Jewish Independent / Shiv’a & Gomory

There are so many levels on which one can experience Ayelet Rose Gottlieb’s music, and her most recent releases are no exception. Shiv’a, which comes out today, is cathartic, simply enjoyable and everything in between. Her other recent release, Gomory, is ethereal and visceral, and everything in between. Two very diverse recordings, they exemplify Gottlieb’s range of talent.

~Cynthia Ramsay

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There are so many levels on which one can experience Ayelet Rose Gottlieb’s music, and her most recent releases are no exception. Shiv’a, which comes out today, is cathartic, simply enjoyable and everything in between. Her other recent release, Gomory, is ethereal and visceral, and everything in between. Two very diverse recordings, they exemplify Gottlieb’s range of talent.

Gottlieb will perform Shiv’a on Feb. 20, 9 p.m., at Performance Works on Granville Island, as part of Winterruption. She will be joined by a Vancouver-based string quartet led by violinist Meredith Bates, and by N.Y.-based drummer Ronen Itzik (originally from Jerusalem), who is coming to Vancouver especially for the performance. The concert is part of a double bill with singer-songwriter Alejandra Ribera.

Shiv’a has been years in the making. Gottlieb began it following the deaths of three close friends, and she has described the work as “a meditation on the process of mourning.”

“I composed the piece between 2007-2010, while I was living between Wellington, New Zealand, New York City and Jerusalem, Israel,” Gottlieb told the Independent. She met the quartet ETHEL in 2009, “and they and percussionist Satoshi Takeshi were very involved in the final stages of the composition process while I was still working on the piece.

“In 2011, we did an Indiegogo crowdfunding effort and, with 75 pre-orders of the album, we were able to fund the recording of the piece in N.Y.C. Since then, I gave birth to three other albums, and three babies, until finally, in 2015, Shiv’a found the right ‘home’ as part of the roster of 482music, a unique record label that features mostly N.Y.- and Chicago-based musicians.”

It was 482music that suggested releasing the recording as an LP rather than a CD. “For me,” said Gottlieb, “releasing music in this format has been a lifelong dream. LPs are my favorite format to listen to music in. I love the warmth of the sound and the physical feeling of holding a record. It also allows for a true feature to the artwork.

image - Noa Charuvi’s painting “Babel,” which Ayelet Rose Gottlieb chose for the cover of Shiv’a.

“I chose to use Noa Charuvi’s painting ‘Babel’ for the cover,” she continued, “as it seems to me to portray beautifully what I was trying to convey with the music of Shiv’a – something is broken, but that fragility holds much beauty, becomes abstract, allows for the imagination to roam. What was there before that is now lost? What will come in place of these ruins? What work needs to be done in order to clear the mess and rebuild? These same sentiments are found in Yehuda Amichai’s poem ‘An Old Toolshed,’ which serves as the epilogue to Shiv’a.”

When the Jewish Independent spoke with Gottlieb just over a year ago about her album Roadsides (“Music is the poetry of life,” Jan. 9, 2015), the Vancouver-based musician, who has called various places home, said she was still looking for her language here in the city. “I think this is an ongoing search,” she said when the JI caught up again with her about her two new releases. “I have a band here in Vancouver that I really love working with, though it has been a little while since we last had a gig. It features some of Vancouver’s most creative musicians – Aram Bajakian on guitar, Peggy Lee on cello, Dylan Van Der Schyff on drums and Meredith Bates on violin. Last spring, I composed a new song cycle, ‘12 Lunar Meditations,’ which they performed along with the Voice Over Mind Choir (led by D.B. Boyco) as part of the Western Front’s vocal festival. This was the first substantial piece of music I had composed since I moved here, and these musicians, Vancouver and the changes in my personal life, all blended into this composition.”

In addition to writing and performing her own material, Gottlieb forms part of the Mycale quartet, the group that recorded Gomory, part of John Zorn’s Masada project.

“John Zorn’s Masada project has been ongoing for over 25 years and has become a ‘cult’ project with a huge following worldwide,” explained Gottlieb. “These compositions all use the ‘Jewish scale,’ which gives them a klezmer-ish feel with a contemporary edge.

“In his second book of compositions for this project, The Book of Angels, Zorn commissioned different musicians to arrange and interpret his music. Among the musicians who participated in this Book of Angels series of recordings are guitarist Pat Metheny, trumpeter Dave Douglass, saxophonist Joe Lovano and many others. This is a magnificent list of artists for those of us who love jazz.”

And this is where Mycale comes in. Zorn formed the all-female a cappela quartet in 2009.

“We are Sofia Rei from Argentina, Malika Zarra from Morocco, Sara Serpa from Portugal (who joined the band in 2013 in place of Basya Schechter) and myself, from Israel,” said Gottlieb. “We all are band leaders and composers of our own individual projects and bring our musical styles into our arrangements of John Zorn’s music. We sing in Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Berber and French. John Zorn invited us to record two albums for this special series of recordings. The first was released in 2010 – Mycale: Book of Angels, Vol. 13 – and the latter was released in May of 2015, Gomory: Book of Angels, Vol. 25. We feel very honored to have been invited to participate in this incredible series, and especially to tour with Mr. Zorn globally as part of his Masada Marathon performances, which took us all over the world – Europe, Canada, U.S.A., Australia and South America.”

All of Zorn’s compositions in this work, added Gottlieb, are titled after angels and demons. “Gomory is a demon who disguises himself as a beautiful woman riding a camel,” she explained.

As for current and future projects, Gottlieb said, “My primary project right now is my family. My third little girl was born just one month ago, so we are all in search of a new rhythm to dance by. Other than that, I recently recorded a duo album (which is still in the works) with my longtime collaborator, pianist Anat Fort. I am hoping to keep performing and developing my new piece ‘12 Lunar Meditations,’ which, following the Vancouver debut, was performed in N.Y.C. last fall with some remarkable participants, including legendary jazz-vocalist Jay Clayton. I am working on some new collaborations here in Vancouver, which hopefully I’ll be able to share with you soon.”

In addition to the Feb. 20 concert at Performance Works, Gottlieb and Itzik will be giving a workshop at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver (604-257-5111) on Feb 21, 2 p.m. Open to all, the cost to attend is $15 per person.

For more on Gottlieb and to purchase Shiv’aGomory or other of her recordings, visit ayeletrose.com.