Twins Ezra and Adeev Potash were not musical prodigies. They didn’t start playing a musical instrument when all their grade school friends did. They picked up the trumpet and trombone in sixth or seventh grade. They don’t quite remember. And they didn’t come from a musical family. “Our dad is tone deaf,” Ezra said.
At the beginning, they weren’t particularly good musicians. Ezra graciously pointed out that was true about Adeev in particular. Neither thinks they are innately talented. They are, as Adeev says, “the product of really good music education,” and an amazing amount of work. The brothers fervently believe in the 10,000 Hour Rule, which purports that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice are necessary to become world-class in any field.
And now, just about ten years after music lessons began, the accolades and attention are mind boggling. They’ve performed their jazz music at venues from Manhattan’s famed Lincoln Center to The Fillmore in Silver Spring, Maryland. Locally, they are favorites at Icehouse MPLS and the Dakota. They’ve played festivals including South By Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas and Summerfest in Milwaukee. And they’re beloved in China. They placed second on an American Idol- type national talent show there and the country went crazy for them.
Actually a lot of people do, including Jazz great, Wynton Marsalis. The twins met him and a bromance began. “He just fell in love with us,” Ezra said. “When we were fifteen, we snuck backstage at one of his shows and he gave us a two-hour music lesson. Then he gave us his cell phone number.”
Marsalis stayed in touch with the twins, even helping them write their college entrance essays. The essays, oh yeah, and their music, led to a host of full ride scholarships at all the New York schools. Ultimately, Adeev studied under Dizzy Gillespie protégé, Jon Faddis at SUNY Purchase, and Ezra picked the Manhattan School of Music for Bass Trombone.
“The first day we get to New York City we meet Jon Batiste,” said Ezra, who does most of the talking for the duo. “This is before he became the band leader for Stephen Colbert. We ended up being in his band on and off for two years. Our first night in NYC we played Lincoln Center with him. Bobby McFerrin was in the audience.”
All through their New York years, the two hung out with Marsalis at events and before his concerts giving the twins exposure to superstar artists like Paul Simon, Harry Belafonte, Elvis Costello and more. Ezra explains, “When you’re from Nebraska, you never think you’re going to have a conversation about music with Paul Simon.” But of course, most people from New York probably don’t have conversations with Paul Simon about music.
The Twins do have a quality. “We have a weird ability to make people fall in love with us,” Ezra said. It worked on foodie and now close friend, Andrew Zimmern, host of the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern. He is the executive producer on the twins’ web series, Southern Road Trip. Adeev says,” We were always huge foodies and this gave us an excuse to eat more.”
Along with food and music, the twins are passionate about the history of jazz. When our conversation turned to jazz and Jews, Ezra spoke emotionally about Louis Armstrong’s deep bond with a Jewish family who took him in as a poor, fatherless young boy in New Orleans. Armstrong wore a Star of David pendant the rest of his life to honor the family.
The twins’ Judaism is deeply central to who they are. They spent their childhood summers at Herzl Camp, where they became friends with lots of Twin Cities kids. It’s those friendships that lured them away from life in New York City. “We got tired of living in New York. It’s exhausting. We travel a lot and just getting to the airport is tough,” said Ezra. Living in St. Louis Park allows the Potash brothers to “keep up our relationship with the people who’ve been with us from the beginning.”
The boys remember coming to Adath Jeshurun for camp friends’ Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. And although they’ve performed in a lot of interesting places--such as the NYC subway, the beach, the mountains in Aspen, a moonshine distillery and on a warship--performing at Adath, will feel like a bit of a homecoming.
You can see see these talented musicians perform live at the Adath Annual Benefit presented by TAMID, on Thursday, May 11 at 7:30 PM. Along with the concert you can attend a Craft Cocktail Dinner Party before the show. Tickets, sponsorship information and full details are HERE
Adath clergy, staff, and congregants share