- Published: Thursday, 28 August 2008 22:17
|We sat with saxophonists Amit Friedman and Lior Levin, and bassist Mickey Warshai, all young people in their late 20s exuding enthusiasm and energy along with a quiet confidence that requires no braggadocio, as their music says it all. [read more]|
|Having wandered into the coffee shop at the jam session after Tuesday's concerts, we noticed a group of animated young people sitting at the counter, chatting and energetic in spite of the late hour. I thought they looked vaguely familiar, and then something about the sole woman's body language or movement made me realise I'd seen her somewhere. On stage, actually. She was a member of the Avi Lebovich band, I was almost sure. It was confirmed when Amit Friedman, who'd played some saxophone excerpts for the radio interviewers earlier, joined them. Doron and I approached the group to ask if they would consent to an interview for Eilat Today. They smiled, a couple of them rather shyly and one or two easing out the door while settling on who would talk to ‘the press'.
We sat with Mickey Warshai, the bassist, Lior Levin, the female saxophonist, and Amit Friedman, all young people in their late 20s exuding enthusiasm and energy along with a quiet confidence that requires no braggadocio or ego displays. Mickey and Amit have been with the band since its inception about four years ago, and had played in other groups for four years previous to joining the Avi Lebovich band. Lior joined the band about two years ago. The band has played a couple of times in Italy, and Lior said that tomorrow they're off to another jazz festival in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Yet for all the talent and prestige that the band has, it is not an officially paid entity such as the Philharmonic, for example. Each of the musicians works elsewhere for a living. Lior is the manager of the music conservatory in West Hertzlia. Mickey plays in the bands of some of Israel's top pop singers. And Amit is the musical director for a popular late night talk show in Israel. When asked what their aspirations are regarding their personal musical development, they expressed the wish that jazz would get the recognition and status that classical music, for example, has acquired, and that the musicians could give it their all without having to divert energy elsewhere. But they can also see the half-full part of the glass in having outside jobs: "We each bring in something different, aspects of our lives that are not shared, and that adds something to our music, our blending," Mickey stated.
"What unites 13 different players as a group, coming from such disparate ages, backgrounds, jobs, etc.?" we asked them. Almost in unison all three said "Avi Lebovich!". Each went on to emphasise how great this band leader is, both as a musician and as a person. Someone who is quiet and modest, who leads them toward change and development, who is sensitive to their individual situations and helps them work through them, who pulls the musicians together almost without their feeling it, and who inspires them simply by being who he is. Each had something to say, and it was very obviously from the heart and far beyond just sycophancy or ‘political correctness'. No stick, nor even carrot, is needed to keep the band cohesive. The essence of the music, the band's leader, and the players are enough to meld them into a flowing, energetic, happy, and successful unit.
When asked what they like about playing in Eilat, they replied that the atmosphere here is something absolutely unique that they love, and come regularly for. Being surrounded by music lovers, the unique energy created at the Eilat festivals, the different climate and audience, all contribute. Enough, in fact, that they have fans from the central part of the country who come all the way to Eilat to hear them at the jazz festival even though they can hear them regularly, with less travel, hassle, and expense, back at home. They also love the idea of many Israeli jazz groups in one place with a huge Israeli audience for them, as well as exposure to the international players. The three of them see the jazz festival in Eilat as the highlight of their musical year.
Asked about their hopes and aspirations for the band, they all agreed that they believe they are on way up and that jazz is getting more recognition, as evidenced by Avi Lebowitz having won several prizes never previously awarded to the jazz world. Because the world is smaller, they said, and because of international festivals like this one, and increased recognition for the jazz field in Israeli, they can make their way up without having to necessarily go to New York or somewhere famous. They would like to see the band achieve the renown of Achinoam Nini or Avishai Cohen and believe the band is well on that route.
All three musicians impressed us with their friendliness and outgoingness, their confidence that does involve arrogance, their modesty and down-to-earth approach, and the simple pleasure of people who love what they do and who they are as people and artists. Eilat Today wishes them and their colleagues continued success on their ascent to jazz stardom.