New York Jazz Community Bids Farewell to Shimrit Shoshan
On Sunday, Aug. 26, one week following her tragic and untimely passing at age 29 from cardiac arrest, friends and members of the New York jazz community gathered at Smalls Jazz Club to pay tribute to gifted pianist and composer Shimrit Shoshan.
Entirely self-taught until landing a spot at the prestigious Thelma Yellin High School of the Arts, Shoshan (aka Shimmy) was born into a Moroccan-Jewish family in a suburb of Tel Aviv, Israel. After setting her sights on New York, she enrolled in the jazz program at The City College of New York and continued her studies at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. Shoshan was a finalist in both the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Competition and the Thelonious Monk Institute Ensemble Competition in 2009. Poised and confident, Shoshan performed at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola at Jazz at Lincoln Center and the New York Winter Jazz Festival, and she led late-night jam sessions at Smalls. Invited to play in Montreal, Paris and Rennes, Shoshan had also made her mark on the international jazz scene.
Smalls was jam-packed as friends and fellow musicians crowded the stairs and spilled out onto West 10th Street.
“This is a testament to Shimrit, to how many people she touched and to the wonderful musician she was,” said pianist and Smalls co-owner/manager Spike Wilner, who hosted the event. Musical tributes included a trio of pianist Jason Lindner, bassist Ari Roland and veteran drummer Billy Kaye (one of Shoshan’s mentors); a solo guitar piece by Saul Rubin; a somber composition penned by bassist Joe Sanders played in duet with pianist Ehud Asherie; and a soulful solo piano rendition of a cherished Israeli tune, Naomi Shemer’s “Lu Yehi” (Let It Be), performed by Mika Hary.
“Shimrit was like one of my grandchildren,” Kaye mused as he took the stage to conclude the memorial with his “Hymn For Shimrit,” adding that she took on any challenge he presented.
Acclaimed for its amalgamation of talent and technique, Shoshan’s debut recording, Keep It Movin’ (Shimmya, 2010), featured a stellar group of Eric McPherson, Abraham Burton, John Hebert and Luques Curtis playing mainly her original tunes.
Shoshan also contributed to trumpeter Leron Thomas’ 2011 album Dirty Draws Vol. 3. “I’m forever grateful that she was a part of this project,” said Thomas. “The treat of working with good composers is that they will naturally add weight to your compositions. Shimrit was exactly that kind of entity. She also understood the importance of documenting the art and represented the DIY creed of being an artist. She will be missed.”
One of Shoshan’s most recent concerts—a collaboration with saxophonist Greg Osby at Tribeca’s 92nd Street Y—explored her new material. “These were among some of the most challenging and difficult compositions I’ve ever played in my career, and yet, some of the most complete and transparent in terms of revealing who she really was and what she represented,” Osby said. “Compositionally, she was very well-developed.”
The two had been rehearsing throughout the summer, and “Shimrit was primed to be the next pianist in my group,” Osby said. They were also working on a duo CD project. “Shimrit was the perfect embodiment of the best characteristics a contemporary musician could and should have. She was very inspiring to me—her energy, her level of commitment to the art form, her drive and dedication to move forward. We had so many plans. I’m just honored that our paths crossed.”