The opening night of this year’s Atlanta Jewish Music Festival March 2 will present trumpeter and composer David Buchbinder and his Odessa/Havana project, featuring his principal collaborator, Cuban pianist Hilario Duran, and a six-piece piece band of top-notch jazz players.
“I like to think of it as Toronto music; It’s the most diverse city in the world,” said Buchbinder on the phone from Canada. “What it means is that artists at the foreground of this stuff have been creating new sounds out of the raw material of different cultures. So I’m rooted in Jewish music but also open to many others (such as) jazz which is kind of a yeast for raising new collaborations.”
Buchbinder and Duran started working together in 2007 when they recorded the first, self-titled Odessa/Havana album. In 2008 they won World Group of the Year at the Canadian Folk Music Awards. The band released another record, “Walk to the Sea,” in 2013, receiving a Juno Award for World Music Album and a glowing review in All About Jazz: “It’s a spot-on world music venture that stylizes indigenous concepts and applications from Spain, amid Jewish folk, Arabic and Afro-Cuban structural components, woven into a majestic concoction of radiant jazz-centric fare,” Glenn Astarita wrote.
“I do enjoy a temporary bump of warmth and validation from a nomination or award, and considering how challenging the life of an independent musician and artist can be, it’s nice to have some recognition,” Buchbinder said. “But that generally fades pretty quickly as the glow resolves itself into the question of ‘now what?’ and ‘how am I going to get everything done that’s in front of me?’ Mostly, awards and their impact may be measured by how much they help me to do the work, to take it further than the time before, to create opportunities.”
When he’s not working, Buchbinder listens to jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan, Beethoven string quartets, James Brown, Leonard Cohen, klezmer clarinetist Dave Tarras, Frank Zappa, and Cuban piano master Chucho Valdes, among others. He describes Duran as “a great Cuban pianist and composer who is also very open to the world. It was my inspiration to do this but it was really both our compositions that created a unique sound, and it’s clearly drawing on the historical connection between Afro-Cuban and Jewish music.”
The idea to do this project goes back 20 years, Buchbinder said. “I had already been playing Afro-Cuban music before I got into Jewish stuff in a big way.” He thought the two styles were connected in some way but could not figure out why. “I was sort of experimenting with it until I met him (Duran) and I could then explore it in an authentic way.”
As to what AJMF attendees can expect, he said, “I always like potential audiences to know that our music manages to be both quite original and specific (as opposed to stylistically generic), to be composers’ music, but at the same time to have a kind of inevitability and accessibility.”