By Tali Rubinstein B.M. ’14
How do I begin describing this project?
I’ve been playing the recorder for all my life. Music, to me, began with the Israeli equivalent of “Hot Crossed Buns”, trying to hit all the notes in the right order and rhythm. It was, back then, just a game. A very challenging, imagination-evoking game, but nevertheless—my only goal was to nail it—the simple excitement of getting it right . Little did I know back then, as a 7 year old, that this game would become my life. As I grew up and evolved as a musician, layers of knowledge, technique and style, as well as pure love and appreciation to music, were added to my playing, but that initial spark, that eagerness, has stuck with me. In a way, every time I play the recorder, I feel like that 7 year old kid, that just can’t wait to take on the challenge.
Fast forward, after many years of classical music training, and several years of jazz studies, and after graduating from Berklee College (a life-altering experience, but that’s for another blog…), I moved to NYC to fulfill my dream – to take my recorder everywhere (luckily, it’s a very mobile instrument…). And so I did. After a few typical NYC nights, that in some random way evolved from meeting a friend for coffee to an amazing jazz / neo-soul / country / hip-hop / African / classical Indian music (you name it!) jam session, I learned my lesson—expect the unexpected. I promised myself that from now on I’m NEVER leaving the house without a recorder in my bag (or two).
I wanted to taste everything—to try out every scale, to improvise on any groove, to meet people with different musical backgrounds and listen to their musical stories.
In NYC I felt like a kid in a candy store. I wanted to taste everything—to try out every scale, to improvise on any groove, to meet people with different musical backgrounds and listen to their musical stories. At first, I felt quite intimidated to join the masters, some of whom have been attending the same jam session every week for the past 10 years, playing a very particular style of music that they’ve studied all their lives. But pretty soon, I was either strongly encouraged to join by a very welcoming jam host, or my hesitance was overcome by my own curiosity and thrill to be part of the experience, and so I ended up carving my path and jumping into these deep and rich waters every time. In some occasions, people did not hide their surprise when I pulled out my recorder, but I didn’t mind, as long as they gave me a chance. And every time I got up there, they listened very carefully. People in NYC are extremely sensitive and open about music—they always truly listen, full hearted, before they make any decision.
High from the exuberant energy and elevated from the warmth of these musical gatherings, I got addicted to this. I began asking musicians around me where are the best jam sessions in town, preferably of a genre that I haven’t played yet. I made a list on my iPhone and kept adding names, places and dates. I was LIVING THE LIFE! (I still didn’t have much work in the city back then, so coming back from a jam session at 4am was totally normal).
At the same time, on one of my visits to my home land my sister and her husband, concerned about my career development (the family’s concern comes with the profession), advised me that I should enhance my video presence. They said that I should work on a recorder cover for a famous song (they didn’t say it, but I’m assuming, Britney Spears. Because my loneliness is killing me, and I, I must confess). Immediately, I felt that strong objection one only feels when they know the other side is right. But still, I hated the thought of creating music to a format, of doing something because that is the way you’re supposed to do it. Maybe I’m spoiled in that sense, but I have to love any musical project that I do—I’ve got to want to do it for the pure joy of music itself. So eventually I realized that I have to find a way to make more music videos of music that I love making (this looks like a palindrome, but it’s not!).
Do you see where this is going?
When I got back to NYC, I met up to work with my good friend, Dror Pikielny, who is an amazing filmmaker, and I asked him if he would be willing to join me when I go to these jam session and document it. This was one of these rare occasions when something I really wanted to do clicked with something he really wanted to do—he’s been wanting to make a documentary about an artist for a while, and I accidentally brought the idea to him. Dror offered, to my surprise: “Why not make a documentary web-series?”
Dror later explained that this means we’d be filming a day in my life: running errands, teaching, talking to potential managers, going on dates, anything I actually do. In between, we would be talking about life (in Dror’s words: “If, in each and every episode, we don’t get a slightly better idea of why you do what you do, we did nothing”). In the second half of each episode, we’d go to a jam session, one of those legendary venues that I’ve been piling up in my iPhone, and see what happens…
Of course, I said yes (I had no clue how much work it would take!!!), and together with producer Noa Gover, we went on our little adventure. I say little because up until now I only played on my hi-pitch recorders, but who knows—maybe in season 2 I’ll pull out my bass recorder! So much to look forward to. Watch episodes one and two below, and check back for future posts about upcoming episodes.
Episode 1: The Rum House, featuring Mimi & the Podd Brothers
Episode 2: Arlene’s Grocery, featuring The Lesson GK
Tali Rubinstein, signed to the prestigious label Casa Limón is gaining international recognition by performing worldwide and breaking boundaries with a seemingly simple instrument—the recorder.
She has toured with legendary guitarist Paco de Lucía’ s original band; performed at prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and the Kennedy Center; and collaborated with top musicians such as Anat Cohen, Mariza, and Alejandro Sanz, among others. She is currently working on her debut album Mémoire, a collection of original songs she has composed and co-arranged.