Local jazz musicians hold fundraiser for Ukraine

Ettun and his cohorts have clearly done a great job in putting together a veritable who’s who of the Israeli jazz scene.

 ALINA ZALOZNA and Anastasija Litvinyuk are two of the performers at tonight’s benefit. (photo credit: Yuriy Shakalov/Jroslav Monchak)
ALINA ZALOZNA and Anastasija Litvinyuk are two of the performers at tonight’s benefit.
(photo credit: Yuriy Shakalov/Jroslav Monchak)

A fundraising concert to benefit musicians in war-torn Ukraine in the presence of Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk will take place Tuesday night at Terminal 4 in Tel Aviv, called “Jazz from Ukraine for Ukraine,” which is produced by Barak Weiss and the Israel Jazz Society.

Ehud Ettun, internationally celebrated jazz bassist, and educator, decided to address that aspect of the mess in Ukraine and, hopefully, generate some sorely needed revenue for members of the Ukrainian jazz community. Ettun, whose manifold daytime activities include founding and running the Internal Compass jazz school in Mitzpe Ramon, initiated a fundraiser and solidarity concert at the Terminal 4 music venue in Tel Aviv.

Ettun and his cohorts have clearly done a great job in putting together a veritable who’s who of the Israeli jazz scene, with globally renowned pianist Guy Mintus getting the musical ball rolling with an improvised rendition of the Ukrainian national anthem. The diverse instrumentalist roll call for the evening also features pianists Anat Fort, Tom Oren, Uriel Herman, Milton Michaeli and – Ettun trio member - Daniel Schwarzwald, saxophonists Yuval Cohen, Albert Beger and Robert Anchipolovsky, and bassists Shai Hazan and Ettun himself. Also joining in the Terminal 4 salute mix are drummers Shay Zelman and Haim Peskoff, flutist Mattan Klein, the Shalosh trio, and vocalists Daphna Levy and Deborah Benasouli. It is, by all accounts, an impressive turnout for the cause. 

Ettun says the venture was spawned by a personal as well as a professional vested interest. “Every year I go to Poland, to give a seminar,” he notes. “There are always lots of Ukrainians [teaching] there, and some have even been to Mitzpe [Ramon] to teach.” The event in question is the Cho-Jazz Workshops Festival, which has been running in Chodziez, in northwestern Poland, for the past 52 years. There Ettun met, befriended and worked with a whole host of leading fellow jazz guys and gals from Ukraine, and invited some of them to enlighten his students here about the creative and cultural highways and byways fused into the fabric of the foreign guests’ personal backdrop. The latter include Alina Zalozna, a vocalist from Kherson in southern Ukraine who gave a set of workshops at Internal Compass a couple of years ago, 

The Israeli artists who will pay tribute to their beleaguered colleagues, at Terminal 4 this evening, will play charts written by some of Ukraine’s top jazz composers and performers, including saxophonist Dmitry “Bobeen” Alexandrov, bassist Igor Zakus, drummer Igor Hnydyn, trumpeter Yakiv Tzvietinski, keyboardist Kateryna Mykhailutsa and pianist Anastasija Litvinyuk.

ALINA ZALOZNA and Anastasija Litvinyuk are two of the performers at tonight’s benefit. (credit: Yuriy Shakalov/Jroslav Monchak)ALINA ZALOZNA and Anastasija Litvinyuk are two of the performers at tonight’s benefit. (credit: Yuriy Shakalov/Jroslav Monchak)

Besides providing a bunch of Ukrainians with encouragement and some financial support in these trying times, Ettun believes the concert can help to introduce Israeli jazz fans to some of the riches to be had from jazz material from over there. “I think this applies to all the former Soviet republics, that a jazz scene has developed there over the past 30 years. There is a sense of something new, cool and exciting about jazz in these countries. That may be something we [in Israel] don’t have anymore. There are loads of festivals and other jazz events there and, especially, people writing really great music.”

Ettun is keen to allow his own students to get a handle on some of the exploratory gems coming out of the Ukraine. “Every Wednesday we have a guest artist come to the school,” he explains. “Last week we did a Zoom session with Anastasija [Litvinyuk] from Lviv.”

In addition to the musical content, Litvinyuk also illuminated Ettun and the students about the situation on the ground. “She and her husband fled at the last moment, to help people on the Polish border,” the bassist continues. “The [Cho-Jazz] workshop site where I teach in Poland has been turned into a refugee camp. There are musicians who perform there too.”

Music fans who go along to Terminal 4 this evening should get plenty in the way of multistratified jazzy offerings for their hard-earned cash. “Ukrainian culture is the composite of the material and spiritual values of the Ukrainian people that has formed throughout our history,” said a spokesperson for the Ukrainian Embassy here. “Even though Ukraine obtained its independence 30 years ago, its culture was created and developed over many centuries.”

That is very much central to this evening’s event. “For us, Ukrainians, it is part of the national identity. There are many world-famous Ukrainian artists, writers, musicians etc., who carried knowledge about the nation all over the world,” the spokesperson continues, adding that he and his compatriots are encouraged by such initiatives as the Tel Aviv jazz concert. “We highly appreciate the efforts of Israeli people to support Ukraine in this tragic period of our history, the solidarity with Ukrainian people and complete recognition of Ukrainian culture as part of national self-identity,”

Ettun says he is looking forward to the show in purely artistic terms too. “One of the most important things you can do to open up to new musical vistas is to play charts written by other people. Now we have an opportunity to do that with material written by artists from Ukraine.”

It is always exciting to get a taste of jazz seasoned by some hitherto unfamiliar cultural baggage. That should get the Terminal 4 audience going, and Ettun says he and his fellow volunteer performers are coming out of the experience with some added value too. “There is a lot of cerebral stuff in their jazz, and quite a lot of challenging things too, in a rhythmic sense. And there is a strong connection with Ukrainian folk music.”

Considering the strong Russian influence on the Israeli Songbook, perhaps the latter will help local jazz fans to get into the numbers. “Yes, I think that Russian element is something we all know,” Ettun muses, although noting it’s not going to be a one-on-one musical venture, by any means. “Many of the [Ukrainian] musicians have written arrangements that are so hip that you don’t recognize the source.” That should add to the musical mystery and fun.

Hopefully that will also bring in jazz lovers looking for a special listening experience, and boost the assistance-designated returns in the process. 

For tickets and more information: https://eventbuzz.co.il/lp/event/jazzua