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My Favorite Whine

You know that joke about the JAP whose favorite whine is “BUT DADDYYYYYY, I WANT THIS ONE!”?
That’s not what this post is about. Nor is it really a favorite whine of mine.
That first whine of the sirens going off when rockets are being fired at Beer Sheva again. That instant in which I very quickly go from telling myself “Dude, no way,” to “Way, dude, way,” and “what the fuck are you doing talking to yourself like a metalhead stoner, get moving.”
All it takes is for it to happen once, and then for weeks later my ear will be constantly tuned to that frequency, seeking it, waiting for it, knowing it’s going to come any moment now, so we have to be ready for it ALL THE TIME.
During operation Cast Lead, three and some years ago, the sirens weren’t working properly. I had to follow the radio to know if there were sirens going off in town, because we couldn’t hear them on our street. On the first few days, before it became the neighborhood bomb shelter, the kids’ daycare was still active, and it was a major relief for me because I knew they were behind thick, safe concrete walls whether we could hear the sirens or not.
On one of those days, Yiftah had a fever and stayed home with me. We were still having breakfast and I hadn’t turned the radio on yet and I heard a loud and close explosion. I don’t remember the exact sequence, it was sheer instinct, but in a heartbeat, I had knocked him onto the floor and was shielding him with my body on the living room floor.
So having sirens that actually go off before the explosions do is a relief. Did I just say that having sirens that go off before the explosions do is a relief?
I don’t react like that to sirens when I’m alone. Having kids makes it different. I will not have them hurt. This is where the unreasonably stubborn me comes out.
The truly annoying part is that I do not want to see anyone’s kids hurt. And I always remember that everybody has a mommy. There has got to be a better way for all of us to work this out. Surely we can evolve that far.


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Ms. Hilter

I experimented with a new avatar on twitter for a weekend.


The result was interesting. I quickly took on the personality of the kind of dictator I would like to be.


Here are my conclusions, to be read from bottom to top:



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שומר דלתות ישראל (NSFW)

חברות וחברים,

לצורך עבודת אמנות אודה לכם אם תהיו מוכנים לשלוח לי צילום ובו שד חשוף


ועליו כתוב ״שומר דלתות ישראל״ לכתובת האימייל שלי: yberry AT netvision DOT net DOT il

בעבודה תשארו לחלוטין בעילום שם אלא אם תציינו במפורש שמותר לי להודות לכם.

כמובן שמותר גם לשלוח לי יותר מתמונה אחת, אבל אנא, שד אחד לתמונה.


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I Believe It Is Called Harmony

I’m sitting on the balcony of my hotel room, listening to the jam session going on downstairs. This evening was a good one.

The first show we caught was Jesse Palter and the Alter Ego featuring Sam Barsh. Sam Barsh, who is currently going totally wild on the stage downstairs, started the show with a soft piano solo. It’s moments like these, with the hushed music and the warm Eilat evening breeze, that are so typical of the festival that I’ve developed a Pavlovian response to jazz music, and whenever it gets intimate like this, I can feel that warm breeze, even if it’s February and I’m in New England.

Out come Ben Williams, bass (we saw him last year with Stefon [ed. thank you, Dr. Jazz] Harris and Blackout) and Gene Coye, drums, and then out comes Jesse Palter. Last year I discussed the matter of my issues with female vocalists. Not a problem here. Palter has a pleasant stage presence and does not steal the limelight from her collaborators.

Several songs in, she presents a song she wrote herself, which was inspired by watching Toddlers and Tiaras while on the treadmill.

This got me thinking that it’s kinda cool that jazz is staying enough of a living genre that the subject matter is constantly evolving from the old standards to cover present pop culture and society. As I was pointing this out, Tal said that he doesn’t think this show is quite jazz music. I was still calculating my ranty response, when Williams and Coye stepped off the stage and left Palter and Barsh to do this:

So ha, this is jazz, alive and kicking. We’ve come a long way from Strange Fruit, baby.

I went to bed after writing the above, not before listening to Palter jamming downstairs, and man, she really is a good singer. A good musician. Long story short, I’m not quite sure a studio album of theirs is in the cards for me, but their live performance is excellent and enjoyable. And I didn’t even mention anything about Barsh’s eccentricities, because he is a rather colorful character, but I hope the clip I made delivers a bit of that.

