Archive for the ‘jazz’ Category

Gilad Atzmon Who?

April 11, 2013

A few words by GA: This is one of the most interesting articless on my work as a musician/writer and a public person. I spent two fascinating days with Ariadna in Buenos Aires. Reading this article helped me to understand my own work and the way it is perceived by others.

By Ariadna Theokopoulos

One of the best international jazz musicians of today, philosopher, humanist thinker and author, Gilad Atzmon has been challenging all of us (and primarily Jews) for several years now to examine what defines Jewish Identity Politics (JIP), its core supremacist beliefs, and the many issues that arise from it: its strategies, the various disguises of racism, concealment and suppression of free speech.
The response has never been lukewarm: he has been hailed by some of the most distinguished intellectuals and academicians as “brilliant,” “original” and “profound” or he has been denounced with uniformly unsubstantiated accusations as being a “racist” and/or a “self-hating Jew.”
Since none of those charges carried any credibility, new ones will probably be manufactured in the attempt to silence him.

What is certain is that nobody has yet found him boring or inconsequential.

I have recently returned from a trip to Argentina where I had traveled to meet GA, who had been invited there upon the publication of The Wandering Who in Spanish (La Identidad Errante) by Editorial Canaán in Buenos Aires.

Copies of his book were available in bookstores already.

Buenos Aires is a reading town: it is hard to walk more than four blocks in any direction without finding a bookstore. Gilad marveled at seeing philosophy books displayed in the window of one. (I do not know about the UK but in the US only a bookstore manager bent on bankruptcy would display philosophy books instead of the usual shop window fare, something like “Quick Guide to Having Great Sex While Eating, Shopping and Investing Smartly.”)

He was generous with his time: I ended up spending a couple of full days with him, talking for many hours on end, accompanying him to radio interviews, to a talk he gave to history professors, an engagement in a jazz club, browsing through musical instruments stores and simply walking and enjoying together the unique and stunning beauty of Buenos Aires.

His reception was enthusiastic everywhere we went, although “la identitad politica Judia” is nowhere near as familiar a term as JIP has become in Europe and North America. Here, in South America in general, he does not (or not yet) benefit from the unintentional but helpful marketing support he has received from zionists and “anti-zionist zionists.”

I observed his interactions with people and watched their reactions to his ideas and his music, and most of all talked with him in a desultory fashion on a wide range of topics from the politics of marginal identities to sexual identity (“Sex and Character”), the difficulties of translating German philosophy in other languages, pro-Palestinian activism and its new ‘dietary laws,’ the beauty of national cultures and music, his nostalgic love of his native land, Palestine, his itinerant life style (he had flown to Buenos Aires straight from Japan), people we both know, and even about what constitutes a perfect pizza.

Turning the tables on him, so to speak, and using his own premise, it seems fair to ask:

If GA, a born Israeli Jew (who occasionally refers to himself as a Hebrew-speaking Palestinian), musician, philosopher, humanist thinker and finally a man, insists on critically examining JIP, then we have a right to try to find out who is GA, the itinerant saxophone player and story teller and what is his identity? Gilad Atzmon Who?

For each of us personal identity is made up of many strands of qualifiers with which we identify: idiosyncratic personal identity, sexual identity, professional identity, allegiance to a family, to one’s ethnic group, religion, national identity, universal human family. One of them will always be primary. After all, we know that some men rendered impotent in battle prefer to die than live without their ‘sexual identity,’ while others turned paraplegic but with their intellectual functions intact wish to live, religious zealots would rather kill and die rather than not prevail over their “enemies,” and so on.

It is reasonable to make the assumption that one’s primary identity, that which one chooses as a defining descriptor above others (e.g., “As a Jew, I think that….”) is the allegiance in whose perceived service one is willing to make the most sacrifices, often to the detriment of other “identities. “

Using that assumption, Gilad’s primary identity is without a doubt that of an artist.
What follows is like Magritte’s pipe

It is not Gilad. It is only my impression and rendition of him.

The Musician

At Jazz & Pop in Buenos Aires

That he is a consummate jazz player and a talented composer needs no elaboration at this point. His music has been acclaimed worldwide and not just by those who ever listened to him live or bought his CDs. When I returned to Montevideo I went to my favorite neighborhood caffe to give a gift to the owner – a copy of La Identidad Errante. He looked at it, read the author’s name and said: “I know this guy. I listen to him on youtube.”

“Songs of the Metropolis” was discussed in both of the radio interviews to which I accompanied him. They played Buenos Aires and he explained his admiration for Astor Piazzolla whose music is beautifully evoked by his song.

Gilad also expressed his delight in the Argentineans’ proud attachment to and nurturing of their musical heritage and traditions. Indeed, everywhere we went we could hear tango tunes pouring out of stores, cabs and caffes. In fact, walking in La Boca we passed by an impromptu street scene of ordinary people dancing tango, which I felt worth capturing:


Pride in the tango can be fierce and the controversy about whether the great Gardel was really a Uruguayan or an Argentinean is a cause of rancor between the two neighboring nations. In this light, Gilad’s expression of sincere and deep admiration for Piazzolla alone could make him an honorary Argentinean citizen.

