While the UK media focused on bunting, NATO announced the substantial deepening of its most shameful alliance with the vicious Uzbek dictatorship. As long prefigured in this blog, NATO is forced to retreat from Afghanistan through Uzbekistan, after cutting yet more deals to support the World’s most vicious torture and slave labour regime. The irony of this when the Afghan “Mission” still pretends to be about bringing democracy and human rights to Afghanistan, is apparently lost on the entire western media. I cannot find a single article critical of the NATO deal.
NATO have not announced what specific sweeteners the governments of Uzbekistan, Kirghizstan and Kazakhstan are going to get. It is worth noting that they will have to pass through either Uzbekistan or Kirghizstan first to reach Kazakhstan, and the transport logistics are such over 80% of this will have to be through Uzbekistan.
Doubtless large official payments are being made to the governments for transit rights, while in both Uzbekistan and Kirgizhstan there is a track record of using transport, fuel etc suppliers owned by the ruling families, and I have no doubt that will be a major continuing part of the operation. Other intrinsic parts of the deal have officially been conducted outside of NATO, such as the lifting of EU and US arms embargoes imposed after the 2005 Andijan massacre by the Uzbek government of over 800 pro-democracy demonstrators. The UK and USA have resumed military training of Karimov’s soldiers and the USA has resumed large subsidies to his notorious secret police.
Less tangible but more prized still by Karimov is the political support, the ending of pressure over Uzbekistan’s appalling human rights record and the high level visits in both directions with major capitals to pander to Karimov’s thirst for official acclaim. I heard again today from an Uzbek source that part of the deal is for Gulnara Karimova to become Uzbek Ambassador in London. The FCO continues to deny this; but take my word for it, by the end of next year we will have seen both Karimov and his daughter parading the streets of London.
I would like to hope that this will backfire, that the transit of NATO past 12,000 political prisoners in gulags will not be silently passed over by the western media and political class. But I fear I am wrong.
I highly recommend this series of videos compiled thematically from clips of the various speakers at the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights‘ High Level Hearing on Uzbekistan in Berlin. It is all the more powerful as it juxtaposes without comment the official German government (and NATO) view with that of human rights and democracy campaigners
The State of Human Rights in Uzbekistan
State-sponsored Child Labor in the Uzbek Cotton Fields
The Responsibility of Economic Actors
The Role of Germany and the EU
Termez, NATO and the Conflict of Democratic Values
Karimov Regime: The World’s Largest Family-Owned Business
What Should the West Do?
Whistleblowers want the sun and the moon — or at least they want to get their information out there, they want to make a difference, they want a fair hearing, and they don’t want to pay too high a personal price for doing so.
But why the hell shouldn’t they? The decision to expose criminality and bad practice for the public good has serious, life-changing implications.
By going public about serious concerns they have about their workplace, they are jeopardising their whole way of life: not just their professional reputation and career, but all that goes with it, such as the ability to pay the mortgage, their social circle, their family life, their relationship… Plus, the whistleblower can potentially risk prison or worse.
So, with these risks in mind, they are certainly looking for an avenue to blow the whistle that will offer a degree of protection and allow them to retain a degree of control over their own lives. In the old days, this meant trying to identify an honourable, campaigning journalist and a media organisation that had the clout to protect its source. While not impossible, that could certainly be difficult, and becomes increasingly so in this era of endemic electronic surveillance.
Today the other option is the secure, high-tech publishing conduit, as trail-blazed by Wikileaks. While this does not provide the potential benefits of working with a campaigning journalist, it does provide anonymity and a certain degree of control to the modern whistleblower, plus it allows their information to reach a wide audience without either being filtered by the media or blocked by government or corporate injunctions.
As someone who has a nodding acquaintance with the repercussions of blowing the whistle on a secret government agency, I have liked the Wikileaks model since I first stumbled across it in 2009.
Never before has this been technically possible — the idea that a whistleblower’s information could be made freely available to the citizens of the world, in order to inform their democratic choices, with no blockage, not censorship, no filtering or “interpretation” by the corporate media.
