The Israeli singer Noa arrives in Alicante next July 4 with two albums under his arm. The first, Letters to Bach, published in 2020 and produced by Quincy Jones, contains several pieces by the German genius to which Noa has written to tell her concerns about today’s world. In the second, Afterallogy, edited together with his inseparable guitarist, Gil Dor, has been released to the American songbook covering compositions by Cole Porter (Anything goes or Every time we say goodbye), Jimmy Van Heusen (Darn that dream), Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart (My funny valentine) or even Leonard Bernstein (Something’s Coming). Become one of the most important voices in an intergenerational movement that advocates for coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians, Noa acknowledges that transmitting a pacifist message when the conflict between the two peoples appears cyclically in all the news in the world, “it is not easy, but It is a way of life”.
From Bach to the American songbook. What makes certain classics always modern?
Duke Ellington said that “there are two kinds of music: the good ones and all the others. The “good things” exist in all languages and styles, and they survive the test of time. Gil Dor and I have worked together for 31 years. We have written many songs, recorded many albums, explored many styles, worked with wonderful musicians. In these two albums we are paying tribute to the great composers who have inspired us, who have inspired humanity. Classical music and jazz are genres that have crossed borders and have been implanted in the hearts of musicians and audiences around the world. In these dark days, when it seems that humanity is on a clear path to self-destruction, when there is so much greed and so much incivility, it is important to remember that humanity has also produced incredible beauty, a miraculous and wonderful beauty that is so close to divinity. I at least imagine it that way. Bach, and the great composers featured on Afterallogy, demonstrate that fact clearly.
How do you distinguish between that “good music” and “the rest” that Ellington used to say?
I think the good has to do with intention. What are you fighting for? If your goal is to be rich and famous, to be successful, to be loved by people at all costs, you are probably not going to do the “nice things.” If you are trying to touch something deep in the soul of music, solve a puzzle, illuminate a hidden corner, touch the sky, and if you have a great talent and the planets align, ah! You can have the opportunity to do good things!
The inclusion of Something Coming from West Side Story is surprising. Is Bernstein the bridge between those two eras?
Bernstein is one of my favorite songwriters of all time! When I was a child growing up in New York, I admired musical theater and went to see all the Broadway shows. West Side Story was by far my favorite! I was able to meet him when I was 15 years old, it was a meeting that changed my life! Bernstein also represents the contribution of Jewish composers to the American Songbook … Being a Jew myself, this was also an important point for me to highlight.
You have always had ties to jazz. You worked with Pat Metheny and Quincy Jones, you made records like Love Medicine. Is this a consequence of your childhood in the United States?
Jazz is ubiquitous in the United States, especially in cities like New York. It’s like folk music, it’s so natural in your life that you hardly even realize it’s there. It is heard on the streets, in clubs and theaters, in dance halls, restaurants and elevators, hummed by the homeless man in the park and the millionaire in his limousine. It is like air and water.
Were you worried about choosing songs already sung by myths like Ella Fitzgerald or Sara Vaughan?
It is precisely for that reason that it took me 31 years to make this album. Today, when I sing these songs, I am not a young, unknown singer who begins her career “imitating” the greats. I have earned my voice through years of hard work, creative composition, exploration and performance, learning and refining. Today I feel that every sound that comes out of my mouth carries in its wings the depth of all those years, the pain and the laughter and the beauty, the mistakes and the glory, today I no longer need to prove anything to anyone. That’s why this album sounds like it does. Also, this album is a tribute to an incredible friendship and collaboration between Gil and myself. Our way of playing together comes from a deep mutual respect and understanding, a musical telepathy that can only be achieved through a lifetime of making music together.
The innovative element of Letters to Bach was writing lyrics that weren’t meant to be sung. What’s the innovation of Afterallogy?
On this album, Gil and I arrange and perform the songs in a unique way for us. It’s in the sensitivity, the lyrics, the unique harmonization, the way I improvise on the melody, the deep connection to the words and ideas being played … Jazz standards are often used as platforms for improvisation with very little connection to the poetry of the song itself. Here we do the opposite. There are also lyrics and music that we add, like in This masquerade, which has completely new parts, a story within a story. I wrote new lyrics for Anything Goes, playing themes relevant to the present, I wrote lyrics for Pat Metheny’s piece Letter form Home, Eyes of Rain is my own original song, Walts for Neta was written by Gil. Oh Lord is our original song, a wonderful Hebrew poem about an encounter with God in a smoky cafe and with music by Gil.
You are a well-known peace activist and that is why some people describe you as an Israeli phobia. Are you worried that some people outside of Israel consider you, on the other hand, as part of an oppressive nation?
Throughout my career, I have been a very clear supporter of peace. Two states for two towns. In Israel, there are millions of people who want to live in peace, who work and fight for it. A government is temporary. A nation survives. Peace will prevail. I’m not a fear-driven person and I don’t waste time worrying about what people think of me. I prefer to spend my time working, making good music and implementing the great phrase “love your brother as yourself”, which is my motto. I think I will finally be judged by the universe for what I sing, do and say. I do the best I can.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.