Guy Shkolnik’s neighbors always hear a piano playing in the background in the middle of the night. A musician and an artist at heart, he always looked to compose, to improve on his own work and skills. Guy’s passion for music is truly something to behold. Before founding Niogi, Guy worked on his Ph.D. in music, focusing on Bach’s fugal works. Later on, in what he calls a type of fate, Guy met the young and incredibly talented Saxophone player Omri Abramov, who had already played in some of Israel’s most famous Jazz festivals, such as the Red Sea and Tel-Aviv festivals. He also played with world-music singer-songwriter Idan Raichel. Together, the two finally decided to create something they both dreamed of — and now, we witness the birth of their band and their new album — Niogi and Landing.
Full disclosure, I’ve known Guy and Omri for a long time, watching and mostly listening to their process. I’ve always adored their dedication, and their non-compromising approach to music. They’ve worked days and nights towards the recording of their album - composing, practicing, trying new sounds.
In February 2015, the band flew to Oslo, to record at the legendary Rainbow Studios, with who is probably the best jazz sound engineer of our time — Jan Erik Kongshaug. When they spoke about the experience, which you can also see for yourselves in their YouTube video, they said how greatful they were to work and record where some of jazz’s greatest have recorded. They never took music for granted, and their album Landing proves it — and even shows they belong in the big league.
Niogi finished recording the album after four packed days, and the result, as Omri himself describes it, is an album that “almost feels live”. As I listened to the album, I realised this is a very interesting and true perspective — it’s part of the album’s magic, with a genuine emotion, liveliness and thrill of a live concert.
Just as great artists like Pink Floyd have done in the past, Niogi intended the album to be conceived as a whole — the way albums should be made, sliding us from one track to the other, fitting perfectly into an entire piece, as if telling a story from cover to cover. The album has beautiful transitions, even mid-track (like in the wonderful opening track, Getting it Wrong and Right) that keep you sucked in, surprised, and even evokes the mind — up until the very end.
Guy and Omri say they were inspired by many different artists, among them Pat Metheny, Lyle Mays and Keith Jarrett. But as Guy puts it, they were mostly aiming to work as hard as they do, saying that great music doesn’t come easy. It’s this dedication that brought them back to the writing table over and over again, until they felt they’ve got it right. The incredible thing, however, is that they took these inspirations and made something of their own, a new and special sound that belongs to them. A sound that is able to keep you thinking, and most importantly in music — moved.
This is just the beginning for Niogi. Even though their first album has just been released, they are already looking forward into the future. As they say, they are always looking to try new sounds, new instruments (such as the new SeaBoard, in addition to Omri’s EWI), and new ideas, and are already thinking of their second album. Personally, I can’t wait to see what’s in store.
Landing is now available for digital purchase through iTunes, in CD format through Alessa Records, and also on Spotify.