Friday, November 26, 2010

In Review: Ten Recent Albums

Just in time for the Hanukah gift buying season…

1) Jay Rapoport - "With All Your Heart"

Pianist/vocalist Jay Rapoport calls his style of Jewish music “Ruach Rock!”
Blending rock/gospel style piano and keyboards with educational lyrics, Rapoport sings of the importance of asking questions, exercising your Judaism, Torah study vs. action, and more.

Rapoport teaches at the Religious School of Congregation Rodeph Shalom in NYC, for which he wrote several of these songs, to musically reinforce each year’s educational theme.

I’d describe this set as Hebrew school lessons recast as rock songs; where the venue is a classroom instead of a pub. If my Yeshiva teachers had turned their lessons into rock songs, I’d have paid more attention in class, I’m sure.

Jay’s website is here: here.

Amazon has the album here:

2) Richard Locker - "Masterpieces in Transcription"

Cellist Richard Locker's "Masterpieces in Transcription" is a wonderful set featuring Locker's classical cello playing a nice program of songs. Of special interest is his solo performance of three transcriptions of Yossele Rosenblatt recitatives, “N’kadesh”, “Mimkom’cho”, and “Mi Sheberach.”

On this disc, in addition to the aforementioned Rosenblatt recitatives: Cesar Frank’s “Sonata in A Major”, Tchaikovsky’s “Entra'acte Symphonique Pour M. Leopold Auer” from “The Sleeping Beauty” and “Pas D' Action” from “Swan Lake”, Mozart’s “Rondo in C” (K. 373), Paganini’s “Caprice Op.1, No. 13”, George Perelman’s “Hebraisch” and “Hebrew Chant and Dance”, and Torrie Zito’s “Ballade.”

Locker has a beautiful warm resonant tone and both the cello and piano (there are several pianists on this recording) is wonderful throughout. I particularly enjoyed the performance of the Perelman pieces, which were new to me. (“Hebrew Chant and Dance” is based on the Yiddish melody I know as “Sha Shtil.”)

Richard Locker's website is here.

Amazon has the album here:

3) Three CD's of solo accordion music by Zevy Zions - "Olive Blossoms", "Dizzy Accordion", and "William Tell"

Zevy Zions is a fantastic accordion player. Zions, who plays accordion with Klezmerfest, and was the accordionist on Andy Statman’s “Learn to Play Klezmer” video for Homespun Records, has studied accordion with legendary accordionist Charles Nunzio.

Recently, he recorded a series of albums featuring mainly traditional accordion repertoire, adaptations of Classical music, and some klezmer. These albums are all excellent, and I’m hard put to single one out. There are lots of classic accordion songs by Frosini, Nunzio, and Gart, particularly on the first two albums, and lots of arrangements of classical repertoire too, especially on the third, “William Tell.”

As far as klezmer/Jewish music content, each album includes a Klezmer suite and “Dizzy Accordion” has versions of “Sharon’s Bulgar” and “Firn Di Mekhotinim Aheim”. “Olive Blossoms” has an arrangement of “Keili, Keili.” The klezmer suites consist of a doina, zhok, and freylakhs or --on "William Tell"-- a forshpiel, tekisher, and freylakhs. On Olive Blossoms, the doina is followed by a Jacob Hoffman zhok and then a killing version of “Oy Tate S’iz Gut!” On “Dizzy Accordion”, the suite is a doina, “Nokh A Glezyzl Vayn”, and “Tante’s Bulgar.” On “William Tell”, a forshpiel is followed by “Araber Tants” and then “Kalla’s Freylakh.”

I’ve been a fan of Zions’ accordion work with Klezmerfest. (I reviewed their latest here.)These discs are a nice opportunity to hear him solo.

Incidentally, Zions is looking for opportunities to perform some of this repertoire, so if you have any, please let him know.

Zevy Zions's website is here.

Amazon has “Olive Blossoms” here:

Amazon has “Dizzy Accordion” here:

Amazon has "William Tell" here:

4) Shlock Rock - "A Shabbat in Liverpool"

Here’s a concept. Set texts of Kabbalat Shabbat and Shabbat Zemirot to Beatles melodies. On this recording, Shlock Rock bandleader Lenny Solomon does just that. The result is an album of familiar melodies and familiar texts.

Some of the adaptations are:
“Shalom Aleichem” to “With A Little Help From My Friends”.
“Lo Tevoshi” to “Penny Lane”.
“Yigdal” to “When I’m Sixty-Four”.
“Ein Kelokeinu” to “Let It Be”.
“Askinu Seudoso” to “Come Together”.

Sacrilegious? To the Beatles? To the texts? Why not check out the album and decide for yourself?

The Shlock Rock website is here.

Amazon has the album here:

5) Asher Hillel Burstein - "Am Kadosh"
Safam meets Billy Joel. Chazan Asher Burstein’s Am Kadosh features his his original music and Hebrew lyrics as well as settings of some liturgical texts. This outing also reminds of Jonathan Rimberg and Jeff Braverman’s Shoresh collaboration.

