Jewish Jazz From Israel
by Gad Nahshon
They are unique. They developed a new kind of Jewish music, a new kind of Israeli music. They are unique performers. They, with their musical instruments, radiate a special message from Israel. They express the soul of the Jewish people, the soul of Israel. They play a new kind of Jewish jazz. They are dedicating their musical life to quality not to marketing.
It is not surprising that their performances in Israel, Europe, and especially Poland, received standing ovations. They are breath-taking events. It is not surprising to find that the media praised them as an original cultural affair and the Israeli foreign minister sent them to represent Israel abroad.
Who are these two brothers, Arik and Aviv Livnat? I met Aviv Livnat in Tel Aviv. I became their admirer like many other Israelis. They were in preparation of their first visit to this country. America must listen to them, to their message, to their saxophones and flutes (Arik Livnat) and to their guitars and voice (Aviv Livnat): "My father Arnon Livnat was the first pilot who was killed in Sanai in the Six Day War. I was born in an Israeli Air Force Base. My brother, Arik, was born later. We dedicated one of our many records to his memory.
We grew up as orphans. At an early age we started to study music. We served in military bands in the army. And then we decided to perform together. We loved guitars and flutes but we loved jazz more and its improvisations. Throughout the years (both are in their thirties today), we developed our own unique style and approach to music: we developed Jewish jazz in Israel. This is our musical message. We would like to bring America a message which will enforce the state of Israel and its culture inside the American Jewish community.
Let me explain: "Our Jewish jazz expresses the complexity of our life, the collective memory of East European Jewry, its culture, its art, its Yiddish world, a memory which was, at home, an integral part of our life and at the same time we want to express in our music the Israeli reality and existence. We do integrate the two elements. It is a very gentle, fragile kind of integration almost impossible to achieve. This is our challenge, this is our uniqueness. I must point out that our message is quite successful, not only in Israel but also in Europe. And I hope to make it is the U.S.A. as well," said Aviv Livnat who told me that the Livnat Brothers had a chance to perform with Stevie Wonder. "One day we received a call: are you free tonight? We said no. We were busy but then my brother Arik changed his mind. He was pretty lucky. He played with ex-President Bill Clinton when he visited Israel! It was really a touching experience," said Aviv, who always remarks that their music is not pop and it is not Klezmer music.
They established their own trademark: The Livnat's music, Livnat's Jewish Jazz - Israeli style. The critics love their music and define it as a special brand of jazz and traditional Yiddish music, innovative and vibrant, a blend of modern Jazz and traditional Yiddish music with exceptional musicians and fascinating artists and that they create a melting pot of Jewish identity. All the critics agree: The Livnat Brothers have dedicated their professional life to quality, to pure art.
The Livnat Brothers reached a climax of success when they introduced in their concert 'Songs Hand-Hammered in Copper.' This musical new project has to do with the influence of their grandfather, the famous artist Arieh Merzer. Aviv Livnat explained: "Chagall, the Russian Jew, you, the Polish Jew, and I, the Romanian Jew each in his own manner, demonstrates that despite the many generations which have elapsed, we have never betrayed the Biblical heritage which lies at the very core of every Jew." (Itzik Manger in a letter to Merzer).
"After I graduated (philosophy) in Tel Aviv University I dedicated myself to look for our roots or to find the fate of the art of my grandpa Merzer. We lived with one of his works, a copper relief namely Ten Jewish Songs Hand-Hammered in Copper. We searched for these songs. We wanted to create the right link of music to this Jewish art, in copper. We conducted research to find the art of Merzer in museums or among collectors. We did find many of them. It was touching. It was impressive. We found that people such as Eddie Fisher or Harpo Marx bought Merzer's works! We wanted to be impressed by his art, to be influenced. We linked his works to our music on the stage. You can see his works when we play our music. Merzer, who died in 1966, is inside our soul, inside our music when we perform Songs Hand-Hammered in Copper," said Aviv. "We even perform this music in his Polish town where he was born."
By integrating Merzer's artistic legacy into their performances they indeed preserve the legacy of the traditional Jewish melodies and the best of the Yiddish culture which was almost destroyed completely by the Nazis and their collaborators. Their music is also an intriguing dialogue with jazz and soul music. This music is a musical homage to Arieh Merzer whose copper reliefs commemorated the Jewish folk-village scenes in Eastern-Europe, the world of the Stetl, and the world of the Bible, as well.
We need one more article just to list the many performances and concerts of these brothers: Israel, TV, London, Paris, Warsaw, Krakow, Sofia and in other places. Just to give the reader an idea: Arik Livnat, leading Israeli saxophonist and reed instrumentalist performs with his brother Aviv, talented guitarist, vocalist and composer in Israel and abroad. Their music is a combination of jazz, modern music and Jewish music. They have developed a unique fusion of jazz with Hebrew and Yiddish musical motifs. The Livnat brothers perform frequently on Israeli television and radio. They give many concerts and participate in festivals in Israel and abroad.
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