This is particularly relevant in an age when the global media has been consolidated in the hands of a few multinationals, and when these multinationals have a certain, shall we say “cosy”, relationship with many of top our politicians and power elites.
The control of the mainstream media by the spooks and governments has been the focus of many of my recent talks. These corrupt inter-relationships have also been recently laid bare with the News International phone-hacking scandals.
The days of garnering news from one favoured paper or TV bulletin are long gone. Few people now trust just one media outlet — they skip across a variety of news sources, trying to evaluate the truth for themselves. But even that can be problematic when something big occurs, such as the “justification” for the invasion of Iraq or Libya, and the current beat of war drums against Iran, when the corporate media mysteriously achieves a consensus.
Hence the democratic disconnect, hence the distrust, and hence (in part) the plummeting profits of the old media.
Wikileaks is based on a simple concept - it allows the people to read the source material for themselves and make up their own minds based on real information. This led to exposure of all kinds of global nasties way before the massive 2010 US data-dump.
Despite this approach, the impact was initially subdued until Wikileaks collaborated with the old media. This, as we all know, did indeed produce the coverage and awareness of those issues deemed important as it was filtered through the MSM. This has also inevitably lead to tensions between the new model hacktivists and the old-school journalists.
No government, least of all the USA, likes to have demands for justice and transparency forced upon it, and the push back since 2010 has been massive across the world in terms of an apparently illegal financial blockade, opaque legal cases and a media backlash. Certain of Wikileaks’s erstwhile media partners have collaborated in this, turning on one of their richest sources of information in history.
However, Wikileaks is more than a media source. It is a whole new model — a high-tech publisher that offers a safe conduit for whistleblowers to cache and publicise their information without immediately having to overturn (and in some cases risk) their lives.
For this work, Wikileaks has over the years won a number of internationally prestigious journalism awards.
Inevitably, critics in the mainstream media seem to want to have their cake and eat it too: one early partner, the New York Times, has written that it doesn’t recognise Wikileaks as a journalist organisation or a publisher — it is a source, pure and simple.
Either way, by saying this the media are surely shooting themselves in the corporate feet with both barrels. If Wikileaks is indeed “just” a source (the NYT seems to be blithely forgetting that good journalism is entirely dependent on its sources), then the media are breaking their prime directive: protect a source at all costs.
However, if Wikileaks is a journalism or publishing organisation and as such is being targeted by the US government, then all other media are surely equally at risk in the future?
By not standing up for Wikileaks in either capacity, it appears that the old media have a death wish.
Over the years whistleblowers around the world have demonstrated their trust in Wikileaks, as it was set up by someone emerging from the original bona fide hacker community. And rightly so — let’s not forget that no source has been exposed through the failure of the organisation’s technology.
Many media organisations rushed to emulate its success by trying to set up their own “secure” whistleblowing repositories. What the media execs failed to understand was the hacker ethos, the open source mentality: they went to their techie department or commercial IT service providers and said “we want one”, but failed to understand both the ethos and the security concerns around closed, proprietary software systems, often channelled through the post–Patriot Act, post–CISPA USA.
Other, apparently well-meaning organisations, also tried to emulate the Wikileaks model, but most have died a quiet death over the last year. Perhaps, again, for want of real trust in their origin or tech security?
Why on earth would any security-conscious whistleblower, emerging out of a government, military or intelligence organisation, trust such a set-up? If someone comes out of such an environment they will know all-too-well the scale of the push-back, the possible entrapments, and the state-level resources that will used to track them down. They either need an über-secure whistleblowing platform, or they need journalists and lawyers with fire in their belly to fight the fight, no matter what.
So now to OpenLeaks — apparently the brainchild of Wikileaks defector Daniel Domsheit-Berg. He and the shadowy “Architect” famously fell out with Julian Assange in late 2010, just when the political heat was ramping up on the organisation. They left, reportedly taking some of the crucial coding and a tranche of files with them, and Domsheit-Berg decided to set up a rival organisation called OpenLeaks. As a result of his actions, Domsheit-Berg was uniquely cast out of the international hacker group, the CCC in Berlin.
He now seems to have been welcomed back into the fold and OpenLeaks appears, finally, to be ready to receive whistleblower information.
