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Yosef-Gutman Levitt & Tal Yahalom: Tsuf Harim

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Yosef-Gutman Levitt & Tal Yahalom: Tsuf Harim
In early Hasidic writings, magical and supernatural concepts rooted in the mystic were common. Such notions held that human acts, including musical activity, could affect the godhead and thus the whole world. By the late eighteenth century, these Jewish religious teachings saw music as something inward, a form of contemplation with the soul.

Yosef-Gutman Levitt was born in South Africa and was inspired by Weather Report to learn the bass. After moving to New York, he strived to enter the city's jazz scene but by 2019 was on a mission to record "nigunim" (Hasidic melodies). The guitarist Tal Yahalom was born in Israel and has been an award winner at several jazz festivals. In tandem, this duo has created two albums which express the universality of Hasidic songs. Tsuf Harim is their second offering and uses upright bass and five-string acoustic bass alongside nylon-string and steel-string acoustic guitars. Given the history of Jewish suffering, this music articulates deep emotions and longings possibly better than words ever could.

At times the pieces feel like whispered conversations, as kindred spirits flow through each instrument. Intimate with a sense of quiet mystery, Tsuf Harim bears comparison with the likes of Dawn Dance by Steve Eliovson and Collin Walcott (ECM, 1981) or Ralph Towner's Blue Sun (ECM, 1982). Yahalom's guitars sound crisp and purified on the opening cut, "Asader Leseudata," with just a hint of flamenco. "Nigun Shabbat" sees Levitt's bass come warbling in warmly as the acoustic melody dances with an enchanted glow. The carol-like "Atem Shalom" yearns peacefully, based on a tune once sung by Jewish refugees from Soviet Uzbekistan. Perhaps the weariness of wartime can also be heard in sombre cuts such as "Adon Haselichot," a melody from Georgia, another Soviet satellite from which many Jews fled.

"Nigun Purim" is like a folk dance played by nimble jazz hands, "Nigun Gaaguim" brings a classical caressing of strings, while "The Warriors" ends the record on sacred and sublime tones. A symbol of a people and their epic history, Tsuf Harim echoes the theory that all melodies have their source in holiness. Levitt and Yahalom are fine keepers of tradition, shining their contemporary light onto an ancient core.

Track Listing

Asader Leseudata; Nigun Shabbat; Sar Hamemunim; Atem Shalom; Adon Haselichot; Daar Oved; Ka Echsof; Lechatchila Ariber; Nigun Lubavitch; Teshuva; Nigun Purim; Nigun Gaaguim; Me-eyn Olam Haba; Nigun Simcha; The Warriors.

Personnel

Yosef Gutman Levitt
bass, acoustic
Tal Yahalom
guitar

Album information

Title: Tsuf Harim | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Soul Song Records


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