Listening Local Continent-Hopping Musician Performing Jazz In Woods Hole
By: LUKE VOSE, June 17, 2014
One thing I like about jazz, kid, is that I don’t know what’s going to happen next. Do you?
World traveling saxophonist Itai Isenberg seems to share Mr. Beiderbecke’s sentiment. Whether deciding to solo a few extra bars or board a plane for a new adventure, he allows his passion for music to lead the way. Time and time again it brings him back to Cape Cod. This summer is no exception. He will be bringing his new jazz-funk quartet, The Little Big Band, to the Landfall Restaurant in Woods Hole every Saturday evening.
Itai was born in Cambridge but grew up in the seaside village of Mikhmoret, Israel. Music was always a part of his life. He began playing piano at age 4. He played on and off until the age of 14, when his passion for nightlife pulled him from the world of piano to club promoting. He organized parties all over Tel Aviv throughout his teenage years. Most every summer he would visit his family in Woods Hole and came to think of the village as a second home.
At the age of 17, music pulled him back. He was fascinated by the sounds that emanated from the saxophone. He also thought it would be an easy instrument to play. He soon found out, “There is no such thing as an easy instrument, or a difficult one for that matter. It’s all about using it and having as much fun as possible.”
He loved playing the horn but during his stint in the military from 18 to 21 he put music aside once again and ran nightclubs frequented by Israeli soldiers. Once he completed his service, he decided to explore the world a bit and headed for India.
He traveled without any instruments and soon felt that familiar yearning to play. He bought a cheap Chinese saxophone at a market in Bombay and found himself jamming with other travelers on hand drums and guitars. It was during these impromptu sessions on mountaintops, beaches, and around fires that music came to mean something deeper to Itai, as he told me, “It gave me a different perspective. I was having fun to a spiritual point, to where thought is left out of the way.”
Coming back to Israel with a new perspective, he enrolled in Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary music. For the next few years he played and studied music nonstop. During visits to the Cape he made many friends in the music scene including local pianist Glenway Fripp, who is currently in The Little Big Band.
After a few years Itai ran into a conundrum familiar to most musicians, balancing making music with making a living. He got back into the nightclub business and in a short time opened multiple clubs in Tel Aviv.
Last year, in what has become a familiar cycle in his life, he again put down the VIP passes and picked up the saxophone. This time he headed to Southern California to help his brother start up a business. Once the business was up and running Itai decided to try something he’d always wanted to do, make a living as a street musician. He put his faith in the horn and was rewarded. He found himself making a living playing his saxophone accompanied by a portable speaker of backing music on bustling street corners, cafes, and restaurants. He was also hired in various bands for private functions and parties.
Feeling the call of Cape Cod, he said good-bye to the sunny state, rented a car and headed east. Back in Woods Hole he started moving and shaking. He reconnected with old friend Glenway Fripp. The two decided to put together a jazz-funk band. They enlisted bassist Doug Sheprow and drummer Steve Goveia; The Little Big Band was born. Itai explained their sound this way: “The idea is to explore the connection between jazz and funk.
We will play some jazz standards and some funky jazz. We will play some Maceo Parker, Jaco Pastorius, Herbie Hancock as well as some original tunes Glenway wrote. We are hoping that people will bring their dancing shoes!”
Itai and The Little Big Band have already begun their residency at the Landfall. Every Saturday night Itai will warm up the crowd solo from 8 to 10 o’clock and then be joined by The Little Big Band from 10:30 until closing. He will also perform solo on select Friday nights at Phusion Grille.