Entries tagged with “jazz”.

We enjoyed a charming concert on Friday afternoon with the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra. The program included classical ‘hits’ by Bizet, Ravel, and Respighi and one piece for Chinese Pipa (traditional Chinese lute).




The solist was the Chinese master and teacher in Pipa Zhang Hongyan and the conductor was Yaron Gottfried.

‘Zhang Hongyan graduated from the Central Conservatory (classes of Professors Zhang Shi Tsung, Sun Wei Tsi and Lin Shicheng) and attained her Master’s degree. Zhang Hongyan is one of the finest pipa performers and teachers. Her rich repertoire includes works by many composers. Zhang Hongyan frequently performs at the world’s most prestigious concert halls, among them Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Center (New York), the Berliner Philharmoniker, the Goldener Saal of Vienna’s Musikverein and the Kennedy Center (Washington). On numerous occasions she has given lectures at the Universities of Columbia, Hong Kong City, Wales and Harvard, the National Grand Theatre of China, the University of Beijing and the Communication University of China. The list of works she has published includes scientific research and articles, literary prose, academic aids, CDs and DVDs. The American Library of Congress and the American Folklife Center house her special anthology disc of the Chinese musical masterpiece Ambush on All Sides.’

source https://www.mariinsky.ru/en/company/orchestra/harps/zhang_hongyan/




Yaron Gottfried is one of the most prominent musicians of his generation in Israel, a multidisciplinary artist who bridges classical,contemporary and jazz music. Gottfried held the position of Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Netanya Kibbutz Orchestra for 11 years between 2002-2013 with great success, presenting fresh innovative programs, packed halls, rave reviews and over 120 concerts in a season.

He graduated his studies at the Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem under Maestro Mendi Rodan. Gottfried’s conducting repertoire spans from the renaissance period to contemporary music. Gottfried is a frequent guest at Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, In October 2016 He was invited to substitute for Maestro Zubin Mehta and conduct all eleven season opening concerts with major artists such as Yefim Bronfman, Khatia Buniatishvili , Prague philharmonic choir among others. In January 2015 he led the IPO replacing Maestro Valery Gergiev at short
notice with an Israeli premier of Shostakovich 4th Symphony; the concert received rave reviews from the critics.

Source http://yarongottfried.com/biography/



(video source https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4iSXOwrbzU)


This is how the Chinese Pipa sounds in the hands of Zhang HongYan. She is playing here with the China Philharmonic Orchestra in Beijing. Yaron Gottfried is conducting, the recording is from 2011.


(video source https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bo6_Eh_tO24)


Yaron Gottfried in China again – this time at the piano playing jazz. This is the world premiere of his version of “Pictures at an exhibition – Remake” for Jazz trio and Ensemble after Mussorsgky, performed at the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing


The buzz is high, the prizes started to accumulate. They tell however more about the status of the industry and the longing of the public for escapist entertainment combined with a high dose of nostalgia for the musical successes that were running high 60 or 70 years ago. La La Land directed by combines a well known formula, makes reverences to the golden period of the musical films in Hollywood (some scenes were filmed in the studio were Fred Astaire once was filmed) but also to some more modern film makers and their ideas (like ), and enjoys the participation of shining stars like and . It may be sufficient for collecting statuettes. It is not enough to make it a real good film. I know I am in a minority expressing this opinion now. I believe that it will be a growing minority soon.


source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3783958/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3783958/


What we get with La La Land a collection of a few wonderful moments connected by an awfully schematic story. Boy meets girl, of course. Boy is an aspiring jazz musician in a time when real jazz seems to be in a descending slope of interest, Girl is an aspiring actress, waiting in a Starbucks (or like) coffee shop and auditioning in a serial and desperate manner. They both have visions and passion. They both aspire to careers, but life is tough and art and success seldom meet for one person and almost never with personal happiness. Or true love. From here on the story accumulates many of the possible stereotypes and too little artistic truth. Great scenes are not missing – actually this film has a number of memorable quotes, the problem is the rosy sweet materials on between. There is also one great idea that I liked – who does it belong to? script writers or director – the non-reality scenes are drawn in music and dance. The ones from the films in the 40s and 50s.


