ESTA BEGAN life as a duo in 1980, when high-school friends Deshet and Beenstock began jamming together, feeding off their shared love of British rock and, eventually, numerous cultural influences. "We were into bands like Genesis and Yes," Beenstock recalls. "You can always tell a British band from an American band. British groups play more like a team. The Americans are more individualist."
After a couple of years of musical exploration with various similarly inexperienced musicians, Esta really began to take shape after Deshet and Beenstock joined the army and ran into a couple of other like-minded young men. "We met Bentzi [Gafni] and Amir [Gwirtzman] while we were on basic training in the army, and Bentzi, Amir and I played in the air-force orchestra," says Deshet. "We've all been working together for 18 years."
Amir, Ori, Shlomo and Bentzi played together in 1983 during their military service in the Israeli Airforce Band. Since then, all of them have become accomplished studio and concert musicians and have performed and collaborated with some of Israel's most popular musicians including Ofra Haza, Yehuda Poliker and Shlomo Artzi.
Their compulsory military-musical stint over, the foursome began to get down to the serious stuff of putting a repertoire together and, ultimately, recording their first album. The long practice sessions in a bomb shelter in Tel Aviv paid off and a distinctive Esta sound emerged along with the band's eponymous initial CD. Meanwhile, they also put in a lot of roadwork and built up a faithful following, doing gigs of all manner and size of venue around the country.
In 1987, Esta introduced itself to the world at the Red Sea Jazz Festival where they won critical acclaim from Israel's top music critics. Their debut album was released in 1990. In 1991, Esta relocated to New York City where they created a niche in the competitive New York music scene. For six years, Esta toured clubs throughout the U.S., gaining air time on various radio and TV stations as well as earning the admiration of both their audiences and the press.
A YEAR into their commercial careers the band members felt it was time for a change. "We'd become very popular in the local market and had played with all the who's who of the local music scene, both as individual musicians and as Esta," Deshet explains. "We wanted to make Esta the main focus of our work."
In 1991 they decided to go for broke and moved to New York. They spent six and a half years of intensive work in the States, and eventually achieved success. "We started from nothing," Deshet continues. "No one had heard of us there but we made it all the way to the White House."