However, there is a crucial difference between the two organisations. Where Wikileaks wants to lay the information out there for public evaluation, OpenLeaks will merely act as a repository for certain approved mainstream media organisations to access. We are back to the original blockage of the corporate media deciding what information we, the people, should be allowed to ingest.
I would not wish to comment on Domsheit-Berg’s motivation, but to me this seems to be an even worse option for a whistleblower than directly contacting a campaigning journalist with a proven track record of covering hard-core stories and fighting for the cause.
With OpenLeaks, the whistleblower loses not only the automatic widespread dissemination of their information, but also any semblance of control over which journalists will be working on their story. Their information will be parked on the website and anyone from pre-selected media organisations will be able to access, use and potentially abuse it.
One could say that OpenLeaks operates as a secure staging platform where a whistleblower can safely store sensitive documents and information.… but the founder allegedly removed and destroyed sensitive files from Wikileaks when he jumped ship in 2010. Could any whistleblower really trust that OpenLeaks would not similarly “disappear” shit-hot information in the future?
Plus, there is the added worry for any rightly-paranoid whistleblower that the founder of OpenLeaks so easily abandoned Wikileaks when under pressure. Who’s to say that this would not happen again, if the full might of the Pentagon were brought to bear on OpenLeaks?
OpenLeaks offers neither the personal support of working with a trusted journalist and a media organisation with the clout to fight back, nor does it provide full disclosure to the wider public to side-step potential media self-censorship and government law suits, as the original Wikileaks model does.
As such OpenLeaks seems, at least to this particular whistleblower, to be an evolutionary blip — a retrograde step — in the quest for justice and accountability.
The Moscow City Court upheld last Thursday a district court’s decision to ban gay parades in the Russian Capital for the next 100 years. Not just one year, two years or even ten years, the court was pretty clear about it all-a century with no gay parades. Pretty sinister I would say.
As it seems Homosexuality is not very popular amongst Russia’s political establishment. In 2007, Former Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov described attempts to hold a gay parade in the capital as “satanic.” In fact, no gay Parade has ever been officially permitted in Russia. Russian gays are heavily discriminated. But they should never lose hope. In the last few days I have come up with a simple and creative solution that would calm this rift down and may even bring peace to what is left of occupied Palestine.
As we all know, Israel opens its arms to Russians and East Europeans Goyim who are happy enough to live in the ‘Jews Only State’ and even pretend to be Zionist Jews and hate Arabs accordingly. But Israel is also ‘the only democracy in Middle east’- it is open, liberal and tolerant. Tel Aviv is famous for being ‘The World’s Gay Capital’.
If Russian gays are unhappy with their meshigine Goyim homophobic leaders, they should simply make Aliya and join more than one million of their expatriates who already live happily in Israel. I believe that that such a wave of something between three to twenty million pride-seeking Russian immigrants would make Israel into a really nice place. Living in the rapidly expanding shore-city Gay Aviv, the new Russians will enjoy the sun, the beach and the famous hospitality of the Israelis. Considering Israel being an open, inclusive society, dynamic, liberal, democratic State, it won’t take long before the indigenous Hebrews amend their national narrative, they will probably name their reforming state IsraGay. They may even introduce some new rainbow colours to their precious Star of David. Believe me, it won’t take long before GDF’s (the newly formed Gay Defence Force) generals launch a peace dialogue with IsraGay’s neighbouring country and even some leading Palestinian One Gay Solution advocates. Let’s leave bigotry behind, together we cross the divide, peace may prevail after all.
The role played by Israel and the one played by the Gulf countries is no doubt complementary without previous planning or coordination, the British colonialists have allowed – though – some independence for some countries but not for the Gulf countries. He who thinks that US/Israeli relations are stronger than US/Gulf relations is wrong and mistaken and as deluded as the Jews who think that the world order is backing them unconditionally.
The US does not favor Israel over the Gulf Regimes; the US treats both alike since they are both world order police and their function is well defined and restricted to this. They are like identical twins. What has happened is that the world order had usurped the land of Palestine and lent it to the Jews as it had usurped the Arabian peninsula and gave it to the Saudi Kings.
