By Carolyn Graye
Israeli-born guitarist and composer, Mordy Ferber, completed a West Coast tour earlier this month. He teamed up with drummer Greg Williamson and bassist Chris Symer for a run of Seattle area gigs that included Boxley’s in North Bend, the Jazz and Sushi series at Hiroshi’s, and a set at the Pony Boy Jazz Picnic. In addition, Mordy and Chris also played an intimate duo house concert that was interesting on several levels.
Ivy Nugent and Julie Olson have been presenting musicians at Ivy and Jamie Nugent’s West Seattle home under the auspices of Jazzscapes. This show wasn’t part of their regular programming, but the setting was just as spectacular. A beautiful garden overlooking Puget Sound and the Olympic mountains, great live music, wine, appetizers…really, what’s not to love? And the story behind the event is just as unique.
In May, Ivy was walking on a beach in Tel Aviv and noticed a guy wearing a Pony Boy tee shirt. She got to talking with him, found out he was a jazz guitarist, and invited him to do a gig at her home the next time he came to Seattle. Four months later, Mordy was serenading her guests, her neighbors, and the fish in her lily pond.
Ferber uses an artful combination of effects to create a distinctly personal sound. His early love of rock and roll combines with a jazz sensibility that makes arrangements of standards anything but routine. Ballads (Peace, When Sunny Gets Blue, Blue in Green,) blues (Turn Around, Blue Monk,) and up tempo tunes (In Your Own Sweet Way, Sweet and Lovely,) were all deftly dismantled and reassembled with skill and sensitivity.
But as nice as the standards were, the highlight of the evening was a short, haunting original, ‘River of Life,’ from a yet-to-be released recording titled Reflection. When we chatted during the break, Mordy mentioned that he missed hearing the piano and drum parts on the CD (which features Portland-based musicians Greg Goebel, Todd Strait, Rob Davis, and Dave Captein.) But from the audience’s perspective, the duo version was a knock out.
Ferber won a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music, and moved to the U.S. when he was twenty-three. He graduated in 1987, built up a following in Boston, and moved to New York in 1990. Since then he’s performed and recorded with Michael Brecker, Dave Liebman, Billy Hart, Richie Beirach, Richard Bona, and a host of other internationally known artists. He’s currently on the faculty of the New School and continues to tour internationally, record, and compose for TV and film.
Go hear him the next time he’s in town. And if you get a chance to do that on a beautiful summer evening with a magenta sunset, all the better.