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Flutist Itai Kriss, Telavana, & Eclectic Inspiration

Written by Curtis Davenport

October, 2022  —  One of the most beautiful things about the music that we call jazz, is the fact that it started in America but has become an international treasure.  

Artists from around the world have made it so, by adding their own perspectives and influences. The results have often created sounds of beauty, like no other in the world. Musicians have traveled to the U.S., to learn at our venerable institutions, such as Berkley and Julliard, some return to their homelands and influence their jazz scenes. Others stay and bring their lessons and their fresh perspectives to their new American colleagues.  

One such artist will be joining us, in The JAZZ ROOM, here in Charlotte, on October 14 and 15. He is flutist Itai Kriss.   

Born in Israel, Mr. Kriss has been a vital part of the New York jazz family, for over 20 years. The renowned jazz journalist, Marc Myers, in his Jazzwax blog, called Mr. Kriss “one of the most exciting new flutist composers on the scene”. I have been in full agreement with that statement, ever since I encountered, Itai on his stunning 2010 debut album, The Shark 

With his group, Telavana, brings together the sounds of his native Middle East and the Caribbean. He combines Timba, North African music, Afro-Cuban rhythms, American Soul, and jazz. The result is an enticing, beautiful and utterly unique sound, that is better heard than described. 

Check out this clip of Itai Kriss and Telavana performing “Gemini”

When I sat down with Mr. Kriss and his fellow Israeli-born jazz musician, guitarist/oudist Amos Hoffman (who will join Itai in Charlotte), we discussed, among other things, the origin of his group’s moniker, Telavana. He answered

“Telavana, is like me, an expression of all of my experiences. I’m from Tel Aviv but my heart is in Havana. It’s Tel Aviv and it’s Havana – Telavana”.

As we continued the conversation, we talked about what inspired him to put together such an eclectic group. Said Itai, “Havana is the home of the Afro-Caribbean diaspora of music. Televana is my attempt to bring those two worlds together, the music of the Caribbean and of the Middle East…It’s about connecting cultures, in general. Connecting [music] that you love, in a creative way. In Telavana, we have musicians who are Israeli, Cuban, Puerto Rican and American”. They are all brought together by the universal desire to share this amazing music. To hear it for yourself, check out their last two impressive album releases, Telavana (2018) and Supermoon (2021). 

Check out this clip of Itai Kriss and Telavana featuring Amos Hoffman and Elena Nayiri performing “Sagittarius

Although I have not yet seen Itai Kriss and Telavana, live, I have experienced their addictive sound, on YouTube. I have never heard a group blend Son Cubano, boleros, and Middle Eastern belly dancers, and make them go together as naturally as bacon and eggs. Charlotte, you are in for an unforgettable treat! 

Please join us in The JAZZ ROOM, at The Stage Door Theatre, for flutist Itai Kriss and Telavana, featuring Amos Hoffman, on Friday, October 14 and Saturday, October 15. There will be two sets each evening.



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