(video source Lionsgate Movies)


When jazz is played however, it’s different. Jazz music is also about being true, great jazzmen do not lie when they play music. Sebastian () explaining to Mia () what jazz is about is one of the best scenes I have ever seen about jazz. The problem is that this is not a jazz movie. As much as I love and appreciate their chemistry on screen is not enough to sustain the film, and it actually makes their breaking (and the break away scene) even less credible.

Just to be clear – La La Land is not a bad movie.   is at his third film, the two other were also one way or the other related to music. Whiplash was welcome with ravishing critics and a very high IMDB rating.  La La Land however belongs to a very different category. In the thin air of the ideas and good cinema of the last years it will get a lot of prizes in the next couple of months. Many of them are not deserved. I write this by respect for what the film is (and is not) and for what the Academy, BAFTA, or Golden Globe awards should be. I am expecting more and better films about music from . Maybe a great jazz movie.

This is the week of the Independence day or in other words of the birthday of Israel according to the Jewish calendar. I decided to offer each day this week on my Facebook wall and in a few Facebook groups a short presentation and some music played by Israeli jazz musicians. While researching on youTube for this purpose I found a few variations on the theme of the national anthem ‘HaTikhvah’ (‘The Hope’). I dedicated an article a few years back to this topic, now I am adding some new versions added on youTube in the last few years and one classic that I discovered. I must confess that I am some kind of a fan of this niche genre. This started more than 45 years ago when I listened to Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Star Spangled Banner’ played live at Woodstock. I deeply believe that anthems are not dead songs, they are precious to many people, and they should not be played only by military bands.


(video source OliveJazz31)


The first interpretation belongs to pianist Yaron Herman, whom I presented yesterday on Facebook. Yaron lives in Paris and his ‘HaTikhvah here was played together with saxophonist and composer Emile Parisien at the Maison de la Radio in Paris on September 25, 2012 and broadcasted on France Musique Radio the same day.


(video source Zamir Daniel)


The next one belongs to saxophonist Daniel Zamir and mixes hip-hop and jazz.


(video source illanIRISH)


US-born Lazer Lloyd is a fine guitarist. He now lives in Israel and plays great music – mostly blues. Here is his version of the anthem.


(video source jaywilton)


Eugene Marlow’s The Heritage Ensemble is a contemporary world music quintet that records and performs mostly Eugene Marlow’s original compositions and arrangements of Hebraic melodies in various  jazz, Afro-Caribbean, Brazilian, and classical styles. This beautiful jazz interpretation of ‘Hatikva’ is taken from the album ”Making the Music Our Own’(2006) with Eugene Marlow(p), Darmon Meader (alto and soprano sax), Norm Lotz(b), Gary Schwartzman(g), Barry Altshul(d)


(video source LES GLASSMAN)


Here is how HaTikhvah sounds on the streets of Jerusalem played by organist Isaac Kissel.


(video source AntinousIsGod1)


Here the ‘classic’. You may remember the name Al Jolson  for his leading role in the first (full length) talking movie ever made, ‘The Jazz Singer’, released in 1927. He is considered the “first openly Jewish man to become an entertainment star in America”. His career lasted from 1911 until his death in 1950, during which time he was commonly dubbed “the world’s greatest entertainer”. According to the St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, “Jolson was to jazz, blues, and ragtime what Elvis Presley was to rock ‘n’ roll”. Here is his rendition of HaTikhvah sang with a beautiful Ashkenazi intonation.



source https://www.1stdibs.com/art/prints-works-on-paper/salvador-dali-hatikvah/id-a_113778/

source https://www.1stdibs.com/art/prints-works-on-paper/salvador-dali-hatikvah/id-a_113778/


I am adding to this collection of musical pieces the lithography that Salvador Dali dedicated to HaTikhvah – plate 16 of his series “ALIYAH, THE REBIRTH OF ISRAEL”. The series were commissioned by Samuel Shore, the head of Shorewood Publishers in 1968, for the 20th anniversary of the Independence Day. They were presented in the comprehensive exhibition of Dali’s works which was exposed in Haifa a few years ago.


