Musical milestones

Jazz pianist Leonid Ptashka has a lot to celebrate.

Jazz pianist Leonid Ptashka has a lot to celebrate (photo credit: PR)
Jazz pianist Leonid Ptashka has a lot to celebrate
(photo credit: PR)
Alexander Ptashka, an internationally acclaimed Israeli jazz pianist of Russian extraction, will celebrate his 50th birthday by performing concerts between December 4 and 10 at major venues in Ashdod, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Beersheba. His musical friends, Grammy Award-winning trumpet and flugelhorn player Randy Brecker among them, will join him on stage. Other artists who will participate in the concerts are veteran Russian jazz musician Anatoly Kroll; Israeli composer, conductor and pianist Gil Shohat; virtuoso violinist Sanya Kroitor; Shlomo Gronich; and the Big Band orchestra from Kfar Saba. A 15-minute documentary will be screened at the beginning of each concert.
Ptashka will also give concerts in the US, Canada, Germany and Russia.
“For me, this is a double celebration, says Ptashka, who lives in Ashdod. “I am celebrating my 50th birthday and 25 years in Israel. And I am happy and proud that my international concerts have been initiated not by me but by those who appreciate my music in those countries."
What has changed for him in his 25 years in Israel? Ptashka says that as a young musician in Russia, “I was quite a naïve person both in life and in music, although I was always demanding the best from myself, always comparing my music making with that of others. Here in Israel I’ve become somewhat tougher in many ways. We get older and more mature, right?” In terms of his music he says, “I’ve become more interested in symphony music and lately, more often than not, I am invited to play with symphony orchestras. Even more than that, I realize that I now have the right to call myself not a jazz musician but a musician.”
What if he had remained in Russia instead of immigrating to Israel? “No way,” he says. “I would have changed my profession or my music specialization. I was born with a piano in my hands, and I am dragging this cross, as they say in Russian, or this Star of David in the local version,” he laughs, “through my entire life. Look, already in 1984 I was the first Russian jazz musician to tour the US, and I performed in major venues such as Carnegie Hall. On my return to Moscow I felt that something had changed for me.”
As the Israeli music scene is quite limited, has he ever considered returning to Russia? “I am a pianist and not a singer,” he replies. “Mine is an international language, so I could emigrate whenever I decide to and would keep doing exactly the same thing – that is, playing my music. As for Russia – nowadays, musicians there enjoy state support and media coverage, which we could not even dream of here. But I live in Israel. My home is here in Ashdod. My extended Israeli family totals more than 70 people, and every time I travel abroad, I miss Israel. For me that is the major indicator that I love this place.”
Leonid Ptashka will perform on December 4 at the Performing Arts Center in Ashdod; December 5 at the Israeli Opera House in Tel Aviv; December 6 at the North Theater in Haifa; and December 10 at the Performing Arts Center in Beersheba. For reservations: call *3221 at the Bravo booking office.