"The soul of a people can be heard in their songs, and witnessed in the foot steps of their dances"
Ismail's relationship with the accordion goes back a long time. He was but nine years of age when his father, a trumpeter who performed with many of the greats during the big band era suggested the instrument, noticing how his son reacted with interest to ethnic and traditional music of the world's peoples. Ismail diligently studied the instrument and by the time he was 15 began to perform solo and eventually formed bands and groups, playing at various functions and social events particularly in various ethnic communities- Greek, Albanian & Balkan, Middle Eastern, Italian, Latin American then on to Klezmer, Yiddish and Eastern European music. He performed at many notable venues over the years, having accompanied great musicians, singers and dancers at the last of the Greek Town clubs on Manhattan's 8th Avenue scene, most notably the famed Port Said Cafe where he performed alongside of the likes of the great Pericles Halkias. In the realm of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean music experience was gained working with Eddie 'The Sheik' Kochak, Mohammed El Bakkar, violinist Hakki Obaida and many of the famous belly dancers of the genre such as the legendary Saliha. As extensions of his interest in the music of the Near East in the past he created the ensembles Sharkiya, Music Of The Silk Road and Sounds Of Taraab, this latter group for exploring the music of the East African Swahili tradition. Ismail can be heard on numerous recordings from these and other varied traditions.
Concerts in various genres of music brought him to Town Hall, Lincoln Center, the 92nd Street Y, NY Ethical Society, museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Jewish Museum and the Museum At Eldridge Street. Ismail has performed alongside many noted artists in the Klezmer world including with the late clarinet legends Sid Beckerman and Howie Leese as well as with Yale Strom, Andy Statman, the Klezmatics and Shlomo Carlbach, and is a founding member of Eve Sicular's Metropolitan Klezmer Band. In the realm of music of the Americas, Ismail was always a choice accompanist for singers and lead musicians, and backed up the legendary Latin American singer and performer of the 'quatro' Yomo Toro and performs South American music with a group known as Cameleon. Ismail formed his ensemble Velvet Jubilee to provide joyful cajun and zydeco, blues and rockabilly music for parties and clubs. Solo strolling with the accordion was always his speciality, entertaining diners in restaurants, bars, cafes, weddings and picnics. It is in solo strolling that Ismail realized his father's vision- the accordion is indeed a one man band.
Known for his lyrical and expressive manner of playing the instrument, Ismail focuses on the soul of the particular culture from where the music being performed is from. He attempts to convey the feel and soul of a style, and due to this sympathetic approach has developed proficiency in a vast array of musical genres, taking the accordion to new heights of performing and expression.
Traditional Southern Albanian Improvisational