Take Five with Amir Segall

Amir Segall By

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About Amir Segall

Amir Segall is a distinctively accomplished pianist, composer and bandleader from the Israeli, and more recently the New York modern and avant-garde jazz scene. Since arriving in New York City, Amir has gained recognition as one of today's most exciting and influential artists.

Amir has played and studied classical music for most of his young life. However, after listening to some of Keith Jarrett's and Oscar Peterson's trio recordings, he switched his primary focus to jazz improvising, playing other styles and writing his original compositions.

Since 2015, Amir has performed as a pianist, bandleader, co-leader and as a soloist / collaborator in Israel and in NYC at prestigious venues and has had the honor to work with world renowned musicians including Ofer Ganor, Yuval Cohen, Barak Mori, John Hébert, Doug Weiss, Reggie Workman, and Mary Halvorson.

Amir is known for his unmatched lyrical phrasing and his unique harmonic approach that is informed by some of the great pianists of jazz including Keith Jarrett, Art Tatum, Thelonious Monk, and Paul Bley.


Piano and keyboards.

Teachers and/or influences?

I have been honored to have had the opportunity to work with some of the greatest musicians on the Israeli jazz scene as well as in New York City. Some include Sam Yahel, Barak Mori, Aaron Parks, Yuval Cohen, John Hebert, Doug Weiss, Omri Mor, Reggie Workman, Hal Galper, Robert Sadin, Kirk Nurock, and Mary Halvorson.

My influences change all the time because it's an endless world. When I was in Israel, earlier in the process, I was listening to hours of the Miles Davis quintets; also, albums like Soul Station by Hank Mobley, Sonny's Crib by Sonny Clark, Concert By the Sea by Erroll Garner have been an inspiration to me. Wynton Kelly and Red Garland's style have had a big influence as well.

Since I moved to New York, I've gotten deeper into avant-garde jazz and solo piano records. For instance, Keith Jarrett's solo piano works have really inspired my playing. I also took some ideas from the Paul Motian trio with Joe Lovano and Bill Frisell. Also, I think Paul Bley's Footloose! is worth checking out—an interesting approach.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

I knew I wanted to be a musician when I finished high school. I've never deeply thought about being a musician but it more naturally happened through life experience. I definitely knew that I wanted my work to be creative and meaningful. The music has become a way to express myself from a young age and it felt natural.

Your sound and approach to music.

I love the intimate sound of acoustic instruments. That's probably why my favorite playing setup is a piano trio (piano, double bass and drums). I'm trying to reach a point that all the three band members are equally involved and make it more of a collective group-playing that is inspired by some ECM albums and great jazz trios. Music by Keith Jarrett, Brad Mehldau, Bill Evans, and Herbie Hancock come to mind.

Moreover, I'm trying to incorporate elements from different types of classical music into my playing. For instance, J.S Bach music has a lot to take into jazz improvising context. The pieces are quite short, but there is so much information and inspiration in this music regarding its melodic, harmonic and rhythmic qualities.

Your teaching approach

I am glad to have the opportunity to share from my own experience and knowledge to young students. I think that my goal as a teacher is to help my students to develop in their own way, to be creative and to be engaged in their musical process. Each student develops his own unique way of learning the instrument and approaching it. In that way, my job as a teacher becomes more interesting than teaching the same material to all the students.

Favorite venue

I'd like to someday play at the Village Vanguard. The acoustics are pretty incredible, the room is really nice but more importantly, it's the incredible tradition that has gone through the place, from Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter to Brad Mehldau's incredible trios. From my experience there, the Vanguard respects the music and the musicians which is rare to see as a musician living in NYC. At Smalls, Dizzy's, Smoke and many other jazz venues the vibe is different and there are some distractions from purely listening.

Other then that, I'd also liked to perform or see shows at Rockwood Music Hall, Nublu, Beit Ha'amudim in Tel Aviv.

The first jazz album I bought was:

Portrait in Jazz by Bill Evans was probably the first jazz album I really listened to and was my gateway into jazz. Although I was familiar with some jazz albums before getting this one, I found and still find Portrait in Jazz inspiring. The listening level between Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian is really special. It still sounds fresh even though it was recorded about 50 years ago.

Music you are listening to now:

This journey is endless and I'm always trying to expose myself to many places and eras. I have recently got into Bartok's piano music and some west coast jazz from the early '50s, especially by Lee Konitz and Lennie Tristano.

Desert Island picks:

Keith Jarrett: Facing You (ECM Records)
Beatles: Abbey Road (Capitol)
Paul Simon: Still Crazy After All These Years (Columbia Records)
John Coltrane: A Love Supreme (Impulse!)
Shalom Hanoch: Exit (NMC)
About Amir Segall
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