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At Bop Stop, An Accompanist To The Stars Accompanies Himself

Tamir Hendelman


Pianist Tamir Hendelman’s gifts as an accompanist have led to recording projects by some of the most iconic soloists of our time: Natalie Cole, Gladys Knight, Sir Paul McCartney and Barbra Streisand among them. Yet his Sunday’s concert at Bop Stop Sunday will present him with the challenge of accompanying a different sort of soloist: himself.

“The interesting thing about playing solo is [that] the piano becomes the whole orchestra, and you have seven octaves to work with,” he said by phone from Los Angeles. “The question is: do you want to just play the melody by itself or explore some voicings for a while or imply something rather than spill it out?  Or do you want to fill in the way you might leave space for vocalists? Sometimes it’s really nice to have something that encompasses the whole instrument and at other times it’s nice to just focus for a moment on a portion of the keyboard.”

Focus would seem to be a necessary skill for a musician who has nearly 200 recording credits to his name as a pianist, arranger, composer and producer. Many have been with vocalists, a musical setting Hendelman, 51, knows well.

“In the Los Angeles area, there was one particular venue where I ended up working with many different vocalists and spend three long sets going through many, many songs that I was familiar with or less familiar with, getting to know their musical styles,” he said. “In that kind of intimate setting, you really start to ask yourself, OK, how come this person has got a totally different emotional approach to this song than the last person? And: How can I contribute to that in the subtle way that you can manipulate voicings or leave space? I think about Bill Evans or Keith Jarrett, pianists who either worked with a lot of vocalists or had that lyrical sensibility that I really enjoy.”


Sunday’s Bop Stop concert is a homecoming of sorts for Hendelman. His wife, bassist Sherry Luchette, is well known on the local scene and Hendelman has appeared several times with the Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra at Tri-C and with his own trio at Nighttown. “Between the Midwest trio tours and the big band’s visits to Ohio and through my wife, I’m learning a little bit about some of the musicians in the area too,” he said.

Though he has been based in Los Angeles since he was 13, Hendelman is among a dynamic group of musicians who came up in the artistic hot house that is Tel Aviv. “The joke is that it must be something in the hummus,” says Hendelman about the ability of his birthplace to produce so many notable jazz musicians. But, he adds, “I think there’s a real hunger and musical drive among people in Tel Aviv. There’s a real scene there and then when musicians come to New York, they’re not afraid to make their mark.”

As a teenager in Los Angeles, Hendelman studied with Joe Harnell, a composer for film and television who had worked with Peggy Lee. “He took me on as a mentor and invited me to film scoring sessions and gave me composition assignments,” Hendelman said. “I met Claire Fischer and took some lessons with him. I took some lessons with Billy Childs as well. I loved his sense of harmony and musical adventure and the way he combined classical and jazz. We’re still friends.

After studying composition at Rochester’s Eastman School of Music, Hendelman returned to Los Angeles where he made a musical connection with drummer Jeff Hamilton that continues to this day.

“I was playing with a vocalist, and he heard me and introduced himself.” Hendelman remembered. “He invited me to his table and told me he was looking for the next pianist for the group. He said, ‘I enjoyed what I heard and liked your sense of harmony and I’d love for you to check out these recordings of mine. Then let’s get together and play a few tunes.’ I took that opportunity to heart and decided I was going to learn all those songs. When an opportunity presents itself to play with such a high-caliber musician, you take it.”

During the pandemic, Hendelman was forced to play so. He started a weekly online solo piano concert series, an exercise that forced him to think deeply about programming choices. “I might choose the music of Chick Corea or Oscar Peterson or songs by Johnny Mercer or songs associated with Ella [Fitzgerald]. It was always a pleasure to figure out.”

That pleasure will be an element in Sunday’s concert. “You might hear a couple of songs by Johnny Mandel or maybe a little mini tribute to Oscar Peterson. There might be a few originals or some music for my trio recordings,” he said. “I’ll think about which little chapters can I share with the audience. And I’m really looking forward to it.”

Tamir Hendelman Sun., March 5, 7 p.m. at Bop Stop, 2920 Detroit Ave, Cleveland. $20, available here.

Trading Fours

There’s never a bad time to get out and commune in the same room with creative musicians. Below are four musical events of interest in the coming week that you might want to check out.

Kyle Nasser/Simona Premazzi Quartet Thu., March 2, 7 p.m.
Bop Stop, 2920 Detroit Ave, Cleveland. (tickets)

Wave in Gravity, the intriguing new recording from Italian-born, New York-based Simona Premazzi shows reveals a pianist of tireless curiosity. That Feb. 17 release is a solo session, but Premazzi fills the space with dense contrapuntal lines, so it will be interesting to hear how she operates in a quartet setting with saxophonist Nasser, Massimo Biolcati (Lionel Loueke) on bass and Boston drummer Jay Sawyer.

Aurora Nealand  and Kojiro Umezaki
Thursday, March 2, 8:30 p.m.
Birenbaum Innovation and Performance Space, 10 E. College St., Oberlin (free)

Nicole Mitchell
Friday, March 3, 8 p.m.
Birenbaum Innovation and Performance Space, 10 E. College St., Oberlin (free)

Cue the Dazz Band’s “You Dropped The Bomb On Me.” Nicole Mitchell and Aurora Nealand at Oberlin? And for free? Oh, by the way, Luis Perdomo, too. If I hadn’t seen it in Jim Szabo’s Friday morning newsletter, I wouldn’t have believed it. So this is essential and there’s much more. Get the entire Oberlin Improv Festival schedule here and look upon its riches in wonder.

Dan Wilson’s Instagram
Any old time you want
Anywhere you are

I’ve followed guitarist Wilson’s IG for a while now, but lately he’s leveled up his game with a series of posts about everything from gig economics to marital success. The almost offhand elegance and soulfulness of his playing is perfectly echoed in the almost kitchen-table wisdom of the on-screen text. And then his message hits you and you realize that his wisdom comes from a deep place. Follow him now at @danwilsonguitar.

Information for this section came from Jim Szabo’s essential, weekly Northeast Ohio jazz calendar , NEO’s most complete list of jazz and jazz-adjacent events.


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