The format of the two radio shows was pretty much the same: a presentation of the artist by the interviewer as musician and writer, a discussion of Songs of the Metropolis, a few intelligent questions about the transformative effect of Gilad’s early acquaintance with jazz and its stellar black performers on his thinking and ethical view of the world, including his “discovery” of Palestinians and their national tragedy, and the message of The Wandering Who. They played Buenos Aires, Tel Aviv and Scarborough and at the end gave the listeners information about his upcoming shows and about the availability of his book in Spanish in local bookstores.

I have no way to gauge the reception of the radio interviews by listeners but later I recognized some of the radio station staff among the audience in the jazz club.

The show was memorable. The jazz club was packed and Gilad seemed, if anything, energized by lack of sleep and the jetlag and totally connected with the audience.

Women seem to be thronging around him at his shows and talks, a fact he dismisses and attributes only to his fame. That is entirely plausible for some of them. It is perhaps the “triangular desire” that Rene Girard describes in Mensonge Romantique et Verité Romanesque, “mediated desire” or “desire according to others.” In other words he is “vetted” as charismatic by the arbiters of fame. Others may find him attractive because—no offense to Gilad—almost any man can become attractive when he plays his saxophone with abandon. Bill Clinton, although he never seems to have advanced beyond the saxophone version of Chopsticks surely knows that. There is perhaps something about the sight of a man passionately immersed in his playing (not the tuba though) that makes some women wish to grab some of that intense concentration and try to have it turn on themselves. John Berger thinks that “to be passionately desired is perhaps the closest one can get in this life to feeling immortal” (“ser deseado con pasión es tal vez lo mas parecido que se pueda alcanzar en esta vida a sentarse inmortal”—El Cuaderno de Bento). Nevertheless his incessant talking about his beautiful wife, with evident admiration, must be a killer to the hopes of even the most determined female stalkers or the fakers wishing to test his “male chauvinism.”

The audience was electrified by his performance (with the somewhat self-effacing Juampi Juarez trio) and brought to an ovation by his scatting, pouring forth from somewhere deep, almost in a frenzied trance.

The Story Teller

It was his scatting also that made me think that, indissolubly linked to his identity as a musician, he has a twin primary identity as the Story Teller, in the mold of Mario Vargas Llosa’s main character in the eponymous novel.

In the Amazonian jungle, among the natives, Llosa narrates, there was a Story Teller, a man whose life mission was to roam from one isolated group/tribe to another and another, all across the vast and almost impenetrable jungle to sing the truth and to record and revise history. Given the difficulties and perils of the trek he only got to visit each community once a year.

Upon his arrival all gathered to hear him sing the Story that told them about themselves and others like them, from the beginnings of creation to present day events, like news of births and deaths and impending perils in all the places he had been visiting since his last meeting with them.

The Story was never quite the same from one visit to the next not only because it was growing with more additions of news and events but also because the memory of the past was changing and enriched by new learning.

The Story reminded them that they were not alone although they were isolated and only rarely got to really know any of the other tribes, with whom they became acquainted mostly from his Story. Nevertheless, it was clear from his Story that the others were very much like them.

To be the Story Teller was a function of great responsibility but also great personal sacrifice: enduring the life of a lone wanderer.

Llosa eventually reveals that the Story Teller was a Peruvian Jew who had abandoned his “tribe” and the larger urban culture he belonged to, and chose to live among the real people of the land, the old inhabitants pushed deep into the jungle by the “civilization” of the invading colonists. When they honored him by appointing him Story Teller, he became their singer of history, keeper of truth and teacher.

His recital, in the form of a sung epic, also contained a refrain, much like an invocation, a repetition that, when uttered fast over and over unraveled words and became only sound, like scatting.
In his own way, combining music with his Story and carrying the compact universal message to all as he wanders all over the world, Gilad Atzmon is also the Story Teller.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

June Terpstra: Gilad, Who?

October 23, 2012

The biographical film, Gilad and All That Jazz, poses the fundamental question of supremacy in this Dark Age where many intellectuals, artists, academics and politicians still don’t “get it”. Over five hundred years of imperialism, colonialism, Zionism, white supremacy, and Euro-American exceptionalism, have re-shaped human’s being and consciousness through assigned categories of race, religion, ethnicity, class, and creed despite scientific evidence that there are no biologically determined characteristics of any of these. However, the musician-philosopher, Gilad Atzmon poses that there is a pervasive social construction, a set of positions in a global structure, for which Zionism and the identity of being an Israeli and a Jew are assigned categories that influence the socialization one receives, the life world in which one moves, the experiences one has, and the view one develops.
The film shows through Gilad’s life and music how Zionist ethnocentrism so structures the Israeli world as to have negative ramifications for every sphere of Palestinian and ultimately, Arab and Muslim life—juridical standing, moral status, personal racial identity, epistemic reliability, existential plight, political inclusion, social metaphysics, sexual relations, and aesthetic worth. The dominant moral code within the Jewish State is based on a racialized religious anthropology similar to, if not the same as, the Herrenvolk ethic. Moreover, the film tells us how Gilad is compelled to bring to consciousness the assumptions and mechanisms of this ethic, and ultimately to subvert it so that the Jewish State and the world can see it for what it is–an oppressive Herrenvolk state.