Tal and I were rather curious about the next show. Grégoire Maret heads his quartet with a harmonica. I haven’t seen many shows in which the harmonica is the main attraction, and not just a little something thrown in on occasion. On stage with him, James Genus on bass, Federioco Pena on piano, and Clarence Penn on drums.
This show has very little talk, and lots of introspection. Every solo is like a delicate conch shell, full of detail, but delivered smoothly, something you want to hold carefully so you can enjoy its beauty without breaking it. The harmony shared by the players is almost erotic, to me, something you want to reach out and touch. And Maret surprises me with his virtuosity. The harmonica solos are passionate and complex but still, oh so delicate.
There’s a silent and peaceful undercurrent to the music on stage, and just as I am thinking about how fragile it must be, Genus goes into a bass solo, starting so hushed I feel it might have been meant for my ears alone. And then some fuckwit from the audience starts snapping a beat, and tries to sweep the rest of the audience into doing so. Genus stops playing and just says one word. “Stop”. I would have perhaps dwelled on the shame I felt for even being in the presence of such idiocy, but once the audience falls silent, Genus resumes playing, and carries me back into the haunting echos of his plucks.

I’m thinking I need an album of theirs, to explore further, alone.

The next show was another last-minute change, Asaf Avidan, playing with cellist Karni Postel rather than with his usual band, the Mojos. Not much to say about this one. It wasn’t jazz. I would have perhaps enjoyed it much much more in a different setting, but it was crowded and hot, and I learned the hard way that secondhand smoke triggers vertigo. We left before the end because I was feeling awful, but did enjoy what we saw.

The next show, and last of the night, was the Gilad Abro Trio. The previous night we had seen Gilad Abro in no less than three shows, as well as Nitay Hershkowitz on piano and Amir Bresler on drums (both had performed with Daniel Zamir).

I was saying something about Abro being very rightfully the hardest working bassist in Israel. He is wonderful. He makes love to his bass. Looking at him, the similarity drawn between the double bass and a woman’s body is very evident. Another think he makes very evident is why the word for what you do with your musical instrument is “play”.

Bresler is a young thing, but as Tal had already put it on the first night, well on the way to becoming a “thinking drummer”. As he plays, and not just bangs the drums, you can feel he not only seeks out the rhythm, but puts endless volume and language into the intervals between every beat. Exploring not only the beat but also the sound.

Hershkowitz’s piano has that kind of effortless beauty to in, like the notes are just being tossed around without much method to the madness, and yet they still form a melody.

Giving a surprisingly bashful introduction to the band, Abro says they’re not *his* trio and it’s true, each one of them holds his ground, has his own voice and presence. The space conrained by the trio is constantly morphing, reshaping itself, taking on new colors and sizes. They are the beauty of live music. The life.

As I was looking for them on Youtube, I found this lovely interpretation of Radiohead’s “Scatterbrain”. I hope to see a lot more of them.

I think that might be just it. To me, there is no room in jazz music for ego. No one person on stage can count more than the others. If any one player serves as no more than a backdrop for another, you’re doing it wrong. This is the one common thread I can see that binds the performances I enjoy the most. This beautiful blend of individuality and unison. I believe it is called harmony. I want to have it present everywhere in life.


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On Grieving

Last night, I found out that a person whom I held very dear died on Friday from complications after childbirth. I’m trying very hard to set aside the guilt about her probably not knowing enough just how dear she was to me, because, well, she’s gone, and it doesn’t matter anymore.

It’s with very mixed emotions that I must say I think that us Jews have it right when it comes to grieving. Burial occurs almost immediately. I know that this is not the case everywhere, but here in Israel, orthodox burial (which is the vast majority of cases here) is usually with the body in a shroud. No coffin to protect you from seeing that it’s a dead body. No embalming to make the body look like it might be “just resting”. You are very quickly forced to accept that this person whom you saw just a few days ago, for whose happiness you rejoiced just this week, with whom you were going to make plans in a few days, after she got settled back in at home with the baby, is dead.

I’m going to need this (the funeral is later today) because at the moment, “dead” doesn’t fit into the equation for her. She is supposed to be alive. It feels almost feasible that we should be able to turn the clock back a bit and stop the sequence of events that caused her to contract that fatal infection, and make everything right. The funeral today is going to be hard. I am going to be among many other people I know personally, all of whom loved her very much, all of whom are jolted by the horrific way this has turned out. I’m not going to be able to hide behind anonymity.

The tradition of Shiv’aa, in which the immediate family of the deceased sits down for a week of mourning, while being visited and supported by more distant family, friends, colleagues, community, etc. It gives us time to process, to start letting go.

It will give me time to knit the sweater for her baby, that out of respect for other people’s beliefs, I did not start knitting before both of them got home safe and healthy.

I had a lot to say, a lot to write, but I have to stop now. Because I can try all I want, but I’m not going to be able to make any sense of it.



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Girl, Uninterrupted

It’s the last night of the Red Sea Jazz Festival. I’m sitting outside at the jam session, back from the shows, and I didn’t want to wait until tomorrow to write this post, because tomorrow is going to be all about going back home and getting back into the routine. Tonight is still about jazz.

