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Take Five with Omer Ashano

Omer Ashano By

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About Omer Ashano

Israeli jazz violinist Omer Ashano started playing violin when he was six years old, later taking up the guitar at age 13. At the time, his guitar teachers were the influencers who exposed Omer to the styles of Blues, Rock n' Roll and Jazz as well as the ideas and possibilities surrounding improvisation. It was from this exposure that Omer started experimenting with this new knowledge and adapting it for the violin and late forging his career as a jazz and cross-genre violinist.

In 2016 Ashano moved to New York City and quickly immersed himself in the local jazz community and is now a renowned violinist as well as an acclaimed composer and musical producer. While continuing to record and perform internationally with the Israeli folk/rock band OSOG. 2019 marked a fruitful year in Ashano's career as he released his debut EP Alive In New York featuring original compositions and arrangements, to much positive reviews and acclaim. This year he also served as composer and musical editor for the silent film Hannah Can You Hear Me, which won the AFI World Peace Initiative Cannes Award for Best Arts Film.

Instrument(s):

I'm mainly a violinist although studying different instruments throughout the years including guitar, tabla and sitar, had a big part in shaping my technical and musical approach to playing violin.

Teachers and/or influences?

I've had countless mentors over the years but with no doubt those people that I feel I owe the most is my classical violin teacher back in Israel Delia Jacob who gave her soul in teaching despite my ambitions to pursue jazz violin and in New York that was pianist Sam Yahel who has so much valuable insight to share with his students regardless of their instrument.

I also must credit one of my first guitar teachers, Shaul. He was the one to introduce me to the magic of Jimi Hendrix, who I consider my greatest influence until this very day, as well as exposing me to the first jazz records I used to listen to by Charlie Parker and Wes Montgomery.

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

When I uninstalled and got rid of all my video-games in order to not be distracted from practicing. I guess that was around age 16. As I started delving deeper into improvisation and playing violin around that age, I realized I could no longer view music as a hobby but as a life-time pursuit that I wanted to be immersed in day and night.

Your sound and approach to music.

Many people like to call me a cynic. I know that this is probably due to my reserved or toned down temperament in addition to my strong inclination towards realism, naturalism and at times anti-spiritualism.

Nonetheless, I don't think of myself as cynic for I also keep a sense of optimism, appreciation to simple things and authenticity and above all love of human connection. I do think though that all of the above are somewhat expressed in my playing and composition. Simple and clean sound, reserved and not overtly emotional yet still expressive and relatable.

The same elements are also preserved in many of my compositions. Trying to keep a sense of folk music in them, not necessarily by the musical structure rather by the essence of the composition and the way I play it.

Your teaching approach

As a young violinist in Israel that experienced a crisis with Classical music and the Classical school, I've been looking around for non-classical violin teachers in vain. I've figured out that in order to play the music I want on the violin I'm going to have to teach it to myself, thus becoming an independent learner which is most likely the greatest gift I've ever received as a musician and a teacher.

I had to read books, watch videos, ask people how they practice, use my ears because I had no scores to any of the music I wanted to play, explore. I had to criticize myself, I had to remain conscious about my playing and what I think is missing in my playing in comparison to other players, analyze what is it that excites me in one's music or playing. Most of all, I had the privilege to remain attentive to any new idea being suggested to me, because no one ever taught me what the "truth" was.

Be your own teacher. That is perhaps the only "truth" I would force upon my students. As part of my teaching philosophy, I'm seeking to not only teach my students the skills they wish to acquire but to show them how to determine and teach themselves new skills they 'need' or desire to acquire.

Your dream band

My dream band would consist of musicians who are true improvisors and sharp listeners but yet aren't strictly improvising in the "jazz language." I'm in love with improvisation, of any kind and genre, it excited me since I can remember. I assume this explains my deep interest in folklore music of different cultures. Almost all of those musical traditions present an approach to improvisation of some sort.

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