GALLERY CONCERT The Paul Madher Gallery stage, now known as The 222, will again host (from left) pianist Noam Lemish, guitarist Amos Hoffman, bassist Miles Wick and drummer Alex Aspinall in a March 16 program. (Photo by George B. Wells)

Though he is now a full-time music professor at York University, pianist and composer Noam Lemish remembers with affection when, as an artist just setting out on his path, he came to Sonoma County.

“I was very fortunate when I moved to Sonoma County to have some really wonderful mentors and teachers, such as W.A. Mathieu and George Marsh, and Will Johnson and Mel Graves—some of whom are associated with Sonoma State, and some who are just incredible musicians who have a very open-minded outlook about music,” he said.

COMPOSER Noam Lemish, formerly a Sonoma County resident, returns to Healdsburg on March 16 for a quartet concert with Amos Hoffman at The 222.

Their mentorship helped Lemish, now 41, focus on what has become the major throughline of his career—“the idea of combining musical genres and creating music that really isn’t necessarily confined by genre distinctions.”

That focus comes into sharp relief on Saturday night, March 16, when Lemish joins with oud- and guitar-player Amos Hoffman in a quartet performance on The 222 stage. They will be accompanied by the rhythm section of Miles Wick (bass) and Alex Aspinall (drums)—both music classmates of Lemish’s at SSU.

Lemish and Hoffman have been down this road before, last appearing in Healdsburg in 2018 with a similar exploration of multi-ethnic music, largely based on Jewish melodies reimagined as jazz compositions in the classic configuration.

But “Jewish music” itself is a music of multiple influences, including Kurdish, Yemenite, Moroccan, Ladino and Russian, as well as Israeli songs. Lemish—an intelligent, articulate and broadly educated musician—doesn’t try to just cobble together a music built of its various components.

“I don’t necessarily make a conscious effort to try and combine these influences,” he said. “I just create my music, the music that I feel I want to create. And then the result is the result of all the various combinations that are a part of who I am.”

His Story

Born in Ohio and raised in Israel, Lemish’s years at SSU were one passage of his continuing journey.

After immersing himself in classical music and jazz during his time in Sonoma County from 2002 to 2009, Lemish’s life took a very different turn: He won a position as a court music teacher in Bhutan. Living there for a year, he incorporated a whole new palette of music and tradition. He capped it with a composition titled, “The People’s King,” in honor of the 30th birthday of Bhutan’s young monarch, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.

When Lemish returned, he premiered a quartet arrangement of the piece at the 2011 Healdsburg Jazz Festival, complete with tape-recorded chanting of monks from the Thimphu monastery.

DUO Amos Hoffman, foreground on guitar, and pianist Noam Lemish in concert at Paul Mahder Gallery in 2018. The performance stage at the gallery is now called The 222. (Photo by George B. Wells)

Clearly he’s a difficult musician to categorize, but some might argue jazz is itself a music resistant to categories, and the complex cultural history of the Jewish diaspora is, likewise, a tapestry of influences. And it’s in the performance that the influences and experiences of the musicians on the stage also come out.

Key to this process currently is Hoffman, who himself has had an even longer career of blending different styles. In his collaboration with Lemish, Hoffman’s primary instrument is the oud, an Arabic lute with 11 strings (sometimes more, sometimes less) whose fretless neck allows infinite microtone shadings, creating an exotic, mesmerizing sound.

Hoffman began his own recording career in 1996, at first building a reputation as a guitarist in the Amsterdam jazz scene. His association with Avishai Cohen, another Israeli jazz musician, eventually led both to explore pan-cultural musical forms, opening new doors in jazz where none had been before.

Shortly after Lemish and Hoffman began collaborating in 2016, they recorded Pardes, an album of compositions drawing not only on Israeli music but Afro-Caribbean and African-American as well. The geographically diverse influences created music that entices, seduces and surrounds its listeners into a complex emotional landscape. It’s telling that the title, Pardes, is an Israeli word meaning garden—with a suggestion of that first mythic garden, Paradise.

Special Guest

Saturday’s concert will be the first time Lemish has performed with one of his personal idols, Paul McCandless. The multi-saxophonist was, along with Ralph Towner, one of the founders of Oregon, a jazz and world music group formed in 1970.

“I’m really thrilled about that because I’ve never played with Paul. But I’ve loved his playing and have admired his music, playing with the group Oregon, which I’ve loved since I was 16 years old,” said Lemish, with the unabashed enthusiasm of a fan. “I’m super excited about the opportunity to play with him, and for him to play our music.”

After three Bay Area appearances for Hoffman and Lemish, the pianist returns to Canada for this year’s Juno Awards ceremonies, in Halifax, where his solo album, Twelve, is nominated for Jazz Album of the Year. The Juno is the Canadian equivalent of the Grammy; this is Lemish’s first nomination.

The quartet-plus-one will be introduced by Jessica Felix, who is the curator of the jazz programing at The 222 and for over 20 years the artistic director of Healdsburg Jazz.

“I am so grateful to Jessica Felix for bringing us back to Healdsburg,” said Lemish before the Saturday concert. “Jessica has been a dear friend and has supported my career over the past 20 years in such incredible ways.”

Amos Hoffman & Noam Lemish Quartet, in concert at 222 Healdsburg Ave. on March 16. The concert is sold out; more information at 

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Christian Kallen has called Healdsburg home for over 30 years. A former travel writer and web producer, he has worked with Microsoft, Yahoo, MSNBC and other media companies, usually in an editorial capacity. He started reporting locally in 2008, moving from Patch to the Sonoma Index-Tribune to the Kenwood Press before joining the Healdsburg Tribune in 2022.


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