Jazz in context

The six-day Jazz Globus Festival gets under way in Jerusalem on November 26.

The six-day Jazz Globus Festival gets under way in Jerusalem on November 26. (photo credit: PR)
The six-day Jazz Globus Festival gets under way in Jerusalem on November 26.
(photo credit: PR)
The annual Jazz Globus Festival will take place at Harmony Hall on Jerusalem’s Hillel Street from November 26 to December 2. As on the previous 10 occasions, the lineup features a wide range of styles and an international roster of artists who hail from the US, Russia and Peru, with a significant contingent of homegrown talent as well.
The foreign stars on show over the six days include American vocalist Kathy Kosins and a host of artists from Russia and former Soviet republics, such as pianist Andrei Kondakov, saxophonist Andrei Prozorov and violinist Sergei Pospelov, as well as American pianist Kevin Harris and US-based Peruvian drummer Jorge Perez Albela.
The last two will join forces with one of the leading members of the Israeli jazz community, bassist Tal Gamlieli, with the rest of the local bunch including the likes of perennial festival musical director Slava Ganelin, blues and souls singer Deborah Benasouli, veteran percussionist Gilad Dobrecky and saxophonist Elad Gellert.
The Gamlieli trio slot is one of the more intriguing gigs in the program. The 39-year-old Jerusalemite bassist has certainly paid his dues over the last decade and a half and has covered expansive musical ground in finding his own voice. He started out on his musical path when he picked up a guitar for the first time at age 15 and soon got into jazz.
“I had a teacher at the Arts School [in Jerusalem] called Raz Sekeles,” recalls Gamlieli. “He was the head of the music department.
At the time, I was into rock and so was Raz, but he was also heavily into jazz. He introduced me to [seminal Miles Davis record] Kind of Blue and also the [eponymous] album with [iconic composerpianist] Duke Ellington and [saxophonist] John Coltrane, and also Somethin’ Else by [saxophonist] Cannonball Adderley, which had Miles Davis on it too – the only time Miles appeared as a sideman other than with [modern jazz founding father] Charlie Parker and those guys. I fell completely in love with the music." Gamlieli continued honing his guitar playing skills and thought he was making decent progress until he received a rude awakening one fateful night during his army service.
“I was on guard duty and there were all these other guys on guard duty who, as it turned out, were outstanding classical musicians,” recalls the bassist. “They were using all this crazy terminology like ‘fifths’ and ‘fourths’ [musical intervals], and I had no idea what they were talking about. I knew a lot more about music by the time we finished our guard duty,” Gamlieli laughs. “I realized there was a whole world of music out there to which I’d not yet been exposed.”
Gamlieli was determined to do something about redressing his educational shortcomings and registered for the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance to study classical guitar. It turned out to be hard going, but the way forward became clearer when, once again, serendipity intervened.
“I was in New York, and I visited the New School [of music in Greenwich Village], and I caught a class given by this amazing teacher.
I was astounded by his incisiveness and the way he opened up new worlds for the students. He actually listened to what the students had to say and not just to the sounds they made with their instruments.
That was a life-changer for me,” he recounts.
As luck would have it, a short while later, when Gamlieli was back in Jerusalem, his path once again crossed that of the New York saxophonist teacher.
“I saw him at the Mad Hatter bar in downtown Jerusalem. It was Arnie Lawrence,” says the bassist, referring to the Brooklyn-born sax player who played with the likes of jazz greats Charles Mingus and Dizzy Gillespie before making aliya in 1998. “I was amazed that I’d seen him in New York just a short while earlier, and here he was in Jerusalem,” he says.
Gamlieli’s sojourn in the Big Apple also took in a visit to Smalls Jazz Club, where he caught a gig by New York-resident Israeli bassist Omer Avital, and the seed for Gamlieli’s future vehicle of instrumental expression had been well and truly sown.
The aspiring jazz musician discovered that Lawrence had started giving classes in the German Colony, and he quickly made his way over there.
“I was crazy about his sessions and went to every single one,” he says.
“He gave me my first lesson on double bass. He heard me playing guitar and said that I should maybe try a different instrument on which I could express myself better. He suggested I try the oud, but I told him I wanted to play the double bass.”
Lawrence duly produced the requisite instrument, and the rest is history.
“He told me to put my right hand here and my left hand there,” says Gamlieli. “There were a couple of other musicians there, and he just said, ‘We’re going play blues.’ He said there were two rules. One was never to play the same note twice in succession with the left hand, and the right hand should not stop playing, no matter what.”
And off they went.
“Suddenly my hands started to go to the right places on the instrument.
It was the biggest miracle I ever experienced in my musical life. He turned me into a double bassist on the spot,” he marvels.
A few years down the line, Gamlieli took his musical education up several notches when he enrolled at the prestigious New England Conservatory of Music (NEC) in Boston. There, he benefited from the teaching skills and wealth of teaching and playing experience of the likes of pianist Ran Blake and bassist Dave Holland.
“We were once given an assignment, in a course called Development of Personal Style, to learn to sing an entire composition, like a song by [legendary soul singer] James Brown” Gamlieli recalls. “We had to sing the score precisely as it was written and, a week later, sing it in front of the class. After that, we had to write a score based on that.
That really develops your music ear.”
Gamlieli has maintained and honed that skill in the intervening years. He says of his comrades in musical arms for the Jazz Globus Festival gig, “Kevin and Jorge are such great listeners. I feel we have a special bond, which is beyond the music.”
That will surely come across at Harmony Hall next week, as well as on the bassist’s upcoming debut release, Dania, which he says owes much to his hometown.
“I am made of Jerusalem stone. I spent five wonderful years at NEC, but this is my home. There is no oud on the record and no other Middle Eastern instruments on it, but you’ll feel and hear this place on all the numbers. For me, it’s all about the context,” he says.
All of which makes Gamlieli a perfect choice for the Jazz Globus bash.
For tickets and more information about the Jazz Globus Festival: (02) 621-1777; 052-263-4444; and www.jazzglobus.com