Trumpeter Itamar Borochov has just released his new album “Arba” (Greenleaf Music- link to review below). With this record, he takes inspiration from the stirring melody-driven Middle Eastern sounds which have surrounded him since his childhood by the Mediterranean, tracing his journey to the energy-infused streets of New York. The nine original compositions celebrate an emergence from a time of hopelessness and loss to a recognition of faith in the radiant life-force. Itamar will celebrate “Arba” in London at Pizza Express Soho on the 5 and 6 October 2023. Interview by Nicky Schrire.
LondonJazz News: “Arba” is your fourth album. What sets this recording apart from your previous albums to your mind? (It could be something personal, a different approach, the compositions, the intention.)
Itamar Borochov: I think the biggest and most obvious difference is the use of my voice on this record, which is featured as another lead melody colour, and a way of expression for me. It’s the first time I’m singing on a record in the foreground. Secondly, this is the first record of mine on which I’m playing my quarter-tone trumpet, so a lot of the music really includes the traditional music I grew up with and have been singing and playing, (which is rooted in maqamat – middle-eastern modes), alongside jazz. Beyond that I feel the music has evolved, and the band has evolved a lot since our last album, the musical message has become more concise, more unified. I feel the way I compose is almost like writing a soundtrack, and the past few years have been eventful for me, and probably for most of us. It has been a real journey, towards the heart.
LJN: This album was produced by Matt Pierson (Samara Joy, Pasquale Grasso). What was that experience like for you and what did you hope Matt would contribute to the process and experience?
IB: I can’t remember coming into the recording with specific expectations, but working with a great producer like Matt has been a very pleasant experience for me. It took a lot of the work and responsibilities off my shoulders, and freed me up to be more focused on the performance in the studio. To have someone with so much experience and a great set of ears with you in the studio, and in the mixing process was just great. Matt understood the music, and we had great chemistry. I think producing albums is an artform, and oftentimes the role sounds mysterious, since it’s a bit hard to explain. In essence you have someone taking responsibility over making the record and serving the music with you.
LJN: You grew up in Jaffa and the influence of that is very clear in your composing. I once spoke to Shai Maestro about the specific sound that runs throughout the music of many Israeli musicians. There are certain intervals and modes that contribute to this sound. But there’s also an atmosphere, something that’s harder to pinpoint than simply melodic, harmonic and rhythmic devices. What are your thoughts on this and how do you see the link between your nationality and culture and the music you compose?
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IB: Art is a form of self expression, and so it is a message that is filtered by the so-called identity of the artist, the life they lived, their innermost thoughts, the way their heart feels when seeing a loved one, and the way it feels when their heart breaks, their childhood memories, the smells and tastes they experienced in their home, and the sounds of their surroundings. The culture they grew up around, and everything else that makes a person who they are all find a way in. I grew up around an ancient and wise culture, and all that I know and do is thanks to what I have learned from the masters that came before me. This is true both philosophically and spiritually, and musically. And since I have sung, played, and studied this traditional middle-eastern music over the course of my life, that was always a part of me, another musical language I speak next to jazz. On this record I sought to speak the two languages simultaneously.
LJN: You currently live in New York. How does that city and its jazz community influence, inspire and challenge you?
IB: I moved to New York in 2007, and I love it. It’s a city with the greatest musicians in the world playing night after night at clubs into the small hours of the morning, and being a part of that community has always been important for me. I owe so much of who I am to growing up in New York as a young man, and to the masters that I was fortunate enough to play with and learn from. New York is also a special place to be an immigrant, as it’s a city of immigrants, and a place where you experience your own identity and culture over a different background context. Life is not comfortable in New York so there’s an energy and urgency in the music coming out of the City which I need, and I think is important.
LJN: You tour extensively and you’ll be performing at London’s Pizza Express (Soho) on 5 and 6 October 2023. What is your approach to performing? How does the context change your relationship with and delivery of the music versus when you’re recording?
IB: I approach performing live or in the studio as an act of service for the greater good. I wish to make beautiful music for myself, my band members, and the audience to experience as one, to have a moment of unity by feeling in our hearts the pure love that is our true essence, and to remember to do good in the world, and to love one another.
Itamar Borochov performs at Pizza Express, Soho on Thursday 5 and Friday 6 October 2023 with Rob Clearfield (piano), Luca Fattorini (bass) and Amir Bar Akiva (drums).
LINKS: Artist website
Album review by Adam Sieff
Bookings for 5 and 6 October