“Shalosh’s style is open for interpretation, we combine the musical character of each one of us, and that makes our music edgy and unpredictable. Rock, jazz, progressive, electronic, groove, world music, we let the audience decide what to name it.”

Shalosh (Photo by Gilad Bar-Shalev)

Shalosh (Photo by Gilad Bar-Shalev)

Deeply connected

The alias, Shalosh (three in Hebrew), perfectly represents what the special union of Gadi Stern (piano), Daniel Benhorin (bass) and Matan Assayag (drums), is all about: three guys, playing as a powerful musical entity. Three creative minds, one, multilayered, chameleon-like sonic body. Contemporary, European-flavored jazz, rock, classical scents, electronic shades, peculiar experimentalism, it’s all there, bubbling, sparkling, pulsating and undulating in the flexible and finely woven threads of Shalosh’s debut album, The Bell Garden, which was released in March last year. What’s the secret? What is the fuel of Shalosh? Well, apparently it’s the strong, long-lasting friendship between the guys, which even survived a few years of a long distance relationship.

Just like Shalosh’s live shows, The Bell Garden provides a hefty dose of groove, warmth and assertive energy; there’s a mystical chemistry between these three gifted musicians, and they use it for good. You won’t hear pointless technique displays in their tunes. They generate effervescent melodies, effective solos, space, and dynamic, clever structures, all in order to stir the soul and stimulate the body. They don’t imitate anybody either, although comparisons in sound, style, intensity and electricity, to e.s.t. or The Bad Plus, would not be out of place.

The Bell Garden went under my radar in 2014, there’s just so much good music out there, and one can’t always catch it all. At the start of every new year, I usually discover at least a couple of gems which I have missed during the previous year. Earlier this year, The Bell Garden was one of those discoveries. A vigorous debut album, full of heart and atmosphere, one of the most eclectic and exciting group efforts I have heard in recent years. Shalosh is definitely a strong musical force on the rise.

Igloo logo The story?

Gadi :: Me, Matan and Daniel all went to the same high school together in Jerusalem. We played together in different settings during and a couple of years after high school. I would go listen to Matan and Daniel’s funk band in clubs in Jerusalem and later started a band with Matan which did a couple of albums and toured a bit. Daniel was the first person I played jazz with, he was two years older (and still is… to this day…), and already knew the tunes and the style, so I learned a great deal from him.

Daniel :: In 2008, Gadi moved to NYC. Me and Matan moved to Tel Aviv, where we played in various jazz and rock bands (together and separately). The three of us went in different directions, and pursued international careers both as sidemen and bandleaders, yet still we were able to meet up at least once or twice a year, and play. The musical relationship did not only stay strong, it also grew.

Gadi :: In the summer of 2013 I came back from a few months of playing in Cuba, and skyped with Matan and Daniel, we talked for a few hours and decided to start a band. I came to Tel Aviv, and for about 4 months we played almost everyday, creating the materials for ‘The Bell Garden’, our debut album. We recorded the album in a week and released it in March 2014. Our 10-year friendship expressed itself musically in the most magical way, we were really able to reach deep inside and find a musical voice that reflects our deepest musical desires. It was actually such a strong experience, that I decided to end my 7 years period in NY and move to the south of Tel Aviv where we all live and work together.

Igloo logo Sound & style?

Matan :: The fact that we grew up playing together, allows us to combine the different influences and sound each of us has, and grow together, musically speaking. Shalosh’s style is open for interpretation, we combine the musical character of each one of us, and that makes our music edgy and unpredictable. Rock, jazz, progressive, electronic, groove, world music, we let the audience decide what to name it. Each of us has his own thing, his own influences and musical background. Gadi is into jazz, classical music, Cuban music and free improvisation; Daniel has a great understanding of swing and jazz, and has a lot of background in funk and blues. I studied Indian drumming, and play a lot of Afrobeat, groove and rock. This allows us to get inspired by each other, as well as outside sources.

Daniel :: Some of the reactions we have been getting from audiences in different countries, were that people started to get more and more familiar with our music, and even though we are defined as a “jazz group” we sometimes feel like a rock band, that has a following of audience that requests songs and know the music.

Gadi :: I think you can say that our musical agenda is simply us, the band is a “safe zone” for the three of us to fulfill our musical fantasies.

Igloo logo The debut album?

