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The Tamir Hendelman Trio Plays 'Like A Tight-Knit Sports Team'

Courtesy photo
Tamir Hendelman

“A trio can be a chamber ensemble, but it can also be a big band,” muses pianist Tamir Hendelman between tunes at Jazz, TX. “You have rhythm, you have harmony, you have melody.”

What else could you need?

Tamir Hendelman views the three-piece setting as a freeing experience, allowing the players to stretch out in different musical directions by way of the intense bond that forms between the musicians. Even the onstage setup lends itself to the experience, he says. “[We can] almost reach out and touch each other, [to] go to that chord, let’s make the groove go in this direction. It’s kind of like a tight-knit sports team.”

Hendelman emigrated to the United States from Israel in the 1980s, and still goes back to perform every two or three years. “There’s a mix of cultures in Israel that’s reflected in the music,” Hendelman says, noting influences from Russia, the Middle East, and even Brazil, thanks to army players who would travel to South America, soak up the sounds, and bring them back to Israel. One of the songs in this episode of “Live At Jazz, TX” reflects some of his thoughts about his homeland—the fourth song in the program is called “Israeli Waltz.”

During his time in the U.S., Hendelman has been in demand as a soloist and session player, performing with Diana Krall, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Natalie Cole, and Barbara Streisand. Hendelman remembers a session for Streisand’s 2009 album “Love Is The Answer.”

“So I came into the studio … and I said ‘what would you like to do?’ She said, ‘Well, do you know the song ‘Some Other Time,’ by Leonard Bernstein?’ So we hit it off musically. It was just very natural. And then I was invited to play with her at the Village Vanguard… she did a special performance one night only that came out as a DVD and later a tour with a symphony orchestra, basically about 40 or 50 people with the wonderful musical director Bill Ross. I really appreciated her musical sense. There was a recording day where she was doing a song with strings, and the arranger wrote a beautiful, sumptuous, very rich arrangement with big, thick billowing chords, and she said, ‘how about if we taper it down and just have a string quartet in the middle there, and then the orchestra can join later?’ So they did it, and then she said ‘yes… it's good that it's only a couple of people, but let's have them play actually more intensely rather than less intensely,’ and that's a very directorial kind of thing to say. [She was] looking at all the different aspects, you know. She's a director.”

"Live At Jazz, TX" airs Saturday nights at 7:00 on Texas Public Radio. You can also preview the show in the audio player below.

Nathan has been with TPR since 1995, when he began working on classical music station KPAC 88.3 FM, as host of “Tuesday Night at the Opera.” He soon learned the ropes on KSTX 89.1 FM, and volunteered to work practically any shift that came his way, on either station. He worked in nearly every capacity on the radio before moving into Community Engagement, Marketing, and Digital Media. His reporting and criticism has been honored by the Houston Press Club and Texas Associated Press.