Shauli Einav - Biography

The saxophone has always held a special fascination for saxophonist and composer Shauli Einav, who lives in Luxembourg. "It started with the body, which to me had something machine-like about it and which I thought was much cooler than that of a violin. The operation didn't seem too complicated either," recalls Einav, who switched from the violin to the saxophone at the age of 13. His enthusiasm for music was awakened by his older siblings, who often took him to jazz festivals during the summer holidays. Then one day he went to a record shop in Tel Aviv, where he came across an album by saxophonist George Coleman. When he discovered the music of Charlie Parker a little later, there was no stopping Einav.

Music education has a long tradition in Israel, which has laid the foundations for an impressive series of jazz musicians who are known far beyond the country's borders. Einav is firmly anchored in this young, creative music scene. "When I was at boarding school, I played the saxophone regularly, as much and as often as I could. In 1998, I attended a music camp where I met many young, talented musicians."

Shauli Einav

However, the even more important encounter came after the camp, when Einav met Arnie Lawrence Finkelstein - a saxophonist who grew up in Brooklyn/New York and had come to Israel the year before. As Arnie Lawrence, he had made a name for himself in the mid-1950s by playing with big names such as John Coltrane and Charles Mingus. Einav quickly recognised that Lawrence was a "visonary personality" and explains: "He used music to reconcile hostile peoples by bringing Jewish and Arab musicians together. For me, but also for many other young musicians, Arnie was the musical link between New York and Jerusalem. Almost all musicians from Israel who are successful today come more or less from Arnie's circle of influence".

After Shauli Einav completed his first degree in Israel, he continued his studies - like so many of his compatriots - in the USA. He initially ended up in Rochester, a city in the north-west of New York State. Of course, even then Einav took every opportunity to see concerts in New York City, where he later moved to. "In the first two years of my time in New York, I went to jam sessions every night. To gather impressions, listen and play myself - even if I hadn't practised beforehand. Just being around these great musicians and having direct contact with them was invaluable to me. When asked why so many musicians from Israel are holding their own in the world capital of jazz, Einav replies: "We Israelis do everything with great passion and are extremely ambitious. Many don't just want to be better than everyone else, they want to play in a league of their own. I doubt whether this attitude is healthy in the long term, but that's the way it is."

Born in the Israeli countryside, Einav studied in New York and spent several years in the Parisian jazz scene before settling in his current home of Luxembourg. He grew up in a musical family and initially took violin lessons before experimenting with drums and piano and discovering his passion for the saxophone. Einav's interest in jazz was sparked by regular visits with his father, an amateur pianist, to Israel's Red Sea Jazz Festival, where he was enthralled by many of the music's greatest exponents. (George Coleman was an early and lasting influence that Einav first encountered at the festival). While studying at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, Einav was discovered by Arnie Lawrence, the Brooklyn-born co-founder of the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, who had moved to Jerusalem to bridge the Israeli-Palestinian divide through music education. The encounter proved pivotal, as Einav recalls: "Arnie was a larger-than-life figure for so many of us. He always insisted that he wanted to hear the truth, whether you were playing one note or a bunch of complex phrases."

Einav moved to New York to complete his master's degree at the renowned Eastman School of Music in Rochester. In Manhattan, he became a fixture on the West Village scene at the thriving Smalls and Fat Cat clubs, from which his debut "Opus One" (Plus Loin Music) emerged in 2011. The album, praised by DownBeat as "smartly played, swinging and atmospheric", features several of his regular collaborators from that period, including drummer Johnathan Blake, bassist Joseph Lepore, trombonist Andy Hunter and pianist Shai Maestro, a friend since their youth in Israel.

"A Truth About Me" (Cristal Records) followed in 2013 and depicts Einav's move to Paris through tracks such as "The Traveller", "Nomads" and "Embarcadère". Hunter returned on trombone, along with new band members Antonin Tri Hoang (alto saxophone and bass clarinet), Paul Lay (piano), Florent Nisse (bass) and Louis Moutin (drums). Above all, however, it introduced the concept of self-exploratory honesty, which runs like a common thread through the saxophonist's work. Later that year, Einav released "Generations" (Posi-Tone), on which he traced his musical lineage back to jazz icons such as John Coltrane, Don Byas, Andrew Hill and Harold Land. The album featured flutist Itai Kriss, bassist Or Bareket, drummer Eliot Zigmund and the late pianist Don Friedman. With 2016's "Beam Me Up" (Berthold), Einav returned to his France-based quartet with Lay, Nisse and drummer Gautier Garrigue.

After relocating to Luxembourg with his family, Einav launched Animi (Berthold) in 2019, a new quintet that DownBeat described as "an exercise in intelligently arranged group interplay". The unique line-up departed from the traditional soloist and rhythm section format, with a group that includes established French, Israeli, American and Algerian artists: Andy Hunter, again on trombone, vibraphonist Tim Collins, bassist Jonathan Zelnik and drummer Guilhem Flouzat. With "Living Organs", Einav has taken another unexpected turn in his life's journey that represents both a leap forward and a return to his earliest musical memories.

On his latest release, "Living Organs" (Outside In Music), Einav's ongoing quest has resulted in an exciting album that simultaneously looks back to the saxophonist's own musical roots and ventures forward with a bold new electric quartet. Like the organs of the human body, Einav's group - consisting of guitarist Eran Har Even, organist Laurent Coulondre and drummer Paul Wiltgen - functions on the synergistic principle of vital individual components working together to conjure the spark of life. The album revels in the fact that "Tradition" can be pursued along different, eclectic and multi-faceted paths, fusing Einav's jazz roots with the groove-orientated pop and rock music of his youth.

Einav has performed with his ensembles on main international festival stages such as Suedtirol Jazzfest, Rochester Jazz Festival, Swing Hall Tokyo, Bohemia Jazz Festival, Venice Jazz Festival, Red Sea Jazz Festival, Enjoy Jazz Festival, Saarbruecken Jazzsydikat, Hamburg Jazz Federation, Frankfurt Palmengarten, Jazzahead Bremen and in Clubs as Smalls, Kitano, The Knitting Factory, Unterfahrt and Le Duc des Lombards among many others.

All About Jazz wrote: "Shauli Einav is a remarkably complete musician, a virtuoso soloist with a lush sound on soprano and tenor, whose compositions are daring and profound." These facets, fuelled by his deep-rooted quest to express an ever-evolving personal truth through his music, make Einav one of the most compelling and searching saxophonists in jazz today