Daniel :: The work on the album was very intense. Gadi came to Israel for a 4-month period, in which we were to work on the materials, fund and record the album. We immediately started rehearsing, almost everyday, putting aside our different projects, and in about three months we were ready to get in the studio. An important aspect of producing the album ourselves, was our will to make a different Piano-trio album; we put a lot of emphasis on working out our own band sound. We aimed at delivering through the album as much of our individuality and life experiences, mostly to make it the most personal for us as well as for our listeners. We did that through using alternative sets of mikeing, use of room and street sounds and an uncompromising attitude (we didn’t leave the studio for 4 days). All of the songs were recorded live, with little to no editing. Yet we did a lot of trial and error, and additions to the album.

Gadi :: We were extremely happy about the way the album turned out. An album is an interesting concept. It’s an eternal creation, yet a frozen moment in time and space, that happened and will not happen again. It has this contradiction in it. When I listen to ‘The Bell Garden’, I almost feel like I hear someone else playing.

Matan :: As far as the drums sound, I had a thought about creating a sound that’s different from the standard “jazz trio” sound. Me and the technician, Ori Winoker, decided to set up two separate mike set ups, to cover the range between a softer, more jazz-oriented playing, and a heavier rock sound. While mixing, we occasionally switched between the two set ups, and that created a huge dynamic range in the sound of the album. Sometimes a harsher rock sound, and sometimes a subtle close miking sound.

Gadi :: We also did a lot of experimenting on the album, on one of the tracks for example (Jerusalem State of Mind) we went into the Jerusalem Ben Yehuda market and recorded the sounds of the streets. Than, in the studio, we played the sounds in the headphones and recorded the whole song while listening to the streets of Jerusalem. Also, we played with ideas like putting forks and screws in the piano (not a first I know, but still, it was fun) or recording another overdubbing take of piano to create layers in the sound. Having a whole week in the studio was something else.

Daniel :: We financed the album using a crowd funding campaign, and got the money to make it happen, which was surprising for us, considering we formed the band a month prior to the campaign.

Igloo logo Memorable reaction?

Gadi :: Every now and than we have someone in the audience who comes up to us after the gig, and tells us that he’s been to more than a few of our shows (I think the record was nine shows) and expresses deep knowledge of the songs and the music. One person like that is worth the whole thing for me. I don’t mind traveling for eight hours to play a gig in front of five people if that person is there, because this person means that what we do actually made an emotional impact on someone, not only on the immediate level, but one that stays.

Matan :: One tour can fill a whole book of stories. When we toured the UK we had a show in Lancaster, north England, where we played a twisted cover of a famous English pop tune. The audience just joined in and started singing with us, which was extremely moving.

Igloo logo Live?

Gadi :: Playing shows is the heart of the whole thing really. We are essentially a live band. With our album we tried to capture the magic of a live performance, which is almost imposable to capture, it’s a sneaky little thing, but I think we did a good job. We have been playing together for so long, that sometimes I really do feel like Matan and Daniel have ESP. They go places that I want to go to, before even I know it.

Daniel :: Playing with Matan for so many years, allows me to really get to know his time feel, and the other way around. That way we can really help each other out, bring each other up or down. Same goes with the harmonic and rhythmic language Gadi uses. It’s like speaking the same language on a theme that we all know very well.

Matan :: Touring with Shalosh is relatively new to us all since we’ve only been a band for a little over a year, but in the touring that we have done we had some amazing experiences. We can play the same song, night after night, but every time we play it feels like a first. I know it sounds like a cliche, but that is truly how we feel.

Gadi :: We are about to go on a 40-day tour in Europe in April , I am very curious about the musical spaces we will go after playing the songs for 40 days.

Igloo logo In the pipeline?

Daniel :: Since the release of ‘The Bell Garden’, we have been constantly on the run, playing shows, getting the album out to critics and audiences, booking shows, managing the band, writing new materials. We meet several times a week. After this coming tour, which will bring us to new levels of intensity, we are planning to record our second album. We are super excited about the new materiel, as our sound grew in new directions since our work together has been more focused. We also got the idea to do some collaborations with a singer/front person, after inviting special guests to sing our songs, which had a very cool vibe for us. So we plan to do the two projects simultaneously.

Gadi :: After we finish booking this coming April-May tour, we will start working towards our tour schedule for September-October-November. We plan on doing a big tour with the second album.

Shalosh | The Bell Garden: Bandcamp / cdbaby

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