Take Five With Amir Perelman

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Meet Amir Perelman: Amir Perelman (42) has been playing string instruments since he was 15. He grew up in Israel and partly in the U.S., living in the Netherlands and France for ten years, where as an active musician he performed at various jazz clubs and festivals throughout Europe. He taught music at the Rotterdam Conservatory and composed scores for the theatre, as well as for commercial television. During his formative years, Perelman was exposed to many different musical influences such as jazz, rock, Latin, Indian, Armenian and Mediterranean music, all of which are reflected in his work. By fusing rhythms and scales from both east and west, he has created his own personal sound and style. For the last ten years, he has been living in Israel, where he has been playing and leading ensembles. To date, he has recorded eight CDs.


Guitar, oud and bouzuki.

Teachers and/or influences? I have listened to lots of people that had a great influence on the way I write and play music; to name a few: Shakti with John McLaughlin, Stephan Micus, Anouar Brahem, Night Ark, Jan Garbarek, Arild Andersen, Erik Satie, Chopin, J.S Bach and many more.

Perhaps even more influential are the people I've played with throughout the years.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... I started playing guitar for fun in my teens and very quickly it took over my life to the point that I could not think of anything else to do with my life. The joy of improvisation was and still is what got me into it. The musical dialog between musicians as a social art form and a way of communication always fascinated me, and from the first few months playing guitar I knew that was what I'd be doing.

Your sound and approach to music: I read once, in a book by Mick Goodrick, the following words of wisdom: "Try to think of the music you make as nice ways of moving from silence to silence." It remains part of the way I've written and played music ever since. In our world we are so over-killed with sound, the silence seems to be the strongest chord a musician can hit. In recent years I feel even more so—that the way we play each note is more important than how many notes we play; in other words, music needs to be beautiful not difficult.

Your teaching approach: I try not to make my students replicas of me; instead, I give them the tools they need, inspire them to play the music they hear inside, and keep their own musical voice while learning everything they can.

Your dream band:

I'd love to work with Arild Andersen, any good string quartet , Zakir Hussain, Jan Garbarek, Dave Holland,Shankar, and Trilok Gurtu.

Road story: Your best or worst experience: Well, I'll give you my worst. During a tour with a great ethno-jazz group I put together, we arrive in Israel (I lived in Holland back then) to play at an open air festival called Bombomela on the beach. The sound man was kind of on the edge, having done two concerts before us. Then a monster north wind begins to blow and we are all playing acoustic instruments like tabla, Persian Ney, contrabass and oud, and the guy is fighting feedback. We start the first tune for the third time and it slowly builds up to feedback again. After about an hour, I take the mic and apologize to the five hundred people waiting for the concert, inviting them to the next concert in Camelot Tel Aviv a few day later. A lot of them came and, from the band stand, I had a few laughs with them and thanked them for their devotion.

Favorite venue:

For me it's not about the venue, it's about the sound man and the vibe from the audience.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why? The last album is the one; I'm very happy with the way we played as an ensemble, it was recorded live, altogether in a very organic way. It's a very good ensemble, if I may say.

The first Jazz album I bought was: I think it was Portrait in Jazz, by Bill Evans. Although my folks had some Billie Holiday, Nina Simone and stuff like that, which got me into the jazz/blues sound.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? The spirit I bring to my projects is a very personal fusion that enters the ears, blends together, and comes out through the pen as a personal voice. If you want to hear that kind it will have to be me. I'm a virtuoso listener and that's what my music is about.

CDs you are listening to now: a lot of classical music lately . Yo-Yo Ma, six suites for cello by J.S Bach, Glenn Gould's Goldberg Variations.

Desert Island picks: Shankar, Who's to Know (ECM);

Glenn Gould, Goldberg Variations (Sony/BMG);

Miles Davis, Kind of Blue (Columbia);

John Coltrane, The Gentle Side of John Coltrane (Impulse!)

Amir Perelman, Beyond Words (Magda).

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