DAVID ALFARANDY is releasing his debut record, ‘Spring,’ at the Jazz Festival taking place at Mitzpe Ramon.  (photo credit: Daniel Bear)
DAVID ALFARANDY is releasing his debut record, ‘Spring,’ at the Jazz Festival taking place at Mitzpe Ramon.
(photo credit: Daniel Bear)

David Alfandary debuts first album in Mitzpe Ramon


A few years back internationally acclaimed Israeli jazz bassist Avishai Cohen remarked that some of his younger counterparts may be getting in on the recording act a little early. “These days, with technological advances, it is so much easier to make records,” he argued. “But, some might not be ready for that yet, and the album will always be out there as their first.”

Cohen may have had a highly pertinent point there. But if there’s one jazz artist who cannot be accused of delivering his first fruits “too early” it is David Alfandary. The wind instrument player is finally releasing his debut record, Spring, at the not-so-tender age of 56, at the Internal Compass Summer Jazz Festival which takes place at Mitzpe Ramon August 23-26.

Alfandary is also a faculty member at the Internal Compass Music jazz school founded by bass player Ehud Ettun who, incidentally, also plays on Spring along with other teachers at the school – pianist Daniel Schwarzwald and drummer Amir Bar Akiva. The recording lineup is completed by vocalist Eden Dahari and violinist Miri Janietz who contribute to a few of the tracks. Ettun, Schwarzwald, and Alfandary are also on next week’s festival roster, in addition to award-winning saxophonist and clarinet player Anat Cohen, American saxophonist Dan Pettit, and Polish drummer Adam Zagorski and compatriot guitarist Rafal Sarnecki.

It is probably safe to say that Alfandary feels some degree of affinity with the latter, having started out on his musical path on guitar. As is often the case in life in general, serendipity helped pave the way. “I remember going to the Hanoar Haoved [Working and Studying Zionist youth movement] in Rishon Lezion and there were a couple of kids my age – I was 13 at the time – playing guitar,” he recalls. “I was stunned. I thought I want a piece of that. I want to know how to do that – make music, learn about sound. It sounded like magic to me.”

The youngster was clearly driven, as well as gifted, and within a year he was not only playing the instrument he was making a few pennies on the side as a guitar teacher. “And I’ve been teaching ever since,” Alfandary laughs.

Silhouette of a musician playing the saxophone (credit: INGIMAGE)
Silhouette of a musician playing the saxophone (credit: INGIMAGE)

Going from pop and rock music to the jazz scene

INITIALLY, IT was pop and rock music that grabbed the burgeoning musician. “I liked Pink Floyd and other stuff adolescents listened to in the eighties,” he notes. A couple or so years into his instrumental stride new avenues of musical expression opened up to him. “When I was 16 everyone in my musical milieu told me that, if I was serious and wanted to be a good guitarist, I should get into jazz.” That was news to him. “I didn’t know anything about jazz back then.”

He duly took the notion on board and found himself a jazz guitar teacher, Danny Adler, who gave him some material to wrap his eager ears around. “He gave me a tape cassette with guitarists like Joe Pass, Pat Metheny, Jim Hall, and Wes Montgomery. I heard all those notes, being played really fast. I didn’t understand anything.”

But Alfandary wasn’t about to give up. “I listened to the tape over and over and, by the 20th time, I took my guitar and started trying to play what I’d been listening to. To this day I remember some of the solos,” he chuckles.

The jazz die had been well and truly cast, although he still had some way to go.

 “That’s where my jazz journey began. I didn’t really know what I was playing. I just knew I loved the way it sounded and that it was challenging,” he said. “Danny gave me a sheet of paper with all kinds of chords I could play around with. I had no idea what an augmented chord was, or a diminished chord, or how I could replace one chord with another. I didn’t understand anything of that, but I did understand that I liked it.”

A NEW direction loomed on the horizon. “A friend of mine played Crescent, a record by [legendary saxophonist] John Coltrane. I didn’t get it straightaway, but there was something in the sound and the truth that drew me in.” The guitar soon took a back seat to flute, followed by saxophone, and Alfandary’s way forward became clearer. True to his thorough take on life he first got himself some classical instruction on the saxophone. “I thought that was the best way to gain mastery of the instrument,” he observes.

Coltrane was not only a towering pioneering figure on the developing avant-garde jazz scene he was also a deep thinker and exuded a rarified element, something that transcended the notes and the basic sonic sequence. That was something that tugged powerfully on Alfandary’s heartstrings and provided him with a better sense of what it was all about. “Gradually the emphasis of my approach to music began to shift and there was suddenly a more spiritual element to it all. Regardless of what instrument you play, there is a moment when you realize the music is playing you rather than you playing the music.”

Despite that epiphany, espite that there was still some way for the youngster to go before he settled on his current career direction. “I was in the army, and I had some time to play music, although not seriously. I still didn’t think it was going to be my life,” he explains. The lightning bolt moment struck minutes – literally – after he was demobbed. “I was on the bus home after being released and I thought, what am I going to do now? There was a sort of drum roll in my mind that told me I was going to be a musician.”

And so it came to pass. Alfandary got himself over to New York, attending Mannes School of Music, and began strutting his evolving stuff at gigs around town. He also caught some of the masters of the art form in action, people like modern jazz pioneer drummer Max Roach, who sparked his inspiration and imagination.

Nine years later he returned to Israel and began teaching and performing around the country. Lady Luck had a hand in his encountering Ettun at a jam session in Jerusalem, and several years later their paths crossed again after which Ettun invited Alfandary to teach at a jazz summer camp in Mitzpe Ramon. “I really enjoyed that, I enjoyed the teaching and the place itself.”

He says he continues to be fired by his work at the Negev institution, and his onstage work with Ettun, et al. “I get a lot out of working with the students.”

Alfandary also takes an uncompromisingly lyrical approach to his instrumental work and writing. That comes across loud and clear in Spring which conjures up shades of Chick Corea’s early 1970s fusion work. “I love fusion!” Alfandary exclaims. “And I make no apologies about that,” he laughs.

Why did it take so long to put out his debut recording? I get a bit of a long-convoluted reply, but he gave me a good idea of where he comes from, in professional and artistic terms. “I love music and I love music which is complex, with nuances. That demands a very high level of musicianship. I recorded stuff in the past but I didn’t think it was good enough. I love subtleties and energy and skill and freedom.”

Thankfully, for jazz fans, Spring apparently ticks all those boxes and we finally get to hear what Alfandary has to offer as a writer and band leader. And there should be plenty more to come. “I still feel as if I’m just starting out,” he smiles. “I am still climbing a mountain. Music never stops challenging me.” 

For tickets and information: internalcompassmusic.com/summerjazzfest 

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