Itai Kriss & TELAVANA
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Itai Kriss & TELAVANA

Brooklyn, NY | Established. Jan 01, 2013 | SELF

Brooklyn, NY | SELF
Established on Jan, 2013
Band Jazz World




"WBGO – Itai Kriss and Telavana, “Sahadi’s Serenade” - 2018"

An Israeli flutist on the Afro-Latin scene — that’s an oversimplification of the musical profile that Itai Kriss cuts in New York, but not an inaccurate one. Kriss, who moved to the Big Apple from his native Tel Aviv some 15 years ago, has devoted his career to exploring the commonalities between Cuban, South American and Middle Eastern musics, which often boil down to the primacy of danceable rhythm. He pushes this idea to the forefront of his new album, Telavana, beginning with a track called “Sahadi’s Serenade.”

The track, which Kriss named after the beloved grocery store on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, superimposes a Moroccan flute melody over an Afro-Cuban syncopation. It’s a musical synthesis as appealing and unforced as the cultural mix of the band, which is also named Televana, and features musicians from Israel (bassist Or Bareket, drummer Dan Aran), Puerto Rico (percussionist Marcos López) and Cuba (pianist César Orozco). On trumpet is Michael Rodriguez, who was born in Queens, and whose friendly sparring with Kriss, just after the midpoint of the track, is worth your time. - WBGO - Nate Chinen

"NYC Jazz Record – TELAVANA - 2018"

One hears many influences in flutist Itai Kriss’ style.
Raised in Israel at the nexus of Middle Eastern, North
African and Southeastern European musical currents,
he’s lived in NYC for 15 years, immersed in the Latin
music scene, playing Salsa, AfroCuban, Timba and
Latin jazz gigs. Telavana, a portmanteau title derived
from Tel Aviv + Havana, is his exciting sophomore
release of not-so-classifiable but yet imminently
danceable music. Representing the front half of the
suitcase are Kriss, bassist Or Bareket and drummer
Dan Aran; representing the back half are Miami-raised
trumpeter Michael Rodriguez, Cuban pianist César
Orozco and Puerto Rican conguero/percussionist
Marcos J. López—with a cameo each by Turkey’s Tamer
Pinarbasi (qanun) and Cuba’s Yosvany Terry (chekeré).
Kriss is an equally fine composer and improviser.
His melodies are inspired by the long-limbed, adroitly
ornamented sequences found in Arab music, a few
borrowing the idiomatic intervals as well, set in meters
of four, five, six or seven beats. Songs like “Sahadi’s
Serenade”, “Hong Kong Overture”, “Rak Beinatayim”
(a Nurit Hirsh cover arranged by Kriss) and “Para
Venezuela” contain many elements typical of Latin
jazz (montunos, claves, et al.), but the run-on phrases,
through-composed melodies, intricately laced
counterpoint and frequent modulations make them
something else as well. On “Shabazi”, featuring
Pinarbasi’s pianistic qanun, Kriss even finds some of
the half-flat intervals of Arab maqam (modal music),
mimicking perhaps the ‘bent’ tones of the end-blown
ney. Here and on “Havana Special”, he delivers some
of his most stirring improvisations: incisive sequencing
on the former, inspired exchanges with Rodriguez and
Orozco on the latter, where the pianist demonstrates
his mastery of rhythmic modulation. López’ congas
resonate on “Mafroum” while Bareket fashions quietly
affective statements on “Buttered Scones and Tea” and
the intro of the flamenco-esque “Azules”.
With this strong, effervescent set of motley
influences and animated soloing now behind him, it
will be interesting to hear where Kriss is headed next. - NYC Jazz Record - Tom Greenland

"Hot House Jazz – Itai Kriss: The Hybrid of TELAVANA - 2018"

Think of Latin jazz flutists and Dave Valentin, Nestor Torres, Jane Bunnett and Andrea Brachfeld usually come to mind first. But that could change since a flutist named Itai Kriss has hit the road running. And that’s not because of his unusual name, but purely because of what he brings to the music.

Itai comes from faraway Jerusalem, but if you think that it’s hardly a place you would associate with Latin jazz, much less where it would flourish, think again. While the way ahead may have been paved for him by Israeli musicians of his and the earlier generation that includes Anat Cohen, no flutist of late, Israeli or not, has brought more new things to the realm of Latin jazz than Itai.