In the film, Gilad asks us to ask ourselves, “Have you ever considered yourself chosen”? I cannot imagine. As a child raised in a strict misogynist and abusive Calvinist environment accompanied by the leitmotif that I was born in sin, the question is unthinkable. I cannot wrap it around my brain–neither my mother nor any of my ancestors will allow it. However, when I get a glimpse of the concept of “chosen-ness” it translates as decidedly sinful. By sin I do not mean an individual, private, or merely interior reality. Sin here is regarded as a social, historical fact, the absence of the humane and love in relationships among all people. Zionism is sinful specifically because it has embedded systems of oppression and exploitation encompassing the Palestinian people while excluding everyone except the Jews.

Gilad and all that Jazz [TRAILER] from David Alamouti on Vimeo.

The film demonstrates Gilad Atzmon’s inner jihad, his uphill battle to bring this code to the fore of people’s consciousness and the effects of his quest on his family whom the film portrays with integrity and warmth. Atzmon’s assertions are making many people uncomfortable, because people fear being called anti-Semitic, the purge alarm of the 21st century. Yet, Atzmon points out that an anti-Semite is really someone the Jews hate and the Jews hate him. In fact, progressive Jews and their electronic supporters hate Atzmon for pointing out that Jews today are heirs of the same centuries old supremacist system-the Herrenvolk ethic which rewards the chosen ones. Despite what Atzmon calls “pre-traumatic stress syndrome”, Jews perpetuate this ethic through their desire for privilege and their desire for what they feel is their “due.” The fearless Gilad does not silence these enemies. The film also features those who criticize him. I especially liked the guy in the film who says Atzmon is a narcissist and phallic imperialist–a classic example of psychological projection where the speaker calls out someone for acting in the very manner of the speaker.
Gilad and All That Jazz is also a film every person in the military should see. His story shows what it means to stand against invasion and occupation and ultimately the necessary process of self-correction and ultimately, the serious commitment to social justice of the artist in exile. Gilad Atzmon should be knighted, the time-less lord, the Wandering Who.
For more information see:

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The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

Harry Stubberfield Interviews Gilad Atzmon

May 25, 2012

H arry Stubberfield: what was your first impression of the British jazz scene when you arrived here in 1994?
GIlad Atzmon: I was obviously very impressed. I guess that British panthers do not realise that the scene in this country is pretty massive

H: You, have a great admiration for ‘Bird’, was he the musician who inspired you, and light the flame of jazz in your soul.

G: Totally, it was Bird who showed me the light, and it is Bird who manages to refuel me with aesthetic enthusiasm, when my creative energy falls behind.

H: One of your many projects over the last few years has been ‘Parker with Strings’ Do you think this is one of his best periods

G: It is certainly the Album he loved the most. I think that Bird with Strings is one of the most incredible fusion albums. I think that it is a spectacle of American artistic might. The freedom and brilliance of the individual Bird flying around within the context of accurate lush strings played beautifully and accurately. H: “In Loving Memory of America” was highly praised by the British music press, What part of or period on American music gave you the idea off this album, or was it something else initially.

G: I really wanted to work with Ros Stephen after we completed a Tango Siempre’s Tour and we thought that a tribute to Bird would excite us both. We were correct. It did and it excited many others. It made a very successful album and some very successful tours.

H: You often been described has “hardest-gigging man in British jazz” is this how you see yourself, and do you have any new projects you are working on?

G: Yes, it is probably correct. I am making living as a jazz artist. I try to tour without funding because I believe in a direct contact between artist and audience without the interference of a political body. This means that I have to work hard, probably much harder than most artists. I like it; it has kept me on my toes for many years. But I will have to slow down now because I am getting older and I feel it.

H: Orient House Ensemble Band, This band was formed over ten years ago, made six albums and toured the world. When you first formed the band, did you ever dream it would be so successful, and where does it go from here?

G: Not at all, I really did not though I realized already then that incredible musicians surrounded me. I think that the best way to learn music is always to pick musicians far better than you. This is what I did with the OHE. I am challenged on a daily basis and I love it. I guess that our audience is also thrilled by it. These days I just complete composing materials for the OHE, we will give it a good try at the Pizza Express in early June. We have a three days residency 7-9 June. I should also mention that the OHE is a collective band and we basically operate as a big extended family. It was a unique experience to live the last decade with these incredible people.

H: You played with many musicians, one name just jumps at you, Ian Dury, and not only did you play with his group the Block Heads when he was alive. But after, with the remaining band members. How did you get involved with Ian, what was it like to play in his band,

G: Soon after I came over I started to record with Chaz Jankel. And it was Chaz who introduced me to the Blockhead in 1997. I have been playing with the band since then. Working with Ian was a very special experience. In fact I was very lucky to work with two of the greatest word British wordsmiths Ian Dury and Robert Wyatt.

The Blockheads are a very special bunch of people. They are playing together for 35 years and this means a lot. They are incredible musicians and as Norman Watt-Roy described them a while
back, they are basically a Jazz band with (a lot of) audience. I love them a lot.

H: You still spend a lot time touring abroad, are there any countries you have not played in but wish to

G: Interestingly I have never played in Russia. My books came out there, I have followers there but never been there. Russia is important for me; it is my real home I guess.

H: With all the things you have achieved, is there anything outstanding that still wish to do?

G: For many years I enjoyed to travel, see many places, I met many people. However, I feel a transition in me; I am happy to stay at home for days, go with my son to the movies and watch my daughter painting. I guess that I want to be a good family man.

H: Lastly you not only professional jazz musician and a great writer. You have been touring the world talking about your last book. Where do you find the time, and are you working
on a new book, and what is it going to be called

G: The truth of the matter is that being a touring musician leaves you with plenty of time to write. In the last 10 years I have been writing obsessively about Jewish identity politics. I realized that no one dares touching the subject but I also realized that being an ex Israeli and a philosopher I had a unique touch on the subject. I eventually produced a very short and concise book The Wandering Who. I did not expect the book to be a great success, but to my astonishment, it became one of the most controversial political texts around.
It sold many copies and is translated into more than 10 languages.

I am very proud of it and delighted to be at the centre of this storm. With the Jewish lobby pushing for another global conflict and Israeli racist military frenzy, I guess we all need a serious shake up. I am convinced that this is what jazz is all about. And I am a jazz artist after all.

The wandering who- Gilad Atzmon

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

GILAD AND ALL THAT JAZZ Gala night @ The London International Documentary Festival

May 25, 2012


World Premiere Watch trailer

Venue: Soho Hotel
30 May 2012 7:00 pm
To buy ticket click
Golriz Kolahi | | 62 mins
“Gilad and all that Jazz” is a portrait of one of the modern era’s best saxophonists; a man who has stolen hearts with the sounds of his sax and angered many with his political activities.

A gentle giant, warm, charismatic and somewhat shy, Gilad Atzmon is a complex character. Born into an Israeli, pro-Zionist family and serving briefly in the first Lebanon War of 1982, Gilad had a dramatic turnaround; he quit the army, picked up his sax and exiled himself to London, declaring himself an enemy to the Israeli state. Since then he has produced some of the modern era’s greatest Jazz albums, and collaborated with the likes of Ian Dury, Paul McCartney and Sinead O’ Connor.

In music he is a ‘feisty improviser’ as one critic put it, comparing him to the likes of Charlie Parker. In his political and philosophical ideas, he is blunt and outspoken. His ideas on Israel and “Jewishness” have upset many people. He has enemies from every camp; the left, Pro-Palestinians believe he is feeding the Zionist machine with his anti Semitic ideas and that he is damaging the cause of the Palestinians. The right, pro-Zionists are upset by his “anti-Semitic” rhetoric and his growing popularity within the Arab world.

The wandering who- Gilad Atzmon

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

Jazz Musician and Outspoken Israeli Gilad Atzmon on AIPAC, Israel and Possible Attack on Iran

March 9, 2012
Jazz Musician and Outspoken Israeli Gilad Atzmon on AIPAC, Israel and Possible Attack on Iran

Gilad Atzmon is a talented jazzman who joins us to talk about his new book The Wandering Who? and offers candid commentary on Zionism, Israel, the US and much more.

Atzmon was born in Israel, and started to question his government after compulsory service in the Army. American jazz led him to learn the saxophone, and he now sees his country, its government, and Zionism in a new light. As Netanyahu visits Washington and the annual AIPAC conference is in full swing, here is a different Jewish voice calling for new approaches to the ongoing conflict. Atzmon separates Zionism from Judaism, and predicts that the State of Israel will not be sustainable in the long term. Atzmon clearly loves Israel, but deplores the hard-line treatment of Palestinians that are similar to the ways Jews were treated in Nazi Germany. He has strong criticism for US support for extreme Israeli policies, and is very concerned about the prospect of a military attack on Iran.

