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BWW Review: Antonio Hart Dazzles Israel at Hot Jazz Series

In this month's "Hot Jazz" series' jazz concert, "Cannonball Adderley's Gold Saxophone", saxophonist Antonio Hart brought his alto saxophone to the Haifa stage for a final show after a week of touring the country with a most talented group of both American and local musicians.

The concert, which featured arrangements from the legendary alto saxophonist Julian Edwin "Cannonball" Adderley's albums, began with a stellar performance of the jazz standard "Dell Sasser". From the very first catchy note Hart was in perfect sync with Wayne Tucker who felt like his right hand trumpeter, incredibly keeping this synchronization until the very end of the evening.
The piece gave a stage to each of the accompanying musicians and introduced them by one striking solo after the other, starting with almost four frantic minutes of nonstop energetic improvisation by Hart, followed by Tucker who made playing a trumpet both softly and swiftly seem simple. During both solos drummer Shay Zelman was a bit too loud, either by this being the opening song or by being excited by the magic brought by these two, but thankfully when pianist Hila Kulik started her solo he was as mesmerized by her music as the audience was and lowered his volume to the right level. What was even more special in Kulik's improvisation and was also noticed in her following solos was the fact that while improvising she didn't entirely detach her part from the original number but rather exquisitely blended in it which not surprisingly brought thunderous cheers from the audience following her part.

Even though the band played for over 15 minutes they didn't wait for the massive applause to stop and immediately continued to the next song, a most incredible arrangement of "Autumn Leaves" in an even better rendition than Adderley's recording. Starting with yet another astounding long solo by Tucker followed with Hart and then Kulik, this time Zelman surprised as he accompanied them in an original way, very different from the drumming one would expect for a song such as this.

At this point Hart addressed the audience: "Shalom. It's a pleasure to be here tonight... This is our fifth concert and I'm a little sad because I'm going back to New York in the morning... ". While introducing his band, which other than New Yorker Wayne Tucker are all from Israel, including Bass player Tamir Shmerling, he introduced Hila Kulik and said: "I met her two years ago when she came to New York to study to get her master's [degree], I'm a Professor at Queens College and she was one of my students. And she came into one of my classes and played so much piano that I was 'where are you from?' and when she said 'from Israel' I thought okay, that makes sense, because all the musicians that come from Israel are very high level". Of course these words once again brought great cheers from the audience, a perfect way for the band to start their next composition "Minority".
During the entire concert Hart's teaching nature was very noticeable as not only did he not demand all the attention on the stage, even though the evening featured him and was led by him, but also during each of the other musicians' solos he stepped aside to let them have their moment and did so while observing them as either a teacher or mentor, both learning from them and waiting to teach, if at all possible.

Afterwards, once again without really stopping to play, the band continued and followed Hart's captivating solo in the piece "I Can't Get Started", which he explained later on that "They [The Band] didn't know we were gonna play it, it just came into my head".

Before these two songs Hart began telling the audience that they were too quiet and "got to get into it" and at this point he still wasn't impressed by the audience's reaction throughout the concert and decided to take action in order to change it. Hart created an entirely improvised composition by making the audience the newest member of the band. He split the audience to three and gave each one a small tune to follow, and whether this part in the show was completely original or not he created what truly felt like a one of a kind evening for each and every person in the venue. From this moment on he got what he was looking for- a loud and well involved audience, a perfect way to dive directly into the next song.

Afterwards he followed with a final introduction of the band: "I just want to wish you guys a happy life, I want you to be safe and let's bring love into the world. There's a lot of bad things going on right now around the world but if we make a commitment to be happy and put love out there we could change the condition."
If this series continues the way it did so far and in this show's way in particular, surely it could be much easier to keep such a commitment.

Photo Credit: Patrick Hillaire

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