Happy Birthday, Israel!


I keep wondering what a burden and a responsibility is for an artist to carry the name of a famous father. It’s a great responsibility, it also may be a heavy burden, as people looking or listening to his art (and it does not matter that much if it is music, or painting, or other forms of art expression) cannot and will not avoid making comparisons. Ravi Coltrane was only 2 years old when his famous father died and being the son of one of the most famous saxophonists and composers in the history of jazz must have been a mixed blessing – opening him doors and ears, but also calling for the permanent comparison, especially as Ravi chose the same instrument as a way of expression. While he refused for a long time to embrace the repertoire of his father, he does not seem to have escaped his musical influence. Now, when he crossed the line of the number of years lived by his father and is an accomplished and recognized name of his own, he can trace back his artistic influences to a number of musicians at their peak between the 50s and the 70s, names like Miles Davis, Bill Evans, and yes - John Coltrane.




It’s the third time that Ravi Coltrane comes to Tel Aviv, it is the first time I had the opportunity of seeing and listening to him live. He is one of these musicians who does not try to dominate the stage. The whole set was composed out of five or six pieces, around twenty minutes each, leaving time for all the members of the quintet to bring in their talent and to develop their own versions of the theme in a free manner. Ravi even leaves the stage most of the time when he does not play trying to enhance the vision of a performance as a team work. In this Ravi Coltrane Quintet the emphasis is not on Ravi Coltrane but on the Quintet, a fine gathering of free-style post-bop musicians.


(video source Zycopolis)


To understand Ravi Coltrane’s music I am bringing here one of the pieces that I found on youTube with Ravi playing with McCoy Tyner. The great pianist who is now 85 and still active (I saw him in Israel last year) was a member in John Coltrane’s most famous band in the 60s. Kind of a living link connecting the two Coltrane generations.


(video source music1900jbp)


The other exquisite artist in his band is trumpeter Ralph Alessi, who also composed some of the pieces on their most recent album Spirit Fiction, including the piece above, which was also played Tuesday in Tel Aviv, at the Zappa Club.


(video source Gadi Lehavi Videos)


For the last piece, Ravi invited on stage the young pianist Gadi Lehavi, who who will be 17 next week. He played on stage with Ravi  – what a great opportunity for this young artist, who is already active for three years on the Israeli and world jazz stage. It’s actually not their first encounter, Ravi discovered Gadi a few years ago, they already played together in New York at the Village Vanguard and Birdland jazz clubs. Gadi also played already with a number of other well known contemporary artist, among which Chick Corea and Bobby McFerrin.

Bass usually takes a back seat in jazz performances. Starting with the location on the stage, where the bass is relegated to the back of the stage (maybe no to dwarf the other instruments some will say) and especially in sounds where the it provides tonal counterpoint and rhythmic support. However in a typical jazz concert the bassists have at best a few solos. Not when Avishai Cohen and one of his bands is on stage! One of the things that is different is that with Cohen the bass dominates the show, is in the center and directing everything else that happens from a musical point of view, not to speak of Cohen’s own personality. Now, after having followed the show last night at the Zappa Club in Tel Aviv I need to get back to his older recordings with musicians like Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Bobby McFerrin, Roy Hargrove to see and hear again how he performed when he was part of the band or supporting other musicians.




