Swinging at the saloon

Bressler, who contributes a range of primarily jazz projects, including as a member of pianist Omer Klein trio, says there is a snug spirit to the band’s work.

swining at the saloon (photo credit: MICHAEL TOPYOL)
swining at the saloon
(photo credit: MICHAEL TOPYOL)
There is a homey feel to Amir Bressler’s latest musical venture. When we met up in Tel Aviv last week, I noted that the group’s moniker – Liquid Saloon – puts me in mind of some kind of Western movie feel. I imagine some dusty, saddle-sore cowboy making his way into a drinking hole of a shantytown out in the Wild West casting a weary glance over at the barman and ordering a shot or – better – a bottle of Scotch.
I missed the mark.
“Actually, it was supposed to be Salon, not Saloon,” smiles the 30-year drummer who will play with the group at this year’s Jerusalem Jazz Festival at the Israel Museum on December 6 (1:30 p.m.). “But, somehow, it came out Saloon. We liked the name, the way it turned out, so we just went with it.”
The gig at the festival, which is curated once again by internationally renowned trumpeter Avishai Cohen, will see Bressler play in a quintet setting, with trumpeter Sefi Zisling and keyboardist Nomok Noam Havkin the main protagonists. Guitarist Roi Aviv and bass player Elyasaf Bashari – better known for his work with Quarter to Africa – will round out the festival fivesome.
Bressler, who contributes a range of primarily jazz projects, including as a member of pianist Omer Klein trio, says there is a snug spirit to the band’s work.
“The process was a lot of fun,” he notes, referencing the creation of the group’s debut self-titled album, which came out a few months ago. “We’d meet up at my home, two or three [days] a week – after eating hummus, of course,” he adds with a laugh. “We’d bring some snacks and we’d listen to music we like.”
They went with the communal flow.
“We have similar tastes in music,” he says.
Not a bad starting point for a shared musical journey.
“We all like old school, like African music, New Orleans. We like, for example, [Nigerian Afrobeat multi-instrumentalist] Fela Kuti.”
One thing led to another.
“We started exploring that stuff, and other similar material. Sefi was already into that, and I started investigating it, and Noam did, too. We got into Pat Thomas and Ebo Taylor, from Ghana. And there’s [funk artist] William Onyeabor, from Nigeria.”
That sounded a little on the tribal side, but Bressler says that, while he and his pals were drawn to that ethnic kernel, they were really fired by the more Western contemporary presentation the aforesaid brought to the roots material.
“People took something tribal and then added synthesizers, and guitars, bass and drums.”
Even so, the core remains.
“They have a feel the Americans don’t have. It’s funny. They do things that are sort of American. They do funk, but it comes out in their own style. That’s what I felt. There was something in that music that really grabbed me. I listen to the same record over and over, like a kid. That doesn’t happen to me so often with other things.”
That is very much the crux of the Liquid Saloon take on music and music-making.
“We get inspiration from some number, with some kind of groove, with a, say, synthesizer texture and some tempo. Then we say, ‘Let’s do something in the same style.’ We don’t copy it. That’s great fun.”
The guys just latched on to a vibe and jumped.
“Basically, that’s how we wrote the material for the whole album,” Bressler says.
He also spreads his wings as the compositional continuum unfolded.
“On some of the things I played drums, and also bass and guitar. That was the base. Then Sefi, or Sefi and Noam, would come in and write a melody on top of that. Or maybe all three of us. Or we’d bring something from the keyboards and then write on top of that. Each time we’d develop it differently.”
Bressler and his pals go along with the approach that if the band is having fun, that should have desired knock-on effect on the audience.
“The whole thing just flowed. We’d sit around in my living room. We had time, we could play loudly, and we can see the sea from my window. All we basically needed to do was be there and create more music. We really enjoyed that. There’s nothing better than that.”
For tickets and more information: (02) 563-1544 and jerusalemjazzfestival.org.il