Third Jerusalem Jazz Festival bebops into town for 3 days
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Third Jerusalem Jazz Festival bebops into town for 3 days

Local and international performers gather to perform and jam in the galleries of the Israel Museum

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Jerusalem Jazz Festival director and trumpeter Avishai Cohen (left) at the 2015 festival (Courtesy Jerusalem Jazz Festival)
Jerusalem Jazz Festival director and trumpeter Avishai Cohen (left) at the 2015 festival (Courtesy Jerusalem Jazz Festival)

It’s three days of beats, chords, bass and blues at Jerusalem’s Jazz Festival, taking place for the third time, Wednesday through Friday at the Israel Museum.

The festival is held in the galleries of the museum, with local and international players performing, collaborating, teaching master classes and jamming through the night.

The jazz event is also a project of Jerusalem’s Israel Festival, and is held in partnership with the museum and local music school and performance space Yellow Submarine, with the guests gathering at the Yellow Submarine at the end of each day for jam sessions that are free and open to the public.

It’s an opportunity to explore the many facets of jazz, said director and trumpeter Avishai Cohen of the festival, bringing together various styles and linking distant places, introducing new voices and challenging familiar ones.

This year’s festival opens Wednesday night with famed American trio The Bad Plus, currently on tour for their last time with pianist Ethan Iverson, who is leaving the jazz band after 17 years. They’ll be moving on with pianist Orrin Evans, who has already recorded a new album with Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King.

Jazz trio The Bad Plus will open the third Jerusalem Jazz Festival on Wednesday, November 29, 2017 (Courtesy The Bad Plus)

“We’ve been together 17 years, and Ethan doesn’t want to be in the band anymore,” said bassist Reid Anderson. “That’s his right; it’s not a life sentence.”

It’s not the first time The Bad Plus has played in Israel, having performed at Eilat’s Red Sea Jazz Festival several times, and in Tel Aviv as well.

“Israeli audiences are one of the best,” said Anderson, speaking from Romania, where the band was currently performing. “It’s just always an enthusiastic reception in Israel.”

The trio, hailing from Minneapolis, Minnesota, have been together since 2000, and are known for combining elements of modern jazz with rock and pop influences. They have recorded versions of songs by Nirvana, the Pixies, Tears for Fears, Blondie, Neil Young, David Bowie and Black Sabbath.

“We don’t really do traditional jazz,” said Anderson. “We mostly play our music and the covers are part of what we do as well.”

The tradition of performing jazz versions of well-known rock and pop music came from the earliest days of the band.

Anderson and King grew up together, “fantasizing about being professional musicians, and always wanted to see us perform music from our life and times,” said Anderson.

“It was something we just started doing, it’s a great way to have a dialogue with contemporary pop culture and give the audience a window into the workings of the band,” he said. “It gives us a lot of freedom; when the audience attaches themselves to the song, we get to go all over the place.”

Given their current tour schedule, the band won’t be in Israel for more than 24 hours, said Anderson.

“I wish we could stay and hang out, but it’s not in the cards,” he said.

Other performers at the festival include Karen Ann and the Non Standards Project, Roman Diaz, Daniel Freedman, Sexmob, Paganish, Noa Drezner and Rafael Utrera, Moderato Cantabile, Alon Turgeman, Greg Tardy and the Mizrahi Trio, among others.

Doors open each evening at 6:30 p.m. and on Friday at 11 a.m.. There are no assigned seats for the shows, and tickets are available for purchase at the Jerusalem Jazz Festival site. 

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