Jazz from Israel and elsewhere captivates

By Eileen Wingard

Eileen Wingard

SAN DIEGO–Mesmerizing strums of the oud opened the first number, a Kurdish melody, in a program at SDSU’s Smith Recital Hall entitled: Desert Caravan: New Jazz from Israel and Beyond. This concert, arranged by SDSU Judaic Studies Scholar-In-Residence, Yale Strom, featured, in addition to his band, Hot Pstromi, the prize-winning Israeli musician, Amos Hoffman, on the oud and electric guitar, and the acclaimed Israeli-American jazz pianist-composer, Noam Lemish, on piano.

For the first half of the program, Hoffman and Lemish were joined by Hot Pstromi’s string bass player, Jeff Pikarek, and its percussionist, Duncan Moore.

The second offering, a wedding song from the Carpathian Mountains, was followed by a piece from Morocco, which began with a percussion introduction, and Hoffman performing on the guitar. Other tunes, which served as the basis for the musicians’ improvisatory skills, originated in Israel and Turkey.

Hoffman displayed his excellent technique and singing style on both his instruments. Lemish was adept at rapid runs, incisive syncopation and lyrical phrasing. Moore was skilled with his traps and Pikarek was equally impressive in bowing melodies and plucking his string bass.

One of the most memorable renditions was of the Israeli song, Etz Harimon. The melody was beautifully articulated on the oud, embellished on the piano, and rendered with warm expressiveness on the string bass. Instead of a constant drum beat, there were occasional soft cymbal tremolos.

After intermission, the foursome was augmented by the rest of Hot Pstromi, Yale Strom, violin, Elizabeth Schwartz, vocals, and Tripp Sprague, tenor sax.

Schwartz’ sultry voice suited the Arabic song she sang. Strom’s Original Nineveh By Way of Haifa received a rousing rendition from the group and the concluding V’taher Libenu allowed all the talented musicians to shine.

Over the years, Strom has brought many fine musicians to showcase with his band, and this concert was no exception.

Amos Hoffman studied at the Rubin Academy in Jerusalem.

In Israel, in 2013, he was awarded The Landau Prize for Arts and Sciences for Outstanding Achievement in the field of Jazz.

He is known as a pioneer in fusing Middle Eastern music with jazz, and has played worldwide and recorded extensively.

Noam Lemish is currently completing his doctoral dissertation at the University of Toronto. His dissertation is on Israeli jazz musicians. He has performed in the United States, Canada and Israel and has several CDs to his credit.

While teaching music in Bhutan, in 2010, he was commissioned to write The People’s King in honor of the king’s 30th birthday.

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Wingard is a retired violinist with the San Diego Symphony Orchestra and a freelance writer specializing in coverage of the arts.  She may be contacted via [email protected]

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