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Steps to the Desert & Midrash Mish Mosh

Elliott Simon By

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In Swing Era NYC, drummer Shelly Manne's sense of time and melody gained sufficient notice that when bop arrived, he played with both Dizzy and Bird. Stints with the Woody Herman and Stan Kenton bands provided national exposure and in the '50s he took these influences to California and became a linchpin in the new West coast sound.

Shelly Manne
Steps to the Desert
Contemporary Records
2004 (1963)

In 1963, with guitarist Al Viola, bassist Monty Budwig, Shorty Rogers on trumpet, saxophonist Teddy Edwards and pianist/vibraphonist Victor Feldman, Manne released one of only a handful of sessions from that time period to approach Jewish music from a modern jazz perspective.

On this reissue retitled as Steps to the Desert , the context of familiar melodies like "Hava Nagila" and a bop version of "Tzena Tzena" serve as springboards for inventive soloing by these top players. Manne gives both "Zamar Nodad" and the theme from "Exodus" a Latin bossa feel. On the latter, Viola beautifully states the melody providing solo opportunities for Rogers' muted trumpet and Edwards' sax. The powerful arrangements and solos on tunes like the au courant sounding "Bokrei Lachisi" presage further developments that would wait over three decades for fruition.

Fresh from Seattle's thrash/punk scene, drummer Aaron Alexander arrived in NYC to find a new Jewish music emerging as a polyglot crystallization of klezmer, avant-garde, world and modern jazz. As part of the ground breaking Hasidic New Wave he defined this music's funkiest rhythmic edges.

Aaron Alexander
Midrash Mish Mosh
Tzadik
2004

Midrash Mish Mosh includes that band's bassist, Fima Ephron, its leaders, saxophonist Greg Wall and trumpeter Frank London, along with guitarist Brad Shepik, clarinetist Merlin Shepherd, trombonist Curtis Hasselbring, and drummer Mike Sarin.

The result is a driving double drumming delight that remains strongly rooted in Eastern European Jewish music while rejoicing in the variety of assimilated life. "Kleyzmish Moshpit" celebrates a mix of thrash and klezmer as hopped up hasid meets pogoing punker while "Khosidl for the Mixed Marriage" makes use of traditional klezmer rhythms to acknowledge a wonderful union. "Khosn Kalleh Haskalah" and "Yiddishe Kop" feature Shepherd's clarinet and Shepik's electric guitar conversing in a representation of tradition and assimilation over brass voicings for a joyous tribute to the enlightment that can magically happen with all coming together.

A project with newly composed music of expansive scope, Alexander has produced a screaming celebration of the multicultural American Jewish identity. Separated by over 40 years, both these drummer led sessions portray experimentalists making distinctive Jewish musico-cultural statements.


Steps to the Desert

Tracks: 1. Hava Nagila; 2. Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen; 3. Yossel, Yossel; 4. Zamar Nodad; 5. Bokrei Lachish; 6. Tzena; 7. Exodus; 8. Die Greene Koseene; 9. My Yiddishe Momme; 10. Orchah Bamidbar; 11. Zamar Nodad - (single edit); 12. Exodus - (single edit); 13. Tzena - (single edit); 14. Hava Nagila - (single edit);
Personnel: Shelly Manne - Drums, Shorty Rogers - trumpet, flugelhorn on #1, 4, 6, Teddy Edwards - tenor saxophone, Victor Feldman - piano/vibes, Al Viola - guitar, Monty Budwig - bass.

Midrash Mish Mosh

Tracks: 1. Kleyzmish Moshpit; 2. Kaddish for Carmen; 3. Peep Nokh a Mol; 4. Balagan Balaban; 5. Debkavanah; 6. Yiddishe Kop; 7. Khosidl for the Mixed Marriage; 8. der Rumsisker Maggid/Shema; 9. Khosn Kalleh Haskalah.
Personnel: Aaron Alexander - Drums (L), Merlin Shepherd - Clarinet, Greg Wall - Tenor Saxophone/Clarinet on #3, 7, 9, Frank London - Trumpet, Curtis Hasselbring - Trombone/additional Guitar on #1, 5, Brad Shepik - Guitar on all tracks, Fima Ephron - Bass, Mike Sarin - Drums (R), Special guest Randy Crafton - Rik (on #5).

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