After many years of study with master musicians around the world, Itzhak Ventura explores the sound of the ney (Middle Eastern end-blown reed flute) as part of his contemporary quartet. Aligned, his debut release, unfolds his personal story with heartfelt and virtuosic musicianship.
Itzhak Ventura’s long relationship with the ney (Middle Eastern end-blown reed flute) started whilst growing up in the vibrant port of Jaffa-Tel Aviv, a cultural hotspot of a city and very much the heartbeat of Israel’s music scene. The difficulties of learning an instrument not in any way connected with his homeland, meant that Itzhak had to go to extraordinary lengths to achieve his goal. After teaching himself how to play the Arabic ney, he then travelled to Istanbul where he learned how to play the Turkish variation of the instrument.
The ney’s close relationship with Sufism led to Itzhak’s fascination with Sufi practice and philosophy and with the guidance of the words by the great mystical theologian Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī he discovered the Persian Sufis’ own variation of the instrument. With its totally different method of playing, learning this instrument and understanding the principles of Persian music meant starting all over again, so for several years he dedicated himself to its study under the tutelage of the only two masters in Israel, Amir Shahasar and Rabby Eyal Saeed Many. Because of the difficulties of visiting Iran, Itzhak duly travelled to California, home to a large community of Iranians, to further absorb the culture of Persian music. In turn, he was able to learn from other masters living in the area and hone his own sound and technique of the Persian ney, which he plays on 8 of the 10 pieces on this album.
The inspiration behind this album lies in Itzhak’s life changing experience around four years ago when he was diagnosed with cancer. As he explains, “The shocking news forced me to re-evaluate my life and not to take things for granted. I got a new perspective about what is really important, like taking care of my body and mind as well as expressing gratitude for my family and friends. I also promised to express myself, and so I began, for the first time, to compose.” Thanks to the financial help of his close friend Michal, he was able to receive the best medical treatment and make a full recovery. His eternal gratitude is marked by the uplifting and fittingly titled ‘For Michal’, the first track to be composed for the album and something of a watershed moment which spawned an incredible burst of creativity, and without intending to, soon resulted in this wonderful debut release.
In addition to playing with the Jerusalem Orchestra East & West since its inception in 2009, Itzhak has played with other renowned orchestras and musicians across a wide range of musical genres. His goal for this album was to create a new hybrid, combining both ancient ney flute styles and motifs with contemporary sounds and production, whilst still maintaining the traditional musical principals and ideology with which he was raised. To achieve this, he enlisted the help of some of the finest local musicians, Avri Borochov (double bass), Aviv Cohen (drums) and Yonatan Daskal (piano & keyboards), creating a quartet which allowed him to integrate the ney and its heritage into the context of a contemporary and jazz-infused setting. This was further aided by tuning the piano with quarter tones for certain tracks to adjust it to the Persian radif system.
The poignant ‘Reclaim’ is another deeply symbolic track for Itzhak, representing his recovery after he was involved in a serious road accident whilst riding a scooter, which miraculously resulted in just a broken clavicle bone. The accompanying video to this song sees Itzhak communicating the healing process through his practice of the Ido Portal method (free movement fitness) which resolves with him being able to pick up and play his instrument again.
Aligned is an uplifting album laced with deep emotions and exquisite musicianship representing the culmination of years of dedication and sacrifice to attain mastery of a musician’s chosen instrument.