Stage presence

Jazz pianist brings new sound, male band to Women’s Day event

Stav Achai and her quartet and guests offer mix of music and rhythm to Holon Woman Festival

Jessica Steinberg, The Times of Israel's culture and lifestyles editor, covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center

Jazz pianist Stav Achai and her quartet will perform at Holon Theater's Women's Festival, March 8, 2022, marking International Women's Day (Courtesy Yossi Zveker)
Jazz pianist Stav Achai and her quartet will perform at Holon Theater's Women's Festival, March 8, 2022, marking International Women's Day (Courtesy Yossi Zveker)

When the Holon Theater marks International Women’s Day with three days of music, theater, song and comedy, jazz pianist Stav Achai will join with her quartet, noisily celebrating onstage.

The Woman Festival, March 7-9, honors women throughout history with selections from Hanoch Levin plays, Joni Mitchell’s music, the songs — and a recent documentary — of Shoshana Damari as well as stand-up comedy, and the March 8 performance of Achai’s jazz quartet, an arrival of sorts for this talented 30-year-old pianist.

“It’s a huge honor that they asked us to participate,” said Achai. “It’s such fun to make music and to be hosting on my own stage, and not the other way around.”

Achai, the former pianist for folk-rock group Jane Bordeaux, brings jazz that is entrenched in her classical music background, layered with African, pop, rock and minimalist sounds.

“It’s a different kind of music, more acoustic, and we’re taking it to a different place,” said Achai, who will be accompanied by her band, as well as clarinetist Yonatan Hadas, Elad Tal on trumpet and singer Aya Zahavi Feiglin.

“It’s a total celebration of music because the guests bring their own color,” said Achai. “Everyone brings something else and I don’t always have that in my shows.”

Being a woman, however, isn’t a factor in Achai’s musical world.

Achai’s quartet includes three men, her partner Daniel Harlev on contrabass, Shahar Haziza on drums and Roi Avivi on electric guitar, musicians whom she chose.

“All that matters to me is that they’re people with good energy,” she said.

That said, Achai recognizes the strides she has made as the leader of this jazz quartet, currently recording its second album.

“I used to apologize for everything, I would ask, ‘please do it this way,’ and I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a woman or that’s just who I am,” said Achai. “Now I enter the room differently. There’s a lot of energies in the studio so you just have to make decisions and choose what works.”

Achai began training in piano from the age of six, first studying with her mother, a piano teacher, and surrounded by her father’s music collection, a tremendous mix of classical and jazz, Indian and seventies rock.

“I wasn’t practicing ten hours a day,” said Achai. “It was only in high school that I understood that this is really, really what I want to do.”

During high school, Achai studied music at David Yellin College, then served as a musician during her IDF army service and studied music at New York’s New School.

She sees her early classical training as a solid basis on which pursue the freedom of jazz.

“I feel more and more confident with my path, but it’s a process to refine my music more,” she said. “It’s one thing to be an active musician and then to lead your own band. It feels good.”

The Woman Festival is March 7-9 at the Holon Theater, tickets available through the theater website.

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