At this point the Israeli rulers and the Saudi rulers are co workers, they work for the same boss, nothing prevents the Saudis – if this is the will of the boss – from extending their power and start ruling Israel instead of Israelis since they will carry on the same duties that were carried by Israelis assigned by their common employer.
There is competition now among Israeli Jews and Sunnis of who is going to carry on the world order scheme and who qualifies better and serves better the policies of the world order? Israelis are faring poorly and have failed in imposing themselves as an indefeatable military power since a few men from Hizbullah were able to defeat them. The Jews have not realized yet the implications of such defeat that will cause the world order to look for an alternative and maybe choose one – finally – to replace them. They have not become aware of how dispensable they are in regard to the world order.
Changing the nature of the rule and the identity and religion of the State of Israel could be become a must where a dynasty like the Saudi dynasty or a rule like the Turkish rule could achieve a better job at a lesser cost and serve better the world order.
This presumed competition between Jews and Sunnis manifests itself also in the relation between Turkey and Israel over the future of the State of Israel and could explain the Mavi Marmara slaughter . Falls under this label as well the shift in the position of HAMAS from the Iranian/Syrian/Hizbullah alliance to join the Sunni alignment of Turkey and KSA and become candidate to the almost vacant job of ruling Palestine on behalf of the world order. This also explains the rush of QATAR in proving its good qualifications and dispositions by contributing directly to the building of Israeli settlements.
The candidates are many and the Israelis are no longer the best qualified. The period of recognition and normalization has elapsed, and what is coming up is a new rule for an old role, and a whole remodeling of the area that proves necessary in order to confront the growing strength of the enemies of the world order and of Israel represented by Iran and Hizbullah.
Israel is NOT up to the challenge anymore and therefore its future is at stake and its destiny threatened and one might even say that the future Haganas gangs are preparing themselves in the form of the fanatic armed thugs that took over Libya and created havoc in Syria, and who seem to get ready for their next assignment that shall consist maybe in liberating Palestine from the Jews on behalf of the world order.
The Wandering Who? Reading Group invited the author of the book we are studying, Gilad Atzmon, to attend our gathering on Monday 28th May.
We all agree that it is Atzmon’s swashbuckling personality which enables him to say things which others would shy away from. But there was some difference of opinion about both his style of debate and his views.
On the one hand he was seen as someone who thought on his feet, and needed to because of the malevolent forces out to get him. One member of the group liked his style and found his focus on power particularly useful at a time of false, complacent and moralistic political discourse.
On the other hand there was some worry about Atzmon’s intensive naval gazing on Jewish identity coupled with a lack of concrete proposals on how to delegitimize Israel. Also Atzmon’s style of delivery made it difficult to challenge him on particular points, and at least one member of the group had questions about Chapters 6 and 7 which didn’t get to be put.
Atzmon’s dismissal of Chomsky as simply an accessory to Jewish Power, even if this was one aspect of the man, seemed too sweeping for some. Neither were we unanimous in rejecting the boycotting of Israeli sponsored cultural events. Although Atzmon made it clear he supports most forms of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) we were left unsure of his exact position.
Much of the power of Atzmon’s rhetoric comes from his interest in philosophy and psychology. However, the use of technical language from these disciplines, such as praxis, matrix of negation, dialectic, organimus, projection and so on seemed to some of us to add little to the argument.
Nevertheless a fruitful discussion took place in the second half of our meeting about the use of ‘the Holocaust’ to validate academics, the responsibility members of a collective have for actions by that collective, the probable Israeli involvement in Syria as a preparation for a war on Iran, and the simplistic Western tendency to classify the leaders of non-Western countries as either with us or against us.
The critical note sounded in some of this report does not detract from our interest in The Wandering Who? and our intention to continue to study this brave book. We are very grateful to Gilad Atzmon for coming down from London to meet with us.
This is from November 2011 when I accompanied Gilad to Stratford-Upon-Avon.
