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Gilad Atzmon

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b. 20 June 1963, Israel. Multi-instrumentalist Atzmon displays a remarkable level of technical skill on the various reed instruments he plays. Although there are echoes of the musical intensity of the post- John Coltrane school in some of his playing, he brings his own concepts to his composing and improvisations. Adept on several instruments, Atzmon’s use of the soprano saxophone and clarinet are particularly interesting. Thoroughly dissatisfied with the political stance of his country of birth, Atzmon moved to England where he quickly became a forthright and invigorating presence in that country’s jazz community. His jazz work has included appearances with Gail Thompson and Jazz Africa. As an occasional member of Ian Dury’s Blockheads, Atzmon has performed and sometimes recorded with musicians from the pop and rock worlds, among them Paul McCartney, Shane MacGowan, Sinéad O’Connor, Mike Scott, and Robbie Williams. In assembling his band, the Orient House Ensemble, Atzmon uses musicians of many nationalities whose chief bond is that all are exiles from their countries of origin (their 2003 release Exile made this explicit in the title). A significant factor in all of his work, be it music or literature, is Atzmon’s politicization. Some critics have suggested that his avowed intention to politicize his music broadens his appeal. Atzmon’s political stance and his statements thereon have been interpreted in some quarters as being quite explosive, making judicious consideration of his music in isolation more than a little difficult. Specifically, Atzmon’s views are directed at achieving political recognition for the Palestinian people. He has angered some supporters of Zionism and appears to have felt it necessary to explain that he has never called for the destruction of the Israeli people but does ‘suspect the legitimacy and the need for a Jewish state.’ He has gone on to call for ‘the dissolution of the Zionist state and an establishment of a democratic state that endorses full civil equality instead.’ Among Atzmon’s non-musical work is the political novel Guide To The Perplexed. In his playing, traces of ethnic music of the Balkan states can occasionally be heard. While Atzmon has also delved into the history of Jewish music, he has specifically avoided treading the klezmer path, believing that this particular musical form is not true to his socio-political beliefs. In the late 90s, with Dave Liebman, he formed Face Records.

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June 20, 1963 in Israel

Years Active:

'80s, '90s, '00s