Tel Aviv Free Jazz White Night

Eyal Hareuveni By

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Events covered in this article:

Tel Aviv's White Night Music Marathon, Enav Culture Center, Tel Aviv, June 23, 2005
Jemeel Moondoc Quartet, The Israeli Opera Hall, Tel Aviv, June 24, 2005

It was a gathering of the tribe. The local flock of forward-thinking jazz worshippers and musicians, including the tribe's eldermen, magicians and witch doctors, and many youngsters and novices that were baptized into the colorful rituals of this fire music. Over sixty musicians, guests from abroad, a composition that was commissioned for this occasion, many fresh collaborations, laughs and a lot of musical highlights.

The evening began with Maya Dunietz Giv'ol choir, which features over twenty musicians from the alternative music scene of Tel Aviv and even a veteran radio DJ, Yuval Meskin, all dressed as a nostalgic Kibbutz choir in frog-green shorts and skirts, embrodiered shirts, and barefoot, like they were going to sing songs that praise the newborn Israeli state and the virtues of cultivating the land of milk and honey. But they sang dead serious nonsensical songs, asking the audience to follow their instructions such as sticking your fingers into your ears or pressing and releasing your hands on your ears. The magic began when the tribe's chief, clarinetist Harold Rubin, collaborated with this ensemble that acted as a kind of ironic Greek choir to his beat poem, "Little Men of War":

I have a packet in my pocket and a socket in my head,
plugged into little children dead from war,
We saw them lying on the floor,
With palms up for money, palms up for money,
For the land of milk & honey.

Rubin continued to a raging duet with Dunietz, now on the piano, that took an annoying cellular ring tone from the audience as its theme.

The Israeli version of John Zorn's gamepiece Cobra premiered two years ago at the Israel Festival, and since then has been staged at least once a month with many new musicians, but the White Night's Cobra was the best one that I have seen so far. Not following Zorn's strict rules that demand twelve players, this version of the Cobra featured eight players—three on laptops, three percussionists, and a cellist and violin player, prompted by Nory Jacoby—but they managed to produce the playful and kaleidoscopic spirit of this game. This time the magic began on the third part. Cellist Karni Postel used her amplified cello strings as a percussion instrument, soon followed by the percussionists and then Ido Govrin introduced into the percussive mayhem a mutilated version of Albert Einstein's speech on his formula of energy. Violin player Daniel Hoffman picked the rhythm of the heavy accented speech and began a gibberish speech of his own that he screamed into the pick-up of his violin, and his voice was sampled quickly into a rhythmic module that was developed by the percussionists. Simply amazing.

Saxophonist Albert Beger, who usually opts for more free-minded collaborators, played this time with one of the most straightforward drummers in Israel, Shay Zelman, in a duet that too often was focused about take-no-prisoners sheer energy. Saxophonist Assif Tsahar collaborated for the first time with drummer Chad Taylor, with more satisfying results. Taylor set African-based polyrhythms and Tsahar interlocked naturally with every avenue that Taylor signaled for him. Taylor's turbulent and captivating trio with saxophonist Ariel Shoboleth and pianist Daniel Sarid triggered great performances from Shiboleth and Sarid.

Composer and saxophonist Steve Horenstein, a close associate of the great composer and trumpet player Bill Dixon, wrote a special composition for the Tel Aviv Art Ensemble—augmented by Tsahar and percussionist Jeffrey Kovalsky—"Spiritus Humanus," which he describes as a composition that celebrates the flaws of human beings and assisting us humans, to exorcise our demons. This impressive composition began with Horenstein on baritone sax (he claims it was owned by Jerry Mulligan) with Kovalsky, and soon transformed into a full-scale gallery of alternating and split-cut movements. Horenstein captured beautifully the risk-taking openness of all the ensemble members and managed to channel their myriad distinctive voices into a coherent and beautiful composition.

Danish ensemble Skraep featured four original players, mainly amplified toys player Martin Klapper and electric bassist Peter Friis Nielsen. They were forced to play a set that was too short, but they managed to demonstrate the primary magic of music with their inquisitive attitude to sound—any sound—whether it originates from a plastic comb, electric toothbrush, balloon, or electric bass guitar with objects plucked into its strings.

Assif Tsahar called all the musicians that stayed until the of this magical night, around 3 am, for a "short massage for the years," and conducted the ad-hoc ensemble for a dreamy and slow piece that sent everyone home smiling and wishing for another White Night.

The following night Jemeel Moondoc's quartet performed to a different audience—much older and not the typical follower of this breed of adventurous jazz—in the more classy hall of the Israeli Opera, but managed to charm this satiated audience. Moondoc, drummer Chad Taylor, and bassist John Voigt performed in the Tel Aviv Jazz Festival last year and gained quite a local following after that concert. This time they brought with them saxophonist Sabir Mateen, offering an arresting night based on Moondoc compositions and one by Sun Ra. This quartet presented such a telepathic communication between all players, playfulness and a deep knowledge of jazz heritage that you can easily figure out the threads with Ornette Coleman legendary quartet or the cosmic vision of Sun Ra, but always enjoy the originality of all the players while you try dancing while sitting in this hall's fancy seats.

Visit Skraep, Jemeel Moondoc, and Assif Tsahar on the web.

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