Sunday, July 15, 2018

Concert Review: Henrique Eisenmann and Ehud Ettun at the 1900 Building

Members of an audience of about 70 laughed as if Henrique Eisenmann had delivered the punchline of an implausible joke when the pianist explained that he and bassist Ehud Ettun were performing Israeli jazz at the 1900 Building on Saturday, July 7.  There was nothing comical about the exquisite 90-minute performance by the Brazilian born, New York based Eisenmann and the Israeli bassist Ettun.  Although I paid $25 to enter, the recital had all the trappings of a private event.

In addition to resonant echoes of Ettun’s home in Jerusalem, the show included impeccable interpretations of material by the Brazilian icons Milton Nascimento and Hermeto Pascoal and the American bassist Steve Swallow.  Eisenmann also attempted to translate the sound of the African mbira to piano on the percussive “Afro-Latidos.”  The show included two demonstrations of what is either a nifty parlor trick or the inception of a vital new genre when Eisenmann added composed melodies to recordings of poems recited by a Peruvian child and an Israeli poet.

Gasps of horror filled the room when Eisenmann disclosed that he’d spent much of the past year battling cancer.  He indicated that he was optimistic about the outcome.  His family, friends and the extended jazz community need him.  Liberated from the mandate to perpetually swing, he and Ettun are forging vital new sounds. 

Aside from three people I recognized as regulars at Kansas City jazz performances, no one in the room probably had any way of knowing that Israeli jazz is- as Eisenmann put it after the concept was openly mocked- “a thing.”  In fact, my favorite performances of improvised music in 2018 have been rendered by a group led by the Israeli clarinetist Anat Cohen at the Gem Theater (Plastic Sax review), a quartet fronted by the Israeli pianist Uriel Hermann at Black Dolphin
(Plastic Sax review), and now, Henrique Eisenmann and Ehud Ettun at the 1900 Building.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

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