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Ido Spak the Jazz Traveler discusses global influences on new jazz fusion album
(Published: March 16, 2019)

Composer/pianist Ido Spak the Jazz Traveler has just released a superb fusion album, Wrong Direction.

Q: How would you describe your musical style?

A: I would like to see it as my style. I strive to put Arabic, Jewish, classical, and jazz elements in one melting pot and mix everything together. I saw at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam and at the London music scene how all the musicians play the same ten tunes in every single concert, and how the pianists just improvise with the right hand and play Bill Evans voicings with the left hand, so I made an oath never ever to play jazz standards and I have decided to improvise with the left hand and accompany with the right hand, or switch between the hands.

Q: What was your introduction to music? How old were you, and how did it affect you?

A: I guess, I was 4-5 years old when my sister started playing piano. I wasn't allowed to disturb her since she was supposed to be the musical talent (she is now a lawyer).

Q: Did you grow up in a musical environment?

A: My family is not very musical. It is comprised of mostly lawyers, doctors, and business people. I only had the ability to listen to music with a Walkman when I was 11-years-old. My neighbor played guitar as a hobby and when I was 10, I had the dream to play guitar and write music in order to win the girl that had I loved, and when he landed me his guitar, I started immediately to compose new songs and take guitar lessons. Only in the age of 15, I had the chance to meet other kids and play with them.

Q: What styles of music had the greatest impact on you creatively?
When I was 17, I switched to piano and started focusing on classical music, playing Beethoven's sonates, and Franz Liszt. It opened a whole new world for me and knowing that Fliszt had never practiced less than 10 hours a day inspired me to work hard. Everybody told me that it's too late to become a real master if you don't start in the age of six, so I focused more on composition.

Q: What are your goals, artistically speaking?

A: My life dream was to become the bridge between classical music, jazz, and music from the Middle East and pop. That's why I studied orchestral conducting and composition. As a part of living the dream, I also write music for opera projects as well as sonates for piano and sax. Wrong Direction is one example for a 12 semitone composition technique by Schönberg implamented in jazz. I have collaborated in Germany with Iranian, Palestinian and Syrian musicians, sharing the stage with them,and creating strong friendships which are beyond political conflicts. The traditional Syrian song, "Lamma Bada Yatathana," is one example for this and also "Asman" (in Persian, "Sky").

Q: When did you decide to be a musician, and what fueled this passion?

A: I didn't choose music; music chose me. I was born a musician without knowing it. Composition and creativity in general are like fire that drafts you away into another dimension. I have always been an astronaut suffering from learning disabilities. I was supposed to study laws and I overcame those disabilities inorder to get the best grades and be able to study wherever I want, not even having to do the S.I.T but when I was 20 years old, music was my destiniy and law school was just a mean to prove that I am not stupid.

Q: What artists influenced you the most growing up?

A: Mati Caspi, Yoni Rechter, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Queen, Bon Jovi, David Bowie, Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Beethoven, Bach,Franz Liszt, Rachmaninof, Brahms. I was exposed as a child to music from Egyptian films that used to be broadcast every Friday afternoon.

Q: How have you evolved creatively?

A: I started composing when I was 11 years old. I went through rock music into classical music through my teenage phase, started listening to Jazz when I was 20 years old. I was obsessed with Bud Powell and Horace Silver, playing their solos and compositions by ear, spending 5 years on my life, improvising bebop.

Through my time in Holland and later in the U.K., I had spent time writing counterpint, orchestrating a lot and composing in classical forms, immitating Bach, Beethoven, Mozart as well as Brahms and Shostakowich and Alban Berg. The most significant moment, was one jam sesiion with musicians from Canada, who wanted to punish me for my arrogance, bragging about my "Bebop" so they played All the Things You Are" in 7/4, and I was so humiliated and devestated, I took every single piece I knew and played it in every possible time signature with a metronome.

The move to England was a milestone in my life. At that time I started composing modern jazz with non-conventional rhythms instead of playing bebop and my food was the music that I had practiced on the piano 12 hours a day, from Franz Liszt to Rachmaninoff and Bartok. My composition lessons were a waste of time, but conducting orchestras and 20,000 hours prctice on the piano have given me the real freedom and understanding, allowing my imagination the beak all the boundaries.

The move to Berlin allowed me to work with musicians who are not afraid of craza rhythms and technical challenges and the neutral atmosphere made it possible to break the national tabu, joining forces with musicians from Arab and Muslim countries.

When I moved to Lüneburg, I started focusing each year on one composer, in order to implement his composition concept in my improvisation, starting with Beethoven's piano sonates, then, all of Rachmaninof's piano concertos and Preludes, exploring Franz Liszt for one year and now, Alexander Scriabin.

More Information: https://www.idospak.com

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