Dr Jazz at 70 – Birthday Bash

With a special appearance of
Gilad Atzmon and the Orient House Ensemble

Town Hall Sunday 10 March 7.30pm

When Shetland Jazz Club was on its knees several years ago Jeff Merrifield booked Gilad Atzmon and Frank Harrison from the Orient House Ensemble to visit Shetland for a workshop and a gig. Both events were immensely successful and it could be said that these sessions from Gilad Atzmon revived the fortunes of Shetland Jazz Club, which has gone from strength to strength since and just staged its second successful jazz festival.

Since that last visit, Jeff Merrifield has become the presenter of a monthly jazz programme on BBC Radio Shetland (92.7FM) under the alias of Dr Jazz. After a lifetime in jazz that began as a young fan aged nine of George Lewis and New Orleans Classic Jazz and included many years in various parts of the UK as a jazz promoter, Dr Jazz is now approaching his three score years and ten of this mortal coil and plans to celebrate it with a gig featuring all of the Orient House Ensemble, sharing it with all jazz fans in Shetland.

The Orient House group have an international reputation and regularly play the significant London venues of the South Bank, the Barbican and the Pizza Express, as well as international touring. The original aim of the group was to bring together musicians from Israeli and Palestinian backgrounds and to use the music traditions of the Middle East to create music of potency and emotional power. They are celebrating their tenth anniversary as a group and have now embraced a wider range of world music in their creative expression. The jazz club has brought many fine musicians to Shetland, but these are four guys in the prime of their playing lives and together form one of the most potent units in jazz.


Gilad Atzmon was born in Israel in 1963 and had his musical training at the Rubin Academy of Music, Jerusalem (Composition and Jazz). As a multi-instrumentalist he plays Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Baritone Saxes, Clarinet and Flutes. His album Exile was the BBC jazz album of the year in 2003. He has been described by John Lewis on the Guardian as the “hardest-gigging man in British jazz". His albums, of which he has recorded nine to date, often explore political themes and the music of the Middle East.
Until 1994 he was a producer-arranger for various Israeli dance & rock projects, performing in Europe and the USA playing ethnic music as well as R&R and Jazz. Coming to the UK in 1994, Atzmon recovered an interest in playing the music of the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe that had been in the back of his mind for years. In 2000 he founded the Orient House Ensemble in London and started re-defining his own roots in the light of his emerging  political awareness. Since then the Orient House Ensemble has toured all over the world. The  Ensemble includes Eddie Hick on Drums, Yaron Stavi on Bass and Frank Harrison on piano & electronics.
Also, being a prolific writer, Atzmon's essays are widely published. His novels Guide to the perplexed and My One And Only Love have been translated into 24 languages. Gilad's latest book, The Wandering Who? is a study of Jewish Identity political identity and was published in English in October 2011.
Over the years Gilad Atzmon's music has moved more and more towards a cultural hybrid. As a bandleader and reed player he has been amazing his listeners with his powerful personal style that combines great bebop artistry and Middle-Eastern roots in a sophisticated, sometimes ironical manner. Influenced by Coltrane’s powerful approach on the sax, his live performances are simply breathtaking and overwhelming.
As a member of the Blockheads, Gilad has also recorded and performed with Ian Dury, Robbie Williams, Sinead O'Connor and Paul McCartney. Gilad has also recorded with Robert Wyatt, the Water Boys and many others. In 2007 Gilad extended his role as a Producer, working with outstanding singer-songwriter Sarah Gillespie to produce her debut album.
Gilad also produced the Brazilian percussion star Adriano Adewale, the multi-ethnic Irish band Yurodny and is currently producing the UK legendary bass player Norman Watt-Roy’s debut album. In 2010 Gilad produced The Ghosts Within with Robert Wyatt and Ros Stephen. He also produced Sarah Gillespie's In The Current Climate.

