Tal Mashiach joins pianist Gadi Lehavi, drummer Ofri Nehemya at Jerusalem Jazz Festival

Together they make up the GTO Trio, which is due to perform at the museum at 9 p.m. on Wednesday.

GTO Trio (photo credit: GAYA SUN)
GTO Trio
(photo credit: GAYA SUN)
The sixth edition of the Jerusalem Jazz Festival will be mostly an online, coronavirus directive-compliant affair, but you never know. The Health Ministry guidelines/restrictions can change at the drop of a hat, or a mask. Currently, in addition to the Zoom-facilitated stuff, the talk is of having shows take place in the Israel Museum’s Rose Garden in front of actual – albeit diminutive – audiences.
We shall see how that pans out, but what appears to be pretty certain at this stage is that the festival will take place, under the auspices of the Israel Festival and the Yellow Submarine, with perennial artistic director, internationally acclaimed trumpeter Avishai Cohen at the programmatic helm, on September 8-10.
It comes as no surprise to note that the program is an exclusively domestic affair. Understandably, there aren’t too many artists around who want to spend a couple of weeks in quarantine prior to taking the stage in Israel and possibly have to hole up again when they get back to their country of origin. Still, there will be a whiff or two of overseas endeavor, courtesy of various homegrown musicians who normally reside abroad.
BASSIST TAL MASHIACH who, prior to the pandemic lived in New York, pertains to that category and, next week, will join pianist Gadi Lehavi and drummer Ofri Nehemya at the Israel Museum. Together they make up the GTO Trio, which is due to perform at the museum at 9 p.m. on Wednesday.
The band, per se, is relatively new. It began performing and recording as a separate creative entity a couple of years ago and even managed to put out an album in that time, called From the Road. There are 10 originals on the record, scored by the various members of the group, individually or collectively, with one cover – a jazzily lyrical reading of Paul Simon’s 1975 hit “Still Crazy After All These Years.”
However, the twentysomething pals – the bassist is the doyen of the bunch at the grand old age of 27 – go back a lot further, musically and personally.
“We played together for around eight years, but not as a trio,” Mashiach explains. “We played together with the guitarist Schachar Elnatan and in various other bands, in Gadi’s band, in Ofri’s, in mine.”
In fact, GTO traces its starter to the other side of the world. Mashiach had performed in Japan, as had Lehavi and Nehemya, although not together.
“The guy who arranges jazz tours of Japan had seen Gadi and Ofri in Japan a month or so earlier, and he asked me if I’d ever played with them,” Mashiach recalls. “I told him we’d been playing together for years, and he said, why not come over to Japan for a tour?” And so GTO came to be.
Mashiach did not start his musical life on the improvisational side of the tracks, or even on bass.
“I played classical guitar, and took part in competitions and studied at the Jerusalem Academy of Music,” he says. He served in the IDF as an outstanding musician on classical guitar, which left him with time to attend the Israel Conservatory of Music in Tel Aviv. It was there that he first encountered the rhythmic and melodic possibilities inherent in jazz.
He also moved onto bass there, under the learned guiding hands of leading jazzman Gilad Abro, Australian-born Simon Starr and the veteran bassist-vocalist Eli Magen, who has been a mainstay of the Israeli music scene for nigh on half a century. All of the aforementioned educators dip into a broad range of musical areas, including pop, rock and folk, which suited Mashiach down to the ground.
“When I was younger I listened to all sorts of things,” he says. “I liked [Israeli rock warhorse] Shalom Hanoch, Jimi Hendrix, funk, rock and classical music. Genre is irrelevant for me. Music is just music.”
The bassist also developed a liking for Latin music and, after he completed his IDF tour of duty, planned on spending an extended period of time in Cuba.
“For some reason that didn’t work out and I ended up going to New York, to study at the New School,” he explains. Not that he felt particularly hard done by at having to put his Cuban program on ice for a while. “New York is amazing. You can hear so much music there and play with amazing people from all over. I guess I’ll get to Cuba sometime.”
Meanwhile, he did manage to get a generous helping of Latin sounds and strains, and more, on a three-month trip to Brazil and Argentina.
“I listened to lots of music there, and spent a lot of time in nature,” says Mashiach. “That is important to me, too. I like to keep my options open.”
Here’s looking forward to some fun, intriguing and expansive entertainment on Wednesday with, hopefully, as many real live breathing people as possible in attendance, in situ.
For tickets and more information about the Jerusalem Jazz Festival: www.jerusalemjazzfestival.org.il