4.30 p.m.: Teacher
It’s 4.30 on a Wednesday afternoon in a jazz club in Stratford-Upon-Avon. Gilad Atzmon is taking a master-class. The first of three scheduled events here, it will be followed by a talk at seven and a concert at eight. At midnight, after the last encore (Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” done as Armstrong might have done it if he hadn’t been chasing a world-wide hit) he’ll pack up, arrive home at 2.00 a.m., sleep, get up for a meeting at 10 and then drive on for the same again in Bath. And of course, for the permanently plugged-in Atzmon, all this is punctuated with feverish internet activity, phone calls etc. Atzmon hates sleep. It’s a waste of time, he says.
He does a lot of these classes up and down the country – this one is for twenty A-level music students. Trouble is, these kids haven’t bothered to bring their instruments and worse, they suffer from that peculiarly English-kid ailment BCS (Battery Child Syndrome). Twelve years National Curriculum has left them pretty much incapable of doing anything much, not actively and certainly not for themselves. Targets unmet, goals unreached, they still hope that boxes will be ticked and they’ll make it to ‘Uni’ or whatever next-stage they go to to keep them off the jobs-market. But now, they want ‘input’. After all, we all know that no input equals no output.
Atzmon’s seen it before and Yaron, OHE bass player, has already remarked to me that it’s only here, in this country, that they encounter this particular condition. And it’s no good these young people looking to their parents for some relief because they’ve suffered from the same – no, for any alternative, it’s to their grandparents they have to look. Irony is, that these kids are the age Atzmon was when he first heard ‘April in Paris’ and bought his first saxophone.
So he talks about consonance and dissonance, illustrating his remarks with both saxophone and voice. Of course, it’s all about balance – too much consonance and your audience falls asleep, too much dissonance and it just goes out the window. But still, from his young and, by now, wondering-what-the-hell-this-is-all-about, audience – still nothing.
So he tries some community singing – no words, just sounds and rhythms – but still they won’t do it. He fixes on Jasmine, a freaked-out 17 year-old. “Come out to the front” he asks. But Jasmine just clings to her mobile. “Wanna pee” she pleads. He tries again, this time with Hayley who just giggles. “Why don’t you speak?” he asks. ‘Dunno’, she says. He tries Jasmine again who this time flees the room. Five minutes later she’s back (She really did want to pee) and blow me if, in the end, he doesn’t get the whole lot of them going and none louder than Jasmine and Hayley.
Now he tears up the rule-book and for any half-decent teacher, sick of force-fed, over-fed, half-dead battery kids, government targets and climbing league tables, this is refreshing stuff indeed. So he tells them ”If you do not now, immediately and completely defy your teachers, your parents, the lot. If you do not remove all restraints on creativity, all inhibition, both without and within – you will, in your lives, produce nothing of worth. (Next day I email him to ask him what it’s all about. But ‘Consciousness is the enemy of beauty’ is all he’ll say. Later I learn that Atzmon has only ever had one formal teacher “He was very good teacher. I only had about four or five lessons but he was a very good teacher…… I’m still trying to work out what he was talking about.”
7.00 p.m.: Talker
Now the club’s full. Some are jazz-fans come to see the ‘award-winning’ jazz musician, some are locals having a mid-week night-out and some are just plain curious to see the beast.
This, the other side of Atzmon’s other exercise in tonal breath-control – words. For nearly an hour he talks. Initially full of good intentions, he treads carefully describing his own musical, philosophical, political and spiritual journey. From the sabra child with the Irgunist grandfather “I loved him a lot” to the jazz-obsessed teenager – the blast of Charlie Parker (it was ‘April in Paris’) from his radio, the raid on Jerusalem’s only jazz store and then the revelation “Charlie Parker was black and Dizzy Gillespie was black and Sonny Rollins was black…and Ron Carter and Miles and John Coltrane…they were all black. I thought to myself ‘They’re all black. This is impossible. The Jews are the best at everything so how come they’re all black” Two days later the very first meeting with his one-and-only-love, his saxophone. “The saxophone is really easy to play. I practised 1,2,3,4,8,12 hours a day – in four weeks I was gigging”.
