Introduction by Gilad Atzmon: Rich Siegel is now subject to Zionist abuse and smear campaign. Jazz writer Brent Black of criticaljazz.com who reviewed Rich’s peace seeking album favorably has now changed his mind due to Jewish pressure. Black wrote on facebook:
my humble apologies to my jewish friends for reviewing rich sigel (sic) an anti-zionist peace activist that supports the destruction of israel. had i know (sic) who he was and what he was all about i never would have given him 30 seconds of my time. his review is pulled and e mail blocked. again my apologies i stand with israel NEVER against her but firmly against her enemies.”
In my entire musical career I have never heard of a review being deleted. Needless to say that there is not a drop of truth in anything Black attributes to Siegel above. Siegel is a humanist. He searches for peace and reconciliation through artistic expression.
Please support Rich, buy his album and follow his public performances.
Beauty is liberation
The path that my new CD, “The Way to Peace”, has taken to arrive at completion has really been my personal path, a long and circuitous one. I’ve had a career as a work-a-day musician, something which is becoming a rarity today as live music is all but disappearing from so many venues. I’ve been a “99% musician”, not rich or famous from it, but making a living, piano bars, elegant hotel lounges, up-scale restaurants, corporate and private events, musical director for shows, accompanying singers, some famous ones. I’ve been in some shows as well, Off Broadway, a singing pianist on-stage accompanying the cast, and getting a few solo numbers. I’ve also done a fair amount of traveling, jazz clubs in Canada, hostess bars in Japan, music festivals in France, even a piano bar gig in West Africa.
One gig that I tend to leave off my resume is a steady job I had for awhile playing at a luxury hotel in Israel. I don’t want anyone to get the idea that I support Israel. I don’t. At the time I worked there, in my early 20’s, I was totally the product of where I came from, deep inside the Zionist cult, in the American Jewish community. Raised in a suburb of New York, I was the teenage president of a Zionist youth group. Many years later I came to the shocking realization that I had been lied to all my life. I came to understand that we Jews had not arrived in Palestine desiring to be friendly neighbors to vicious Arab hordes who hated us for no reason and wanted to “drive us into the sea”. The fact is, we Jews committed atrocities against innocent people who were just living their lives on land that had been theirs for many generations. We committed massacres and military forced mass expulsions. We committed an ethnic cleansing, one that continues today.
I became aware of my people’s crimes, and also aware that I had been used by my people, to support something I would never have supported had I been told anything resembling the truth. I also got married and became a father, grateful to live in a place where I can keep my daughter safe, and horrified that often Palestinian fathers can’t keep their children safe because of the crimes of my people. I started to care a whole lot less about music, and a whole lot more about human rights, especially children’s rights. But music is what I do well. How to use it?
The first thing I did was to team up with lyricist Dave Lippman, another American Jew with sympathies for the Palestinians. Together we wrote a song called “In Palestine”. I produced a little video featuring a performance of that song along with talks given by Dave and myself, and a dedication to Abir Aramin, a beautiful little Palestinian girl who was shot and killed by Israeli Border Police in 2007. The video has been widely viewed and I hope it’s started some conversations.
Then I decided to produce a CD. I visualized a marriage of spirituality and peace activism and began compiling material, some originals, some covers. Fortuitously at this time I got a call to play a couple of concerts with Gilad Atzmon, the Israeli ex-pat jazz saxophonist and author who is so outspoken on the Palestine issue. We had a great time together and really hit it off. In choosing personnel for the CD Gilad was an obvious choice. I added into the mix some great New York musicians, cellist Eugene Moye, guitarist Gary Ciuci, bassist Cameron Brown, drummer Anthony Pinciotti. In the studio the magic was worked by engineer Manfred Knoop, who has since tragically left us, and by engineer Chris Sulit, and mastering engineer Ed Littman. The cover art was created by my daughter Emily Gu Siegel, who is seven, the design by Frank Dain, with a great photo taken by Xiaosen Ge. The final result of all this creative collaboration by some really amazing talent: People seem to like it.
