Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Big Band, Big Dream

Next week is an exciting one for me – my seventh performance with the HED Big Band in south Tel Aviv.

Singing with a big band has been one of my greatest dreams since I started to perform eight years ago. Let me tell you how it came true.

My sister-in-law Neta reads people's futures in Ecuadorian stones. "What would you like to ask my stones?" she asked one summer's day.

"Will I ever have the chance to sing with a big band?". I asked. I picked a stone from the bag. It wasn't the right stone. "I'm sorry", she told me, "according to this stone this doesn't look like it's going to happen."

I am not a great believer in reading the future. I don't cast much faith in Ecuadorian stones. The question was, how to prove them wrong.

Yossi Vardi, the famous and omnipotent Israeli entrepreneur, and jazz lover, came to the rescue. "Here", he told me, phone 03-7914914 and ask for Yehuda Cohen. He has a really good big band. Maybe he'll let you sing with them.

Yehuda agreed to meet me (perhaps Yossi had put in a good word, or the mere mention of his name was sufficient). My meeting with Yehuda started off poorly. I played him a couple of tapes I had made of live performances. He wasn't very impressed. He played me a recording of his regular male singer, Danny Saguy (I was impressed). "You see", he said, "I already have a terrific male singer. What do I need you for?"

At this point I began to believe that the Ecuadorean stones might have the upper hand. But I persisted. Finally, a crack appeared. "If you buy the entire hall (100 seats), then I'll make you a performance".

"No problem", says I. I am thinking, my birthday is coming, instead of presents, I'll ask all my friends to buy tickets.

But my parents intervened. To their thinking, it was pretty tacky to 'force' friends to buy tickets. As a birthday present (one of the nicest you can imagine), they bought half the tickets and gave them away. I did the same with the other half.

My premier performance was three years ago. My soul brother from Toronto, Chris McCulloch came for 46 (!) hours to be with me, and bought me a Sinatra-type hat. Other wonderful friends from Boston (Neal and Varda Farber) happened to be in the country and came as well. Family, university colleagues and friends filled the hall.

I soon learned that singing with a big band was like nothing I had ever attempted before. It's like sitting on top of a Boeing jumbo. When the roaring bird takes off, you're alone up there, and there's no stopping the song till it's over and you're safely landed. You can barely hear yourself sing. Horns are blaring from the left, piano from the right, bass and drums right behind you.

Despite my middling debut performance, the crowd was pleased, and Yehuda has invited me back on occasion, the seventh being a week Wednesday. I am appearing with Daphne Levy, one of the foremost jazz singers in the country. I may even play my horn in a song or two. I can hear my singing improve from one time to the next, and that makes me a very happy camper indeed. So if you are free on October 17th, come see this crazy dream of mine come true, again. Enjoy Daphne and the hot band. Have a drink or two. And don't put too much faith in Ecuadorean stones. I didn't.

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