The music of Los Angeles trio Maetar (may'-tar) -- Grammy winner Itai Disraeli (bass), Hagai Lev-Shalem Izraeli (horns), and Richard Fultineer (percussion) -- unfolds like a beguiling trip to destinations unknown on their new album LOVE DUB & THE ABSTRACT ONE-DROP, their debut on respected Ropeadope and the culmination of decade of harvesting magic and multi-faceted transformation. The band's name is a Hebrew word meaning "vibration of change."

With a central ethos of freedom and flow in music, they effortlessly traverse vast stylistic ground as they marry smart jazz grooves with imaginative, challenging sonic explorations in psychedelia, funk, ambience, and electronica, as well as subtle classical references and world music flavors -- not surprising, as two of the musicians are from the Middle East (Israel) and all three have extensive multi-ethnic interests and training. Their musicianship is stunning; band members have played and recorded with diverse artists ranging from James Gadson, Larry Coryell, Jackson Browne, and Roger Waters to Tony Allen, Nishat Khan, Prince Diabate of Guinea, Omar Faruk Tekbilek, and Trilok Gurtu.

Described as "eclectic world groove avant funk jazz," Maetar's sound draws at times on Arabic and Hebrew melodies, filtered through a rigorous jazz lens but unmistakably accented with the exuberance of rock, funk, reggae, and Afrobeat influences -- yet it fits neatly into none of these categories. Their music is free-form and fluidly improvisatory, created in the moment with deep empathy and entrainment and without preconceived notions, charts, overdubs, or click tracks. Some songs are spacious, trance-inducing, and meditative, while others are beat-laden and sinuously seductive; some songs soar with pure tones and gravity-defying gymnastics, while others evoke the subtle mastery of Miles Davis. The three musicians are virtuosic, commanding their instruments with mastery and enormous innovation, but the real essence of Maetar is the profound connection, respect, and chemistry they share -- the spaces they leave for each other, and their deeply intuitive interplay.

Brothers Itai and Hagai grew up in Israel on the pastoral Kibutz Mishmar Haemak, which their grandfather co-founded in the 1920s in the valley of Megido; in their childhoods, it was "a place of wonder," a verdant valley of fertile fields, fruit trees, and pine forests. They were taught to speak both Hebrew and Arabic, and to live in peace with their neighbors. They began making music at the respective ages of six and four as their whole family gathered for weekly jams around their grandfather’s table. Their grandfather, in addition to his official forestry work, was a gifted natural musician and a popular poet whose work to this day is part of the canon of early Israeli folk music.

Both grew to become legitimate musicians; Hagai won scholarships and competitions and went on to become a trumpet soloist in national Israeli orchestras, and Itai -- after honing his bass skills in a bomb shelter during one of the wars -- became a celebrated and sought-after bassist, winning Israel's national “Bass Player of the Year" award. They played together in an avant-garde jazz band, touring the country to festivals and concert halls but also playing in Arab villages, schools, prisons, and working with the newly emigrated Ethiopian Hebrew community as representatives of Israel's ministry of education.

Throughout their youth, the brothers devoured American music. Hagai says, "As kids, the music we listened to, admired, and imitated came mostly from America. The movies, books, and stories painted a picture of endless roads, vast spaces, and most importantly the promise of freedom and peace in a society that celebrates creativity and innovation."

"Once we heard Miles, Pops, Duke, Dizzy, Billy Holiday, Muddy Waters, Santana, Hendrix, Dylan, Herb Alpert, and countless other blues, rock, and jazz artists, something deep stirred in us. The possibility that there are other ways to express what and how we felt about the world. That's when our pursuit of improvised music and developing our voice really began."

As war broke out again and scud missiles rained down day and night, Itai and Hagai left for the U.S., landing in Los Angeles where they had some contacts. They formed various bands: rock, funk, and even a successful incarnation as a swing band, playing with various jazz singers. Privately, they continued to improvise together late into the night, recording themselves doing what they love: creating melodies, rhythms, loops, sounds, and silences. Seeking an original musical language to express their passion for peace and reach across borders, their Maetar sound began to take shape. They knew the time had come for an original direction.

After an eponymous indie debut album, they released Maetar Live in 2006, recorded during their residency that year at Santa Monica music venue Harvelle's. They went on to record a 2012 studio album, The Gift, in collaboration with legendary R&B drummer James Gadson. With Gadson, they played festivals and private clubs, and jammed for hours every week, continuing to forge their sound.

That same year, they met Richard Fultineer, whom Hagai calls their "third brother, a profoundly soulful musician and spirit who brought with him a wealth of African rhythms and a deep pocket of funk...he brings his virtuosity and imagination to every piece." A true musical dialogue began to unmistakably unfold.

Richard Fultineer landed in Los Angeles from his native Pennsylvania in the 1990s, just as a vibrant worldbeat scene was beginning to flower in the local clubs. He met African musicians, master drummers, kora players, brass players, and traditional dancers. He studied Yoruban drumming with master talking drummer Frances Awe, and toured with him in South Korea, Canada and the U.S. for music cultural exchange programs and performances.

