Omer Avital, hailed by the LA Times as “a pioneer in combining jazz with myriad world music elements,” is a composer, a virtuosic bassist, an oud player and an active force on the world music scene for well over a decade. The New York Times wrote: “Mr. Avital and his group are producing some of the most original music being heard in New York.”
Born and raised in Israel to parents of Yemenite and Moroccan descent, Avital was surrounded from early age by the diverse musical and cultural landscape of his native land; Israeli folk songs (a mix of Arabic melodies with European harmonies), Yemenite Jewish liturgical music – an ancient and beautiful tradition of poetry, melody, rhythm and dance-, Arabic and Mediterranean popular music from Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, north Africa etc… the various Jewish traditions of songs and prayers (Ashkenazi and Sephardic), European Art music, Western popular music and American Jazz and Blues.
In 1992, Avital moved to New York and became an internationally recognized bass player and bandleader. Signed by Impulse (Universal Music) at age 26 to produce his first album, Avital recorded and toured with Wynton Marsalis, Kenny Garrett, Brian Blade, Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Roy Haynes and many others. During this time, Avital became increasingly interested in his own Arabic heritage and that of Sephardic Jews, especially ancient Andalusian music.
In 2002, Avital moved back to Israel for 3 years to study classical composition, Arabic musical theory, Oud (Arabic Lute) and traditional Israeli music. Since returning to New York in 2005, Avital has been creating works for and working with the core group of musicians of his Ensemble. Recent projects include the Debka Fantasia Cycle; arrangements of traditional Israeli songs re-imagined (and in many cases, returned to the original) Arab roots, Songs of Devotion (Piyutim), which incorporate traditional Jewish prayer melodies into chamber compositions, a Concerto for Bass and Orchestra and a Large Piece for his Ensemble-Song of a Land.
In 2008, Avital was awarded the Prime Minister’s Award, the most prestigious distinction for artists in Israel. His work seeks to create highly individual yet instantly recognizable sound, the essence of Israel with all its contradictions and beauty.