VIDEO: Israeli jazz trumpeter bringing eclectic style to Berkeley

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

Wanderlust runs in the family for Israeli jazz trumpeter Itamar Borochov.

His father, Yisrael Borochov, has traveled since the 1980s with his band — the East West Ensemble — on tour in Japan, Hong Kong, Germany, the United States, and other far-flung places.

Borochov also racks up the miles: He will fly from Costa Rica to the Bay Area for a Feb. 12 concert and workshop the following day at the California Jazz Conservatory in Berkeley. Then it’s off to New York, Tunisia and Berlin. Later this year, he will perform at a jazz festival in France.

Itamar Borochov photo/dana meirson

His globetrotting follows no master business plan, Borochov said over the phone before taking the stage in San José, Costa Rica. He said he just goes where the music takes him. “Having people who want to hear me perform is a good enough reason to go,” he said.

Music, however, has always been the plan for his life. There was no one moment that pushed him in that direction.

“It’s the only thing I ever did,” he said.

He picked up violin at age 3 and moved on to piano by age 6. That lasted until about the third or fourth grade, when his older brother, Avri, asked him to join his rock band. At that point, Borochov started playing the electric guitar. He also played trumpet around that time, and it wasn’t long before the trumpet became his main instrument.

“I’m not sure exactly when that moment hit that this would be my career,” he said. “I feel like it was always there for me.”

Borochov described his musical style as “global,” with heavy influences of Arabic, North African and West African music. He started out in jazz playing bebop, but said it is “painstaking” today to try and put what he plays into a genre.

He said the cross-cultural influence makes sense, having grown up in Jaffa — a city known for its mix of Christian, Muslim and Jewish residents.

“All of these different influences seep through to my music,” Borochov said. “It ends up appealing to many different people in different places.”

Emotional connection with his audience is more important to the musician and composer than record sales. At 31, he has released only one album, “Outset,” chosen by the New York City Jazz Record as one of the best albums of 2014. Borochov’s next album is due out in September. He said he makes them to document his progress in his career, and less so to sell them. 

He is also not generally digitally inclined. His YouTube account has just seven uploads, with the latest video going live nine months ago.

In fact, when it comes to listening to music, some would call him “old school.” Borochov recalled a conversation he had about four years ago with a New York-based music professor who asked: When was the last time you sat and listened to an entire record without interruption?

Borochov realized he couldn’t remember and that this was a problem. He deleted his entire library of digital music and tries to only listen to vinyl recordings.

“So much music is this highly produced product that is often designed for you to purchase something,” he said. “To just sit quietly and listen to beautiful sounds is really healing … and that works in my work. People often tell me how much they are moved by the music.”

Borochov moved nine years ago from Israel to New York “for music’s sake,” to study and play with some of the great jazz composers and performers. He attended New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, where he learned his craft from pianist Junior Mance, trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater and other jazz greats.

He sees himself returning to Israel one day and visits several times a year. But for now, “New York is home.”

“The energy in New York is so high and so strong. It’s addictive,” Borochov said. “Everywhere else feels like a vacation resort.”

Itamar Borochov
, in concert 8 p.m. Feb. 12 at the California Jazz Conservatory, 2087 Addison St., Berkeley. $15. He will lead a hands-on workshop on Middle Eastern and North African music at 3:15 p.m. Feb. 13. $30-$45.

Saul Sugarman

Saul Sugarman is a freelance writer.