Eyal Maoz not only remembers the first guitar he ever was given. He still has it, a Spanish classical guitar.
“I remember my first electric guitar, too,” he adds. “It was red and very hard to play, and I have it even now. I completely ruined it making it into a fretless.”
If the 45-year-old, Haifa-born guitarist has an instrument for every one of his many projects and bands, his apartment must be harder to navigate than that red guitar. Maoz is curating a week of performances at The Stone beginning July 15, and he will be playing with 10 different line-ups (Avenue C and Second Street, thestonenyc.com).
“I want to show myself, give a snapshot of what I’m doing now,” he says. “It will help me to arrange my mind. What’s next? If I know what I’m doing now, then I know what is next.”
When Maoz first thought of taking up the guitar in high school, a career in music was the farthest thing from his mind.
After he finished his army service, he says, “I didn’t think what kind of musician should I be; I was thinking whether I should study physics or psychology. My guitar teacher said, ‘Why not music?’ … It was a complete surprise even to me.”
Maoz ended up in the States studying, like many Israeli jazz and rock musicians, at Boston’s Berklee School of Music. He had developed an interest in jazz at home, listening first to the pioneering jazz-fusion group Weather Report, “the first ‘strange’ music I liked,” he says with a laugh. The group opened his ears to the potential of instrumental electric music, leading him to Frank Zappa, Ornette Coleman and finally to Berklee.
It was through a small circle of Israeli players there that Maoz was introduced to the music of John Zorn and, eventually to the downtown Jewish music guru himself.
“I was playing with Avishai Cohen [the trumpeter], and we recorded something and sent it to Zorn through a friend,” Maoz recalls. “He wrote back saying that he really liked the music. Then a few years later Shanir Blumenkranz [the bassist who has worked on many Tzadik projects] was working on several projects with Zorn. And he told Zorn, ‘You should know about this guy.’ I sent him some of my music and he asked me to record a CD, and that’s how the first recording by Edom [Maoz’s ensemble] came about.”
Prior to that, Maoz had been part of a New York-based jazz group, the Lemon Juice Quartet, with Blumenkranz, Cohen and drummer Kevin Zubek. Their music was in a similar vein to that of Dave Douglas and Uri Caine, often cerebral and occasionally abstract. By contrast, the eponymous debut album from Edom was an organ-based tribute to rock-inflected monsters like Tony Williams Lifetime and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, with a guest appearance by John Medeski on the Hammond B-3.
You might say that Maoz has been balancing those two sides of his musical personality ever since. A glance at the Stone schedule certainly would reinforce that perception.
“For some of the bands [Maoz will play with] the starting point is a happy and jumpy one, like the Crazy Slavic Band,” the guitarist says. “Some are serious and a little dark, like the string quartets. Dimyon [his acoustic group] is quiet.”
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For Maoz, it’s all of a piece.
“For every band that I have I’m trying to aim for a different sound and which ear is required for it,” he says. “But really, in my mind, it’s all sort of the same in the sense that my real aim is to convey a beauty, an energy and a darkness to the listener’s mind. I may do it through various musicians and different combinations, but it’s all aimed towards that.”