Songwriting Contest’s Surprise Win

Songwriting Contest’s Surprise Win

Nick Edelstein says being named winner of inaugural AJMF songwriting commission was 'pleasant surprise'

Kevin C. Madigan

Kevin Madigan is a senior reporter for the Atlanta Jewish Times.

A talented guitarist, Nick Edelstein also plays a variety of other instruments including trombone in the Black Sheep Ensemble.
A talented guitarist, Nick Edelstein also plays a variety of other instruments including trombone in the Black Sheep Ensemble.

Outside on a February afternoon in Decatur, sun ablaze, a raucous gathering of musicians, a good two-dozen of them, blasted their way through a set of tunes to the delight of a full crowd. The ensuing cacophony was provided by an impromptu amalgamation of two Atlanta bands, The Seed & Feed Marching Abominable and Black Sheep Ensemble.

In the midst of all this carousing was trombonist Nick Edelstein, a member of the latter group and winner of this year’s Atlanta Jewish Music Festival songwriting contest.

“I call them a street punk band – it’s all brass and percussion but there’s a violin player who started recently,” Edelstein said in a phone interview a couple of days before the show. “There are two belly dancers… It’s sort of like a Tim Burton circus band with Balkan and Eastern European influences.”

Edelstein has worked in the past with Nigerian vocalist Nneka Obata, The Moody Jews, and Israeli hip hop artists Axum. He plays cornetto in early music group Lauda Musicam and runs the Judaic Mosaic songwriting camp for kids. But it’s his band Nick & The Grooves that will appear at Eddie’s Attic on Thursday, March 9 as part of AJMF International Night.

“We’re playing an hour from 7:30 to 8:30,” he said. “There’s one song we’re planning to do that was released on our EP a few years ago. The rest of them are going be new material. I’m going to be playing guitar and Moog synth – a minimoog, and I’ll be playing electric oud. There’s a chance I might take out the cornetto for one song but I haven’t decided yet. We’ve got trumpet, sax, bass and drums.”

Decatur-based musician Nick Edelstein will perform at Eddie’s Attic March 9 as part of AJMF International night.

Edelstein entered the AJMF contest for songwriters not expecting to win the $1,800 prize. “I’ve been songwriting for a long time and hadn’t entered any contests. It’s sort of nice to get a pat on the back. I certainly wasn’t expecting it, and I wasn’t arrogant enough to think I was going to win it. I know there are a lot of other great Jewish musicians in town who probably submitted for it, so yeah, I was pleasantly surprised when they called me up,” he said.

Taking piano lessons since the age of four, Edelstein began creating his own music as a freshman in high school.

“I started with some classical pieces and that’s when I really started getting into writing and composing,” he recalled. “I didn’t really start writing non-classical music until I was in college at UGA. I was in a band at the time that was really into progressive and experimental rock. At that point I probably had maybe a dozen or so songs that I had jotted down in high school but hadn’t hashed out. I finished them and ended up with an album’s worth of decent material.”

Those dozen or so songs eventually became Edelstein’s first solo album release Ripple, in 2006.

The Judaic Mosaic program is Edelstein’s way of passing along what he has learned along the way.

“I saw a grant opportunity from the Schusterman foundation and it inspired me to see what I could do to contribute to the community,” he said. “I had been teaching for 15 years so I combined my talents into this summer camp. It’s renewed my desire to continue as a songwriter and explore what new possibilities can come, instead of just playing the same old songs over and over.”
He said his students continue to amaze him. “You put them all together in a room and they come up with something totally unique. It’s really exciting every summer to see what they do. I guide them along but it’s totally them.”

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