Some Velvet Blog recently alerted us about an NPR interview with violinist Miri Ben-Ari. While her career has been defined more by hip-hop projects with Kanye West and Jay-Z, a few jazz artists like have tapped her for their recordings: Santi DeBriano, Roseanna Vitro, Bob Belden and Ted Nash among them.
Born in Tel Aviv, Ben-Ari studied classical violin, eventually coming to the attention of Isaac Stern, who recommended her for an America-Israel Cultural Foundation scholarship. While serving her mandatory stint in the army at 17 years old, she discovered jazz through the music of Charlie Parker. She came to the States to study in New York at the Mannes School, releasing the jazz/funk Sahara immediately after graduating in '99 (she pays tribute to her mentor Betty Carter on "In the Shade of the Tree"). Recently, her musical trajectory points more towards urban music than jazz, having arranged and performed strings on albums by John Legend, Twista and DJ Logic. Though players like Jenny Scheinman, Jeff Gauthier, Regina Carter or Mark Feldman may have more experience with the idiom than Ben-Ari, her voice is nonetheless compelling. I was reminded of some of her past contributions on jazz albums that sound pretty hip, and if she returns to the jazz world in the future, she'll have plenty to offer.
Check out her performance in saxophonist Ted Nash's Double Quintet with Wynton Marsalis and pianist Frank Kimbrough on the 1999 album Rhyme and Reason.