Saxophonist Paul Shapiro is one of the few who succeeded in blending organic soul and R&B with the Jewish traditionthe musical one and the liturgical textsin a highly original, convincing manner. His fourth album for John Zorn's Tzadik label Radical Jewish Culture series enriches his unique and personal art.
Shofarot Verses is part of the service recited on the Jewish New Year, referring to the biblical story of a conversation between "the eternal" and Moses, when "the voice of the eternal and the sound of the Shofar became one." Shapiro is backed by his touring quartet, comprised of drummer Tony Lewis, who has played on each of Shapiro's albums, guitarist Marc Ribot, from many of Zorn's Masada-related projects, and double bassist Brad Jones.
Despite dramatic and reverential framing, as well his contemplative solo alto sax on "Hashivenu" and the quartet's bluesy "Ashamnu," both based on a melody taken from Yom Kippur (day of atonement) services, Shapiro's musical universe is open, passionate and joyful. Shapiro knows how to spice his catchy arrangements of Jewish modes with a sharp sense of humor. Together with Ribot, the two set a steamy, soulful atmosphere that enjoys the infectious, driving rhythm section of Lewis and Jones. Ribot turns out to be a perfect partner. He brilliantly expands the music with wild, seductive surf-rock meets Cuban and Balkan-tinged solos, and challenges Shapiro on intense yet playful duels, and stressing the ecstatic emotional catharsis.
The last piece, "With Reed and Skins," is an exception. This fascinating duet with percussionist Adam Rudolph is inspired by a morning in Sinai desert. The two form a deep, hypnotic melody that adds tribal Middle-Eastern scales to Shapiro's musical world.
Shapiro's best and most personal album so far, and one of the best in the RJC series.
Hashiven; Get Me to the Shul on time; Surfin’ Salami; Search Your Soul;
Halil; Ashamnu; Daven Dance; In Phrygia; With Reed and Skins.
Brad Jones: acoustic bass, vocals (7); Tony Lewis: drums; Marc Ribot:
guitar; Paul Shapiro: tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, soprano
saxophone, shofar; Adam Rudolph: frame drum, udu drum, shakers, bell