AUGUST 24, 2017 – Though he was born in Tel Aviv and first landed on American soil in Los Angeles, pianist and composer Tamir Hendelman has strong ties to our neck of the woods. In addition to studying at the Tanglewood Institute, he also attended the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, N.Y.
Perhaps that is why he is so excited to be appearing at the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport on September 8.
“The audience is really there for the music, and the setting is absolutely beautiful,” Hendelman said.
Growing up in Israel, Hendelman never suspected that he would one day perform with the likes of Gladys Knight, John Pizzarelli, and the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, but he may have had hints.
“As a 6-year-old, I remember walking down Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv, and passing by the big music store, where someone was demonstrating the newest electric organ to a customer,” Hendelman recalled. “I was enchanted by the sound and knew I wanted to get into music right there and then.”
Inspired by Israeli stars such as Matti Caspi, Shlomo Grunich, Kaveret, and Yoni Rechter, Hendelman also listened to everything from Dave Brubeck to Beethoven.
When he joined HaTzofim – the Israeli version of the Boy Scouts – Hendelman was asked to be part of the musical troupe.
“I wrote a song about Tel Aviv for a competition,” he recalled. “When it was selected, I was given a choice of arranging it for professionals or having a professional arrange it.”
Though he deferred to the professional, Hendelman said the resulting rendition was not as he had envisioned it.
“So I decided I would arrange my own songs from there on,” he said.
From Count Basie and Chick Corea to the Swingle Singers, Hendelman continued to expand his musical horizons and to absorb all he could into his own compositions. When not out at concerts, he also was privy to the musical influences of his grandmothers, who were both known to belt out Yiddish and Israeli folk tunes and American show tunes from their nearby apartments.
As American music had become such a big influence, Hendelman was excited when his family relocated to Los Angeles in 1984.
“I was exposed to a lot more classical and jazz music,” he recalled.
Eager to make his mark in his the U.S, Hendelman entered a music competition and placed second in his age group. After the event, one of the judges approached and invited him to meet.
“He became one of my mentors,” said Hendelman of the award-winning composer Joe Harnell, who worked with Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne and Pearl Bailey.
A few years later, Harnell invited Hendelman to come to Tanglewood to study composing. Once on the East Coast, Hendelman decided to stay a while and attended the Eastman School of Music in northwestern New York State.
“This was a very intense experience,” said the classical composition major. “It was a great chance to be exposed more deeply to music, lead my own trio, and explore solo improvisations.”
When he returned to Los Angeles, Hendelman began hanging out with such stars as drummer Billy Higgins and saxophonist Teddy Edwards.
“I got to learn standards the old-fashioned way,” he said. “On the bandstand.”
It was during this period that Hendelman began working with such vibrant vocalists as Cathy Segal-Garcia, Tierney Sutton, and Sandra Booker. “I loved how each vocalist would have their own very individual take on the same song,” he recalled. “I got to learn a lot of repertoire this way.”
Hendelman has recorded a series of acclaimed albums, some his own compositions and others as part of larger groups. While his list of musical influences continues to grow, he also takes inspiration from his daughters, Zoe and Sophia.
“My tune ‘Playground’ was inspired by the birth of my first daughter, Zoe,” he said of the title track of his 2008 debut album. “Her younger sister, Sophia, will soon get her own song, I hope.”
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit rockportmusic.org or call 978-546-7391.