Jazz Pianist Tamir Hendelman on Adapting International Influences
Tamir Hendelman performs with his trio at Nocturne on Thursday, October 15.
Courtesy of Tamir Hendelman
Tamir Hendelman discovered jazz while growing up in Tel Aviv, but after moving to Los Angeles when he was thirteen years old, the pianist, who already had seven years of keyboard studies under his belt, took his musicianship to another level. Hendelman, who performs with his trio at Nocturne on Thursday, October 15, went on to be a longtime member of the Jeff Hamilton Trio and the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, and he has worked with Barbra Streisand, James Moody and Natalie Cole and others along the way.
While living in Los Angeles,
“These people opened me up to their experiences — by exploring writing classical music, inviting me to their film scoring sessions, and listening to great jazz recordings.,”
Around the same time, he was encouraged to study classical composition at the Tanglewood Institute, where he spent a summer and wrote a piece for a forty-piece orchestra, “but at the same time going to the jazz clubs and getting your butt kicked and hearing these amazing musicians,” he says. “And that feeling of, ‘What do I need to do to get to that level?’”
Hendelman continued to study classical composition at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, and received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1993. After moving back to Los Angeles, Hendelman considered film scoring.
“One of my mentors sat me down and suggested that I really think about life as a musician,” he says. “And life as a musician and writing music for
Although film scoring might be on the back burner for now, Hendelman is staying busy as a jazz pianist,
“I look at people like Billy Childs, for example, who’s a great jazz pianist, and they’re writing these very evocative pieces, and they’re just instrumental pieces,”
After graduating from Eastman, Hendelman played around Los Angeles, sitting in on jam sessions, leading trio gigs and working with different vocalists, as well as being part of the jazz faculty at UCLA. Around that time, he started delving into the Great American Songbook, which includes some of the most important jazz standards and popular songs written in the twentieth century, and the more he got into it, he discovered what a perfect marriage of lyrics and music there was in the songs.
“And one of the interesting things for me was I started playing in this particular venue, and it was duos with various vocalists,”
“It made me want to learn more of these tunes and get more in depth into it, listen to different renditions. And so that’s also been another source of inspiration. And for me also as an arranger, for my own trio or when I’m playing with Jeff Hamilton’s trio, is how we take a song, listen to few different versions of it and then dig a little deeper to try and find something personal that you can say with that song.”
Hendelman has plenty to say musically on his most recent album, Destinations, which includes brilliant takes on tunes by Keith Jarrett, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Charlie Parker and Maurice Ravel.
“Coming from Israel and coming to the U.S., there’s already that mixture of culture, and getting into jazz is an international thing. And then everywhere you go, you get to interact with the people there and get a feel for the place. I’ve always loved Brazilian music and various kinds of classical music – impressionistic music from France – and folk music from different places. And all these things, they kind of become this gumbo that you can draw from.”