An interesting past month. Among my activities was my first gig ever in Tel Aviv, Israel, as part of the Jazz, Blues and Videotape Festival organized over there. The first evening was a duo concert with saxophonist Chris Potter, followed by a second evening of just myself doing a solo piano concert.
I actually remember Chris from the Manhattan School of Music where we were both students in the early 90's, and I suppose we had been following each other's career's since then, but always from afar, since we were never really part of the same musical circles. I hadn't really been exposed to a lot of his work since (though I was impressed that he had recently been awarded the prestigious JazzPar prize), but when they threw us together I was eager to explore his conceptual approach and to see how it might gel (or not gel!) with mine. Chris is an almost cerebral, technical player - someone was executes breathtakingly knowledgable lines on his instrument with such effortlessness that one is led to believe that he isn't even trying - he rarely seems to break a sweat. Yes he is far from another "young lion" in his approach - through his work with Dave Douglas and through the relative breadth of his compositions stylistically, I could see that he had quite the adventurous, open mind.
Chris and I met the day of the gig and rehearsed for an hour or so, half his tunes, half mine, and it was interesting that because our respective compositions were so diverse in nature (mine tended to be deceptively "simpler" and more melodic; his more chromatic, with lots of interesting twists and turns), we soon realized that we were in for a very varied musical conversation between two people with quite different approaches. The concert was sold out (and was actually videotaped for possible worldwide release in the future), and I think it went fine. Especially when I listened back to the tape made of the event, I think I realized that our almost "opposite" musical angles resulted simply in more variety for the listener, which ended up arguably not being a bad thing at all, and Chris seemed to enjoy himself also.
Also that day I got my first taste of Jerusalem - Chris and I took a cab over there and literally did the "one hour tour", which was all we had time for before our rehearsal. Thankfully, our cab driver was very knowledgable, and he plunged us right into old Jerusalem, and we managed to get out and walk around, examining the church where Christ was purportedly brought after his cruxificion (the cab driver, who was Jewish, chose to remain outside for this); and then ultimately to the Wailing Wall. where we donned temporary paper prayer caps and just observed, amidst very orthodox-looking Jews praying devotionally, their heads bowing repeatedly in focused worship. I felt very much the outside observer about this, I must say - the atmosphere was probably as foreign to me as visiting China for the first time would likely be; my sense of detached observation was heightened by my personal lack of adherence to any specific organized religion myself (not that I'm not a spiritual person, I always add defensively :-)). But I certainly respected the sacredness with which these surroundings are obviously regarded.
My 2nd night in Tel Aviv I performed solo piano, and though the crowd by this time had thinned a bit (there was another concert I think featuring some local players in part going on in an adjacent room at the same time), the audience was attentive and very responsive, and, as always, it was a pleasure to be able to present my own musical conception to others. I also had time after this final gig to hang with the festival organizers, who were all young and enthusiastic and basically "unjaded"; we went to a nearby bar where I ordered my typically "unhip" glass o' orange juice, and we all just talked until very early in the morning.
All in all, a very memorable, in fact unforgettable trip....