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Tel Aviv White Night Festival 2014

Tel Aviv White Night Festival 2014
Eyal Hareuveni By

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Tel Aviv White Night Festival
Enav Canter
Tel Aviv, Israel
February 6-7, 2014

The program of the 10th anniversary of Tel Aviv White Night Festival, for contemporary and improvised music, was more modest and focused this year than in previous years, but remained faithful to its vision—introducing innovative and forward-thinking musicians from the local scene and abroad.

The all night festival was opened by a new outfit, headed by the forefather of free jazz and improvised music in Israel, clarinetist Harold Rubin, now 81 years old. He was backed by a trio of young, eager musicians—guitarist Ido Bukelman, double bassist Nadav Masel and drummer Nir Saba, who often work together as HaHanut Trio, named after the Tel Aviv club that hosts its gigs.

The quartet featured a delicate negotiation between the associative and poetic playing of Rubin and the young trio's muscular, dense playing. Rubin did not initially fit with their powerful, restless interplay and found himself ornamenting their outbursts with inventive ideas or references to jazz legacy, including a quote from "Over the Rainbow." Patiently, Rubin managed to harness the trio into more contemplative, dynamic and collaborative interplay. Then the quartet began to show its great potential, enjoying Rubin's extensive experience in improvisation, realizing that often, fewer things played mean much more.

After a light-hearted interlude of Shakespearean songs by the charming soprano vocalist Amalia Ishak, baritone saxophonist Stephen Horenstein began his solo set. Horenstein has developed a remarkable command of his instrument, which enables him to produce layers of sounds—overtones that correspond with more conventional blows, percussive clicks, and inventions that create a detailed dialogue between higher, then deeper and darker registers. Horenstein's set was highly imaginative, often cerebral yet totally engaging and full of humor and surprises. He concluded his short set with a gentle and playful duet alongside Danish pianist Olga Magieres.

The Spheres Duo—vibes player Zvi Joffe, the artistic director of the festival, and pianist Arnon Zimra, is an integral part of the White Night Festival throughout all its incarnations. The duo hosted violinist Isabela Ordnung and flutist Smadar Peleg for two contemporary compositions including the impressive "Dizzy Land," a reworking of a seminal Israeli folk song adopted by Dizzy Gillespie and Nina Simone.

The highlight of this set came when the duo played alone, focusing on extended techniques—Zimra adding objects to the piano strings and using it as a futuristic percussive machine and Joffe sticking various mallets to the vibes. Their inventive sonic gestures were proected on a huge screen, intensifying the improvised experience and the telepathic interaction between Joffe and Zimra.

During the intermission, performance artist Doris Bloom appeared in the lobby of the Enav Center. Bloom, a Denmark resident born in South Africa, called her performance "I Phone you 2," backed by Danish alto saxophonist Lotte Anker and Magieres. Anker fascinated the audience as she walked back and forth along a straight line in the middle of the lobby, improvising with a highly personal approach that includes bowing on the sax or sticking the bow in the sax bell, all performed with a sharp sense of humor and great imagination.

The next set featured composer and percussionist Lukas Ligeti, son of composer György Ligeti. Ligeti's musical scope includes a thorough knowledge of West African percussion traditions, and work with contemporary improvisation outfits. He collaborated with guitarist Henry Kaiser and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith in a Miles Davis electric era tribute band, Yo Miles!, played on the marimba lumina, a computerized marimba that Ligeti introduced as "Silicon Valley's traditional instrument." These electronic vibes can produce almost infinite percussive options, enhanced with live processing software. Ligeti performed multi-layered, nuanced compositions that rely on African poly-rhythmic pulses. These hypnotic beats were spiced with repetitive Gamelan rhythms and infectious Middle-Eastern sounds, distorted with weird noises and morphed into otherworldly psychedelic storms until they almost lost touch with conventional, traditional rhythms and gained a life of their own.

The festival concluded with the ad-hoc trio of Anker alternating on alto and soprano saxophones, Ligeti on drums and Danish electric bassist Peter Friis Nielsen in a spontaneous set that was the highlight of this festival.

Friis Nielsen is one of the best kept secrets of the European improvisational scene, even though he collaborates regularly with high-profile performers like Peter Brötzmann, Louis Mohlo-Mohlo, Mats Gustafsson and, obviously, Anker. Friis Nielsen uses the electric bass as a rhythmic- percussive keyboard, mutating the strings with different objects, always suggesting elaborate rhythmic concepts that became the backbone of this set's improvisation.

Ligeti expanded this concept with massive, poly-rhythmic drumming while Anker suggested a different perspective, avoiding a similar muscular manner to magnify the energetic flights Friis Nielsen and Ligeti. She wisely offered much more introspection and nuance, which colored the intense interplay with softer shades. Her inventive ideas included sticking a water bottle to the alto sax bell. The trio's highly personal approach melded organically into an inspiring and powerful demonstration of free improvisation, a beautiful close to a successful festival.

Photo credit
Eyal Hareuveni

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