Crossing The Red Sea: an espresso with Eden Giat


June 19, 2021

A conversation with Eden Giat to get to know and listen to his debut album.

> Jessica Benfatto

Recorded in Tel Aviv Crossing the Red Sea fully expresses the intentions of Eden Giat, a young Israeli pianist, to seek his own identity, in balance between the two musical worlds that emerge from the compositions. It is a dance, refined and intelligent, that combines the rhythms and structures of improvised music with the lyricism of Middle Eastern singing, a lively, deep, and never rhetorical combination.
What does “Crossing the Red Sea” mean to you and why did you choose these words as the title for your album?
“Crossing the Red Sea” is taken from the Biblical Exodus story, which describes the process of delivering Israelites’ from slavery in Egypt. To me, it symbolizes the path to inner freedom. This title connects to the atmosphere of the entire album, and to my process of creation. This process that grows from expressing myself in my own musical language, delivers me a little from my inner struggles. Music has the power to turn pain into love, and this love frees the soul.

I hope that in ten years from now I’ll be a better human being and also happier. I hope to learn new things every day.  Learning, getting deeper is what gives me meaning. I hope I’ll share my musical gift with the ones who want it and keep moving forward.

Listening to the tape, from the very first piece, the listener is transported into a hybrid sound environment: on the one hand there is the West with the jazz training and on the other the lyricism of Middle Eastern melodies. In what kind relationship do these two sounds coexist in you?
That’s right. I’d say that the jazz language is my main practice, my biggest teachers are people like Bud Powell, John Coltrane, Keith Jarrett… But it’s always connected to the discovery of my own personality in it, what are the melodies that I am attracted to, what are the musical colors that I love. About the middle eastern sound, I’ve been listening to lots of ethnic kinds of music, some from here in Israel and also from around the world. For example, I had a trip with my mom to Morocco when I was 18 years old and I’m sure that the music I heard there affected me a lot. So, naturally, when I compose, I guess these folk colors come out.

Your biography mentions that you started studying music at an early age. Percussions at the age of two, the piano at age five and then, after classical studies, you dedicated yourself to jazz and, eventually, condensed everything into composition. Did you compose the songs recorded on this album specifically for it or are they a collection of your compositions collected over the years?
Yes, my father is a great drummer and rhythm was always in my blood. He also played to us a lot of jazz records, so jazz wasn’t new to my ears from a very young age. Then at the age of five I started to study classical piano (I asked to learn piano). I was deep in the classical world for several years and this period taught me a lot about music in general, the deep attention to every note, making the instrument sing and more. In high school I felt a little tired from this intensive practice, it became work and I wanted inspiration. At the time, studying jazz was the most natural thing for me, as it grew on me, and I always loved to improvise. And composing was also a thing I’ve been exploring from an early age and it slowly developed over the years. As for the compositions in the album, no I didn’t write them especially for the album, every piece came to me in its own time, I didn’t force it, it just came. After playing different compositions of mine for a while, I felt that there is something in common in those 7 compositions. The repertoire in this album includes pieces I wrote in the last couple of years, and most of them were rehearsed and performed by us for a year or so. The music has significantly developed since it was played for the first time. I added and took away compositional segments over and over, and often I found myself searching for the simplest and most accurate writing.
Is there a song on this record that you are most fond of?
Well, honestly that’s a hard one because I love them all. I feel that “Nash Didan” has some really unique quality, I never composed in this way and I love that sound.
Speaking again of composition: what was it like to adapt Israel’s rhythms to jazz music?
As I said, it’s never like “I’ll mix this with this”. It just comes naturally to me. And once there is a composition, our job is to serve this song, to play in the colors that fit the song, and not to stay in some comfortable known zone.
Your quintet has very distinguished sound mixture, and despite your young age there are some creative ideas. How did you choose your collaborators and what do you think are their strengths?
Yes, I thank you for that compliment, that our sound is distinguished, it means the most to me. This group, like the compositions, was also created in a natural way. Actually, by kind of a mistake. I had a trio before, and the drummer was about to fly for studying in New York, so I thought let’s make our last show together something different and I immediately thought about featuring Yuval Drabkin on saxophone, and even wrote two of the compositions that also appear on the album, for this show. The connection with Yuval was really great from the start and I fell in love with that quartet sound. As for Nitzan, we were in the same high school of arts and we played a lot together from a young age, so it was a natural decision as well. And the one who connected me with David is Nitzan because they played a lot together, I didn’t really know him. I think Yuval has one of my favorite sounds ever, so soulful, warm, both soft and direct. Nitzan has very colorful drum playing, he produces special textures and has a great ear for melody and harmony too. David has a rounded sound; great rhythmic feel and he serves the music.
Among your collaborations there is one from last summer with bass player Avishai Cohen who chose you to record his upcoming work. What did you learn from that experience? How did you choose your collaborators for your record?
Yes, I actually met Avishai for the first time when he came to a show of my quartet to check us out and later we started playing together in some shows as well as in recordings. It was a great experience for me, I learned a lot from him about groove, presence, and awake listening.
In your own opinion, what is jazz today? What is the link between young people and improvised music?Cos’è, secondo te, oggi il jazz? Qual è il legame fra i giovani e la musica improvvisata? 
Wow, a good one. I can tell how it is in Israel. Here there is a great passion for jazz among young people, I assume because of the many great artists who grew up here that we look up to, and the high level of jazz teachers. For me, this music is alive, but in my opinion there can also be a danger in jazz education today. I see some young people who practice the beautiful phrasing and solos of the old ones, but then play automatically, without a character, without soul, without taking risks; and for me, that is the opposite of the jazz spirit.
Crossing The Red Sea: an espresso with Eden Giat copyright Jazzespresso 2021.
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