We started the evening with going to see Oz Noy, Dave Weckl, and Will Lee again.
They performed pretty much the same set they did the night before. And I didn’t care because they were every bit as badass. The show’s energy was different, maybe a bit more relaxed and even more playful, still very much incendiary. Really, I can’t add much more, except pointing out that the night before, when we were walking out of the venue after their show, I commented to Tal that the only thing that they were missing was cowbell. So today, when performing “Epistrofunk” (which Noy named after Thelonius Monk’s “Epistrophy”), Will Lee suddenly lets go of the bass guitar, yanks out a cowbell, and goes at it. I very nearly died of squee.

The next show was one I was very much looking forward to: Berry Sakharoff and Rea Mochiach, with a new project called “Ra-Ka-Tak”. Rea Mochiach, drums, electronics & vocals; Beri Sakharoff, guitar, keyboard & vocals; Amit Carmeli, bass; Itamar Duari, percussion, electronics & vocals; Omri Mor, keyboard & vocals (yes, we saw him perform with Andaloujazz the night before); and Gershon Viserfirer, oud & wind instruments (yes, we saw him perform, too, with Shem-Tov Levy, two nights before).
I should interject a disclaimer at this point: I am madly in love with Berry Sakharoff. In my eyes, the man can do no wrong. None at all.
They start off, and not unlike Sakharoff and Mochiach’s other collaborations, we are immediately cast into a dreamlike trance. Cacophony is not that frequently a good thing, but it is happening here, and it is incredible. Mind you, this show is not jazz. Not by a long shot. Sakharoff’s speciality is tying in very Mediterranean music with electrically charged rock music. But, like I said, he can do no wrong, and if he wants to play something other than jazz at a jazz festival, you’re just going to have to deal with it.
Berry sings in Arabic. I am usually blown to smithereens by his way with words, and tonight I realize that I don’t even really have to understand what he’s singing to have my guts wrenched by his voice. This is a good thing.
The various pieces in the show were very much built on dialogues between the players on stage. Carmeli sings hauntingly, somewhat evocative of a muezzin calling the believers to pray, and Viserfirer responds to him with the baritone. As their conversation proceeds, they are slowly engulfed by the rich rhythm happening on stage. Then Mor with the keyboard exchanges words with Duari’s fiendish percussions.
I was seized by the rhythm the whole show, and before I knew it, it turned out that they had run into major overtime and had to stop then and there. So they kept playing for another song or two.
It’s hard for me to describe exactly what happened there, but I figure that they will probably be touring this show around a bit. Do not miss it.
Now, I expect that by this time tomorrow, someone more enterprising than me will have posted some footage from the show on youtube, but in the meantime all I can offer is a taste of previous Sakharoff-Mochiach collaborations:

For more: this, and this.

Danilo Perez Trio
Danilo Perez is a pianist, who despite his relatively young age, has an impressive career spanning from a start with Dizzy Gillespie’s orchestra, and going onward and upwards since. We were curious, to say the least, and early listening indicated that this show was likely to be good.
He was accompanied by Adam Cruz on drums, and Ben Street, whom we had seen perform wonderfully last year with Kurt Rosenwinkel.
The first number starts with Perez alone, on the piano, and as he plays softly and peacefully, with Street and Cruz joining in shortly, I find myself thinking that a good jazz could be comparable to a long run. You try to maintain steady tempos over time, and have your recurring themes and movements, but if you’re really there to enjoy it, you’ll be taking in and absorbing all of the momentary occurrences around you. For the more difficult uphill bits, you have to break it down, and when you’re going downhill you can let loose and have gravity carry you. There is no one single moment that you’re building up to, but rather a long string of individual moments, each with its own emotion, its own warmth, its own breath. And every so often, all of a sudden, you will realize that you are, in fact, flying.
The show is just an ongoing pleasure. The sound they are making together is soft, and tender. Even the powerful moments are never aggressive. One of the best indicators of how harmonious it all felt was that Perez at some point started playing games with the audience, having us repeat beats and sing after him, and it was not in the least annoying. Usually, when performers do this, I just feel very embarrassed for them, but he was just truly playing with us, and we were glad to be a part of it.
Tal summed it up nicely, when we got out. He said that the show was very balanced, and that he emerged feeling complete and serene.

In fact, we were feeling so laid back and relaxed, that we decided to pass on the last show we were supposed to see, because once we discussed it, it turned out that neither of us really wanted to see Ricky Lee Jones. And we’re super cool with that. So now, as I said, we’re chillaxing poolside, for the last jam session of this festival. Soon we’ll go up to our room to listen from bed until sleep comes. And tomorrow we’ll pack up and go back to our normal lives, with the very sweet taste we always have at the end of August, that we’ll be back in Eilat again, in another year, and know that in the meantime, every time we hear a particularly good jazz album, we’ll almost be able to feel that warm breeze brushing at our necks.


