Blue and white and ‘Noir’ in Givatayim

Titans of the local and ethnic music scene are featured in the upcoming Festijazz festival.

Anat Cohen 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Anat Cohen 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Festijazz festival closes out its first decade of existence at Givatayim Theater next week with a highly varied program. As an Israeli jazz-based event, most of the usual suspects from the local scene are there, with the jazz offerings colored by some extra-mural musical contributions.
Trombonist Avi Lebovich will front his high-powered and highly polished Orchestra big band (June 17 at 10 p.m.) with rocker Asaf Amdursky joining the fray, and pianist Omri Mor will present a program of Andalusian music-laced jazz and will host veteran ethnic music titan Shlomo Bar in the bargain (June 16 at 9 p.m.).
One of our most successful jazz exports, pianist Anat Fort, will once again join forces with Ethiopian-born bluesy jazz saxophonist Abate Barihon in a cross-cultural musical venture (June 18 at 9 p.m.), while teenage pianist Tomer Bar will front a trio of double bass player Uri Kutner and drummer Ofri Nehemia, with veteran saxophonist Daniel Zamir putting in a guest appearance.
The festival will open with probably the best-known Israeli jazz musicians in the world, New York-based clarinetist-saxophonist Anat Cohen, with her Noir show. Noir is the name of the highly successful album Cohen put out in 2007. The concert will be dedicated to respected jazz educator and saxophonist Amit Golan, who died last year at age 46.
On Wednesday evening Cohen will join forces with older brother, fellow reedman Yuval, who will conduct the Israeli Big Band, Tel Aviv. “The concert will include some of the material from Noir, but there will be standards and lots of other things too,” explains Cohen. Noir covers a lot of musical and cultural terrain. “As a musician, I travel all over America and the world, and I naturally pick up sounds and rhythms as I go along. If anything, the album reflects that and feeds off jazz from the 1950s [Brazilian musical style] choro, people like Ray Charles, and more modern jazz with stuff from people like [saxophonist] Johnny Griffin and ‘Cry Me a River,’ which was made famous by [singer] Julie London.” Cohen says that for her, it’s a natural mix. “I live here in New York and when I am in town, I play traditional jazz, the music of Louis Armstrong one evening a week, and then I can go off to play at a Brazilian music gig.
That’s my life. It’s not like I thought, ‘Let’s take a bit of this and a bit that.’ This is my life.”
Her right-hand man on the Noir project was former classmate at the Thelma Yellin School of the Arts in Tel Aviv Oded Lev-Ari, who arranged the music and conducted the 17- piece big band on the recording, which also includes Cohen’s trumpet-playing younger brother Avishai. Yuval also plays sax on one of the tracks.
The Festijazz festival offers Cohen a rare opportunity to perform some of the material on Noir. “It’s difficult to travel with a big band, so I don’t get to play Noir too often,” she explains, adding that her sidemen need to draw on some special skills to keep the boat steady. “Not all musicians are able to alternate between styles.
It can take time to learn how to jump from something like ‘Cry Me a River’ to samba. Actually, younger musicians are far more versed in that.”
Besides the artistic content per se, Cohen is delighted to have the opportunity to salute Golan’s work.
“I played with Amit, and he invited me to teach with him. Amit drew so many youngsters into jazz with his love of the music. People caught the jazz bug because of him. He did some wonderful things.”
Festijazz festival at Givatayim Theater, June 15-18. For tickets and more information: (03) 732-5340 and