Saxophonist and flautist Roman Kuntsman, 61
Jazz musician and composer Roman Kuntsman was found dead last week in his home in Moshav Beit Gamliel. He was 61. Kuntsman's funeral was held on Wednesday evening in Jerusalem.
Kuntsman, a saxophonist and flautist, immigrated to Israel from Leningrad in 1970, where he played in numerous ensembles. Here he became a member of the Platina band, alongside drummer Areleh Kaminsky.
Kaminsky met Kuntsman for the first time at a performance in Jerusalem in 1970. "I played a piece with him during the performance and knew immediately he was the man with whom I had to form a band," recalls Kaminsky. At that time, singer Arik Einstein asked Kaminsky to form a regular back-up band to play with him on stage, prompting the formation of Platina.
Kaminsky and Kuntsman were the backbone of the band, with other musicians joining, adding their own special flavor. Platina performed from 1970 to 1976, the high point of its career coming at the Newport Jazz festival in New York in 1974.
Kuntsman was also the musical director of Platina, which was unable to go on a world tour, mainly for security reasons. With the surge in international terror in the 1970s, Israeli ensembles had difficulty performing abroad.
Says Kaminsky: "Kuntsman had his own very personal style. He had an amazing sense of humor and was a caricaturist at heart, portraying the world from his unique angle.
After Platina broke up in 1976, Kuntsman became religiously observant, married and moved to New York. When he returned to Israel after a few years, he played at private musical events and family affairs. "He was a very spiritual person," says Kaminsky. "Even as a new immigrant from Russia, he maintained that music, when it is good, is like a religious experience. He always associated his occupation with his attraction to the spiritual. His becoming religious did not affect our relationship, and we remained good friends throughout the years."
Kuntsman composed melodies for children's programs on Israel's Educational Television Network, notably for "Rega Im Dodli" and many others. After becoming religious, he worked with clarinetist Moshe Berlin, who says of Kuntsman, "He was a real musician and was famous for his meticulous attention to every detail. This week, he was supposed to be a guest at my daughter's wedding, but he did not call for directions how to get to the hall. I found that very bizarre. At the wedding itself, I met musicians who were supposed to have met with him in the last two days, but he did not show up or send any messages. Because he lived alone, separated from his wife and children, we were unable to make contact with him."
The next day, Berlin tried to contact him, and after numerous unsuccessful attempts, he traveled to Kuntsman's home, where he found him dead.
Roman Kuntsman is survived by three sons and a daughter.