The band last night at Zappa was not his usual trio (or the one he was performing with all over the world during the last year. Pianist Nitai Hershkowitz is the latest revelation of Cohen, and he is excellent – warm, articulated, with a rich sound and perfect understanding of Cohen’s musical soul. I was less impressed by the guest drummer, the Spanish Jorge Rossi – he is OK but not at the level of Cohen and Hershkowitz, but his presence was fine for the last ‘Spanish/South-American’ part of the show. Cohen himself was impressive, he is at the pick of his strength and maturity, he covers the whole stage and makes the audience vibrate despite of the fact that his music is almost at no moment ‘easy’, he relates to his instrument as to a peer with whom he dances and makes love to, and gets some of the best possible sounds.


(video source Avishai Cohen Music)


I found on the Internet a full concert of Cohen with his (original) trio from 2012, with many lines of similarity in duration and music with what he did last night in Tel Aviv. His music is complex and sophisticated, piano and bass have almost equal parts, and most of the compositions inspired (also) from the Jewish ethos and Bible characters have personality and dramatic power. If he is around your place (he will be in Romania later this spring for example) do not miss him!


An encounter between jazz and opera is an intriguing proposal. Jazz of course takes inspiration from all places, but opera and jazz are considered two quite distinct disciplines, with apparently few people enjoying both genres and even fewer musicians knowing, understanding, loving both and bringing them together. The opportunity of meeting one of these musicians is thus a rare event, and thanks to the Hot Jazz series at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art for creating this opportunity last night.



Mike Del Ferro has a classical formation, but switched to jazz quite early and built upon it all his career. His father was an opera singer, but for quite a while his jazz inspiration was taken from the music he met during his extensive travel around the world – Asia, Africa, South America. It’s only recently that he returned to the music that must have impregnated his childhood, and the fusion he is created is both expressive, reverent to the sources, and full of the freedom of imagination and creation that jazz allows. His style is quite original, he seems to be playing permanently with the piano, fighting and challenging the instrument, and the result is energetic in many moments, melancholic in other, catching the audience inside permanently.


(video source edovansanten)


The evening and Del Ferro were blessed by the presence of an experienced and talented group of Israeli accompanying musicians. Saxophonist Amikam Kimelman has an impressive stature on stage and good technique.  Bassist Simon Starr (who made alyah from Australia three years ago) had only two solos the whole evening, and I would like to listen to him more. The drummer last night was Eitan Itzkowitz who was skilled and expressive during his solos, discrete and supportive of the other musicians during the whole evening. The program included jazz versions of arias and orchestral preludes of several very popular operas as well as of Neapolitan canzonettas so close to the tradition of the Italian bel canto.

The last concert with this program is scheduled for tonight in Haifa and is worth attending for these who have the opportunity. Mike Del Ferro’s Web site can be seen at http://www.mikedelferro.com/.

Evan Christopher was back last week in Tel Aviv, three years after his tour here, and it was a great opportunity to see and listen to him again in the 3rd concert of the Hot Jazz season at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.


source http://www.facebook.com/pages/%D7%92%D7%90%D7%96-%D7%97%D7%9D/173951125964161?ref=ts&fref=ts


California-born Christopher set base in New Orleans, which is one of the principal sources of inspiration for his style and repertory. The second one is the French manouche style which he became familiar with during his residency in France, after hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.


(video source klikonojazz)


The evening was dedicated to the New Orleans music and to saxophonist and clarinetist Sidney Bechet. Born in New Orleans in a Creole family Bechet’s carrier had up to a point similarities to Christopher. He also had the occasion to know European music and especially French jazz, the first time in the 1920s as a member of the Revue Nègre band, that included Josephine Baker, and later in the 1950s, when he settled in France, where he died in 1959. He knew Django Reinhardt and the hot jazz guitar (manouche) style. Here is one of the pieces from Bechet’s repertory played last Friday by Christopher, Petite Fleur, as recorded by Bechet in concert at Olympia in 1954.


(video source Desdemona2002)


The only clip I could find on youTube with the image of Sidney Bechet playing live was a version of St. Louis Blues.


