By Jillian Diamond
Here to celebrate some upcoming Jewish holidays with a musical performance are the Guy Mintus Trio, who plan to perform at The Gordon Center on May 4. The jazz band, led by the eponymous Israeli vocalist, pianist and composer, is performing to honor Yom HaZikaron and to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, two back-to-back Jewish holidays that begin on May 3 and end on May 5.
Both holidays commemorate the achievements of Israel and its people. Yom HaZikaron is the day of remembrance for Israeli soldiers and civilian victims of terrorism who have lost their lives, while Yom Ha’atzmaut is Israel’s Independence Day. Though they are very different in tone and how they are celebrated, both are important to the Israeli people.
Mintus is an Israeli musician with Iraqi, Moroccan and Polish Jewish heritage.
“Music is a reflection of who we are as a person,” he said. “Growing up in Israel, listening to Israeli music … Jewish music has always been a part of my DNA.”
Mintus was influenced at an early age by the works of jazz musicians like Miles Davis, Bill Evans and especially Thelonious Monk, whom he cites as one of his earliest inspirations. Monk’s music is what opened his eyes to the idea of musical improvisation. He’s since gone on to work with some of the same jazz legends he idolized as a young musician, like saxophonist David Liebman.
The Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut performance is not the Guy Mintus Trio’s first time performing at The Gordon Center, but it is their first time performing there in person. They previously held a virtual show earlier on in the pandemic, during which Mintus’ performance in his Israel studio was broadcast to an audience at the center.
Sara Shalva, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore’s chief arts officer, said she first saw the Guy Mintus Trio at a conference in New York.
“I was kind of taken by his charisma and his musicality and his youthfulness,” she said. “And the fact that he was Israeli was really wonderful.”
“We’d been in touch ever since,” Mintus said. “We definitely wanted to do something live and in person, and thought that this would be a great opportunity for that.”
The performance is set to feature a number of Israeli songs with a jazz twist, alongside the trio’s usual jazz fare. One significant piece being performed is Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” which was played in 1948 by Leonard Bernstein at a concert held at a Displaced Persons Camp for refugees fleeing from the Holocaust. Mintus also plans to perform an original piece, “Our Journey Together.” This song is a personal one for the musician, as it was written in 2014 in the middle of significant political conflict in Israel.
Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut are two very different holidays, with one being a day of remembrance and the other a celebration of independence. Bridging that gap in a single musical performance can be a difficult task, said Shalva.
“You go from deep despair to a sort of ecstatic joy. And it all happens in a 48-hour period. … It’s wild,” she said.
But the Guy Mintus Trio still aims to offer a performance that invokes both the memory of fallen Israeli soldiers and the joy of Israel being recognized as a country.
“I want to play songs that speak to the heart,” Mintus said.
Masks and COVID-19 vaccinations will be required for concert attendees. The Gordon Center is continuing to host similar musical events all month, including a concert by E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg on Thursday, May 12, and a tribute to the music of Diana Ross and Teddy Pendergrass on Saturday, May 21.
Jillian Diamond is a freelance writer.