophone,” she laughs. “But I was really focused on that, and it worked out for me. I think the saxophone goes really well with electronic music and, anyway, I didn’t want to be in a [jazz] big band surrounded by a bunch of other horn players.”
It seems Klayman wasn’t the only one who didn’t naturally identify her instrument with her chosen sonic spheres. “Every time I play gigs I get people coming up to me saying: ‘wow! I didn’t realize the saxophone could go so well with this kind of music.’ It’s nice to surprise people with that.”
Klayman’s single-mindedness has paid off. To date she has mixed it with such top acts as American DJ-production twosome The Chainsmokers, Australian sibling DJ duo Nervo and Dutch DJ Afrojack, and her gigging agenda has seen her whistle stop her high octane way through London, New York, Milan, Madrid and the Maldives, and further afield.
Like her fellow professionals, the saxwoman’s live offerings have been placed on indefinite hold for now. “All my Purim season shows were canceled,” she says. “That was tough.” Despite the unscheduled furlough Klayman kept her musical muse going working in her home studio and, while they may have given her a chance to work on some back burner ideas, it was no substitute for getting out there and strutting her stuff to actual corporeal audiences. “I felt I just had to perform. I wondered what I could do and then I [saw] the video clips from Italy, and I thought I could do an Israeli version.”
Not wanting to contravene the current Health Ministry coronavirus regulations, Klayman contacted the Tel Aviv Municipality and asked if she could give a rooftop concert. “I didn’t know how they would react. I thought they might think, ‘What does this crazy saxophone player want from us?’” In fact she was pleasantly surprised by the municipality’s enthused response. “They went with it. They arranged everything within a couple of days, they found me a suitable location, organized a soundman, a permit from the police, everything that was necessary.”
And a few days ago Klayman did her sax thing on the Basel rooftop, to the delight of local residents and passersby, with the police ensuring the street-level gathering did not get too large or crowded. “It was great fun. As soon as I played the first notes everyone around came out to their balconies and started dancing. And there were even a couple of musicians from there who played with me from their own balconies.”
News of the Tel Aviv gig has spread, and made it to Canada’s CBC and the Netherlands. “It’s wonderful to get some positive news about Israel out to the world,” Klayman notes. “Maybe I can do this in other towns around Israel. I could do a national rooftop tour,” she laughs.