(video source Gypsy Jazz School)


One of the interesting aspects of the Hot Jazz series is the meeting of the foreign guests with the local musicians. it’s always interesting to see the dialog between cultures and styles taking place in the language of jazz. Christopher’s partners last Friday were the Israeli group Swing de Gitanes composed of Yaakov Hoter and Alon Sagi on guitar and the excellent contra-bass player Oren Sagi. The three young musicians make gypsy jazz, here they are playing Tchavolo Swing.


(video source Dave Kelbie)


Much of the music that Christopher does today is also manouche. Here is one of the best examples I could find on the Internet, with one of the bands with one of the groups he created in France Django a la Creole (the name says it all about the fusion of New Orleans and French jazz traditions) doing the Farewell Blues. Do I hear echoes from Hora Staccato in the introduction?


(video source MarioMaccaferriRules)


Last, you can listen to another played by Evan Christopher on Friday in the concert in Tel Aviv – Songe d’automne - here is the version played together with The Rosenberg Trio.

The first evening in the Hot Jazz series at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art this year that I am attending (it was actually the second one, but I missed the first because of my professional trip in November) provided a revelation in meeting one of the best saxophonists today – Joel Frahm. This is not his first visit to Israel, he seems to have been here a few times, and enjoy it. And yes – I and the audiences here enjoy listening to him and to his music.


source http://www.nepr.net/blog/joel-frahm-storytelling-tenor


A classmate of Bred Mehldau at at Hall High School Wisconsin-born Frahm is a powerful gifted blower, who turns his capacity into the talent of creating a sound which is strong in volume, velvety in texture and complex in structure. He can take themes from standards and combine them into a story that becomes his owns and he drives the musicians playing with him, encourages them, appreciates them. He seems to feel equally at ease in swing and in blues. Watching him play is an experience not only because of his sound but also because of his attitude which one feels is full of respect and empathy for the musicians he is playing with and especially with his audiences.


(video source CultureBuzzIsrael)


Here is an interview he gave in Israel last week at the occasion of the visit. He speaks not only about the tour but also about the other Israeli music he met and worked with.


(video source dlhau)


Above is an excerpt of his music, but not from the last Friday concert. The show in Tel Aviv appropriately started with a tribute and dedication to Dave Bruebeck and continued with a lot of the music composed and inspired by Sonny Rollins.  The partner to Frahm for the tour was Israeli saxophonist Amit Friedman, a personality of his own about whom I plan to research, listen and maybe write more in the future. I have already noticed and mentioned bass player Gilad Abro and he did not disappointed me. I was not enthusiastic about pianist Hod Moshonov, neither did Shay Zelman break his routine.

Joel Frahm’s Web site is available here.

I first saw and listened to Madeleine Peyroux’s music in the mid-90s. The performance was filmed at one of the major jazz festivals, maybe the one in Montreal, but I am no longer sure. She was in her mid 20s, young, beautiful and with a powerful voice. I immediately placed her high on my appreciation scale, as one of the potential divas of the coming decades.


(video source Nando Moraes)


Somehow my prediction did not fully come true. Soon after she disappeared from the front of the international musical scene, and when she came back she did not seem to fully accomplish her potential. One of the reasons I believe is that Peyroux is too respectful to the traditions she is in love with – classical vocal jazz, French chansonettes and the big ballad artists (Dylan, Leonard Cohen). She is the perfect performer to take a famous song and give it a completely new life that makes you forget the original interpretation. She does not compose too many original songs, or maybe she does not play enough of them, although the ones I heard are all original. They are however too few to create her the musical basis to become one of the divas. Maybe she foes not thrive to become one.


(video source JazzStationBZ)


The Georgia-born Madeleine Peyroux played in the last years in many famous places, she appeared in prestigious series like the Abbey Road Studio Recordings. And she is an excellent live performer, as I could see last night at the Reading 3 club in Tel Aviv, a stop in a tour which will further take her to France, Turkey and the US.



