“I am a world musician,” says Yoed Nir, the Israeli cellist whose distinctive cello tracks have captured the attention of diverse audiences, effortlessly crossing musical genres and continents. “If I had to compare my work with that of another artist, I think it would come closest to that of the amazing Zoë Keating,” he says thoughtful, yet equally hesitant to identify with any singular artist. The most cohesive factor in his work is that it is so versatile, fresh, and spontaneous, yet bares his own, personal signature.
Quitting his desirable post with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra after only a couple of months, the classically trained cellist recognized early on that his talent was meant to be honed as an individual emersion into many directions, perceptible on upcoming album, The Next Dream, set to be released on June 17th. The record was mastered by Alan Silverman and recorded at Celloman studios New York City. (Pre-order at http://goo.gl/xO8sLX )
Lush melodic scores, serve as musical soundtracks to the stuff that dreams are made out of, and inspire the imagination of the listener with thematic fusions of Eastern and Western musical traditions.
Photo credit: Sonya Kitchell
This album closely follows his debut recording Suspended Hours(cover photo by Sonya Kitchell, mastered by Steve Fallone at Sterling Sound), which was released in February 2013, and which Nir presented on tour and at SubCulture New York this February. “When I was doing the promotional performances for my first album, I realized I had another one in me. I am influenced by Bartók, Shostakovich, Mahler but also by Brazilian music and Jimi Hendrix – my music is accumulative of all these different languages, in an evocative, scenic way a film score is created in.”
Both of his albums feature his electric cello compositions, but The Next Dream adds some arrangements for voice to its layers of cello; on the first track, there are lyrical lines from the biblical “Song of Songs,” sung by singer/songwriter Sonya Kitchell. Track 5 features violin and voice without lyrics by Kishi Bashi, who, like Nir, toured with Regina Spector. In future recordings, Nir says he wants to elaborate on the voice and cello collaboration and feature different singers on each track. Both his recordings so far reflect on the sum of Nir’s instrumental mastery, the first one recorded during many road trips, in New York, Paris, and Israel, the second one in a New York studio.
Together, the two recordings draw a map of Nir’s development from his classical roots to his varied collaborations with artists across the board of musical genres.Nir’s work has been in demand worldwide and has appeared in over 600 recordings. His performance with the iconic Judy Collins at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, broadcasted on PBS, was nominated for a 2013 New York Emmy, and the number of collaborators who request Nir’s exciting and highly skilled arrangements, layers and overdub string sections and accompaniments, include a wide range of artists including Rufus Wainwright, Paul Banks, Diane Birch, and Kishi Bashi. His collaboration with Yael Naim on her 2008 album received the French Ministry of Culture’s Album of the Year award in the World Music Category, and Nir has appeared in numerous television broadcasts, including The Today Show, The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien (NBC), The Late Show with David Letterman (CBS), Good Morning America (ABC), and Later with Jools Holland (BBC).
Nir’s unique ease of varying stylistic approaches in classical/non-classical mixed programs have been key in New York performances like his latest Barge Music recital, combining diverging poles like Paul Hindemith and Jimi Hendrix with his own compositions for electric cello: “I am not a regular, 9-5 kind of guy,” he says. “I realized ten years ago, playing with an orchestra is simply not for me, I am a ‘session musician,’ and love being in a studio, and creating arrangements. I record many cello-tracks, and together they can have a singular or very polyphonic ensemble sound. On both of Yael Naim’s last recordings, for example, all the strings you hear, and it sounds quite orchestral, are my own, unique signature sound. Artists, especially singers, usually send me their tracks and I add my own input. I record track by track and they mix it, depending on what kind of balance they want to achieve. Most of my work can be done from anywhere, and when on tour, I often just record in the hotel room. For my own work, everything centers on creating different sounds for the cello, which I fell in love with as a small child.”
One of his latest projectsis a recording with Judy Collins, at AVATR Studios in New York, for the song called Stars in my eyes, to be performed by the legendary singer for the soundtrack of the upcoming film called Helpless. Nir created an entire arrangement of orchestral sound of his multiple recorded cello tracks, ready for the mix, right there in the studio.
Another one of Nir’s recent collaborations is “Parlor Music,” a disc to be released in 2015 by Anzic Records, which was co-founded by composer/arranger/pianist Lev-Ari and Anat Cohen. The project will showcase Cohen’s virtuosity as a jazz clarinetist/saxophonist, and for the first time, Lev-Ari himself will play piano on recording, and lead all of his own compositions. “When I was planning for my recording, I wanted each of the cello chairs to have their own, distinct voice,” Lev-Ari says, indicating that Nir’s tracks seem to have accomplished his vision fully; he raves: “Yoed is not only a first-rate instrumentalist, able to bring beauty and substance to any composition…he also is a creative force, able to compose and improvise; a rare and powerful combination.”
“Nothing is really natural,” says Nir, “everything matters, every detail, even how you sit. The performance is just a final result, in that it contains the technique in the broadest sense, musical, spiritual, even interpretation is part of the technique. In order to sound natural, you have to build everything up and constantly analyze, and just after many years there are those moments of joy, that magic that attracts every artist who pursues that road.”
These days, Nir’s composition process happens very fast and freely. The creation of each track does not take longer than a few hours: “I never come back and change things around. That’s how I work; I spontaneously bring all my ideas with me, and then take them down, without restrictions or boundaries. I believe that’s a very powerful tool, but of course that did not happen out of the blue. There was a long learning experience, and I did my share of over thinking, but I found myself limited in creating then – it was not quite me. It’s the most difficult thing to find it in you, what you have to say as an artist. The first part is knowing that you want to express yourself, the second – endless – part is to search and find what exactly that is. Now I am at a point where I’ve found myself in my music. It’s all there – all you have to do is listen.”
In his master classes, Nir demonstrates his theories about thinking out of the “classical musician box,” discussing his techniques of playing different styles, improvisation, and experimenting creatively. Besides pointing out specifics about his beloved instrument – the cello – like movement, intonation, vibrato, good sound, and bow changes, he addresses general points of interests relevant to every musician, like getting gigs, promoting yourself, and finding your inner producer. Sounds like an interesting music lesson for fans as well!
For inquiries visit Yoed Nir’s website: www.yoednir.com