Thursday, June 10, 2010

In Review: Albums by Tim Sparks, Craig Taubman, Irving Fields, Music of Putti, Nomi Teplow, and Abraham Inc.

Apologies to all who have sent in review albums. I've been letting these pile up, and then keep putting off posting the review column, because I'd like to get the latest discs received in to it too. The end result? A very delayed columnn. So, I'm publishing the completed ones now and hope to get to the others soon.

Off the review stack...

Tim Sparks: Little Princess – Tim Sparks Plays Naftule Brandwein

This record features trio arrangements of Naftule Brandwein’s music performed by acoustic guitarist Tim Sparks, with Masada bassist Greg Cohen and percussionist Cyro Baptista.

Sparks is best-known on the Jewish music scene for his solo acoustic guitar releases on Tzadik. I reviewed "Neshama" here.

Sparks says: “It’s not meant to be a klezmer record. I just followed the melodies to the places they took me on the guitar.”

The musicianship on this record is great, but I find that the percussion parts on some of these tunes feel a bit off to me (style-wise, not rhythm-wise.) Cyro Baptista’s musicianship is first-rate, but as I listened to this disc, I find myself wondering what the project would have sounded like with Balkan/Middle-Eastern percussion rather than Brazilian/Latin. Bossa Brandwein, although masterfully executed, feels like a stretch. The main offender in this regard, to my ears, is “Oh Daddy, That’s Good.”

Setting stylistic differences aside, the music is well played, with nice tasteful acoustic guitar stylings by Sparks who blends interesting chord voicings, nice harmonic substitutions, and creative improvisations, into something that I would agree isn’t really Klezmer, as many define the term, but is still very Jewish sounding. The band blends well together, with Cohen’s powerful acoustic bass lines supporting Sparks’ improvisations.

Fave tracks include “Der Yid In Jerusalem,” ‘Turkish Circle Dance,” and “A Begel With Onions,” which Sparks also recorded in a solo arrangement on an earlier release.

Give it a chance and see what you think.

Amazon has it here:

Craig Taubman: Holy Ground

This album is a mix of lightly rocking liturgical settings and simple English spiritual pop. If Taubman’s target audience disc for this disc is the suburban Jewish soccer mom, then he’s likely succeeded with this project.

Consisting of simple hooky settings of texts from Kabbalat Shabbat and spiritual English lite-pop, the set has a little more emphasis on heavier sounds, compared to Taubman’s previous, Friday Night Live. This isn’t exactly my taste, but I could see using L’cha Dodi for my Hebrew school students.

Amazon has it here:

Irving Fields: More Bagels & Bongos

Pianist Irving Field’s “Bagels & Bongos” recordings are legendary as Jewish novelty recordings, but the piano playing is actually quite good.

According to the record label, Roman Midnight Music, this reissue, unlike the recent reissue of “Bagels & Bongos” is being done in collaboration with Fields. This is the first of many planned releases between the label and Irving, including a reissue of the trio‘s “Bikini & Bongos”, a combination of Hawaiian and Latin music, and the forthcoming solo album “Irving Field’s Jewish Comedy Album” of Appalachia style Yiddish comedy.

Definitely worth a spin! Where else are you going to find a Latin arrangement of Dos Pintele Yid or Papirosn?

Amazon has it here:

The Music of Putti: When I Wake Up

This charming disc features the music of the Jewish Village of Putti, Uganda. It is a fundraiser for the village and 100% of the proceeds go to the village. Mike Cohen, who spearheaded the project and plays flute on the recording spent two weeks recording the village singers in Putti last year.

This is a charming set of Jewish African music. Buy this one for the mitzvah and enjoy it for its charm. It’s a happy album.

I can't get "Ehad Mi Yodea" out of my head.

Amazon has it here:

Nomi Teplow: Like A Rushing Spirit

Teplow is a strong singer and the material is strong too. The disc features big production pop/rock with spiritually infused lyrics that include both original lyrics and settings of traditional texts. Nice big production on this one.

The album includes a cover of "Proud" with new Hebrew lyrics titled "Or", and an adapted version of David Foster & Carol Bayer Sager's "The Prayer." There’s a Saint Thomas quote on “Rikdi Rachel”.

(As an aside, I’ve been critical in the past of Israeli session guitarist Avi Singolda’s playing as being sterile, technically perfect, but lacking soul. This album is a good illustration of this. Singolda plays perfectly on most of the tracks, but the guitar playing by Dudu Tassa on two tracks stands out more and sounds much more personal to me.)

I like this one a lot. Fave tracks include "Or", "Rikdi Rachel" "Lo Gava Libi" & Kma'ayan Hamitgaber".

Amazon has it here:

Abraham Inc.

This is an awesomely funky collab between Klezmer clarinetist David Krakauer, Funk trombone legend Fred Wesley, and Hip-Hop producer SoCalled. Backed by a stellar band, the group plays awesomely funky arrangements. The melodies are largely klezmer or Yiddish, but the music is pure funk. This is a great dance record.

Fave tracks include “Tweet-Tweet,” an arrangement of “Zhokul Rezeshilor” from German Goldensteyn’s book, and a re-imagining of “Balebuste Zisinke.” “Heise Balebuste” indeed. There’s even a non-lame cover of Hava Nagila aka “The H Tune.”

Amazon has it here:

Stay tuned for reviews of Peter & Ellen Allard's "Little Taste of Torah", Prodezra Beats "Proud to Be" EP, Julie Silver's "Reunion", and a lovely disc by cellist Richard Locker entitled "Masterpieces in Transcription" and more.