It’s wholly appropriate that Itai should invent a new word to describe his music: The word is Telavana which also happens to be the name of the group he formed to play his original new repertoire on his eponymously titled 2018 disc.

“The word Telavana is one I coined by mixing Tel Aviv, where my family comes from, and Havana, where my heart now resides,” he says during a break on tour where he was performing with the Dan Aran Quartet at The Red Sea Jazz Festival in Israel.

“I fell in love with the flute when I was 10 years old. But I think I discovered my true calling when I joined my first Afro-Cuban band where we played Cuban dance music like són and danzón,” he says.

Apparently, it did not end there. “If anything, it was long beginning of my love affair with Cuban music. Still, I knew that what I was hearing in my heart was something completely different. I am from Israel, after all. And don’t forget Israel is a country where many cultures collide. The Jewish people come from, literally, everywhere. But Israeli culture also includes the Palestinian diaspora, and Arabic culture bears the heavy influence from North Africa. It is really all this that inspires my music. It’s literally what makes Telavana unique,” he says.

Itai’s music undulates with Phrygian, Middle Eastern cadences melded into a molten mix that evokes the shimmering hot imagery of rippling Afro-Caribbean percussive grooves subsumed by the swagger and jiggle of ululating Bedouin North African rhythms laced with eloquent secular Israeli folk forms such as Klezmer, Sephardic and Mizrahi; all of which is expressed in Latin jazz idioms. Naturally it is the flute, Itai’s instrument of choice, that draws from him some of his freshest feats of imagination.

Itai Kriss brings the music of Telavana featuring the belly dancer Elena Nayiri, to Bar LunÀtico in Brooklyn on Oct. 12. - Hot House Jazz NY – Raul da Gama

"All About Jazz – Itai Kriss & Telavana - 2018"

A good seven thousand miles separate the Middle East and the Caribbean, but are they truly that far apart? With flutist Itai Kriss and his band, Telavana, spanning the two, that distance seems to vanish.

Kriss, a native Israeli, has spent the past fifteen years immersed in the scene in his adopted home of New York. There, he's involved himself in straight ahead sounds, Latin jazz circles, the salsa scene, Afro-Cuban projects, and a good number of other scenarios, ultimately filtering all of these influences through his flute. What comes of all of that through his own imagination is an amalgam that speaks both to roots and the act of branching out. All is one in this music, and the project, as a whole, is a true sum of Kriss' experiences.

Album opener "Sahadi's Serenade" is instructive in demonstrating the manner by which Kriss is able to merge various strains (or toggle between them). Arriving with Kriss and trumpeter Michael Rodriguez's clear call from the arid afar, this band caravan's across the desert atop Or Bareket's bass line in seven. Marcos Lopez's hand drumming adds a slight Caribbean flavor to the party, as do early solos. But when Rodriguez and Kriss trade, the percussive foundation really opens up and pianist Cesar Orozco lends a helping with montuno ministrations. That tips the balance decisively to the West. As all of this unfolds, Kriss and company never abandon any concept or region wholesale; there's just a shift of emphasis in the cards.

As the album plays on, so too do the acts of synthesizing and globetrotting. "Rak Beinatayim" seems at first to speak directly to the stately allure of Argentina's dance floors and mournful Hebraic tides, eventually leaving both in the rearview mirror for a trip to Cuba. "Shabazi" sets its sights on Eastern ideals, blending Egyptian, Moroccan, and Turkish accents, with guest Tamer Pinarbasi adding volumes on qanun, a string instrument descended from the Egyptian harp. And then there are obvious geographical nods—"Para Venezuela," a number that shines brightest when Kriss and Bareket go to town together, and "Havana Special," a peppy production that finds Kriss and Rodriguez playfully batting things back and forth—which still manage to absorb aspects from other realms. Those songs, along with what precedes and surrounds them, mark this man and this band as a set taken by musical wanderlust and cultural networking. - All About Jazz - Dan Bilawsky

"Latin Jazz Network – Itai Kriss & TELAVANA - 2018"

Itai Kriss together with Hadar Noiberg is one of New York’s worst-kept secrets. Both flutists wear their Middle Eastern heritage just as well as they blend into the New York contemporary music scene. Of the two Mr Kriss leans more towards the traditional antecedents of his music using ululating Middle Eastern cadences melded in with strong and spicy Phrygian Modes to flavour his music. When thrown into the volcanic, molten mix of Latin Jazz music Mr Kriss’ music comes across in fascinating, fluttering and rippling Middle Eastern melodies that can just as quickly morph into Afro-Caribbean dance forms such as son and danzón. Both are equally authentic, which indicates Mr Kriss has matured into a musician who bestrides the two musical worlds of the Middle East and Latin America like a Colossus.

