Rabbi Avraam Izchak HaCohen Kook (1865-1935) was one of the most influential and inspirational religious Jewish thinkers of the 20th century. Kook was a man who was humanistic in his philosophy. He preached for vegetarianism and was interested in the arts (he thought that Rembrandt was a tzadik, a righteous man), though his philosophy was deeply religious. He believed that the re-establishment of a Jewish state in the land of Israel had deep theological significance, a heavenly plan to bring about the messianic era.
Reed player Greg Wall, the co-leader of the seminal alt-klezmer Hasidic New Wave, and now the leader of Later Prophets, has chosen one of the greatest scholars of KookRabbi Itzchak Marmorsteinto appear on Ha'Orot: The Kook Project. This second project of Later Prophets (their first self-titled album was released on Tzadik in 2004) features Marmorstein as a natural spoken word artist, and a capable translator of Kook's poetry into English. Marmorstein explains in the liner notes that the poetry of Kook offers a clear guidance about the Jewish concept of Tikun Olam, or repair of the world. He chose a fitting quote from Kook's writings for the inner sleeve: "The heart must be filled with love for all...."
The arrangements of Wall, pianist Shai Bachar and Marmorstein are true to the spirit of Kook: open-minded and compassionate. The band offers this rare attempt to dress these profound Jewish texts about belief and mysticism with musical ideas that became associated with modern klezmer. The soulful performances of all the pieces succeed to parallel and complement the texts with organic affinity and unity, and leave enough space for reflection. Their inventiveness and the richness of the musical vocabulary of the band membersalso including bassist Dave Richards and drummer Aaron Alexandersuggest that these texts could, perhaps, have been part of a canon of modern Beat poets. In a way, these unorthodox arrangements undress the mythic character of Kook, and portray him as an accessible, passionate and compassionate man.
The poetic texts, recited in English and Hebrew, are at the center of each arrangement, and Marmorstein's pathos and deep understanding of the words charge the free-form and often minimalistic arrangements with intensity. But they also have an immediate and moving appeal.
Quite quickly, after the third piece, "From a Distant World," it's actually possible to begin believing in Kook's wordsthat heaven can be found in this world.
Track Listing: The One Who Seeks the Good (English Version); Renewal; From a Distant World; Take Me Out to the Overflowing; Nigun Ha'Rav #1; Shofar; Return of My Spirit; Nigun Ha'Rav #2; The Whispers of Existence; The Wellsprings of My Spirit; Freedom; I Am Filled with Love for God; The Four Fold Song; The One Who Seeks the Good (Hebrew Version).
Personnel: Rabbi Greg Wall: tenor and soprano saxophone, clarinet, shofar, moseno; Shai Bachar: piano; Dave Richards: bass; Aaron Alexander: drums; Rabbi Itzchak Marmorstein: spoken word.
I love jazz because it is both challenging and exhilarating, and the endeavor of improvisation is the highest form of art.
I met so many great musicians--including my two earliest heroes, Maynard Ferguson and Dizzy Gillespie--by attending concerts
and being willing to treat them with the respect they deserve.
The best show I ever attended was the Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman Song X concert at Cornell University.
The first jazz record I bought was an RCA compilation by Dizzy Gillespie.
My advice to new listeners is to not be afraid to listen to something because you're not familiar with the artists or the band or
the genre or anything - this is music that is best experienced through discovery.