In the '90s, the Klezmatics made klezmer hip; the latest from their trumpeter, Frank London, should likewise make cantorial music accessible to a new generation of listeners. Hazónos had its Golden Age during the '20s-40s as superstar cantors recorded popular versions of liturgical works. The signature songs of four such "hazzans are presented with newly recorded vocals by Cantors Jacob Ben-Zion Mendelson, Daniel Mendelson and Simon Spiro.
Bassist David Chevan, whose own jazz tribute to the genre included London, anchors the rhythm section in addition to Anthony Coleman's expressive keyboards and Gerald Cleaver's skillful drumming.
The session is consecrated through "Sanctification as the toweringly commanding vocal of "Sheyibone Beys Hamikdosh-In the House uplifts against a propulsive beat. London's trumpet answers, setting the stage for a driving melodic work. "Moron D'Vishmayo achieves "Repentance through expert navigation of the difficult vocal changes until London first slowly constructs and then de-constructs the melody in a long powerful presentation.
"Aspiration courtesy of a song for going up, "Shir Hama'alos , includes trumpet/shofar mirroring and intriguing percussion until an eerie "Holiness is realized through the brilliant avant trumpet davening of "B'rikh Sh'mei-Blessed is the Name . London's deft arranging skills and deep understanding of both Jewish music and jazz keep the rarefied cantorial vocal dynamism spiritually intact within the context of these musically daring offerings.
Avodas ha-Levi: Archival recordings from the 1990's
While London's ground breaking projects are a regular Tzadik feature, it is fitting yet remarkable that the 100th CD in Tzadik's Radical Jewish Culture series is Andy Statman's Avodas ha-Levi. Statman's stature befits such a milestone yet it is surprisingly his first appearance on the label. Statman's '90s blend of virtuosity and jazz/klezmer exploration was custom made for Tzadik and this CD sets the record straight with archival recordings from that time period.
Both "Lost Aisle of KDS and "Charles and West 4th are glorious clarinet/drum explorations with Bob Meyer. The latter is both a brilliant rhythmical contortion of Naftule Brandwein's "Der Heisser and a reference to Statman's twice weekly NYC performance space. The opening cut, "Reb Nachman's Deveykus Niggun with drummer Bob Weiner, similarly utilizes this somewhat "out format with equally stellar result.
The bulk of the remaining pieces, like the very beautiful "Breslever Lecha Dodi , elegant "Mah Yedidus and exquisite take on another Brandwein tune, "Naftule Shpielt Far Dem Rebb'n , are a soothing blend of modern jazz and Jewish as pianist Mitchell Shechter and bassist Roger Mason add depth to the sound. Statman's playing is central and things close with his soaring solo clarinet reprising the opening duet.
Tracks: 1. Sanctification 2. Sheyibone Beys Hamikdosh-In the House 3. Moron D'Vishmayo 4. Repentance 5. Shir Hama'alos Pt.1 6. Aspiration 7. Shir Hama'alos Pt.2 8. Blessed Is The Eternal 9. Holiness
Personnel: Anthony Coleman: Piano, Organ, Harmonium; Frank London: Trumpet, Harmonium; Tomas Ulrich: Cello; Cantor Jacob Ben-Zion Mendelson: Voice; David Chevan: Bass; Gerald Cleaver: Drums; Daniel Mendelson: Voice; Dan Rosengard: Keyboeards; Cookie Segelstein: Violin; Cantor Simon Spiro: Voice
Tracks: 1. Reb Nachman's Deveykus Niggun/Duet 2. Modzitzer Dveykus Niggun 3. Breslever LeCha Dodi 4. Lost Aisles of KDS 5. Mah Yedidus 6. A Father's Brochah 7. Badekens Niggun 8. Lo Seivoshi 9. Charles and West 4th 10. Forshpiel 11. Naftule Shpielt Far Dem Rebb'n 12. Reb Nachman's Deveykus Niggun/Solo
Personnel:Andy Statman: Clarinets, Mandolin; Brian Glassman: Arco Bass; Roger Mason: Double Bass; Bob Meyer: Drums; Mitchell Schechter: Piano; Bob Weiner: Drums, Percussion