Piamenta's axe makes sparks fly at Jerualem's Blaze Bar
After having spent decades based in New York, world-class guitarist Yossi Piamenta recently returned to live in Israel and has set up shop at Jerusalem's Blaze Bar, where his weekly gig is already starting to catch the eye and ear of local music enthusiasts.
Piamenta, who received his first guitar as a Bar Mitzvah present from a musician uncle, is a self-taught and self-styled musician whose skill soon had him playing for the IDF band. In 1976, Piamenta won over jazz legend Stan Getz, who brought the young Israeli to the U.S., where he remained for decades, forging a reputation as a spiritually minded axe virtuoso nicknamed "The Jewish Jimi."
Today Piamenta's spirits are flying high when it comes to his music, career and the decision to set up a residence gig in Jerusalem. "I returned because my father needed me," Piamenta tells GoJersalem.com. "In the meantime, he passed away, but I decided to stay here. I want to stay and live in Jerusalem. I got married here, I rent a house in Nachlaot. I am no longer interested in America."
That's good news for the patrons at Blaze Bar, a no-nonsense home for live music since 2009. The well-stocked bar features live rock and roll every day of the week, including an open blues jam every Wednesday and an open mic night every Monday. Piamenta, who is now rocking a weekly Sunday gig there for the indefinite future, rounds out the schedule and lends it some veteran flash.
"My manager told me the owner of Blaze had heard of me and was interested in me," Piamenta explains to GoJerusalem.com. "So I went there and saw that it was a good place. I'm trying to reach every music lover [with my gig there], and to be more specific the Israelis. Most of my audience is American because I was there for many years, and many people here don't know me. A long time has passed since I was known here. I used to be very popular here, but they've forgotten me. It's been 32 years. The people I used to work with don't know I'm here and don't know what I'm doing, so it's like I'm starting again for the first time [with this gig]."
For Piamenta, the opportunity to play in Jerusalem on a weekly basis is something of a revelation. "I'm a 14th generation Jerusalemite," Piaments says. "I'm coming back to my roots. I'm really enjoying speaking to people in Hebrew and not breaking my teeth in English. All I can say is, I'm having the time of my life standing there and playing. I can't have more fun than this. Nobody tells me what to do. I play whatever I feel like playing. You can't ask for more. Usually, I work for money and have to accommodate a customer, whether it's a simcha or a concert. Here I am playing for myself. Pure. 100%, 24 carat. And the crowd seems to enjoy it every week."
Bearded - or formerly bearded - Jewish musicians have been in the news a lot recently, and Piamenta had something to say about that too. "For me there is no difference between the outside and the inside. I try really hard to show outside what I am feeling inside and the other way around."
Photo of Yosi Piamenta wielding his axe in concert courtesy of Keyed In from Wikimedia under a Creative Commons license.
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