Then the army and the Lebanon war: “20,000 civilians wiped out by the army of Israel”. He just makes it into the Air Force Military Band and his army problems could be over – except that the band visits the south Lebanon concentration camp at Ansar and, for the first time, he sees Palestinians who are prepared to fight back “I looked at one, he looked back at me. I looked at another, he looked back at me. They all looked at us and we knew that they knew that one day they would win”. He also sees the concrete bunkers – concrete cubes, kennels for naughty Palestinian dogs. “Two days in one of those and you’ll also become a devoted Zionist”. That was it. It was simple. The Palestinians were the Jews and he was the Nazi. No other interpretation was possible and no doubt. No matter how long it took to leave, he was done with Israel “…‘enough is enough’. I took my saxophone and decided I was going to live somewhere else” But it was Oslo that did for him. “I knew there was no chance in a million years for the Jewish state to encompass the concept of peace.” And here he takes a moment to make that distinction between ‘peace’ and ‘shalom’. For those in Christian or Muslim environments ‘peace’ means peace and reconciliation but for Jews ‘shalom’ means security – but only for Jews. “The Oslo ‘shalom’ process was to secure for the Jews the land they had stolen.” That was it. Finished. He left Israel for ever. Only to a free Palestine would he ever return.
It was in London that he begins to experiment with Arabic music and here begins what he sees as his lifelong struggle – to listen. “When it came to Arabic music, I was lost. I tried to play it – it was a disaster”. He tries to listen, but really listen – first to the music and then to the Arab himself. He elaborates and here, he grabs his saxophone and gives the audience a quick taste of what is to come (Even to me, it’s breathtaking in its dexterity and wildness). The westerner can play a jazz phrase in a few seconds and he thinks he can win a war in the same time, But in the Eastern world it’s not like that. It takes time, the time of the desert. For Atzmon this difference also came to define a new concept of beauty.
But how to get at it? When I tried to reproduce this beauty, I couldn’t get at it – it was very frustrating.” Then he hits on it. He begins to use his voice. “Only when I sung it, I somehow managed to get closer to the authentic spirit.” And through this process he begins to understand and to refine his music – and also his political philosophy.
Because we must listen. Watching just will not do. Speaking will not do. Marching will not do. Leafleting will not do. Slogans will not do. We must listen – to the other, to the Palestinian. We must listen because it is then, and only then, when we have heard what the other has to say, what the other feels, only then can one know the other. It is only then that, rather than tell the Palestinian what he needs – one-state, two-state, secular state, democratic state, socialist state – we should listen, listen to what he thinks he needs. Only then can we know what the Palestinian wants for himself, only then can we truly be in solidarity. And, for Atzmon this is where ethics starts – and also the beauty. The Primacy of the Ear.
But then it comes, slowly at first, then faster and faster. It’s not just Israel and it’s not just Zionism. Jews. Jewish-ness. Identity. Secular Jewish identity. What is it? If you ask a secular Jew what he is, he will tell you he is not a Christian, he is not a Muslim, he is not a Buddhist, he is not religious, he is not this and he is not that. What is he? Is he just someone who likes chicken soup and chopped liver? No, he cannot tell you what he is – he can only tell you what he is not. And to be real, to feel truly authentic, between what he is and what he is not there must be distance – there must be conflict. So to find himself he must have conflict, he must fear and he must hate. Wars ….wars for Israel. Jewish wars. How many British dead? How many Americans? One and a half million Iraqis. Lord Levy the fundraiser, Lord Goldstone the fixer, and Aaronovitch, Cohen, Freedland,– warmongers to a man.
Jews, Judaism, Jewish-ness. Time and time again he addresses the ever-present charge of racism. That critical distinction: “In my writing, I differentiate between Jews (the people), Judaism (the religion) and Jewish-ness (the ideology) and again and again he makes it clear that it is the third, and only the third, with which he is concerned.: So,“those who are searching for blood or race-related interpretations of Zionism will have to look for it in someone else’s work.
But as the words spill out of him, doors are kicked down, taboos fall away and, for these gentle, middle-English folk, nodding in modest agreement, wryly noting the jokes, hearing what they always knew but never dared say, even to themselves – for them, the shackles simply slip away. The simple truth is that Gilad’s words lie just below the level of consciousness. Too conscious and they know it already, too unconscious and they just can’t hear it. Too much consonance and your audience will fall asleep, too much dissonance and it’s just out the window.
