Jazz Interview with jazz trumpeter and composer Itamar Borochov. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start withwhere you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Itamar Borochov: – I was born inTel Aviv, Israel and later moved to Jaffa. My father is a musician and we hadinstruments around the house, a piano, his double bass, a bunch of hand drumsetc. He would do rehearsals at the house with his group, and was composing atthe house as well. So that was something that was always around me and wasexciting. and I was just drawn to it and, you know I was a kid, so that was myinitial start in music.
JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the trumpet? What teacher orteachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the trumpet?
IB: – Well, first Iplayed violin when I was three years old, and then classical piano when I wassix, and then blues guitar when I was nine. I initially I wanted to pick up thetrumpet it so I can play horn-lines in the rock band I was in with my brotherwhen I was eleven years old, plus it looked shiny and cool. I wanted to play ablack pocket trumpet. I picked it up as a secondary instrument, but pretty soonI laid off the guitar and focused all my efforts on the trumpet. I had a verygood teacher by the name of Gabriel Frank, who was my first teacher, he was ajazz player and spent some time in New York in his 20s. I also took some lessonwith Yigal Meltzer who was principal trumpeter of the Israeli Philharmonic whenI was in my early twenties. One of my most significant mentors was ArnieLawrence, although he was not a trumpet teacher, and I was close to him only inthe last year of his life, I was his last student. When I moved to New York Istudied for several years with the great late Laurie Frink, who was theultimate trumpet guru, and I studied the Jimmy Owens as well. As far as playinggoes, my most significant teacher was Barry Harris. Why the trumpet? Although Iwasn’t aware of it at the time, I loved the sound of the trumpet before I knewit was a trumpet. I always loved Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, youknow in Ravel’s orchestration the theme is played by the trumpet. As a verysmall child I tried to play that theme on the piano, that pentatonic melody, Iused only the black keys. After I picked up the trumpet I heard thatpiece in concert and then it dawned on me that is a trumpet theme. When I wasin first grade they played us Summertime played by Louis Armstrong in a classin school. I loved it, and that was the trumpet again, I wasn’t aware of ittill much later. The trumpet called me eventually.
JBN.S: – How did your soundevolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
IB: – I think I alwayshad this sort of a distinct sound, I always had a broad sound, and I was alwaysdrawn to this kind of sound and less of a piercing sound, I liked to play lowon the horn. I got inspired from Ben Webster’s sound, and at times I’m goingfor a cello sound, or Nay flute, or Duduk. Something woody and airy. I foundall sorts of ways to manipulate the sound to sound the way that I like.
JBN.S: – What practiceroutine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your currentmusical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
IB: – Nowadays itdon’t have a steady routine, although in the past I have had routines that Iwould go through every day, and develop over time. One thing that I didpertaining to rhythm, although it was a long time ago, was I would practicewhatever it was I was working on, technique stuff like slurs on the horn,arpeggios, scales, and so on and so forth, and I would put the Metronome at 40BPM or 60 BPM and instead of increasing the BPM as I wanted to go faster, Iwould go up the rhythmic scale, so I would divide the beat to two equal parts,and then into three ,four, five, six, all the way up 11 or 12. The groupings ofwhat I was playing was either two or three or four depending what I was doing,sometimes even five or seven, so as a by product you need to developa pretty extensive time to play a five-note phrase on a 11:1 tuplet. So I wouldpractice everything this way and that really developed my rhythmic sense, aswell as my ability to hear and play what people call odd-meters, in differentgroupings and divisions of the beat.
JBN.S: – What’s the balancein music between intellect and soul?
IB: – I want to saythat the soul is superior. When music comes from the soul, the intellect can bethere to inform, or to add upon which that comes from the soul. I prefer musicthat touch my soul rather than for intellectual stimuli.
JBN.S: – There’s a two-wayrelationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the peoplewhat they want?
IB: – I don’t fullybelieve in that divide. Since I am one of the people, therefore I feel likewhat I really want is what they want as well. The strive is for unity of theaudience and the performers. I have never felt the tension of “I would’ve likedto do this and they would like me to do that”. With that said, I think it’salso about understanding what part of ourselves we are catering to. If we’replaying for our own superficial enjoyment that’s one thing, if we’re trying tomake music that we would enjoy listening to, that’s another. I try not to beself indulgent, and also not to aim for the lowest common denominator. I rathertry to reach for that soulful place within myself and within the audience andto cater to that. Till now we always feel a deep connection with audiences allaround the world when we play, I know they are there with us for theride.
JBN.S: – Please anymemories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like toshare with us?
IB: – In 2003 I went to New York for the first time. I wentfor a two weeks and I’d hit the jam session at Cleopatra‘s Needle which startedaround 11 or midnight, and then the late jam session which was at Smalls, thatstarted at 3 AM till around 6 AM. I went every night. The first show I went towas Roy Hargrove at the Village Vanguard, and then a few nights after he showedup at the 3AM session at Smalls.I was very young and did not have my shittogether yet, buy I got a chance to play a couple of courses with one of myheroes and I just knew I want to move to New York to pursue this life.
JBN.S: – John Coltrane saidthat music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning oflife?
IB: – I’m not sure ifI understood the meaning of life just yet! But definitely music is a verypowerful force that can be used for good. In jewish mysticism it is said thatmusic is the language of the soul.
JBN.S: – If you couldchange one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what wouldthat be?
IB: – I wish therewould a lot more money in the arts for people to make an honest living.
JBN.S: – Who do you findyourself listening to these days?
IB: – Jerry Gonzales (RIP) and the Fort Apache Band. That’s the stuff.
JBN.S: – Let’s take a tripwith a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
IB: – To biblical times. To see what went down.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan