About Us

Iris Portugaly is a vocalist, drummer, composer and performer and the academic director of the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music.Ofer Portugaly is a pianist, musical director, composer and arranger and a senior faculty member at the Rimon School.

Iris and Ofer Portugaly met in 1987, on the steps of the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. During their stay there, they formed a jazz quartet with two more Bostonian musicians, and started performing in Boston jazz clubs. The couple has performed over the years, with their quartet, in countless concerts and festivals in Israel and abroad, and collaborated with Israeli and international jazz artists.

In the summer of 1991, fully aware that the Jazz scene in Israel is still in its infancy, they decided to return and establish themselves as performers-composers in the Israeli music industry. Upon their return, they formed an ensemble and started creating original Israeli jazz, drawing upon trends and influences of local culture. Their music included original pieces flavored with Mediterranean touches, as well as Israeli classics and newly arranged jazz staples.
The Portugalys actually created a new genre – jazz that is truly Israeli, and in 1994 released their first album, which enjoyed a very warm reception from critics and audiences alike, and was successful in Japan, too.

Their success in Japan gained further momentum with the release of their second album, "Eden", in 1995. In 1998 the Portugalys released their third album – "Before You Even Said It". It was in 1998 that they met double bass player Oded Goldschmidt, who has since become an active partner in all of their projects.
In 1999 the Israeli ambassador to Nigeria invited the Portugalys to Lagos, the capital, to perform a series of concerts for the international community and local businessmen and dignitaries. It was during their tour in Lagos that they encountered gospel music, and consequently, upon their return to Israel, Ofer decided to form an ensemble dedicated to gospel and black music at the Rimon School, as a curricular activity.
During the first two years of its existence, the gospel ensemble of the Rimon School performed at the School and elsewhere. It was at this time that the members of the ensemble – teachers, students and musicians – developed a special, close and supportive relationship and a unique ambience which eventually became a hallmark of the ensemble.
The ensemble´s debut performance outside the School was the "Gospel-Jazz" concert at the 2001 Red Sea Jazz festival in Eilat. Although gospel music is generally conceived as religious Christian music, the ensemble emphasizes its characteristic universal messages of optimism, faith, hope and love of mankind. Additionally, the ensemble and its leaders managed to connect gospel music to Israeli culture by combining original works and Hebrew texts in an attempt to create "Israeli gospel". The show, with an ever-changing and highly diversified repertoire, still runs with considerable success throughout Israel.
The fourth album by Iris and Ofer Portugly, "Gospel Jazz Live", was recorded live with the gospel choir. Over the years, the ensemble has collaborated with the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra, with the London Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as with such guest artists as Margalit Zan´ani, Ruthie Navon, Sagiv Cohen, Gabriel Butler, Subliminal, Mosh Ben-Ari and Momy Levy, among others.
In 2006 the Portugalys and their gospel choir teamed up with vocalist Dani Litany in a show titled "Messiah Days" that played to full houses for two years. The majority of the repertoire for this show consists of Israeli songs arranged in the spirit of black, Blues and gospel music, maintaining the original Israeli gospel concept created by the Portugalys.


In 2007 the Portugalys reverted to their roots as a Jazz quartet when they released their fifth album, "An Ongoing Story". The project, with guest artists Eli Degibri, Ilan Salem, Avi Lebovitch, Amos Hoffman and the gospel choir, presented fascinating Jazz arrangements for select Hebrew classics such as "Ma´aravah Mikan" (= West of Here), "Ahavat Hayay" (= Love of My Life), "Geshem" (= Rain) and "Haperakh Begani" (= The Flower in My Garden), alongside original pieces and brilliant Jazz arrangements. By combining original lyrics and music with Jazz and Israeli classics, the Portugalys created a unique acoustic performance.

In 2011, Iris and Ofer Portugaly with the gospel choir performed at the final concert of the 20th season of pianist and music educator Astrit Baltzan´s series "A Personal Perspective on the Classics" titled "Gershwin and the American Dream – a Homage to the Greatest Jewish Composers of Broadway". The concert presented the works of four American Jewish composers, regarded among the most prominent creators of 20th century popular music: George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern and Harold Arlen, who composed substantial segments of the repertoire known as "The American Songbook". The concert included unique vocal arrangements, introduced by Astrit Baltzan, whose passion for music and clever narration imbued the entire performance with elegance and charm.
That same year, the ensemble produced the show "Adon Haselichot", a co-production by Beit Avi Hay and the Givatayim Theater. With this show, the Portugalys´ musical vision soared to new heights, as they combined gospel and Jazz music with traditional Jewish "Piyyutim" (liturgical hymns) and prayers, as well as original genre-inspired pieces. In this show, the Portugalys created "Jewish gospel" – an original, one-of-a-kind blend of gospel music and Jewish-Israeli culture, performed by 17 musicians in a unique line-up that created a thrilling and extraordinary meeting of East and West: a 10-singer gospel choir, a guitar, an oud, a piano, a double bass, drums, an electronic wind instrument (EWI), a cello and ethnic percussion instruments.

In February 2012, the Portugalys produced a joint performance with the Israeli Sinfonietta of Beersheba – works spanning two decades of their musical activity. All of the pieces selected for the performance were arranged in gospel style and orchestrated into an intriguing blend of contemporary and classical music, and subsequently performed by virtuoso artists from both worlds, together with the gospel choir.

In January 2013 iris and Ofer, together with the gospel choir, were invited to their first tour in the USA. Concerts were held in Boca Raton, Florida, and at the Rodef Shalom congregation In New York, as part of the "Kabalat Shabbat" ceremony at the congregation´s old synagogue, as well as in the context of the Martin Luther King Day events. In the ceremony, the Israeli gospel ensemble performed together with New York´s "Voices of Christ Ensemble" gospel choir, to extensive local media coverage and enthusiastic reviews.

In 2014, the Portugalys produced a show titled "Coverdiscover" with world renowned bass player Yossi Fine and percussionist Ben Eilon. This energetic quartet performs original pieces composed especially for the show and arrangements for contemporary Israeli and American music standards, with African rhythms and influences. The debut performance was held at the 2014 Red Sea Jazz festival in Eilat.

In 2015, the Portugalys created the show "At Li Laila" (= You Are my Night). This show links the songs of the late Zohar Argov with the rich and rousing gospel music, and commemorates the 30th anniversary of the singer´s passing.
Vocalist Sagiv Cohen, with Iris and Ofer Portugaly and their gospel choir, perform modern arrangements of the songs made famous by Zohar Argov, in the true spirit of Blues and gospel music.

Just recently, Ofer Portugaly launched a brand new project titled "Jazzing it up with Ofer Portugaly". This project combines a concept album with a series of live performances showcasing the country´s leading singers and songwriters. Ofer Portugaly and his guest performers deliver Jazzy versions of their familiar songs, as a homage to Israeli creation. Among the artists participating in this project: Miki Gavrielov, Danny Robas, Leah Shabbat, Sagiv Cohen, Yehudit Ravitz, Doron Talmon, Ohad Hitman, Din Aviv, Alon and Yehuda Eder, Eli Magen, Nathan Cohen, Daphna Levi, Yossi Fine and Ben Eilon.

Concurrently with their artistic career as performing musicians, the Portugalys continue to devote their best efforts to educating and passing on the Jazz heritage to the younger generation. Ofer is a senior member of faculty at the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, he conducts a big band in the context of the music program at the Quiryat Sharet high school in Holon and serves as academic advisor to the music program of the Kalay high-school in Givatayim.Iris headed the vocal department at the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music between 2001 and 2014, as well as the unique music program at the New High School in Hertzliya in cooperation with the Rimon School. In June 2010, Iris was awarded the Hertzliya Municipality´s annual commendation in education for her professionalism and contribution to education in the context of the music program she has established and consolidated at the New High School in Hertzliya. In July 2014, Iris was appointed as Academic Director of the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music.
Over the course of nearly three decades, the Portugalys have established an Israeli Jazz scene of their own. They have been doing it tirelessly, as creative artists who combine staples of Israeli music and liturgical hymns from Jewish tradition with Jazz, as well as in their original creative output which draws inspiration from all of the above. In addition to their activity as prolific creative artists and popular performing musicians, they devote much of their energy to nurturing the next generation in Jazz and music generally. They educate and raise generations of talented musicians at the Rimon School and at the music programs where they conduct Jazz and gospel music workshops. 


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