The wandering who- Gilad AtzmonGilad Atzmon’s New Book: The Wandering Who? A Study Of Jewish Identity Politics or 

 River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

Ledha Socratous: Gilad Atzmon: politics and jazz

February 2, 2012

DateWednesday, February 1, 2012 at 9:01PM AuthorGilad Atzmon

THE SELF-proclaimed “self-hating Jew”, Gilad Atzmon will be visiting Cyprus this week to present his new book and give a talk at the University of Cyprus tomorrow….

With a strong presence on and off stage, Atzmon has a huge following not only for his music but for being a unique thinker and philosopher. Admired for his fearless stance against oppression, he is also at the forefront of a taboo discourse that many will not venture into out of fear of being branded anti-Semite. He has published quite a few books and articles blasting Israel in the past, but this time it seems his latest offering has opened up Pandora’s Box and ignited a fierce debate from all corners of society.

In The Wandering Who?, he traces his own development from a young, rather typical Israeli, brought up in a conservative, secular Zionist family, to become a staunch opponent of Zionism and of the State of Israel. But his book is far more than a personal story. He challenges the myths and the tribal mindset underpinning the founding of the Zionist state and its racially-driven policies. It is an attempt to understand what motivates secular people of a Jewish background to continue to identify themselves as Jews. It is also an attempt to demonstrate the harmful consequences of Jewish identity, particularly when this is not based on Jewish religion.

Atzmon’s 4pm talk on Thursday is entitled The Primacy of the Ear and offers an alternative take on the Israeli Palestinian conflict and peace activism. The talk will follow Atzmon’s personal story and his struggle with Arabic music leading to a rejection of phenomenology and what he has called the Primacy of the Eye.

If you don’t want get embroiled in the political verbal joust, jazz fans will be keen to hear that on Friday and Saturday, Atzmon will let the music do all the talking, with two concerts at the JazzyB in Limassol. Accompanying Atzmon’s alto sax on stage at JazzyB will be George Morfitis on piano, Cahit Koutrafali on bass and Stelios Xydias on drums.

Through the years Atzmon has managed to merge the music of the Middle East and Eastern Europe with jazz and contemporary improvised music. Atzmon has virtually created a genre of his own with his maverick borrowings from so many different sources. In addition to being influenced by Coltrane’s powerful approach on the sax, Atzmon’s live performances can be simply breathtaking and overwhelming. The two shows are likely to be very popular, so make sure to book your spot to avoid dissapointment.

The Primacy of the Ear
Jazz master saxophonist and philosopher Gilad Atzmon presents his new book on Jewish identity and gives a talk. February 2. University of Cyprus. 4pm.

February 3 &4: Jazz concerts with Atzmon and Co. JazzyB, situated on the corner of Anexartisias and Athinon, Limassol. 10.30pm. €10. Jazz fans should avoid disappointment by booking early. Tel: 99-605502

Gilad Atzmon’s New Book: The Wandering Who? A Study Of Zionist’s global interests and influence or

The wandering who- Gilad Atzmon
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

Gilad Atzmon & The OHE @ The Pizza Express Jazz Club

June 10, 2011

DateWednesday, June 1, 2011 at 3:24PM

Show Detail
10-11-Jun (7:30pm)
Show Time 9:00pm / Doors Open 7:30pm
Maverick saxophonist Gilad Atzmon and his Orient House Ensemble return from their world tour for a short London residency. The busiest band in the UK, celebrate their 10th year anniversary playing material from their latest album The Tide Has Changed.
“Astonishing invention and virtuosity” – Robert Shore, Metro.
“A blistering, beautiful set…a fluid, hypnotic, optimistic blending of sounds” – Andew Male, Mojo, October 2010.
Gilad Atmon (saxophones and clarinet), Yaron Stavi – (bass), Eddie Hick (drums), Frank Harrison (piano).

Jazz Club Soho
10 Dean Street

To book for 10th June
To book for 11th June
Tel: 0845 6027 017
SKY TV: Gilad & The OHE at the Pizza Express.

Latest press quotes:
splendid, ever changing album Andy Robson, Jazzwise ****
Riotous mix of oompah music-hall cavortings, slurred-pitch Middle Eastern rhapsodising, luxuriously sensuous clarinet love-songs, and stormy collective blasts reminiscent of the 1960s John Coltrane quartet John Fordham, The Guardian ****
a blend of passion, intensity, superb musicianship and an underlying political commitment as Atzmon continues to campaign against all kinds of oppression….. a man who has done so much to enhance the cultural landscape of the UK in recent years The JazzMann ****

..serious messages and stunning music-making BBC Music Magazine
Soulful Jack Massarik, The Evening Standard ****
Spirituality and time-bending alto-sax virtuosity Mike Hobart Financial Time ****
His Music us a revelation M&G ****
…this blistering, beautiful set…a fluid, hypnotic, optimistic blending of sounds .
Andew Male, Mojo, October 2010.
The vivacity, urgency and spontaneity of the best contemporary jazz spurs him always The Guardian ****
Atzmon agitation gets under your skin Spiegel
Astonishing invention and virtuosity Robert Shore, Metro

