He is light in providing deep emotions to listeners. He is half Moroccan, half Polish. His music is silk but dense and heavy. Sounds turn into shapes. It is jazz, yes, where all those metamorphosis happen. Where he can swing from classical and jazz to electronic music as he did with Rejoicer on his debut album, I asked you a question. The second album, New Place Always, released in September 2018, explores jazz malleability on Debussy and on oriental sounds. And the drifts are so natural that it gives you the sensation of a pure movement through water-like sounds. Like days passing during some calm June.
Nitai started playing clarinet at the age of twelve but at the age of fifteen got himself in love with the piano while being exposed to Wynton Kelly and Sonny Clark. By the age of seventeen, Nitai had moved to Tel Aviv to combine regular school with private music and piano lessons under the guidance of jazz educators Amit Golan and Yuval Cohen. He soon became interested in a rich variety of both classical and jazz music. Nitai studied classical music and theory for two years with well-known Israeli composer and educator Dr. Menahem Weisenberg and classical music educators Shoshana Cohen and Amir Pedorovits.
How did you end up here where you are, in terms of professional development?
Nitai Hershkovits: I guess different choices that I made brought me to where I am. I never went to a music school since I never got the concept of sitting and talking about rules in music or people telling you how to play. However, I did take a lot of private lessons through the years – Harmony theory (Counterpoint etc.) and the most recent was classical piano lessons with Suzan Cohen, who became a friend and a mentor to me. I feel that I make the right decisions since I listen to myself and trying to go with my intuition rather than with how it should or should not be.
When you don’t sing or compose, what do you do?
Nitai Hershkovits: I love cooking and recently got into baking as well. It has so much in common with what I anyway do. Sometimes failing, keep practicing, executing it well and add my twist on it. I go to museums often (NY…) and draw and paint after getting inspired by the crazy art that’s out there. Recently I saw Hockney at the MOMA, insane how musical it is too.
Beside hard work and talent, is there anything you find important, like an ingredient let’s say, to become a musician?
Nitai Hershkovits: Of course. Patience and consistency in whatever you do. Learning how to lower your expectations and yet aspire to get what I want is a skill I was never taught until I started doing my own thing. You can obviously be very talented but if you don’t have the stamina it’s like a good car without fuel in it.
During this intense connection you have with music, were there any lessons or revelations you had?
Nitai Hershkovits: They keep on coming. The last one that I remember was during a session with Rejoicer in LA, I understood I want to create shapes and not notes. I want to create textures that are more than musical. It seems like the state of mind that I’m in matters much more than what ‘I know’. I have to unlearn in order to start seeing the world in more simple way.
Why do we need music?
Nitai Hershkovits: I think that we always need something that is not only one thing. That can be interpreted in more than one way. For me it’s simply a way out of the matrix of the daily reality we live in and I think a lot of people feel the same, even better if you can make it yourself!
How do you feel during concerts? Is there something specific you do before performing?
Nitai Hershkovits: It’s very important for me to feel good and have a good hang before the show. Especially after being in situations where the band leader doesn’t talk to you before the show and then of course the music is not happening, I get to appreciate it much more now as a band leader. During the concerts I’m focused and in a listening mode. Many musicians are being asked what they think about during a show. I think about a lot of different things but never lingering on one. Like mediation, just letting them pass and observing them.
Music is so divided. How do you see this? Is there any good or bad in music? How does this work?
Nitai Hershkovits: It is a very personal thing. Genres in music are like anything else. They are a result of a need to put things in lists. When something sounds good to me, I don’t question it, because I’m confident about what I like and don’t need someone else to tell me what to like. But that’s because I do music and have a very strong idea of what I want. Yes, I think there is bad music, but then it’s just not under ‘Music’ category for me but more like a functional device to serve people’s basic needs. We have more choices now that the radio is not the only thing to put music in your ears so I’m actually happy to have Spotify for that reason. I create my own playlists and share them instead of telling what not to listen, I put it out there, so they know what I like and think is worth listening to.
What keeps you enthusiastic about playing further and about exploring different styles? I am referring to your collaboration with Rejoicer for example… What’s your favorite song you composed and what’s its story?
Nitai Hershkovits: The same reason I was talking about before. Once I started seeing music as more than just notes, I feel the infinity of it even more. Rejoicer and I found a mutual language that’s unique to us. I want to keep exploring this sound print and see where I can break another shell into a deeper layer. The new Trio album was written, arranged and recorded in a total of three days with Amir, Or and Rejoicer. This showed us that we don’t have to prepare anything before but to be present while there together. The music there is very special because of that reason. It’s hard to choose but during the Solo album, New Place Always, Rejoicer and I wrote Explaining Sage. We burnt sage during the recording and we really felt the vibe and the colors we used were very special and going with me until today.
You can hear Nitai, in concert, on Monday, 18th of March, in Club Control, starting with 20:00 o’clock, in an event by Jazz Nouveau.