8.00 p.m.: Café Jihad
Atzmon turns his back to the audience and hunches over his saxophone. A tentative phrase, quite mellow but then grows more insistent it becomes a wail. He raises the stakes higher – more insistent. The rim-shot and the band comes in. It’s jazz. Paul Eisen trying to write about the music of Gilad Atzmon.
I don’t know much about music and pretty much nothing about jazz. (Truth is, it goes right over my head), so to write about Gilad Atzmon in performance presents something of a problem. How to get into the music? I search around for an Atzmon album and find one: “In Loving Memory of America” – Gilad’s love letter to an America now long gone, This is the America he dreamed off in his bedroom in Jerusalem. I dig it out and glance at the tracklist. There it is, track 9 “April in Paris”. Feverishly now I send off for ‘Charlie Parker with Strings’. It arrives in a day, and there it is, Track 3: ‘April in Paris’, the piece the young Atzmon first heard, the piece that made him skip school and head for Jerusalem’s one and only jazz store. “It was by far more organic, poetic, sentimental and yet wilder than anything I had heard before. Bird was a fierce libidinal extravaganza of wit and energy”
Surely if there’s a way into his music, this must be it.
I start to listen. Well, it’s nice – it’s more than nice and I can imagine why people love it but I’m damned if I can see what he sees.
For me it’s all very visual. He’s a big man and lately he’s given up on the IDF-style fatigues for jackets, tee-shirts and jeans – but he’s no snappy dresser that’s for sure. And boy, if ever there was a Khazarian then this, surely, must be it. Solid and Slavic in head and burly in body, he dominates the stage.
Him and his saxophone, that is. It’s some contraption - a deep, deep gold with lots of moving parts like some kind of hand-held Spinning Jenny – quite refreshing in this digital age which boasts “No moving parts” And when he plays, the valves and levers at the bottom open and close as if by magic It reminds me of a Monty Python cartoon or a gently-throbbing pulse in the neck. Between bursts he holds it like a Kalashnikov – and with the same devastating effect – spray everything and take no prisoners. ..
He wanders around a lot, strolling off and leaving the band to get on with it. And they do. Yaron Stavi on bass, Frank Harrison on keyboards and the astonishing Eddie Hick on drums. “I’m playing with the same people now for many years and it’s a great experience because you see people around you developing and you try to keep up with them. It’s a challenge.” That pride – you see it in him and in the band. I saw it that night atStratford-Upon-Avon in the nod Atzmon gave to the young and immensely talented Eddie Hick – it said “Go on boy, now’s your time. Let’s see what you can do. Oh, and good luck!” Sometimes he dances.
Then back he comes, slings up the Kalashnikov and starts spraying.
And it does not take one minute to see that the class, the talk, the jazz, they’re really all one. “We shut our eyes and concentrate on one thing: Delivering beauty’.
Beauty is truth; truth beauty. Keats would have loved it.
Oh, and by the way, those kids – they came back, six or seven of them led by Jasmine and Hayley. What did they make of it all? The stilted lesson with its embarrassing silences. The harangue from the front – Defy all! The talk: Jews …Judaism…Jewishness…..Then the jihad of the music
But it’s at the every end of the evening that the true meaning of the day is revealed. After the last tune he starts once more to speak to the audience. Now it’s earnest, almost pleading. It’s about universalism and brotherly love. About “our Muslim brothers and sisters, our Palestinian brothers and sisters, our Christian brothers and sisters and ……’ And then it comes – for me, the surprise. It’s obviously unplanned and I wonder if he’s ever said it, or even thought it before. Because he stumbles, perhaps he can’t quite believe what he hears himself say, perhaps like the music itself, it’s only ever really made up in performance. But he says it, and all the celebrity, the humour the Israeli swagger, even the talent, all simply falls away ‘…..and our Jewish brothers and sisters too. I phone him next day and ask him what he meant. Again, all he’ll say is “They are our brothers and sisters and we’re responsible for them too”.
But now it really is late, time for just one more. It has to be “What a Wonderful World” The band plays.
I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.