By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – It turns out that Southerners have a lot in common with Israelis.
Tel Aviv resident and musician Amir Gwirtzman has spent the past two months crisscrossing the South.
“It’s been a relatively cold winter for the South, but when it warms up, it really reminds me of home because it’s kind of the same climate,” he said during a phone interview. “Even the drivers’ attitudes remind me of Israeli drivers, who are relatively patient. Relatively.”
He’s in the middle of a visiting artist program sponsored by the Institute for Southern Jewish Life. During his stay, he’s based in Jackson and branches out to give concerts and workshops.
This week, Gwirtzman will bring his collection of 24 wind instruments to Tupelo. The instruments are from different cultures around the world.
“Some of them I acquired while traveling, but not necessarily to their country of origin,” he said. “The instrument from Korea I picked up from a Korean band that I met at a world music festival in Thailand. I was never actually in Korea, but I was able to get this instrument.”
The Korean instrument is a piri, and his collection includes bagpipes from Scotland, a penny whistle from Ireland, a Native American flute and an Egyptian arghoul.
“I try to give some background on what I’m doing: What styles are involved, what instruments are involved and their origins,” he said.
His globe-trekking career had its origin in childhood, when Gwirtzman learned to play a recorder.
“At the age of 9, when I wanted to play the saxophone, they said, ‘OK, play the clarinet,’” he said. “I played it for a few years, and then at the age of 16, I’d had enough of it: ‘No more. I’m moving to saxophone.’”
He had a recorder, a clarinet and a tenor saxophone, then he added a soprano saxophone, a classical flute, a set of bagpipes and an Arabic flute. And the acquisitions continued.
“One by one, I figured them out,” he said. “I was living in New York in the ‘90s for almost seven years, so I had some tutors and masters who taught me how to play correctly the bagpipes and how to play correctly the zorna and how to play correctly this and that.
“All I wanted to play was saxophone, and look how it turned out: All of these instruments, and I love them all.”
Layering the sound
He’ll bring a multitrack recorder to the concert, where he’ll record one instrument, then record another and another.
“I will be layering instruments, one on top of the other, creating arrangements,” he said. “I’ll do solos, too.”
The concert will feature rock, R&B, jazz and world music. Some of the songs will be Gwirtzman originals, and others will be cover tunes from around the U.S. and the world.
“For some of the songs, there will be instruments from different cultures that will be speaking to each other,” he said. “Those are instrument that were not designed to speak with each other because they weren’t designed to play in the same scales.
“Yet, there is common ground that can be achieved. I love to do that. I love to crisscross those cultural things and to find common ground. To me, that is what music is all about. It is the language that connects us all.”
At least one of the songs he performs was inspired by his travels through the South. He wants to keep the title a surprise, but it’ll be a tribute to the region that served him up hickory smoked barbecue, blackened catfish and fried green tomatoes.
“It will be my pleasure to see y’all. Come on down,” he said in his Israeli accent. “This is a direct address to y’all.”
Contact M. Scott Morris at (662) 678-1589 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
– What: Amir Gwirtzman wind
– When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
– Where: Link Centre, Tupelo
– Tickets: $10/general admis-
sion, $5/students at Link Centre
box office, (662) 690-4011,
www.link-centre.org or at the door
– Extra: At 7 p.m. Wednesday,
Gwirtzman will give a free work-
shop at Lee County Library. He’ll
give another workshop at 7 p.m.
Thursday at Tupelo First United