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Straight No Chaser - A Jazz Show

Welcome to Straight No Chaser, the Award-winning Podcast hosted by Jeffrey Siegel

Apr 26, 2012

Today is Yom Ha'atzmaut (Hebrew for "Independence Day") and commemorates Israel's declaration of Independence in 1948. It was preceded yesterday by Yom Hazikaron, the Israeli Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day.

Yom Ha'atzmaut centres around the declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel by The Jewish Leadership led by future Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, just 8 hours before the end of the British Mandate of Palestine.The operative paragraph of the Declaration of the Establishment of State of Israel expresses the declaration to be “by virtue of our natural and historic right and on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly.” The operative paragraph concludes with the words of Ben-Gurion, where he thereby declares “the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.”

Regardless of your politics, the establishment of Israel, and its survival these past 64 years is something of a modern miracle, given the ear total destruction of European Jewry just a few years before. I have had the pleasure of visiting twice, and have always left with a pronounced sense of wonder at the mixture of modern and ancient, or multiple religions, and cultures.

Israel has produced an amazing number of top jazz musicians over the past two decades, many of whom are now fixtures on the New York scene. A wonderful posting in NPR’s A Blog Supreme points out that:

Twenty-five years ago, the Israeli jazz scene was barely on the cultural map. But enough American musicians moved there, and enough foreign-trained Israelis moved back — and they started teaching. There's long been an infrastructure for classical music in Israel, and jazz latched onto that model. U.S. jazz schools have since established relationships with Israeli ones, owing in part to long-standing political relations.

So let’s celebrate the day with this podcast of Israeli-made jazz, including selections from:

Third World Love – “Im Ninalu” from Songs and Portraits. One of the leaders of this ensemble, Avishai Cohen, is one of the most in-demand trumpet players in the business. When not recording as a band leader or with this group, he is part of the SF Jazz Collective, Traveni, and with his siblings Anat and Yuval, the 3 Cohens. This quartet from their brand new CD features Israeli members Cohen, Omar Avital (bass), and Yonatan Avishai (piano). Drummer Daniel Freedman is American, but has a strong world music background, having been a part of Angelique Kidjo’s band.


Gilad Hekselman – “The Bucket Kicker” from Hearts Wide Open. Hekselman arrived in the US in 2004, and has been a key part of the New York jazz scene since then. This track from the fluid guitar player’s latest CD features Mark Turner (sax), Joe Martin (bass) and Marcus Gilmore (drums).

Anat Fort Trio – “Lanesboro” from And If. Pianist Fort arrived in the U.S. about 20 years ago, before a lot of other Israeli musicians were coming en masse. She's emerged with an idiosyncratic style: a European classical flourish here or there, with a marked interest in dissonant, occasionally free improvising. Her long-running trio (with Gary Wang and Roland Schneider) is the unit on this track from her second disc for ECM Records, named after a Minnesota town where she spent a residency developing her music.

Anat Cohen & the Anzic Orchestra – “Do It” from Noir. Cohen is at or near the top of every critic’s poll for her clarinet playing, but also can kill them on sax and other reed instruments. Her record label Anzic, is home to many of the musicians featured in this podcast, but aggressively seeks other talent as well. “Anzic” is a contraction of “ANat [Cohen] and muZIC [i.e."music" spelled subject to artistic license]. The backing band is an all-star ensemble comprising three woodwinds, three trumpets, two trombones, three cellos, and a guitar-bass-drums-percussion rhythm section and features performances by Ted Nash, Ali Jackson, Scott Robinson and others

 Gilad Atzmon & the Oriental House Ensemble – “My Refuge” from Live Frankfurt 2008. One of the most political of the Israeli musicians, saxophonist Atzmon named his band after the PLO headquarters in East Jerusalem. Band members here are Frank Harrison on piano, Yaron Stavi on bass and Asaf Sirkis on drums.

Avishai Cohen – “Yad Anuga” from Sensitive Hours. Not the trumpet player, this is the bass player with the same name. A founding member of Chick Corea’s band Origin, he also records as a bandleader. This CD was released only in his home of Israel, under the Hebrew name of Sha'ot Regishot.

Daniel Zamir – “You are My G-d” from I Believe. A John Zorn disciple who immigrated to the US and then returned to Israel after discovering a deeper sense of his religion, Zamir is a saxophone player of great range and sensitivity, as witnessed by this solo track.

Rafi Malkiel – “Aguanile Mai” from Water. Trombonist Malkiel built this entire album around sounds and treatments of water. Released as part of the "Radical Jewish Culture" series on John Zorn’s Tzadik record label, this song finds him backed by Anat Cohen (clarinet); Avishai Cohen (trumpet); Chris Karlic (bass clarinet, tenor saxophone); Itai Kriss (flute); Gili Sharett (bassoon); Jack Glottman (piano); Dave Hertzberg (bass); Daniel Freedman (drum set); and Benny Koonyevsky, Nestor Gómez, Shane Shanahan; Mauricio Herrera; and Anthony Carrillo (percussion, timbales, congas, bongo, clave).

Eli Degibri – Title Track from Israeli Song. If you go through saxophonist Degibri's biography, you learn he largely represents the trend of Israeli jazz musicians.  He studied with some of the folks who came to Israel to teach jazz; and at a popular Tel Aviv arts magnet high school; he spent time at The Rimon School, which has a connection with Boston's famous Berklee College of Music. After time in a prestigious master's program, he finally made it to New York, where he ended up playing with some of his heroes on this record - Brad Mehldau (Piano), Ron Carter (Bass) and Al Foster (Drums).

3 Cohens –“Rhapsody in Blake” from Family. And so we end where we begin, with the Cohen family – Anat (Tenor Saxophone, Clarinet), Yuval (Soprano Saxophone), and Avishai (Trumpet), backed by a crack rhythm section of Aaron Goldberg (Piano), Matt Penman (Bass), and Gregory Hutchinson (Drums). The tune, written by Yuval, shows off their tight interplay as well as their ability to solo with panache.