the Platina / The Girl with the Flaxen Hair
The Girl with the Flaxen Hair
MIO Records, MIO-030 (recorded 1976; released 2003)
Back in the 1970s, jazz was a rare commodity in Israel. I first discovered it's existence in a tiny club run by an American expat named Charlie, just behind Yafo Rd in the center of Jerusalem. There I heard this incredible band, Platina. I wasn't generally a jazz fan, but this band was special. Formed originally by Arik Einstein around the core of Kunsman and drummer Kaminsky, the band included several of Israeli's best musicians over its five year existence. They released a first, rather stiff album, the inappropriately named "Live at the Barbarim," a better, ECM-influenced album, "Freedom," backed BB King in Israel, got invited to the Newport Jazz Festival, and then came out with their most amazing batch of music ever, centered around a jazz version of Debussey's "Girl with the Flaxen Hair."
I had a recording of the band playing the music live on the radio, taken via horrible mike into a cassette player, and that got stolen. But I never forgot the music—which was just as well, because something happened to the studio tapes and in the meantime, feeling that they had taken the music as far as it was going to go, the band broke up. In an interview with band-leader Roman Kunsman at the time, he complained about trying to make a band playing international music work in such a small country surrounded by enemies. Kunsman, himself, spent a lot of time in the US and Europe. Among other recordings, he is memorialized in some marvellous recordings with Moshe Berlin's amazing band, "Sulam". Kunsman passed away in 2002, and as a memorial, the band gathered what tapes they could find, substituting live recordings for the lost studio recordings, and this CD was released by the now comatose MIO label in 2003.
This is wonderful jazz. The band including Kunsman's flute, the amazing drumming of Arele Kaminsky (who continued to lead the most amazing Wednesday night jam sessions in Jerusalem for years), one of Israel's most accomplished rock guitarists (Tamuz, et al) Haim Karyo, as well as scat vocals by pop star Riki Manor and bass by Lev Zabeginsky. Original keyboard player Alona Turel had, by now, been replaced by Yakov Erlich and Bernie Senensky.
If Debussey played jazz, this is what it would sound like. The long title track remains one of my favorite pieces, and this my favorite version. On the closing number the band takes on a harder jazz-rock sound, around Karyo's guitar, which I love, as well. On the piece, "Africa", Kunsman shows his Coltrane influence, but also a Middle Eastern sound that predates modern bands such as Bustan Abraham. I miss Kunsman, although not nearly as much, by all accounts, as he is missed by those who played with him and knew him well. This CD, along with Sulam, provide some explanation of why his music was so influential and so beloved. Many thanks to MIO for digging these tapes up and making them available. Spread the word and get copies for all of your friends.
Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 4 June 2006.
Roman Kunsman: flute, alto saxophone, alto flute
Aaron (Aralle) Kaminsky: percussion, drums
Lev Zabeginsky: double bass, bass guitar
Yakov Erlich: keyboards (tracks 1, 2, 3, 8)
Haim Kario: electric guitar (tracks 1, 2, 3, 8)
Riki Manor: vocals (tracks 1, 2, 3)
Bernie Senensky: piano (tracks 4, 6, 7)
- Picture (Roman Kunsman) 4:45
- The Girl with the Flaxen Hair (Claude Debussey; arr. Kunsman) 12:11
- The Snow is Dancing (Claude Debussey; arr. Kunsman) 4:49
- Africa (Roman Kunsman) 14:03
- Doxy (Sonny Rollins) 7:59
- I Can't Get Started (Vernon Duke) 8:39
- Capricorn Dance (11:19) Bernie Senensky
- Hope (Haim Kario) 13:11