Atzmon’s spirit and soul inhabit every one of his compositions, and his playing is truly exceptional, staking a genuine claim to being one of the finest saxophonists in contemporary jazz….This is a richly varied recording from one of the most exciting and intriguing bands in jazz; a classic in the making Bruce Lindsay

 Another top notch saxophone-led set…by the prodigiously talented Gilad Atzmon and his band…By turns provocative, wistful and pugnacious, it bristles with intrepid invention and convincingly demonstrates that Atzmon’s definitely at the top of his game right now.”
Charles Waring, Record Collector, Christmas 201

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian

Dr. June C. Terpstra: Identity without Supremacy

May 9, 2011

On May, 6, 2011, embattled Jazz musician and philosopher Gilad Atzmon gave a talk at Columbia College Chicago about his intellectual and musical journey of liberation from identity supremacy and the shame of living in an oppressor state. In tones intense and dissonant he provided definitions for Zionism, Judaism, Jewish supremacy, Israel and Palestine while contextualizing with both the saxophone and reflections on being raised in a culture where one group’s hunger for superiority, power and properties concludes with the oppression of the indigenous “other”. Gilad gave witness to the horrific methods the Israeli states goes to attain their supremacy.

While his story takes place in the land of Palestine with a state called Israel similar stories are simultaneously being played out in Iraq, Afghanistan, with Libya and Pakistan next on the list, by what is called the United States and the United Kingdom and other European competitors. The groups doing the aggressive killings and plundering believe that by eradicating some and controlling all of the indigenous groups they will gain both power and domination of the lands and resources. The Israelis, Americans and British stop at nothing and do everything to gain and maintain their supremacy. The committing of such heinous crimes against other human beings requires the blocking of the heart of the human connection between the two groups. By disconnecting one’s self from the reality of the crime, the imposing group is able to carry out their atrocities while naming any indigenous resistance that does not benefit them, terrorism.

Gilad also described the very personal attacks by Jewish groups and individuals whose intentions are to essentially silence him from giving his testimony. The most common cause of the well-organized gatekeeping stems from the strategy that in order to achieve dominance, they need to put fear into those who dare to act as witness. The gatekeeper and lobbyist believe that if they are feared, then they have power and control of a situation to spin it in their favor. This dominance is necessary for the attacker to get what they want out of a situation while at the same time standing at the mirror on the wall telling the world they are the most victimized of them all.

Gilad’s voice is an important one to hear. He is the courageous everyman on a classic heroes’ journey who dares to tell the truth about an oppressor who admittedly is his grandfather, cousin, and brother. What is truly brave is that he does not tell the truth as the victim but as a product of the oppressor’s deliberately constructed Zionist agenda and Jewish culture. The story of his shame is our collective shame and resonated in the faces of the American audience and could be heard by the discerning ear in the silences in between their questions. We too are ashamed of our American assassinations, illegal wars, tortures, and the hypocrisy of our so called democracy. As we listen to Gilad we wonder about our own identity as Americans. We cannot even claim a healing bowl chicken soup like Gilad as we have only genetically modified burgers for our cultural icon.

The philosopher’s questions here are critical. With what will we choose to identify? American myths? Cultural imperialism? Ideological dogmatism? Ethnocentrisms? As we listen to Gilad Atzmon we are compelled to accept his call to us to be ethical human beings and take the heroes’ journey away from identities of supremacy into the core of our common humanity for the sake of the nothing less than the entire world.

The message is: I am the other.

Andy Robson: The Struggle Continues, Jazzwise

December 6, 2010
Monday, December 6, 2010 at 8:19AM Gilad Atzmon  
Talking to Andy Robson (Jazzwise, December Issue) about Jazz, Palestine, the Orient House, politics, art funding and music education.

The most outspoken saxophonist on the planet? Probably. But GILAD ATZMON turns the tables yet again, and lets the music do the talking, on his latest album The Tide Has Turned, but he still has plenty to say, as ANDY ROBSON discovers

They call him the hardest-working man in jazz. But even by his standards, it’s been a hectic time for Gilad Atzmon lately. It’s breakfast time on a Tuesday and he has still not had the chance to get off the ever-ringing phone. “I have never been so fucking stressed in my life,” admits the sax man, ripping out his earpiece and finally snapping off the phone. “On Friday it was Ronnie’s and the Orient House launch, last night was Jazza For Gaza at which we launched Robert Wyatt’s album; tonight’s the second night of Jazza and then it’s back to the Orient House tour which is our biggest ever. Oh, and I’m working on Sarah Gillespie’s album for the new year.”

The Tide Has Changed by Gilad Atzmon

Just for a moment, the Big Man looks tired, vulnerable even, despite his reputation for outspokenness, although his forthright views could be seen as coming from a position of endless questioning, putting assumed knowledge to one side.