His 2018 recording Telavana, which is also the name of the ensemble he fronts, presents his unique ability to move easily between musical styles. This is a recording that evokes the heat and shimmering imagery of rippling Afro-Caribbean percussive grooves that make abrupt right turns towards the Middle East with the swagger and jiggle of Arabic music as well as Israeli folk forms. In any other instance one might assume that this comes from a musician who is proverbially-speaking neither here nor there. But in the case of Mr Kriss the ability to shape-shift, body and soul, from a Bedouin to a Cuban is utterly convincing. And it’s not simply because Mr Kriss is a consummate musician, able to make his true identity. Rather it’s because Mr Kriss’ true identity is one with a myriad of authentic personalities rolled into one.

This is a rare gift indeed and it has also enabled Mr Kriss to attract some of the finest musicians to render his music with aplomb. So whether he is evoking a Cuban comparsa (“Havana Special”) or write a soundtrack for a romance unfolding on a sand-dune silhouetted against the desert sun (“Sahadi’s Serenade”) or simply to paint a picture of the sparkling beauty of the Caribbean Sea (“Azules”) Mr Kriss does so with authentically beautiful melodies that he plays with majestic virtuosity on his oh-so-magic flute. And he does this with the assistance of musicians who are completely attuned with his vision and artistry – from Michael Rodriguez and Cesar Orozco to Or Bareket and Dan Aran, each musician is on top of his game. Two welcome surprises include Tamer Pinarbasi on the Middle Eastern qanun and Yosvany Terry on chékere – an instrument on which he is without par – bring a much greater sense of the irresistible to “Hong Kong Overture” and “Shabazi” respectively. - Latin Jazz Network


Itai Kriss Discography

Itai Kriss & TELAVANA 2018
Itai Kriss & The Shark 2011
Orkesta Akokan (Daptone Records) 2018
Rafy Malkiel - My Island 2018
Etienne Charles - Kaiso 2018
Dan Aran - New York Family 2018
Dida Pelled - A Missing Shade of Blue 2016
Los Hacheros - Bambulaye 2016
Edmar Castañeda - World Enesmble 2015
Mike Eckroth - Piano and Rhythm 2015
Brian Charette  - The Question That Drives Us 2014
Migrant Workers 2014
DogCat Ensemble - Back to the Woods 2013
Los Hacheros - Pilon 2012
Yunior Terry - Bi Bajo Danzon 2012
Four Flute Flight - Touch The Sky 2011
Joel Moreno Codinachs - Sound Will Alarm Emergexit 2010
Rafi Malkiel - Water 2010
Clay Ross - Matuto 2009
Dan Aran - Breathing 2009
Roberto Rodriguez - Timba Talmud 2009
Pablo Bobrowicky - NY Connection 2008
Dafnis Prieto Sextet - Taking the Soul for A Walk 2008



TELAVANA is a 6-piece ensemble, often features vocals and world dance (Timba and Belly Dance) .


From the desert dunes of Israel to the tropical beaches of Cuba, TELAVANA bridges the musical spheres of the Middle East and the Caribbean by combining Timba, Soul, North African music and Jazz to create a unique and lively mix of rhythms and textures that compel any crowd into dancing! Itai Kriss fuses the sounds of his native Israel with those of his adopted homelands in the Americas to bring you the magical TELAVANA. 

About Itai Kriss (Band Leader):

Itai Kriss, a 2019 Grammy-Nominated recording artist praised by Jazzwax as “one of the most exciting new flutist-composers” on the scene, commands a variety of musical genres with an eclectic style infused with Jazz, Latin and Middle Eastern sounds.

According to Downbeat Magazine, there is a “tangy, exotic flavor” to the New York musician’s style, which can be heard on his latest album, The Shark. The album features Kriss’ “soaring technique and phrasing that is both aggressive and pastoral,” which displays the versatility of his command of the flute, shifting through genres from funk and reggae to salsa and Arabic stylings with fluid ease.

Kriss is based in New York, where he is vital member of the downtown and Brooklyn Jazz scenes and the Latin Jazz and Salsa music scenes. 

Band Members