This month, we celebrate some greats in Israeli culture from its past, present, and its future. We mark the passing of a sweet singer of Israel, Arik Einstein, whose music captured the spirit of the nation as it came of age. The Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra, among the nation's leading and oldest cultural institutions, makes an appearance this month at Symphony Center. Finally, one of Israel's leading cultural ambassadors, Anat Cohen, among a wave of the country's rich pool of jazz talents, headlines a special commemoration.
At the end of 2013, Israeli music icon Arik Einstein passed away very suddenly. He came of age alongside the State of Israel and was among its leading creative forces in the 1960s and 1970s. After his stint in the IDF, he performed alongside ChaimTopol in both the Green Onion band and the famous comedy film Sallah Shabbati. A composer, comedic actor and singer, he also performed alongside Shalom Hanoch, Shem Tov Levy, and others, becoming one of Israel's best known entertainers. In spite of this, he disliked the spotlight and was a well-known recluse. Despite giving up public performances in the 1980s, Einstein remained one of Israel's most beloved and prolific musical figures well into the new millennium. His was among the first true rock albums in Israel and Einstein is credited with bringing a new sound to the Israeli public. His work continued to gain critical acclaim even until his sudden passing last November. Over his four decade career Einstein recorded an astounding 41 albums, which Prime Minister Netanyahu described at the news of his passing as the "soundtrack of Israel."
He was to many Israelis the voice of their generation and his songs comprised significant part of the classic Israeli songbook. Among his many hits was "Ani v'Attah" (Me and You), on which he collaborated with Miki Gavrielov and the song is ubiquitous in Israel. In those optimistic years following the Six Day War, it also became popular among the many who flocked to Israel and among American Jews at summer camps. The song is the title of a tribute to Einstein's life and music being presented in Chicago this month. The program will featured Israeli musician and radio personality Moshe Bonen who will lead this tribute to Einstein with special guests and perform many of his best known songs. 8 p.m. on March 3, at City Winery, 1001 W. Randolph, Chicago.
More close to home, an American music legend is marking a happier milestone. The Newport Jazz Festival has been renowned for presenting the leading jazz artists of the day since George Wein founded the festival in 1954. At the height of the beat era, with its innovative poetry and love of jazz rhythms, the festival legitimized many of those artists. It has since been among the most historic and active presenters of contemporary jazz in the world.
A touring celebration of the festival's 60th anniversary arrives in town this month, featuring a caravan of musicians the now 87 year old Wein has discovered at the nightclubs and venues he frequents. The concert will focus on the classic eras of jazz, from hot to swing to bebop, as well as its current infusions Latin, Brazilian, and Middle Eastern influences. The musical director of this ensemble is fittingly the brilliant Israeli clarinetist and saxophonist Anat Cohen. One the most striking musicians to emerge out of Israel's vibrant community of musicians, Cohen has gained an international reputation for her innovative blending of many of these styles into Jazz. Also appearing are vocalist Karrin Allyson, trumpeter Randy Brecker, guitarist Mark Whitfield, pianist Peter Martin, drummer Clarence Penn, and bassist Larry Grenadier. 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., March 23 at Old Town School Of Folk Music, 4544 N Lincoln Ave. Chicago.
The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in 1936 violinist Bronislaw Huberman, who tirelessly recruited the top musicians of Eastern European and German orchestras who lost their livelihoods to Nazism to move to then Palestine and join the fledgling orchestra. Seventy-eight years later, it is one of Israel's oldest and most influential cultural institutions and a symbol of the nation's artistic accomplishment the world over. The Orchestra has enjoyed associations with such renowned artists as Emanuel Ax, Daniel Barenboim, Leonard Bernstein, Yefim Bronfman, Principal Guest Conductor Yoel Levi, Yo-Yo Ma, Lorin Maazel, Honorary Guest Conductor Kurt Masur, Itzhak Perlman, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Arthur Rubinstein, Gil Shaham, Isaac Stern, and Pinchas Zukerman. Its current conductor, Zubin Mehta, was previously conductor of the New York Philharmonic. Mehta was born in Bombay to a Persian family the year the orchestra was founded and has enjoyed ties to Israel for over three decades. He has been named the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra Director for Life. The program features a performance of Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 8 in C Minor. Mehta gained a reputation early in his career for his dynamic and dramatic interpretations of Bruckner's compositions. The appearance in Chicago is for one night only. 8 p.m. Monday, March 17, at the Chicago Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago.
Adam Davis is the Cantorial Soloist at Congregation Sukkat Shalom in Wilmette as well as founder and executive director of KFAR Jewish Arts Center,a leading presenter and advocate of contemporary Jewish arts, music, and culture programs in and around Chicago. For more information on these events or to make suggestions or offer feedback, e-mail Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (773) 362.4760.