Yaron Stavi is a double bass and electric bass player born in Tel Aviv, 6 April 1975. He played in concerts and festivals across Europe and Israel with the Young Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.  He met Gilad Atzmon and joined him in the bands Spiel and Spiel Acid Jazz. Aged 21, Yaron moved to Berlin. He studied at the Berlin Academy of Arts with Rainer Zepperitz, former principal bass player of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Yaron was principal double bass player of the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra and the Jeunesses Musicales World Orchestra, playing under Seiji Ozawa, Pierre Boulez, Marris Jansons, Ivan Fischer, Franz Welser-Most, Sir Neville Mariner and others. In 2002 Yaron moved to London and joined Gilad Atzmon as a member of the Orient House Ensemble.  Yaron plays in other jazz bands from the UK and has performed with artists across Europe including Peter King, Larry Coryell, Jarek Smietana, Leszek Mozdzer, Gary Husband, Gene Calderazzo, and Stephen Keogh. Since meeting him at a festival in Switzerland in 1997, he has played with violinist Nigel Kennedy, both as a member of the Nigel Kennedy Jazz Group in Berlin’s Jazz club Quasimodo and in festivals in the UK, including a BBC Prom at the Royal Albert Hall. He played also on Robert Wyatt’s 2003 album Cuckooland and 2007 album Comicopera and also recorded two albums for John Zorn’s label Tzadik with Koby Israelite.

Frank Harrison was born in Oxford on 8 July 1978. He took up the piano at eleven, and began playing gigs when he was fifteen. In 1994 he won the soloist award in the Daily Telegraph Young Jazz Competition, and in 1996 placed second in Young Jazz Musician Of The Year. After taking up a scholarship at Berklee School Of Music, Boston, he returned to England and joined Gilad Atzmon's band. In 2000 they started the Orient House Ensemble, with whom Frank has recorded five albums on Enja Records, including BBC Jazz Album Of The Year 2003, Exile.


Eddie Hick was born in York in 1987 and started playing drums aged thirteen at school. Aged sixteen he joined Transglobal Drummers and began playing djembe, taught by Jon Ward. The following year they travelled to Accra, Ghana where they studied music and dance with the Kusun Ensemble. Aged eighteen he gained a BTEC in performance from Leeds College of Music and the following year enrolled on the BA jazz degree. This gave him the opportunity to study with some great musicians/teachers including Ronnie Bottomley, Dave Walsh, Omar Puente, Rod Youngs and Lucky Ranku. Around this time he began performing in local clubs and bars with many inspiring musicians from around Yorkshire. Whilst in his 2nd year at college he met Gilad Atzmon and Stephen Keogh at a workshop who both encouraged him. In his 3rd year he began playing with the South Trio and Tomorrows Warriors. In 2009 he took over the drums and percussion place in Orient House from Asaf Sirkis and has been in the group ever since.

The CVs of these excellent musicians put them at the forefront of jazz music, but their one defining quality is their commitment to the Orient House project that had formed a major part of their musical lives. It is with immense pleasure that Shetland Jazz Club is able to bring this ensemble to Shetland to perform what will undoubtedly be the gig of the year. And it is doubly so that the event will be indubitably linked to the 70th birthday celebrations of Dr Jazz, whose first act of jazz promotion was to bring the astounding Gilad Atzmon to Shetland back in 2009.

Here are just a few quotes:

Atzmon's fluid lyricism is in full flow on songbook classics and worldly originals. But as sweet romance morphs to modernist uncertainty, the bittersweet balance and rich emotional palette equally impress. Financial Times ***** March 2009

Gilad Atzmon, the expat Israeli saxophonist/clarinetist, combines thrilling jazz musicianship with a maverick political intelligence Guardian ****
Atzmon always manages to tell a story Uncut **** March 2009

One of the finest alto players around, Gilad pays his respects to Bird... It's striking how similar Gilad's sweet, open-throated sound is to Parker's, but as you'd expect from the fiery philosopher-turned-Blockhead. BBC Music Magazine March 2009

Best musician living in the world today. Robert Wyatt, The Guardian.

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