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Big Band Theory

Grammy-winning jazz pianist Alon Yavnai enlists the help of a robust ensemble to invoke Latin, African, and Middle Eastern rhythms on a new album

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Alon Yavnai. (Haggai Cohen-Milo)

Growing up in Tel Aviv, pianist Alon Yavnai was exposed to a range of musical traditions including Middle Eastern, jazz, and Latin (his mother is Argentine). Since then, the Grammy-winner has experimented with other influences, touring with a Cape Verdean dance band, for instance, and collaborating with accomplished musicians such as cellist Yo-Yo Ma and saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera. Yavnai’s last album featured his own jazz trio. Now he’s trying his hand with a much bigger ensemble. Working with the Hamburg-based NDR Bigband, Yavnai has put out Shir Ahava, a jazz album that sometimes veers into symphony territory, blurring the lines between genres and suggesting, furthermore, that such lines are immaterial—to those making the music, anyway.

Yavnai speaks with Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry at his home in Brooklyn about how he first took up the piano, his ventures into big band music, and the eclectic origins of his favorite tracks on the album.

Vox Tablet listeners in New York City can see Yavnai perform with Paquito D’Rivera on Sunday, March 25 at Birdland. Click here for information. [Running time: 22:25.] 

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Big Band Theory

Grammy-winning jazz pianist Alon Yavnai enlists the help of a robust ensemble to invoke Latin, African, and Middle Eastern rhythms on a new album

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