Peyroux impresses as soon as she starts singing. A tall and powerful woman close to her 40s she is not any longer the beautiful young girl I remembered, but as soon as she talks you feel her non-formal and direct personality, and as soon as she sings you cannot but vibrate to her strong and yet so sensitive voice. A first (non-Obama :-) ) joke established immediately the relation with the audience, she explains her music in simple words and in a style that seriously asks you not to take her too seriously.


(video source kinkradio)


Every instrumental sequence is listened with attention and appreciated by her as leader of the band. Gary Versace at piano and organ reached incandescence in a couple of pieces, and guitarist John Harrington also demonstrated that he is a fine musician. I was not enthusiastic about Israeli-born bass player Barak Mori (too slow to my taste) but I enjoyed the local guest performer trumpet player Avishai Cohen.


(video source okeydokeyy)


The program was a combination of classical jazz, soul (‘I Can’t Stop Loving You’), ballads and two or maybe three original songs which just proved what a fine musician Peyroux can be.




Among the last songs of the evening Peyroux sand a song in French (which she does in every show as a salute to her French ancestry) and Leonard Cohen’s Dancing to the End of Love which she re-created in a manner that made an enthusiast even of a non-fan of Cohen as I happen to be.

The Web site of the artist can be found at http://madeleinepeyroux.com/.

Hard to put ‘Chico & Rita’ is an a category and this is a testimony of the fact that animated movies, even those that are created in the ‘classical’ 2-D format like this one transcend nowadays genres and express more and more different emotions and messages. Walt Disney (the guy who authored Fantasia) would have been delighted. ‘Chico & Rita’ is a musical (with wonderful Cuban and jazz music), a melodrama, and a political film. All packaged in a beautiful and colorful wrapping which makes it a pleasure to watch and listen to.


source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1235830/


I should say that the animation is not the best side of the film, and probably stills look better than the movie itself. In the epoch when so many animation tools are available at the cost of a laptop accessible to any college student this may have been an intentional decision. On the contrary, a lot of effort was deployed into reconstituting the time and the places of the action – the Havana of the 1940s and 50s and in present times, the New York and the Las Vegas (and for a few sequences the Paris) of the clubs where some of the best music ever was created by such giants as Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker or Duke Ellington.


(video source Andalucia1960)

(video source lilianasuarezt)


The film is also a pseudo-biography, but here we need to be careful. The torrid love story between the pianist Chico and the singer Rita, which starts in the Cuba of the last decade before the Communist take-over and continues tracking them while they try to make their way in the US of the 50s may be loosely based on the characters of two real time musicians (Bebo Valdes who actually wrote the original music in the film and Rita Montaner who was the star of the Tropicana club in Havana and then had a short but spectacular career in the US). However the real life paths of the two were different than the ones described in the film, Bebo Valdes lived after 1960 out of Cuba, while Rita Montaner died in 1958.


(video source trailers)

(video source GKIDSFilms)

(video source GuardianMusic)


To some extent the ‘Chico & Rita’ reminded me the wonderful Israeli animated film ‘Waltz with Bashir’ by Ari Folman. As there, at some point in time I lost the difference between film with actors and animation and I completely immersed in the story (and the music in this case). ‘Chico & Rita’ also tries to tell a story that is human, but also has a strong political message. Beyond the world-wide success in the last 10-15 years of the Cuban musicians lies a more complex and sometimes tragical story of the sparkling culture of music, entrainment, night life that was put on freeze or sent in exile for many decades by the Communist regime in Cuba. It was rediscovered starting with the 90s when Cuba slowly started to re-open to the world, but how many destinies of musicians were cut short or annihilated in these years. The true story of those years is yet to be told, written and brought to screens. It is important is that the music survived and is now back for anyone to enjoy, including those who will see this movie.