Jazz Fest - Israel's Yitzhak Yedid melds disparate elements

Israeli jazz pianist Yitzhak Yedid draws on an ancient Greek parable for the title of his latest album, Myth of the Cave. The myth in question is attributed to Plato, and tells of a group of subterraneans, imprisoned in near-darkness since birth, whose sense of reality is inevitably distorted. One of the cave dwellers manages to escape to the outside world, returns to tell what he has seen, and is put to death for his revelations.

"I'm just inspired by that story," says Yedid, reached at his home in Jerusalem. "What I'm trying to do is to deliver a message. It's not directly political but it's in a way criticizing the world situation that we are in. Like the cave people, we are also prisoners."

Yedid is Jewish and was born and raised in Jerusalem, but his family emigrated to Israel from Syria. "So I have many Arabic influences," he says. "When I was a child I went to the Syrian synagogue, where you hear all the melodies in the Arabic scales. I'm using microtonals in my compositions, and also using the Hassidic and Orthodox [Jewish] scales. This is all with free jazz and classical music, in equal parts."

A graduate of the jazz department at the Rubin Academy in Jerusalem, Yedid also studied with Ran Blake and Paul Bley in Boston during 1997 and '98. In 2000 he released a critically acclaimed solo album, Full Moon Fantasy, and began touring widely. The following year, after hearing Yedid perform at Vienna's Wiener Music Galerie festival, German composer Franz Koglmann commissioned him to write and record a piece for the Between the Lines label. Yedid came up with Myth of the Cave for a trio of himself, Israeli bassist Ora Boasson, and Vancouver clarinettist Franíƒ §ois Houle.

"I write for specific players, so I have to know them and choose them. I heard Franíƒ §ois's CD Cryptology, and I said 'This player is a virtuoso,'" says Yedid, who brings his trio to the Western Front next Friday (June 25) and to Studio 16 next Saturday (June 26). "He was my first choice. I thought about Franíƒ §ois and wrote for his abilities. We recorded in Frankfurt in October of 2002. That was our first meeting. We played one festival in Germany, otherwise Vancouver will be our first concert."

Yedid's music is highly original, escaping easy categorization in its mix of elements. "I'm dealing with very classical things, also with jazz and folk things--but it's not classical and it's not jazz and it's not folk. I'm using various techniques, like a painter who's trying to use all the materials he knows about. I'm trying to bring all these different elements together. My music is like a story--it's like a film or a play."