On another occasion, Atzmon has talked about this “other Gilad”. “I guess that Gilad, as far as I know him, is a very insecure being; he searches constantly and relentlessly for answers with the hope of never finding an adequate one. I do music because I love to be transformed. Music and jazz in particular has this capacity to reinvent itself. I love to reinvent myself constantly. This is why I play the sax; this is why I can hardly read music; this is why I write, and write and write. I don’t let my ideas settle. I question them before they see daylight.”

Breakfast though isn’t the time for doubts: it’s a time to carb load on rich buttered scones, and how can you be down when there’s so much to do? When on the big screen behind us they’re lifting the Chilean miners one by one from their living entombment spread over some 69 long days. Musicians, writers, heh, we have it lucky.
Atzmon knows this better than most. The last time we met two years ago to discuss In Loving Memory Of America his subsequently much acclaimed album with the Sigamos Quartet, the televisual backdrop had been bloodier, tragic, hopeless. Atzmon, powerless before Al Jazeera’s coverage, had been rendered silent by the Israeli bombardment of Gaza. “We always thought,” he says, “if they came with tanks to kill children we would stop them. They do that now and we can’t stop them. These are hard questions and I do not know the answer.”

More unknowing. Yet, somehow, like the miners rising blinking into the light, Atzmon, has come to address, if not answer, that question. Part of the answer is in the title of the new album, The Tide Has Changed. Originally the album was a celebration of a decade of The Orient House Ensemble. “You know it was Frank’s band,” he says, Frank being Harrison, still the erudite pianist in the ensemble, and the only Brit to have survived the course. “He asked me to play with him at a fundraiser before he went to Berklee. And I just took over – being an Israeli,” Atzmon

says, grinning. Atzmon’s jokes may not be to everyone’s taste, but he plays constantly with his own persona. “Hey, I’m a chameleon. That’s a Jewish thing, like Zelig. It’s no coincidence that Woody Allen came up with Zelig. Jews are known to be chameleons. Sure, it’s a problem critics have with me, be they from the Left or the Right. They say hey, one minute he says he’s an ex-Jew, then he says he’s not! But I’m an artist, it’s my privilege to change. At least I own my discrepancies!” And with this the chameleon laughs again. “Anyway Frank lasted for six months at Berklee, and meanwhile Asaf Sirkis came to London from Israel.”

Sirkis’ arrival was seminal. “With Asaf, I smelled this blossom of Palestine. And I was already very angry with Israel. So my original idea was to take Jewish music and Palestinise it so Jews are able to see the misery of Palestine through their own culture. I took Jewish songs about The Return and put Arab music and lyrics to them. It wasn’t a success in Israel.”

Yet it found an audience in the UK. The name of the band, taken from the PLO’s base in Jerusalem in the 1980s, may not have had the resonance for audiences that it had for Atzmon, but after a decade of hard gigging and a slew of albums, including one that became BBC Jazz Album of the Year, the OHE has built a loyal following. Yet at the turn of the millennium, Atzmon’s vision was high risk. “We did the first gig at the Watermill in Dorking. I’d played there five or six times as a bop man and then I went back with Orient House doing all this note-bending and Arabic stuff. I couldn’t even do it very well! It was outrageous to go and play our big Jewish crap. Some guy yelled ‘play some Bird!’ I’m like ‘Oh shit’. But the whole crowd shouted him down: they were loving it!”

A decade on and audiences have grown to embrace the ensemble’s mix of jazz grooves, bop, Middle Eastern and Balkan vibes. It’s not only the musical tide that has changed. “The tide has changed because we all are aware of the Palestinian plight,” explains Atzmon.

“Everyone knows I am committed to this Palestinian thing. People ask me ‘Gilad, what can I do?’ And the only thing we can do is talk about it freely.

What has changed for me is that we’ve talked, though it is still a disaster for the Palestinians, and I see more people aware. In 1967 when Israel invaded the whole world cheered, but by 1982 things started to change. People saw this country was aggressive beyond belief. In 2008 the bombardment of Gaza led to people changing their views, and again the events around the flotilla raised even more issues.”

The Israeli boarding of the ‘peace’ flotilla in international waters in May led to the deaths of nine people.

“You know I was asked to go to Gaza with the Jewish flotilla, but I said no. I want a dinghy of me and the self-haters! But now I have an idea to put this whole Jazza festival on a bus and to tour music for Palestine all over the world! I don’t argue that musicians should have a political commitment but some of us do. We can raise money and people listen to us. They listen to us because we aren’t driven by power. We are driven by the search for beauty. You cannot say about Cameron that he is driven by the search for beauty. Or David Miliband. Or Ed.”

It is this search for beauty that transfigures Atzmon’s often tortuous political logic. “Look, I’m not in politics because I don’t believe in politics. All politicians let us down. But I took this from Robert Wyatt. I am an anti-racist. People are entitled to life and to celebrate their differences. I am not a multi-culturalist but I am against any measures of repression that are racially motivated. This is an ethical, not a political question.”