One of the people who liked it was Brent Black, a jazz writer who runs a website that features his reviews called criticaljazz.com. His review, which he published on March 23, 2012, was actually quite humorous in its irony, making no bones about the fact that he disagreed with my politics, but liked my music- a lot. He wrote:
Had someone told me two years ago I would have been reviewing the work of an anti-Zionist peace activist, a request that this individual be drug tested would be the expected response from those few that travel in my inner circle.”
But then he wrote: “From a purely musical perspective, Siegel is a gifted instrumentalist with rich vocals that glide effortlessly along with his playing.” And: “The Way To Peace is a stellar recording.” He concluded: “You can respect an opinion and disagree with it. To oversimplify Siegel’s music as that of the ‘peace movement’ would be disingenuous at best. Instead Siegel presents us with an eloquently stated, musically pristine offering of himself and shares a piece of what is in his heart….Isn’t that what art is all about?” Obviously I was pleased with the review.
I received an e mail this morning from Seattle-based pianist/composer Bill Doerrfeld, who, incidentally, shares my views on Palestine. Bill had some news to share with me. He had viewed the following, which reviewer Brent Black had posted on the Facebook page that acts as a companion page to his website (in lower case here, just as Brent wrote it):
my humble apologies to my jewish friends for reviewing rich sigel (sic) an anti-zionist peace activist that supports the destruction of israel. had i know (sic) who he was and what he was all about i never would have given him 30 seconds of my time. his review is pulled and e mail blocked. again my apologies i stand with israel NEVER against her but firmly against her enemies.” (caps on “NEVER” Brent’s) Obviously a bit different from his review, which had, in fact, been pulled.
The claim that I support the destruction of Israel is pure libel. I have never made any statements advocating the destruction of Israel, or the destruction of anyone or anything. The irony here is that in his review Black made it a point to separate his disagreement with my politics from his assessment of the music I brought to the world in this new recording. He obviously flushed that integrity down the toilet with his libelous pronouncement and decision to pull the review. Who got to him in the less than two weeks the review was up? I don’t know.
Bill Doerrfeld shared an interesting story with me, which has some parallels. Back in the late 80’s when Bill was a graduate composition student at Yale, he entered a competition offered by Fontana Concert Society in Michigan. This competition offered a cash award and a commission to the “up and coming” young composer chosen as winner. Bill won, and decided to dedicate his piece to the young Palestinian men he saw in the daily news coverage of the first intifada. They represented to Bill a real “David and Goliath” story. The piece Bill wrote, for four strings and harp, was somber and dramatic, a tribute to their struggle, entitled, “Rock Throwers”.
After Bill’s piece was performed in Michigan, the Fontana Concert Society mailed him a program and a cassette recording of the concert. He was taken aback to discover that the title had been changed to “Quintet for Strings and Harp”. He called the organization and spoke with a representative who reported that some influential people in the organization, and additionally, one of the musicians performing the piece, had required the change. Somehow the courtesy of consulting Bill about the change had not occurred to them.
The neurotic and desperate passion by which the forces that wish to “Zionize” the world are requiring that Palestinians accept their politically mandated non-existence is astonishing. Humus and felafel are considered “Israeli” food. I have even seen offered for sale a new blue and white kuffiyeh featuring interwoven Stars of David. (I won’t be buying one.)
But music? It has always been a major feature of political dissent. Woody Guthrie sang about unions and decades later Country Joe and the Fish gave us their “Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag” in objection to the war in Vietnam. Pete Seeger has been singing about various issues for over half a century and he’s still going strong. The Beatles wanted us to “Give Peace a Chance” and John Lennon “Imagine(d)” a different world and sang about it. Can anyone “imagine” their titles being changed, or a review being deliberately evaporated after second thoughts by the writer (no doubt influenced by parties unknown)? Even avowed Anti-Semite Richard Wagner, hero to Adolf Hitler, has been performed by Jews, so it’s not about “Anti-Semitism”, or only about “Anti-Semitism”. There is something fundamentally different about Zionism; different from any political agenda that has gone before. There is something positively demonic about the determination of those who wish to squash Palestine. They simply have no rules.