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Here for the Music

I would like to start summarizing the third night of the Red Sea Jazz Festival by noting that I couldn’t write much last night, because some freak insect bite made use of my left hand very difficult. Imagine the embarrassment when I had to clap by touching my right hand to my shoulder. And walking around with my left hand elevated for no obvious reason… oh, never mind. I’m here for the music.

Omri Mor & Andaloujazz Project
We kicked off the evening with this Israeli trio, a classic piano trio, with Omri Mor on piano, Gilad Abro on bass, and Noam David (no relation) on drums, performing Andalucian music. This combination spawned a very colorful experience.
Abro and David really well exemplified the meaning of the term “rhythm section”, both simply being the rhythm, with their instruments, their hands, their bodies, their faces. Tal at some point kvetched to me that he found the facial expressions disturbing, but I don’t know. I thought they were just beautiful on stage.
I was especially taken with Noam David. His relationship with his drums was so vibrant and clearly fun, and he really worked them in all sorts of ways, with all sorts of rhythms, using his bare hands at times.
Omri Mor was quite wonderful himself. His use of the piano is free and inventive, and just like the rhythm section, he was clearly really enjoying himself. The general atmosphere of the show was that the players were all very engaged with the music, and with each other, communicating seamlessly onstage with a very clear language of their own.
There is no album out yet, but this is one that I will be listening for, and definitely a show worth seeing.

Jeff “Tain” Watts Quartet
Obviously, when I state in a previous post that a drummer as a frontman is an unusual choice, we’re going to have another quartet led by a drummer.
Jeff Watts, drums; Jean Toussaint, tenor and soprano sax; David Kikoski, piano; James Genus, bass. Each one of these player has an impressive track record in his own right, they’ve all been around for some time and have played with some very big names.
The show was good, solid, honest-to-god New York jazz. Watts speaks between the numbers with a laid-back sense of humor, and the good time being had on stage is infectious with the audience.
One number that particularly amused me was, as Watts put it, “a drinking song, a song about drinking, about what it feels like to be drunk,” that he named “Vodville”, after vodka. Jeff actually assumes the posture and gestures of a drunkard on the drums, and the beat he’s making is very reminiscent of a highly shitfaced lush, stumbling his way home after a bender.
As part of what turned out to be a general theme for last night, watching this show reminded me how I will forever be amazed with how jazz players manage to be in sync with each other, through improvisation and changing rhythms, as if it’s a cellular thing, and instinct.
We were not blown away with the show, but we did enjoy it very much, and really, must we always be blown away? Can we always be?
Check out a drum solo of Watts, for just a taste:

The Oz Noy trio Feat. Dave Weckl & Will Lee
Now, excuse me. I’m pretty sure the bill for this festival said “jazz” and not “rock”. Because this show rocked. If it was “blown away” that we were looking for, we found it.
Oz Noy is an internationally accomplished Israeli guitarist, with a modest stage presence, backed by the brilliant Dave Weckl on drums, and Will Lee, of the David Letterman Show, on bass. Together, they performed original pieces by Noy, charged with electric funk.
Now, on the matter of Noy. This man does not need stage presence, because he is insanely brilliant, and besides, Will Lee, with his wild child rocker mannerism, who is a full extension of his bass guitar, or maybe the other way around, has so much stage presence, there was barely room to contain all of him.
This show sort of sounded what I always imagined tripping on LSD must be like, if you’re playing Super Mario Brothers on a large screen at the same time.
This is really one of those cases in which I don’t think I can muster the words to describe the experience. “Explosive” comes to mind, as do “57 varieties of awesomesauce, and a bag of chips”, but still. We’ve decided to go see them perform again tonight, and seeing as our usual strategy for the festival is to catch as many different shows as humanly possible, this speaks more than I could say in words. Or maybe I should just let the music do the talking?
You’re going to want to raise the volume for this one. To max.

New Gary Burton Quartet
There has to be at least one show every festival in which the combination of fatigue and the more subdued ballad-type selection leads us to feel that we would have enjoyed it more if it were not so late in the night and if the people around us could have their conversations a bit more quietly.
Gary Burton, vibraphone; Scott Colley, bass; Julian Lage, guitar; Antonio Sanchez, drums.
The music was lovely, and we were especially taken with Lage on guitar. They performed an especially lovely version of “My Funny Valentine”, that once again, along with the warm night breeze, and the moon and all, put us for a while into that state of mind that I seem to be able to achieve only for the four nights a year that we are here, of this perfect calm, when you’re just at peace with the world, and you know it will be over soon, but you don’t mind, because you are in that moment, and it’s all ok.

And now I must go. Berry Sakharof has been spotted at the pool, and it is my duty to fawn and sigh.

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