Kobi Arad is an Israeli-Amercian musician who lives in New York, performs and composes in NYC’s top clubs like Blue Note, Jazz at Lincoln Center and City Winery. He collaborated with Stevie Wonder (a co-production with Stevie Wonder’s manger, Stephany Andrews and Stevie himself); has 20+ self-titled CD’s on amazon. He participated in different aired panel discussions and interviews with Zmira Luzki on IBA (Israeli national radio). Known for his uniquely expansive, cascading playing style, Arad is also the first musician in history to receive a Doctorate in the field of Contemporary Improvisation and Third Stream, in which field, he is world-wide authority. It was bestowed on him by the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.
In 2014, Kobi Arad has received award from the Israeli government, noting special excellence in Jazz and creative improvisation. Recently, Claes Nobel of the Nobel Peace Prize asked Arad to assemble 21 Grammy winners and nominees and produce them in Los Angeles with an African band called Ganda Boys. His song ‘Forever’ just won Silver Medal for Exceptional Achievement from Global Music Awards.
Pro Media Mag : First of all please introduce yourself to our readers.
Kobi Arad : Hello everyone, my name is Kobi Arad. I was born in Haifa, Israel, to a family who was not really associated with music. I had quite a difficult time finding myself in that type of environment (since my high school was also focused on regular study). Only at age of 18 did I move to Tel Aviv to serve in the military bands of IDF, where I began to find people with common inner world and spiritual interests. The introduction to Jazz music was a very colorful and refreshing change for me, since improvisation is my natural gift.
Pro Media Mag : Who or what inspired you to get into music industry?
Kobi Arad : In Israel, before arriving at the US – I was already lucky to have received the encouragement by influential radio editors, such as Zmira Luzki, who featured me several times in her aired show, which had panel discussions and auditions of my compositions. I arrived to the US to work on my masters and then Doctorate at New England Conservatory of Boston (I am privileged to be the only musician who’s earned doctorate in the field of Third Stream). Although I arrived here officially for study, in the back of my mind I saw myself working with my idols – the jazz artists and soul legends. Although there’s much further to accomplish – I could say I at least made a few milestones in that direction: When I was in Boston I made a project with Bob Moses and Cecil McBee, called ‘Sufi Songs’ in the Harvard Campus. Then I had the pleasure of co-producing a project with Stevie Wonder and his manager Stephany Andrews. It was a show in Boston Performance Center which featured several songs by Stevie. His office and himself helped me organize it, gave me feedback on song order and Stevie participated in the evening.
Now that was in Boston. After I moved to New York, I began performing in the Blue Note, Lincoln Center and the such. I also had the honor to launch 20+ albums, some of whom are featuring Jazz legend Roy Ayers, and Robert Margouleff (the same guy who produced Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions). My view regarding CD release, btw was shaped by Prince. I don’t believe in sitting and waiting for the “big” labels, but just getting up and actively sharing my music with world. Another shaping force was Herbie Hancock, whom I know for several years. He told me his secret
is to never pay attention to bad critics but just do, do and do.
Pro Media Mag : Our readers would like to know a little further about the Kobi Arad Band.
Kobi Arad : Ray MacNaught has been with me since 2009, when we began performing in NY. Except of being a master drummer (who could adapt himself to any style) – he is also a good friend. He brought in Bobby Maccalough into the recording of ‘Ellington Upside Down.’ Since Bobby also participated in the demanding making of ‘Cubism,’ he was well prepared for the huge undertaking of taking Ellington tunes and turning them inside out.
Pro Media Mag : Tell us about your recent CD “Ellington Upside Down”
Kobi Arad : Duke Ellington was for me a revered figure, who didn’t influence me directly – but rather seen as an influence of my role models (Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett etc.). I always knew he was important and challenging, and felt the need to do my personal homage to his stature and compositions.
I knew Ellington tunes, as quoted by many of my favorite artists, but never sat down with his own recordings. There came a point that I suddenly felt the importance and reverence we all owe this man. As a composer, improviser, pianist, – father. I felt his compositions had a lot in common with classical composers in their complexity and structure and their demanding harmonic language. So I took the concept of “Cubism” I coined at my previous CD “Cubism” – which essentially deals with hyper dimensional outlook in jazz. You don’t have to wait through the song to reach a particular place – just hit it from where you are. Like hyperspace – you are everywhere simultaneously. So I adopted the same notion in ‘Ellington Upside Down’ as well.
Pro Media Mag : What kind of response you have received from the release?
Kobi Arad : I was lucky to have quite a few enthusiastic reviews, and especially enthusiastic one by a friend and colleague Kabir Sehgal, who happens to be a Grammy Award Winning Producer and NY Times Bestselling Author.
Pro Media Mag : What attracts you more, performing on stage or working in studios?
Kobi Arad : Both. I find that performing on stage brings in an excitement and energetic circulation with the
listeners you cannot find in studio recording. But yet – the momentous and everlasting perfection that could be presented within a studio recording is very precious indeed. I feel this is truly one of the gifts of the 20th century to the world.
Pro Media Mag : How much your degree in music helped you improve your skills?
Kobi Arad : To a great extent. I had the pleasure to study and be exposed to great minds in music – from MacArthur Genius Award recipient Ran Blake, who was my personal instructor, to legendary Big Band leader Bob Brookmeyer, to the Pullitzer Prize Winner, who established the Third Stream style, Gunther Schuller.
Pro Media Mag : What’s your favorite music genre?
Kobi Arad : When I found out there was an established field in music called ‘Third Stream’, which was aimed at
merging classical and jazz, I was enthused beyond words, since I knew this was my calling in life. At the time I was in Israel, informing myself of precisely this combination of styles. When I earned Masters and Doctorate from New England Conservatory in that field, it meant a slot for me, because it wasn’t just an ‘occupation’ but my actual musical and artistic vision in life.
Pro Media Mag : Are you working on any new project?
Kobi Arad : I am working on some upcoming shows some featuring Roy Ayers (at the Blue Note, Iridium, Jazz Standard and Festivals) with my new manager. I am also working on some additional CD projects to be launched alongside with ‘Ellington Upside Down,’ such as ‘Flux – Song Cycle for Fender Rhodes Solo,’ as well as some featuring duet with oud, and an interesting esoteric electronic soundscaping project. Also a project that’s been ripening slowly is one with Brent Fischer (he’s got a grammy with Dangelo, and son of my idol, Clare Fischer, a genius musician who worked with Prince) for a project combining Hip Hop and Modern Classical Avant Garde.