Journey to Gythia

Adam Baruch:

Australian born pianist / composer John Bostock has been living in Israel since the late 1980s and by now is an integral part of the local music scene. Although primarily celebrated for his work in the contemporary Classical Music, his ongoing flirt with Jazz has become his second nature by now. Although some Jazz motifs have sneaked here and there into his Classical compositions over the years, this is a debut Jazz album. The music was written about a decade prior to the recording, inspired by his trip in Greece. Bostock attempted to record the music shortly after it was written but abandoned the project, obviously not “ready” at the time. His instinct paid off big time, as I can’t imagine a more perfect execution of this music other than what is present on this record. Supported by two marvelous players: Guy Levy on bass and Danny Benedikt on drums, this piano trio (my favorite Jazz format) is truly exceptional, bringing immediate associations with Bill Evans being the most obvious, especially in view of the absolute technical brilliance and fluidity of Bostock’s piano playing, the amazing interplay between the trio members and the romantic, lyrical character of the music. The music, all composed by Bostock (except for one standard) is also exceptional. Beautifully melodic and yet full of brilliant ideas and harmonic surprises, seemingly “easy” on the ear but full of unique ideas. In short – a great example of what Jazz is really all about. I must admit that this album shatters one of the “commonly known” cliches: “Classical musicians can’t swing”, as it swings like hell from start to finish. Beautifully recorded , with perfect balance between the three instruments, which is so devilishly difficult to achieve, it surely deserves the title of an audiophile recording. I can say with clear conscience that this is one of the best Jazz albums ever recorded in Israel and I can’t wait for the next Bostock piano trio album. Marvelous!

Ben Shalev’s Review from Haaretz

The opposite of postcards
By Ben Shalev

John Bostock’s new album is called “Journey to Gythia.” “Gythia,” he says, “is a place in Greece, in the Peloponnese that he visited a few days before he came on aliyah to Israel – 18 years ago. “I took a small local bus there and traveled from one beautiful place to another. That’s the whole story. When I wrote the music that later became the motif of the album, this mental picture suddenly came back to me.”

The not-quite-a-story about the trip to Gythia is a good illustration of the spirit of Bostock’s excellent album, which is the first jazz disc by the pianist and composer, most of whose activity takes place in the arena of contemporary classical music. “Journey to Gythia” is a sensitive and restrained musical journey, without any hair-raising experiences or breathtaking landscapes. Bostock’s works are the opposite of postcards: sketches of feelings and emotions, based on patient observation and profound attentiveness.

The new album was recorded in 2004 with drummer Danny Benedict and contrabassist Guy Levy, but the works included in it were written about 10 years ago. Bostock recorded them shortly after they were written, with other partners, but decided to shelve the finished product. “I had too many unfulfilled expectations at the time,” he says.

Last year, after completing a doctorate in composition, he decided to try again. “This time we recorded with a sense of freedom, without expectations. We wanted to do something relaxed. Simply to play and to see where it went. A lot of it came from the gut, it’s not something intellectual.”

Bostock’s assertion notwithstanding, the beauty of “Journey to Gythia” seems to lie in the combination of the emotional and intellectual. As opposed to Bostock’s modernistic music, which he himself admits is liable to annoy the listener at times, the works in “Journey to Gythia” are easy listening. “When you play jazz, you can be lyrical, even romantic, things that are not part of the language of modern music,” he says.

However, his classical training is obvious in several of the works, which are played in a rhythm that is not entirely jazzy. “It’s true, these are not standard works,” says Bostock. “That’s how it emerges in my playing, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

Going wild with Albert Beger

Bostock, 51, was born in Australia. He studied at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, training to be a piano teacher, and in the evenings he played electric piano in a jazz and rock ensemble.

“I think that I didn’t make much of an impression. I didn’t care much, either. At that point, I already had my eye on avant-garde,” he says.

Later he went to study jazz in New York and then tried to settle in London. That was in 1985, the year of the great miners’ strike, and Bostock says that he didn’t want to live in such a depressing place. His next destination was Kibbutz Matsuba, where he came as a volunteer. In the kibbutz he met his future wife and since then has been in Israel. In the late 1980s, he began to study at the Rubin Music Academy in Tel Aviv.

“I think that jazz brought me to modern music. Or to be more precise, the desire to expand my language of improvisation brought me to composition,” he says. The route that he designated for himself was very strict. He accepted the restrictions of avant-garde, for example, the rules of serial music, out of an awareness of the fact that the discovery of his independent voice as a composer would be a long and gradual process, and until then he would be better off becoming part of some tradition.

After completing his bachelor’s degree at the academy, he met jazz saxophonist Albert Beger, joined the quartet founded by Beger, and recorded two albums with him. “During that period I made a clear separation between my two careers. On the one hand, I was a serious composer, and on the other, I went wild on stage with Albert,” says Bostock. Anyone who attended the performances of the ensemble cannot but wonder at the way in which the pianist recalls them. Beger certainly went wild, but his cooperation with Bostock was so successful just because the pianist maintained restraint, both in his playing and in his stage behavior.

Bostock has twice been awarded the ACUM prize (ACUM is the Hebrew acronym for the Israeli society of authors, composers and music publishers), and leading orchestras here have played his works.

Has he found his unique voice?

“It’s a process,” he replies. “I’m still searching. When I find it, it’s always after the fact. I hear things that I’ve done and see a common denominator in them. Something of my own that emerges unintentionally.”

Recently, alongside a certain weakening of the avant-garde element of Bostock’s music, there is an increasing infiltration of jazz elements.

“The true test is whether it happens in an unconscious manner,” says Bostock. “I’m still not certain. In any case, there is no doubt that consciously, I’m doing it more and more.” For example, the work “Music for Eight Instruments,” which will be performed this year by the 21st Century Ensemble, is based on a jazz song by Bostock, and includes parts that are partially improvised. “The greatest problem is to get a classical ensemble to play with a sense of jazz. You can’t write swing into the partitura,” says Bostock, beginning to play a work of his, “Concerto for Chamber Music,” which is influenced by “Bitches Brew” by Miles Davis and was performed several years ago by the Israeli ensemble “Musica Nova.”

While listening to the performance, he shifts uneasily in his seat. It is obvious that he is not totally satisfied. “If I could only bring Tony Williams into the classical ensemble,” he says with a smile, “it could have been perfect.” (Tony Williams was Davis’s regular drummer in the 1960s.)

If you want to hear some samples from this album here is a Link to my pages at CDBaby.

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