Richard subsequently spent time playing music in Japan and Nepal before returning to L.A. for freelance gigs, where he wished for a chance to play in a more experimental environment. In 2012 he met Itai Disraeli and his violinist/composer wife Lili Haydn, who suggested he jam with Itai and Hagai.  When he first went to see them play, he says "I immediately thought, now these fellas are going somewhere -- like Jupiter or Saturn! They were definitely space shuttle quality musicians."

The trio focused intensely together, woodshedding in a loft over a pirate costume business. The mindset of deep listening as a blueprint and foundation for peace led to their operative mod “CPWO” - Completely Present and Wide-Open: playing live in the same room with everyone interacting equally, listening deeply, being in the moment without preconceived notions and patiently exploring the elements of music. This discipline led to many hours of experimentation with the sounds of diverse instruments, rhythms, and modes, and with grooving, looping, layering, and shaping. The band recorded their sessions and then analyzed and discussed intent and impact, which led to even greater communication and expression, and to the development of their own set of innovative musical modes -- rhythmic sub-styles which they termed the Urban Crawl, Abstract One Drop, Nu-Jazz, Tone Poems, and Soundscapes.

Feeling they had at last realized a collective musical vision, the trio released a single, Naked Jungle, in 2018 (a song included on their forthcoming new album, Love Dub + The Abstract One-Drop, coming on March 15, 2024). Playing instruments and employing rhythms and melodic modes from around the world, the now-solid trio found their voice in the universal language of music with a truly original sound, brimming with inspirational melodies, seductive grooves, and inventive use of technology. They continued to record, explore, and push boundaries.

Just as Maetar's trajectory seemed bright, all plans had to be put on hold when Hagai was diagnosed with a brain tumor after experiencing prolonged headaches and cognitive challenges. He underwent 6+ hours of surgery which, while successful, required prolonged restrictions. His doctors advised that he not play his trumpet for a time, and initially that he not even listen to music. He says, "Gradually I returned to playing. I got much deeper into learning to play the Egyptian reed flutes ney and especially kawala. They pose no back pressure like the trumpet, and the sound and sensibilities resonated with me." It took several years for him to be able to play horns again without headaches, but he persevered. "I learned so much from this, both musically and humanely. I transferred the freedom of the flutes to my horns, and I came to understand how things unfold in their own way and take the time they need. Wu Wei is a Chinese Taoist concept of naturality - Effortless Effort, doing without doing. It is the cultivation of letting go."

Forced to shelve active recording and live shows for several years, Maetar still never let go of their dreams. As Hagai's full recovery restored his freedom to play, the band was restored as well, more determined than ever to use their music as an instrument of peace. They forged on with recording and refining their deep world groove, as well as creating tone poems and meditative soundscapes that free the mind; this was the evolution of the dual cycle of works that became Love Dub + The Abstract One-Drop.

While Hagai recuperated, Itai kept busy, recording with his other group, Opium Moon, using the concepts of Maetar to inspire its original music. With Opium Moon he won a Grammy for the eponymous debut album, and garnered a second nomination for their sophomore effort, and he traveled with the band to India for a TEDx appearance and to England to tape a performance for the BBC.  Richie continued to work his gigs, and most importantly during that time he began developing the #maetarmusic presence on Instagram through his visual talent of creating evocative, exquisite short movie clips for Maetar's music. He continues this prolific output to this day, putting Maetar on the social media map with his exceptionally striking videos.

During those three years, the band still gathered socially and, after a year or so, started to play together in small acoustic settings: hand drums, kawala, and acoustic bass. They developed a lot of new material during that time; using acoustic instruments with no effects or full drum kit made them return to the roots of music; melody, groove, and space. It was a creative period of breath.

Education has always remained a core value for Itai and Hagai. Their mother is a teacher, and they believe in giving back and sharing the wisdom they learned from their elders. As part of their mission to share peace and harmony through music, they started a revolutionary music program in the progressive Wildwood School in Los Angeles, where they have educated generations of young students; some of their past students include such artists as Gracie Abrams, Zach Robinson, Cherry Glazer, Atta Boy, Leah Kate, Eli Pearl, Maesa Pullman, and Sophie Simmons, to name a few. As a private teacher, Itai started Thundercat on bass.

As they returned to live performances, Maetar rapidly regained momentum, again drawing legions of loyal fans to their shows and landing a deal with the Ropeadope label for their long-awaited album.  Itai says, "Our music is an invitation to be completely present and to share the best of ourselves with each other and with the world. It is a prayer. It is a meditation. It is an offering of our heart. In a world where so many forces are pulling us apart in different directions, our music is an invitation to love and to have the courage to know and embody peace."

Maetar did what every musician talks about doing: they went into the cave for ten years and recorded spontaneous, stream-of-consciousness composition with no boundaries, only inspiration every week, culling the most magical moments into the epic work that is Love Dub and the Abstract One Drop. With much more to come!


Itai Disraeli - Fender Custom Shop Jazz Basses, Fodera 6 string Imperial Elite, Vocals, Percussion, Spaceship.

Hagai Lev-Shalem Izraeli - Monette Flumpet, Trumpet, Cornet, Conch Shells, Duduk, Ney, Recorder, Souna, Miniak Bass, Vocals, Percussion, Evolving Universe.

Richard Fultineer - Drums, Vocals, Percussion, Visuals.

Band photos - Jim Berman

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