Take Five with Assaf Kehati
Israeli/Bostonian jazz guitarist Assaf Kehati has been performing with legendary drummer Billy Hart and up-and-coming bassist Noam Wiesenberg for the past two years. For a recent Regattabar concert, Kehati's trio expanded to a quartet after renowned saxophonist Eli Degibri (Al Foster's Band) joined the group. The quartet plays both Kehati's and Hart's original compositions as well as jazz standards by composers such as Arthur Altman, Irving Berlin and Ray Noble. His debut CD, A View From My Window, with his all time favorite Israeli musicians, was released in January 2010.
Teachers and/or influences?
Pat Metheny, Secret Story;
Bill Evans, You Must Believe In Spring;
Ella Fitzgerald, Gershwin Song Book;
Kurt Rosenwinkel, The Next Step;
Jim Hall and Paul Desmond, Glad To Be Unhappy;
Billy Hart, Quartet 2006;
Doug Raney, Back In New York;
Brian Blade Fellowship, Perceptual;
Joey Calderazzo, Joey Calderazzo;
John Coltrane, Coltrane Plays the Blues;
I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
The evolution of Assaf Kehati, since he was a toddler, was documented by his mom, Dassi. She didn't imagine that her two year old son, that liked to listen to music, would later become a world famous player. I had a small guitar, and when I heard a song I liked, I immediately ran to my room to bring the guitar, and play and dance, and my mom would says "that's really funny." I wanted a big and real guitar. "When I grow up I want to play guitar," that's what I say. (From Dassi's diary).
Your sound and approach to music:
I feel music is something very basic and common for all the people everywhere in the world. It has everything; it evokes your emotions, your intellect, and every part of your body in the most pure and ancient way. Jazz, in particular for me, gives freedom, with endless possibilities to create. It symbolizes life itself from a simple connection between people to being the universal language of self expression.
Your teaching approach:
I believe in giving students information in the form of tools, techniques, examples and ideas as opposed to rules and give them the opportunity to find their own voice while learning the principles of a subject or a concept. I look for creative ways to actively engage students in experimenting and exploring a wide range of styles, approaches, and concepts in sound and texture. Besides concentrating on the immediate subject matter, I also make it a point to address life skills such as handling performance anxiety, ensemble interpersonal skills, preparing for auditions, and time management. I love teaching and I am inspired by my students.
Road story: Your best or worst experience:
A nice experience in a performance with my Trio with Billy Hart. It was a unique experience for both of us when in one of our shows I played a piece that he wrote for his daughter. He didn't know we were going to play this piece and he didn't even know that I knew the piece. I just started playing the song and he joined me. It's a powerful experience to play with Billy.
Did you know...
My educational background includes a masters degree in jazz performance with honors from the New England Conservatory and undergraduate studies in Israel at the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music (a member of the Berklee International Network). But, I also hold a bachelors degree, summa cum laude, in business from the College of Management, Israel.
What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?
Recognizing that jazz today is many different styles would help to keep jazz alive. Jazz nowadays is influenced by rock pop and world music and vice versa.
If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:
I would be working on becoming one.
Photo Courtesy of Assaf Kehati