“If a curtain were to be drawn in front of him, no one could tell which instrument was being played”
– Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia
Described by Downbeat Magazine as “A Volcano on the Ocean Floor“, Oded Tzur’s music is a microcosm in which the blues, Indian ragas, synagogue prayers and classical music form an unmistakable style of storytelling. Based in New York City, the Israeli-born saxophonist, composer and bandleader explores fundamental connections between ancient and modern musical traditions, culminating a band that’s been dubbed “The Coltrane Quartet of the 21st Century“.
An ECM Records artist, Tzur is set apart by his use and development of microtonality on the saxophone. First presented at Trinity College Of Music, London, and more recently at the Juilliard School in New York, this decade long project is the result of Tzur’s studies with India’s grandmaster of the Bansuri: Hariprasad Chaurasia. The way in which the Indian flute moves seamlessly from one pitch to another inspired Tzur to go beyond what was deemed possible on his instrument.
“Tzur is right. Ragas are universal” – Jazz Times (US)
Tzur has shared his singular sound on some of the best stages in the world, including Cafe de la Danse (Paris), Jazz Standard (NYC) and Bimuis (Amsterdam). In search of the hidden thread, not only between the notes of the saxophone, but also between the genres that have defined him, Tzur set out to crystalize his concept in the form of a love letter. Isabela, his fourth album as a leader, was just released in May 2022.
Tzur’s unique language of improvisation takes the listener on a journey many describe as “musical storytelling”, and evokes deep contrasts between silent passages and dramatic crescendos.
Coming from the Tel Aviv jazz scene of the 2000’s, Oded Tzur’s background consisted of rigorous training in a number of musical styles. His curiosity for improvised music led him to discover the ancient art of Indian classical music, which had set him on the path to become what Downbeat Magazine later called “an explorer of the microtonal”.
In order to pursue the rare undertaking of playing Indian music, a style heavily based on microtonality, on a western instrument such as the saxophone, Tzur embarked on a decade-long research to construct a new saxophone technique — A Middle Path — as it was later named. The technique enables the saxophone to slide between the notes and highlight specific microtones, and departures from traditional saxophone playing so distinctly that the Indian grandmaster Hariprasad Chaurasia once summed it up by saying: “If a curtain were to be drawn in front of him, no one could tell which instrument was being played”.
In 2007 Tzur became the first saxophonist to learn from the legendary Indian flutist. Chaurasia’s elegant phrasing, spiritual depth and rhythmic mastery have had a profound influence on the saxophonist’s music. The work process consisted of countless sessions in which Chaurasia would play a melody on the Bansuri – the Indian flute – and Tzur would then have to translate it onto the saxophone. Following the flutist’s intricate style has refined Tzur’s technique to the point where it started attracting attention from the international saxophone community.
“Tzur is the first saxophonist I’ve heard to do what I have long thought was possible, but have been unable to successfully achieve myself: that is to bring the science and artistry of saxophone playing to produce the rounded, beautiful and expressive slides of Indian music” – Sandy Evans
Saxophonists from Sydney to San Fransisco have been learning about Tzur’s technique and its possible implications. He was also invited to lecture on the subject at a number of key institutions, such as Trinity College of Music, London, the Copenhagen Conservatory, the Amsterdam Conservatory and more. “For a subject that started as a solitary practice and was deemed impossible at first, it’s humbling to see the attention and interest the technique has received during the past few years”, says the saxophonist.
In 2011, Tzur moved to New York and established the Oded Tzur Quartet. This step marked a shift in the scope of his work as a composer: sliding not only between the notes of the saxophone, but also between the melodic universes of Indian classical music and jazz.
Since its creation, the quartet has toured around the world, presenting audiences with its captivating language of improvised music. Its three albums, Like a Great River, Translator’s Note (Enja Records 2015 & 2017) and Here Be Dragons (ECM Records 2020) were released to extraordinary critical acclaim and established Tzur as a singular voice in today’s jazz scene.
Show dates calendar
- October 2022
- March 2023
- July 2023