Sasi Shalom plays jazz in Teaneck
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Sasi Shalom plays jazz in Teaneck

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Blame the piano teacher.

That’s who gave Sasi Shalom, 44, the jazz bug, back when he was growing up in the Israeli town of Omer, near Beersheva.

The artists who initially inspired him: pianist Oscar Peterson and the band Weather Report.

“Jazz was always very interesting to me. There are a lot of layers to peel. Not all jazz is great, but great jazz is extremely gratifying to me,” Shalom said.

Shalom, who lives in Closter, will present his most recent jazz – which he calls “contemporary, acoustic” – in Teaneck to celebrate the release of his fifth album. He will play two sets at Smokey Joe’s on Saturday night, Dec. 22.

Shalom’s childhood musical training was mostly piano, with some guitar. Then he came to America, studying at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he graduated with a degree in performance and music synthesis.

In this new album, he’s joined by some of his Berklee classmates. There’s drummer Antonio Sánchez, who has recorded with the Pat Metheny Group, and saxophonist Donny McCaslin. Desmond White plays bass.

“All of them are full-time musicians,” Shalom said.

He is not, however. Not anymore. Now he is a full-time real estate developer, owning rental properties, rehabilitating old buildings and building new ones, most of them residential.

Before that, he composed music for television and radio. Highlights include working on Nickelodeon’s The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss series in the 1990s.

“There’s no real money playing jazz,” he said. “Very few people make a full-time living playing jazz, and if you do, you have to be on the road full time.”

Shalom has toured as a band leader, playing in Europe and Israel as well as across America. Now, though, he has a family. He and his wife have two children, 8 and 5, who are students at the Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County, where they take violin lessons. “They’ll probably get piano lessons sooner or later. I’m not pushing them too hard yet,” he said.

“The little one sings already. We’ve done some recordings. The older one, he’s expressing interest in writing music.”

Musically, Shalom is a homebody. While he plays occasionally as a sideman every few months, “My favorite time now is in the studio, writing and working in production.”

For his album release party in Teaneck next week, he’ll be playing with local musicians, rather than those with whom he recorded.

“We’re going to play some standards and some pieces from the album,” he said.

Save the date
Sasi Shalom will appear at Smokey Joe’s, 494 Cedar Lane, on Saturday night, Dec. 22. First seating: Doors open at 7:30. Music begins at 8:15. Second seating begins at 9:30. $8 cover charge
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