Directly inspired by my doctoral work and living by lake Michigan, where for the first time in my life the water was in the east. This is an album of musical fragments weaved together to create a tapestry of beats, soulful melodies, and spiritual musings. Pulling together from 70s spiritual jazz and the club jazz scene from the late 90s to create something new, where the listener does not know when the production ends and the playing starts, but they can’t stop listening either way.
After 4 EPs, the next project I will be working on is a full length album celebrating the current Jazz scene in Chicago. It follows four principles, or questions, I have been thinking much about in the past couple of years.
The first is a question of identity. As the thought of emigrating to the USA became a reality, I started asking myself more and more what does it mean to be an immigrant to Jazz culture in the year 2019, and more so, what does it mean to be an Israeli-American, to have to hyphenate an identity. And in a way, how does that connect to Jazz as “Black-American Music”, by itself already a hyphen.
The second idea was historic. I have been listening to, and feeling deeply connected to, a lot of the music coming out of Chicago in recent years. In Jazz, with big releases by Marquis Hill or Makaya McCraven or Matt Ulery, but also in Hip Hop with Jazz-influenced record by Noname, Smino, Saba and their producer Phoelix. Both Miles Davis and Quincy Jones tell stories about moving to New York to be closer to the BeBop scene – I started asking myself if I feel like they did? Should find a way to insert myself to this current Chicago scene? Is history repeating itself and Chicago is becoming a center for Jazz like it did at the turn of last century? If the answers are all yes, I should be making a record celebrating everybody in this scene.
Third, living between New York and Wisconsin the past two years, I noticed my music changing – it became more spacious, less anxious to prove itself, and the harmonic and rhythmic complexities became more nuances. More so, I became fascinated with how much Jazz music actually does not lend itself to being written, yet we rely so much on reading charts on stage. I started writing music in which the interaction between bandmembers in real time is more important than any written section. How we feel the rhythm in the band, how and when we play the melodies, building and then re-inventing the form, nuances of where the harmonic rhythm is and which voicings to use – everything that can’t be written down became crucial for the band. What does it mean to use a fragment, a small idea, and to build a whole song from it in real time?
I started looking into composers like Terence Blanchard and Tom Harrell, both heavily influenced by a method stemming from Arnold Schoenberg and Nadia Boulanger in which every small idea is utilized and is open for use as a catalyst for creation of the piece.
And last I wanted to put a constraint on all this – If I already put myself out there as a composer and bandleader with everything that defines who I am, and the music already lends itself to letting that go and trusting everyone else, and Chicago already has such a rich tradition of letting go of the charts and playing free, can we do it all live in the same room, with no separation, no headphones, and direct to tape. Using those constraints to focus the music, while also letting go. And it’s bigger than just a recording session – can we all come together, listen to each other, help each other, make an artistic statement together celebrating all of us and uplifting voices who are not heard enough. Can we do it in the America of 2019?
A project of several EPs released on Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit Records, reconnecting to the spontaneous, live in the studio roots of Jazz.
“makes a statement through atmosphere and groove.” – Will Layman, Popmatters
The “EP Project” started as a way to learn to let go and release.
Instead of following the traditional Jazz release structure – A long, 70 minutes or so, record once every two-three years with a release campaign of 4 months – why not celebrate the fact that out music is made in real time and record and release music constantly.
More so, as more and more of our audience moves to streaming or “Freemium” models, is there a need to follow that structure. And musically speaking, if the power of Jazz is in the live show, the creation of art in real time, can we make the recorded music leave people wanting more, excited for the show.
The “EP Project” was a study in short stories, in poetry. After a very limited run of CDs for Vol 1 sold out, no physical copies were printed for Vol 2 or 3. Vol 4 will be released as part of a deluxe version, also as a vinyl double LP, of all the music recorded for this project, including alternate takes and false starts.
Ray Gallon, a great piano player who I had the fortune to play and study with, told me that the main composition lesson Duke Ellington gave his son Mercer was to explore the goldmine of the blues.
Highly inspired by this, whenever I feel my creative flow lacking, I give myself an assignment to compose a blues, each time exploring different styles and harmonic or melodic possibilities. Eventually, I started building a whole portfolio of blues songs which led me to create a syllabus/lesson plan for an elective course – “The Goldmine of The Blues”.
We start with Alan Lomax’s field recordings, continue through early blues form and Bebop developments, go through more complex reharmonizations, to recent developments and back to open form, non-blues-form blues aesthetic, and new inventions. We follow Clark Terry’s advice – Imitate, Assimilate, Innovate – with a weekly listening and writing assignment. The goal is to show how endless the blues are, and how we can use firm structure and limitations as a tool to focus our creative input.
In recent years, and especially since forming a footprint in Milwaukee, I have been enjoying writing for larger ensembles more and more. After playing in big bands for many years, and after taking a break from big band writing to focus more on smaller groups, I have recently found it as an avenue to use as opposite of my small band focuses.
As I turned my attention more towards things that cannot be written down in one avenue, I wanted the other to go in the opposite direction. In Milwaukee, I was invited to join the first iteration of the MKE Jazz Visions Ensemble, funded by Summerfest music festival, in which each member of a septet brought in original music. I wrote several charts for the band, with a debut performance as part of the music festival. In addition, I started building a big band portfolio, enjoying the options of a more orchestrated, richer palate. Our debut show is planned for early May.