It’s not only the Israeli state that feels his anger. “British tolerance is so hypocritical. The only place you see real equality is on stage between musicians. On stage at Jazza we had Palestinians, Jews, Blacks, Gypsies: unbelievable.”

But this is no plea for multi-culturalism. Atzmon may sound like Angela Merkel, but he’s arguing from a very different place to the German Chancellor. “I want to see English people celebrating their cultural, um, symptoms? The best thing that came out of this country in the last 70 years has been The Beatles, Surman, Taylor, McLaughlin, Holdsworth, Dave Holland. Did they grow up with multi-cultural crap? No, they found their voice by protesting against an Englishness they didn’t accept. They found their own language, like McLaughlin found it through Konokol, the south Indian rhythm language. But “multi-culturalism” isn’t the way to do it. That flattens everything, makes everyone the same. We need a celebration of manifold cultures. And in that sense, the contemporary Left is very banal. I think England is now at its lowest point for generations. But we have the human power to bounce back in a matter of days.”

Yet how, when we’re facing the biggest cuts in public spending since the second world war? Atzmon’s message is a tough one. “I’m not moaning. I am a chatter box. When people hear me, they know I’m not malicious, I just want a better world. We want to tell young musicians, ‘You know what, you don’t need a fucking Arts Council grant!’ Let the Tories destroy everything, let them take the money and give it to the Olympics. You don’t need their money. What you need is to be capable of doing the thing you like to do. Ironically, the collapse of infrastructure may be the best thing for music. For decades in this country the only art form has been filling in forms to claim money for the arts! You know, once I was even asked about the sexual orientation of my band. I don’t even know what my sexual orientation is!”

And jazz education can go in the same bin as arts funding, according to Atzmon. “There is a big crime in the colleges. Let us say 2,000 students in the country join jazz education. But when they come out there are only 45 places to play. It creates a great educated audience,” he laughs. “But these kids leave Trinity, Leeds, the Royal College with 28k debts. Jazz is not a profession. It’s an occupation, not a way to make a living. Eddie [Hick who paradoxically Atzmon discovered as a student] leaves Leeds, gets a job with me but he’s not going to get rich, not from me! Maybe he gets a Matt Bianco tour and he’s better off.”

Atzmon is happy to sound like an “old man of the right” as he puts it. “I learned from Heidegger that to teach is to teach students how to learn. You do not plant information. You plant enthusiasm. I have played with guys straight from college and found them completely lame. But the good ones are strong enough to take my abuse,” he laughs again, scoffing another scone.

“Then they find a voice and are no longer lame English boys. Why are Frank and Eddie the only English in my band? I tried others. But after two days on the road they collapse. But then look at The Blockheads. They are 10 years older than me but they play, they drive, they talk. They are like soldiers, this older generation of English musicians. Look at them, at Peter King, he’ll drive from Wales, do the gig, drive back in the middle of the night. Soldier mentality.”

“In the mid-1980s we developed a spoiled generation. But the next generation?” And at that Atzmon nods toward a friend whose teenage son has applied to Trinity, “they will learn that if jazz music is something they want to do, then great. But they will have no-one waiting to give them a job when they get out of college. It will be a struggle.”

Yet here’s the rub. “Struggle is good. We have forgotten that. I saw my father working in a factory. He struggled. But it was the meaning of his life. He was struggling for something. For meaning. So it was very natural then for me to play fast, loud, slow – and beautiful. You have to come with a story. Who wants to read what a musician has to say, eh? It is not enough to say I play bop because I like it! But now, within the context of the struggle for Palestine, music makes more and more meaning for me. Though I do not know what the meaning is. This is where I am.”

Atzmon demolishes another scone. The tide prepares to change again; and another miner comes out into the light.

This Thursday, the OHE Marathon – In Loving Memory of America

November 14, 2010
This Thursday, the OHE Marathon  
Date Watch In Loving Memory of America (the film)

 Thursday 18 November 2010


London Jazz Festival 2010

Ten years of the  Orient House Ensemble, with a special three set performance.  featuring special guests Asaf Sirkis, Guillermo RozenthulerTali Atzmon, Romanno Viazaani  and the Sigamos Quartet. Materials from our early albums,  will be followed by  our acclaimed In Loving Memory of America  tribute to Charlie Parker.  We will also play some materials from our new collaboration album with Robert Wyatt and Ros Stephen For The Ghost Within. We  will conclude with new music from the band’s new release The Tide Has Changed.

To read a Guardian 4 stars review of The Tide Has Changed,click  here 
To read a Guardian 5 stars review of For The Ghosts Within, click here

Thursday 18 November 2010
Artsdepot 5 Nether St London N12 0GA 020 8369 5454
£16 (£14 conc.) + bkg

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian