Monday, 22 May 2017

Ari Erev - Jazz In Givatayim

I always try to get to at least one jazz gig when travelling. My recent time in Israel coincided with an appearance by one of my favourite jazz pianists - Ari Erev who played a brilliant set at the Givatayim Theatre, just a short taxi ride from central Tel-Aviv.

I first heard Ari play in 2005 at the prestigious Felicia Blumenthal Centre in Tel-Aviv. It was a memorable night as he performed a tribute to Bill Evans who he lists as a major influence. It was also memorable because I had what I can only describe as a very Tel-Avivian experience of ending up in an ice cream parlour at midnight with an octogenarian couple who had sat beside me in the concert, chatted to me in the interval and then invited me to accompany them to a cafe afterwards.

Just before the gig - Ari Erev
Back to Givatayim. The gig took place in the basement of this very modern venue giving the evening a more intimate feel.  Ari was accompanied by Eli Magen on bass, Lenny Sendersky on sax and clarinet, and Gasper Bertoncelj on drums. Together they worked their way through a dozen pieces, mostly taken from his most recent album - Flow, opening with the title track which as well as being a great jazz piece shows hints of classical influence some of which is also clear in the opening bars of Continuance, the second number also taken from the album. Both Flow and Continuance have a slight melancholy feel about them. We were also treated to some Latin influenced pieces. Treasures in Havana and Latin Currents particularly demonstrated this, the first alluding to a family trip to Cuba. 

The quartet also played a few non-Erev compositions including the well-received, exuberant uptempo number Doce de Cocopenned by Brazilian-Jewish composer Jacob do Bandolim. Kenny Barron's Voyage was given a very long very cool workout. So cool in fact that we could easily have been sitting in a New York jazz club listening to it. Dave Brubeck's In Your Own Sweet Way was a perfect vehicle for Ari's piano lead, as indeed it was for his hero Bill Evans. If you are reading Ari, I think you should record Voyage on your next album!

July Again is a tribute to Udi Kazmirski, former bassist with the group who first played with Erev on a July day and who sadly died in July 2012, thus the title. Despite the sad story, for me it is an optimistic piece emphasising memory, light and recovery. Israeli jazz musicians often include a folk song or a nostalgic song from the country's past as part of their repertoire. Ari chose Gan Ha-shikmim (The Sycamore Garden), written by Yohanan Zarai. It was clearly a good choice as some of the audience sang along for a few bars.

My favourite track, Jump Into The Water came near the end. It is a great jazz number, urgent and uptempo. Held together and directed by Ari at the piano, each musician was showcased and I particularly liked the conversation between piano and sax on this one. For an encore we were given a version of Gershwin's But Not For Me which just happens to be my favourite Gershwin song, sending me home happy. Israel has many great jazz musicians, probably more than any other country of similar size. Ari is one of the best and it would be great to see him play in the UK at some point.

You can hear some of Ari's music on his website where you can also keep up to date with his performance schedule. Flow is a great album and you can buy it here in both CD and MP3 format.

His next planned performance is on June 21st in Ashdod. In the meantime you can have a sneak preview below...

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