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Take Five with Itamar Shapiro

Itamar Shapiro By

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Meet Itamar Shapiro

Itamar Shapiro is an Israeli drummer based in New York City. He is a 2019 graduate of the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music and over the years has played with world-renowned artists such as Sullivan Fortner, Joel Frahm and more. He played and recorded with his own groups and has performed at venues including Mezzrow Jazz Club, Bern International Jazz Festival, Beit Haamudim and Shablul Jazz club.

Instrument:

Drums

Teachers and/or influences?

During my time in high school back in Israel and the few years that followed I studied with the Israeli drummer Shay Zelman. When I moved to New York I studied with Eric McPherson and Nasheet Waits.

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

I don't have a particular moment that I can remember but almost from the beginning I was very serious about music and wanted it to be a part of my life.

Your sound and approach to music.

My approach to music is very open, I like to explore the possibilities of every musical situation and try to push the music to a place I haven't been in before but at the same time, I'm always trying to keep myself informed by the tradition. The way I see it, I can't invent anything new, but I can use existing ideas in a different context than the one it was originally in.

Your teaching approach

When I'm teaching, I try to show my students the endless possibilities of music. I encourage them to check out as much music as possible and to learn from listening to the masters of the instrument. My role is to guide them and show them new directions to develop themselves and becoming better drummers and more importantly better musicians.

Your dream band

My dream band consists of musicians who are great listeners and are open minded. It's more important to me that everyone in the band is working for the music rather than trying to showcase their chops and technique.

Favorite venue

My favorite venue that played in is Mezzrow in New York. The atmosphere in the club is great and the stage is small and crowded so the balance is great and you can hear everyone clearly. I also would love to play the Village Vanguard one day, there is so much history in that place and the acoustics there are the best I have ever experienced

Did you know...

I'm lefty but I play the drums as a righty. Before I started taking formal lessons I used to try and teach myself some basic beats and all the drum sets I saw were righty so I got used to it and stuck with it even when I started taking lessons. It turned out to be a good thing for me because it makes it easier for me to imitate other drummers and figure out what they're doing.

The first jazz album I bought was:

My father has an amazing collection of jazz records, so I grew up with jazz from a very young age. I can't remember what was the first recorded I bought by myself, but it was probably by some Israeli musician like Avishai Cohen or Omer Avital.

Music you are listening to now:

There is nothing specific I'm listening to at the moment. I'm always checking out different music from different genres and artists.

Desert Island picks:

John Coltrane: A Love Supreme (Impulse!)
Miles Davis: The Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel 1965 (Legacy)
Andrew Hill: Black Fire (Blue Note)
Eric Dolphy: Eric Dolphy at the Five Spot (New Jazz)
Wayne Shorter: Night Dreamer (Blue Note)

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

I think the most essential thing is having young musicians who are dedicated to the art form and are willing to go deep and really study the history of the music in order to inform themselves and develop. It's important that young musician focus on the music instead on how to gain fame and status.

What is your greatest fear when you perform?

My greatest fear when I perform is to lose interest in the music. I think as long as I'm interested and feel a connection to the music I'm going to enjoy it and that for me is the most important thing.

What is in the near future?

Right now, because of the pandemic things are a bit uncertain but I hope that things will get better and we will be able to play and perform soon.

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