I was born in Manhattan and grew up in Greenwich Village in the fifties and sixties. I was fortunate to live a unique moment in history, in a multiethnic atmosphere charged with social and political debate and intense emotions. These were times of great optimism in which many established customs and policies were being questioned, new life styles were being put into practice and protest was widespread.
My grandmother, Frances Israel (standing back row, third from the left) and her brothers and sisters. Lower East Side, New York, c. 1910 (?)
The spirit of the social upheaval was mirrored in the music, a prolific and constantly evolving musical backdrop that included the songs of Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, Woody Guthrie, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Richie Havens, and blues singers such as B.B. King, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. And, of course, jazz and classical music. Among the musicians that I often heard play in the neighborhood were Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Horace Silver, McCoy Tyner, Sonny Rollins, Freddie Hubbard, Herbie Hancock, Rahsaan Roland Kirk , Art Blakey and many more.
Self Portrait, Joshua Edelman, 1974.
My grandparents were Jewish immigrants who arrived in New York at the beginning of the twentieth century fleeing antisemitic repression in Russia, the Ukraine and Poland. In my family the predominant sentiment was and continues to be secular and progressive. Among the generations of my grandparents and my parents there was a great devotion to intellectual pursuits, ideas and art, and at the same time a strong identification with our Jewish origin. During the Second World War my father and two of his brothers fought against Nazism in Europe.
My maternal grandmother, Frances Hochberg, was a teacher and worked all her life in schools in under privileged neighborhoods of New York. She dedicated a lot of her time and energy to helping people in need and fighting for civil rights and women’s rights. You can read the article“An afternoon with Judith Edelman” about her here . My maternal grandfather, Abraham Hochberg, had a first cousin whom my mother referred to as “Uncle Yip ”—Yip Harburg (he had simplified his last name), the lyricist of The Wizard of Oz and many other legendary songs of the era. You can read more about Yip Harburg in wikipedia. My parents, both architects, worked together in a small family office in Greenwich Village. They designed and executed a very extensive body of architectural work that focused largely on public housing and other public buildings, including clinics, schools, day care centers, synagogues, churches and residences for the elderly. My mother, Judith Edelman, now 89, continues to work at this same office, relocated to Lafayette Street in Lower Manhattan.
When I was seven years old I started going to a Dalcroze Eurhythmics class taught by Robert Abramson, a wonderful and creative pianist and pedagogue who a few years later became my first piano teacher. Dr. Abramson started me off on classical piano and soon had me playing Chopin and Bach, but he would throw in some blues basics too. Eventually he taught me jazz harmony and a lot of jazz standards. I also had some jazz piano lessons with John Mehegan, Norman Simmons, Jaki Byard and Billy Taylor. And I had the great fortune to study classical piano with Joseph Prostakoff, a disciple of Abby Whitside, and composition and arranging with Jimmy Giuffre and Bruce Saylor at NYU. However the pianist who most influenced my playing, practicing and teaching was Barry Harris. I first attended Barry’s classes at a loft in Cooper Square in the 1970s and in 1984-5 I spent a lot of time at Barry’s Jazz Cultural Theatre on Eighth Avenue.
Bank Street. La calle de mi infancia.
I started working professionally in New York in 1976 playing with the Lynn Oliver Big Band and octet, a quartet with the saxophonist Charley Gerard, piano and bass duos, and accompanying various singers of jazz, reggae and calypso. We used to rehearse at the hotel Bretton Hall on Broadway or in my fifth- floor walk- up apartment on East Tenth Street. In 1977 and 78 I traveled to Guatemala to study Spanish intensively and discovered that I had a great passion for language. On January 9th, 1980 I set out for Liria (Valencia) with a six- month contract to teach in the Unión Musical. In 1981 I moved to the city of Valencia where I worked intensively with a lot of jazz and Latin jazz bands and also taught piano and improvisation. Many of my students from that era became successful professionals.
With my brother Marc and our parents, 1973.
In 1985 I was hired to teach piano, improvisation and combos at the recently inaugurated Taller de Músicos de Madrid and in August of 1986 I moved to the Calle Mayor of the capital city of Spain. The musical activity in the Taller and in Madrid at that time was very intense. There was live music everywhere and I worked constantly in clubs, concerts, recordings, radio and television with musicians such as Perico Sambeat, Sean Levitt, David Thomas, Pedro Iturralde, Jorge Pardo, Donna Hightower, Michelle McCain, Chuck Israels, Abdu Salim and many more. In 1986 I arranged for the Taller to bring Barry Harris to do a week- long workshop and perform in Madrid and this turned into an annual tradition that lasted twenty years.
In the late 1980s I was one of the founders of a salsa band called Sonora Latina. We performed non-stop, accompanied artists like Andy Montañés and Roberto Blades, and recorded two LPs. For many years in Madrid in the eighties and nineties I was playing salsa with different bands five or six nights a week. As a result of studying repertoires and techniques for playing this music I decided to do more in- depth research and in 1995 I began interviewing a lot of important pianists from the Latin music world, some in Madrid and others in Barcelona, Córdoba, Paris, Havana, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and New York. Among them Bebo Valdés, Chucho Valdés, Frank Emilio Flynn, Rubén González, Eddie Palmieri, Papo Lucca, Larry Harlow, Alfredo Valdés, Jr., Tania María, Michel Camilo and Alfredo Rodríguez.
In the summer of 1999 I formed a quartet with the virtuoso harmonica player Antonio Serrano and Lucho Aguilar and Jimmy Castro on bass and drums. We did months of concerts which culminated in a live recording in the Café Central in Madrid: Antonio Serrano & Joshua Edelman Trío en el Central. This group got back together in 2008 and the friendship and musical collaboration continue to this day.
Going back to my roots. At the passing of my father, Harold Edelman (1923-1998) I prepared a program of music for a memorial ceremony that was held in Saint Mark’s Church in New York in February, 1999. I played with my son Gabriel on cello and my friend Lucho Aguilar on bass. A lot of the people present at this event encouraged me to record a CD in memory of Hal and a few months later I undertook this project in the company of musicians with whom I had a special connection from past years: Gabriel and Lucho, Manuel Machado, Perico Sambeat, Antonio Serrano, Norman Hogue, Jimmy Castro, Moisés Porro, Camilo Edwards, Beto Hernández and Luis Dulzaides.
With Cristina in the Parque de la Cornisa after a concert
In the spring of 2007 I recorded a CD with Cuban and Japanese musicians for King Records in Japan calledDreaming on the Fire Escape. And that same year I co-produced in my studio in Calle Rosario Los Mares de China, (the first production of the singer and song writer Zenet) along with the sound engineer Saúl Santolaria and Juan Ibañez of Warner Chappel music. In January of 2010 I moved with my family to the outskirts of Bilbao and founded Jazz Cultural Theatre, a center dedicated to Teaching, Research and Spreading the Word about Jazz.
Las Luces de Bertendona Score
Jazz Cultural Theatre of Bilbao is located in a storefront that from 1956 to 2010 was a well known electrical supply shop in Bilbao. The process of converting it to what it is today, a center for education, research and spreading the word about jazz was truly challenging. This story together with the beautiful nocturnal illumination of the street inspired Joshua to compose “Las Luces de Bertendona” [you can watch the video in youtube], a piece included in his recent album “Manhattan Bilbao Jazz-Zubia”.