Much like Safam, Am Kadosh mines the intersection between American pop and traditional Jewish song modalities. Burstein’s voice is in great form here. “Tefilat HaTam” is a pretty waltz. “Shir HaShabbat” is a debka. “Mhayra” is a freylakhs. “HaGevul” is a funky tune with some jazzy brass. “Limdu” is a khosidl. Album closer “Gott Fun Avrohom” is a fifteen-minute through-composed piece.

Lyrical topics include simple faith, Shabbat, redemption, and more.

The album is available at the Am Kadosh website.

6) Yiddish Princess - "Yiddish Princess EP"

If Jon Bon Jovi and Kate Bush had a love child…

On their debut EP, Yiddish Princess features their hard-rocking settings of trad Yiddish songs. Fave tracks include “Ver Vet Blayben” “Oy Avram” and “Az Nisht Keyn Emune”, but the whole thing is great.

Vocalist Sarah Gordon (Yiddish diva Adrienne Cooper’s daughter), is supported by a powerhouse rock band, which includes Avi Fox-Rosen and Yoshie Fruchter on guitars, and Klez clarinet virtuoso Michael Winograd on synths! I wanna sub in this band!

Don’t miss this one!

The band's website is here.

Amazon has the EP here:

7) Eden - "The Knock At The Door"
Eden reinvents themselves for this outing, featuring a harder “alternative” sound. This EP includes five songs: “Yigdal”, “Lo Yisa Goy”, “The One Above”, “Lecha Dodi”, and “Kaddish”.

Eden is: David Ben-Yshay - Vocals, Bass Guitar, Moshe Axelrod – Guitar, Motti Shanet – Drums.

Eden's website is here.

Amazon has the EP here:

8) Julie Silver - "Reunion"

I’d seen Julie Silver’s name around for a while, but first became aware of her music through her beautiful “Sim Shalom” on the Ruach 5761 compilation.

“Reunion” is Silver’s first new release in ten years.

This album features 12 songs, including three settings of liturgical texts, “Dodi Li”, “R’fa-einu”, and “Halleluya (Psalm 150)”, and nine songs with original English lyrics. “Meditation” includes the “Yehiyu L’ratzon” and original English lyrics. The music is soft pop/rock.

On “Step By Step”, Silver sings about entering the “water of creation.”

“Barefoot Sisters” is a song about a meeting with St. Patrick on a mountain. It seems like an odd choice for a Jewish-themed album. One “40 days on the mountain” reference is the only tenuous Jewish connection I see to this song. In the song, Silver asks “What would St. Patrick do?”

“Guide My Steps” is a prayer asking for guidance. Silver duets nicely here with a male vocalist. (The digital album they sent me doesn’t include any liner notes or info about who this singer is.)

“Been To Canaan” features smooth jazz style saxophone. Sample lyric: “Because I’ve been to Canaan and I won’t rest until I go back again.

On “Where Am I”, Silver sings about how she feels about the Torah portion about vows, which tells how men can annul their wives/unmarried daughters vows.

Julie's website is here.

Amazon has the album here:

9) Peter and Ellen Allard - "Little Taste of Torah"

Peter and Ellen Allard write hooky singable songs for children. This album is a great example of their approach. There are songs for Chagim like Tu B’Shvat (“For Trees”), Rosh Hashana (“Shofar Blast”), Yom Kippur (“May You Be Sealed”). There are songs about Lashon Hara, Baby Moses, Torah, Kriyat Yam Suf (“Nachshon” and “Wall of Water”), Tzedaka, and more.

The vocals and music on this are excellent and the songs are both educational and a lot of fun. Well-performed Jewish kiddie rock that parents will enjoy too.

I like this one a lot.

The Allards' website is here.

Amazon has the album here:

10) Prodezra Beats - "Proud to Be" EP

The follow-up to his “Beats L’shem Shomayim” (which I reviewed here), “Proud To Be” sounds more produced. I liked the rougher “street” sound of BLS more. This is a deeply Jewish rap EP.

"Faith" is about emunah. “Faith in the face of a world of drama. The man with emunah, ain’t nobody calmer…”

“Let Me In”, a duet with Nachman, is about coming closer to God.

“Proud to Be” is my fave track on this one. Powerful lyrics and nice synth background. Check this: “cause I’m a Lubab, Litvish, Breslov, shtreiml-wearing Jew….”

“Soul of Moshiach is an instrumental arrangements of the Chabad nigun, best known as “We Want Moshiach Now”.

Amazon has it here:

Up next, reviews of Craig Taubman's latest, "How Good" and the forthcoming reissue of Marty Levitt's - "King of the Klezmers". (I'd promised a review of that one, but am holding off until the new distributorship puts the album back in print.)