Pianesque - ft. Mendy Portnoy
The sources tell us that in the realm of Jewish Song the Melody is more lofty and pure than are the Lyrics. The Lyrics may serve as the initial point of embarkation and departure, but once the soul has begun its musical journey, it is informed and guided by the ‘purest of Melody’ only.
Though I, personally, have always understood this to be the case, I have found it to be a great challenge when attempting to share this concept with the listener. Then on one beautiful and radiant day in the Eternal city of Jerusalem I met a precious soul, so young in years, yet so advanced in the understanding of this ‘purest of Melody’ I speak of. His fingers running across the black and white keys of his piano spoke to me of their unique and profound grasp of these ideas. I realized then and there that I had found the one who would help me clarify these musical ideas from the seat at his piano, far better and clearer than I ever could, using mere words.
And so began a journey that would take us over two years. A musical voyage of sorts, with many ups and downs, quite a few forks in the road, some of them even leading to dead ends… but at its conclusion we arrived to that place which was from the very beginning this journey’s destination.
That destination was and is… PIANESQUE.
Born in Manchester, England into a family of nine children, BA”H, Mendy began to play the piano at age 10. His illustrious father Rabbi Joel Portnoy was no stranger to Jewish Music having served as one of the great child soloists for the London School of Jewish Song led by the legendary Yigal Calek during the 1970’s. Little Mendy, who had been listening attentively as two of his older siblings were getting music lessons on the piano at the Portnoy home, had developed quite a desire to pound the ‘black & white’ keys himself. As is the case with many of the great piano players, Mendy was not formally trained; rather, he began absorbing the piano by his relentless desire and phenomenal ear for the music. It didn’t take very long and soon the beautiful artistry and sounds of jazz, pop, funk and classical music came streaming out of the Portnoy piano.
An opportune meeting between a young Mendy (Just 15 at the time) and Yossi Green who was performing in Manchester at a “Stars of Green” concert tour in November of 2007, brought this young and earnest ‘budding’ musician to Yossi’s attention and a kind of Mentor/Student association developed between the two.
But the two soon lost touch as Mendy made Aliya to Israel moving in to an apartment in Jerusalem, Israel. There, for the first time, he began to study music formally at the Mizmor Music College with noted musician, Danny Zamir. It was at Mizmor that Mendy met and studied with noted piano virtuoso, Omri Mor, who he says, influenced him musically in a “huge way.”
Then one day in 2013 a piece of piano music performed by Mendy came to the attention of Yossi Green, who could barely believe what had become of this young kid from Manchester with that ‘healthy curiosity’ about music. A meeting between the two at the piano was quickly arranged along with a communication about music in depth. What had begun as a benign Student/Mentor relationship rapidly grew into an exciting Musical Partnership. Yossi relates that “This was not mere good piano playing I was hearing; this was innovative and mature music interpretation!”
The newly found association quickly gave rise to the idea of PIANESQUE. Yossi relates, “I gave Mendy what I considered one of my more difficult songs to interpret. It was the song Yedid Nefesh I had written for MBD years before. After two or three gradually-improving versions he sent me a completed performance in this uniquely new style of experimental interpretation of his. I remember sitting there with my eyes closed, totally mesmerized in wonder at the peace I felt was flowing from his music. Uncertain whether possibly it was just I who felt this, I quickly shared it with a few musician friends of mine who one by one, all validated exactly what I was feeling! Here was an outstanding artist with an interpretive style of piano-playing I had not heard before! I decided that I just had do a project with him.”
PIANESQUE is this project. It contains 15 songs originally performed by the entire spectrum of contemporary Jewish Music Artists and reinterpreted in an original “melodically visual” style that is wholly Mendy Portnoy!
Sit back, start the journey and let the music of Yossi Green as interpreted and performed by Mendy Portnoy, engulf you with its soaring, soothing and wordless melody.