Itamar Erez weaves music beyond borders

Photo by Wolfgang Vogt

Recently nominated for Instrumental Solo Artist of the Year at the Canadian Folk Music Awards 2020, Vancouver-based Israeli musician Itamar Erez is a composer and a performer with great versatility and eclectic style.

A talented soloist who is highly skilled in both piano and guitar, Erez will be performing with his trio at Pyatt Hall on Feb. 7, sharing his music in a quartet at Performance Works on Feb. 23 and touring in a Tango 3 trio in British Columbia early March, including a stop in Vancouver.

“We will play some pieces from my album (Mi Alegria) at the Pyatt Hall show. We will make some new arrangements for the pieces and also play some new pieces. It is exciting; there will be a lot of improvisation on stage,” Erez says.

Itamar Erez

His latest and fourth album, Mi Alegria, released last June, is a combination of solos and ensembles. According to Erez, this album features his piano playing more prominently and has a more significant jazz flavour than his previous recordings.

Early influence

Born and raised in Israel, Erez says that spending his formative years there from age 15 to 24 instilled world music in him early on.

“Israel is like a melting pot of all kinds of cultures; the music is very diverse. If you turn the radio on, you can hear Arabic music or the Beatles,” says Erez. “My father was also a pilot with an eclectic taste in music, and he would bring records from everywhere.”

Erez started playing the piano at age six and quickly realized he had a talent for it. He also took up the guitar when he was 15, and after that music became an inseparable part of his life.

Having perfect pitch and inspired by just sounds, Erez says music follows him everywhere in his head when he is working on a new piece.

“I like sounds so I may sit by the piano and improvise and discover something that sparks my imagination. Over the next few weeks, I keep trying to solve the puzzle,” says Erez, talking about his creative process.

Exploring new horizons in music

Classically trained and having initially studied music composition, Erez’s musical journey is a constant exploration of new horizons.

“As a composer, there is a difference between music on paper and how it sounds in the end. Improvising is really important for me, so at some point, I decided to express my own musicality,” he says.

Itamar Erez

He also made a major shift away from the classical world when he first moved to Vancouver around 2002.

“I was missing home (Tel Aviv) a lot, so I started incorporating music from where I came from as well as jazz to create something personal. Desert Song was created in Vancouver in 2006,” recounts Erez, referring to his debut album with his Adama Ensemble.

In the ensuing years, life has taken him and his family back to Israel where he joined Turkish musician Omar Faruk Tekbilek’s ensemble. He had to adjust his guitar playing for Turkish music and got deeper into Middle Eastern music. He also added flamenco music and Brazilian choro to his repertoire and released two more albums, Hommage (2010) and New Dawn (2013), before moving back to Vancouver again in 2015.

Despite the complicated political situation in the Middle East, Erez feels that in the common language of music, communication is always easy.

“It is exciting to meet someone from a different background, and you become friends through music,” he adds.

His next project will be a duet album with Persian-Canadian percussionist Hamin Honari who he has collaborated with for a few years.

Aside from composing and performing, Erez also teaches music. He is a faculty member at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra School of Music and has written a book, Exercises & Etudes – an Advanced Method for the Fingerstyle Guitarist.

“I am excited about getting people excited about music. If you understand more about music, it can really open up your horizon,” Erez says.

Learn more about his work at www.itamarerez.com

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