Alternative Jewish Music – Acoustic Art Jazz

Articles, General, Reviews — By on April 19, 2010 5:38 pm

Looking for smooth, talented, creative Jewish jazz? There isn’t that much out there. We’ve previously pushed you towards Daniel Zamir, whose saxophone virtuosity is something that has to be heard to be believed. But in terms of acoustic art jazz, here are two gorgeous albums that are must-haves for any music lover, despite being little-known.

Drive Acoustic Group

This beauty of an album starts out with a mournful tune, with a haunting guitar and recorder. But it quickly moves forward into all sorts of flavors – joy, playfulness, intensity – and really draws you in throughout. Moshe Yankovsky (drums, percussion, recorder, saz, vocals) and Evgeniy Pissak (guitars, bass, bass luthiere) make for a dynamic duo; toss in some highly talented friends, and this is simply one of the most beautiful albums out there. (You may recognize Yankovsky’s name – he’s found himself on a large number of Israeli albums, including his own Yood, Yosef Karduner, Aharit Hayamim, Shivi Keller, and more.) While it has only six tracks, it still totals in at 43 minutes, giving you plenty of listening pleasure. This is probably the only album in my collection that receives top scores on every track. One other fact that bears mentioning: the sound quality is outstanding. Kudos to Alex Zborovsky – the engineer – for a true masterpiece. Go to their Myspace site to get a taste of it – http://www.myspace.com/driveacousticgroup. (Just a note – I received my copy from Moshe himself. So if you want a copy, I’d suggest you get in touch with them personally to find out where it’s available.)

Rashanim – The Gathering

I hadn’t heard of Rashanim until I was contacted by their guitarist, Jon Madof (no relation to Bernie Madoff), who pointed me to the Pioneers for a Cure site. Intrigued by the names of some bands and musicians, I happened upon these guys (www.rashanim.com). I was blown away by the selection of sound bytes on their site, and Jon was kind enough to send me a copy of their latest album, The Gathering.

Rashanim is on John Zorn’s “Tzadik” label. That tosses them into a select group of avant-garde musicians on the cutting edge of Jewish expression. While The Gathering in itself isn’t unbelievably “out there”, it is unbelievably good. Madof plays a gentle but impressive acoustic guitar; at times reminiscent of the emotion of Yosi Piamenta’s Strings of my Heart, with whom Jon has played on stage. The sound is fluid, lyrical and sweet. Jon’s bandmates, Mathias Kunzli (Drums, Percussion, Jaw Harp, Whistling) and Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz (Acoutic Bass Guitar, Bass Banjo, Glockenspiel, Melodica, Tiple, Chonguri), are a perfect match for his musicianship (he also plays banjo), setting wonderful mood and tone through each piece. My favorite tracks are his first three – as generally, I enjoy their faster work over their slower, contemplative stuff. But among the other tracks are plenty of playful surprises; particularly on the klezmer-tinted tracks entitled Elijah’s Cup and Elijah’s Chair.

Rashanim has three other albums that I’m looking forward to acquiring. You can get The Gathering or any of their other albums on www.tzadik.com.

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5 Comments

  1. sharona jackob says:

    thanks for the info & good luck to Rashanim. Jewish music is so diverse . Just read an article on a related subject
    http://www.israellifestyle.com/culture/2010-03/back-to-the-source-%E2%80%93-good-money-or-ideology

  2. ephrayim says:

    I came across another couple of jazz quartets that are pretty good, there is a cd called secrets by mark feldman, uri caine, greg cohen and joey baron, which you can get on itunes store, the lead instrument is a violen, with supporting piano, double bass and drums. (They play a couple of chabad niggunim).
    Also a CD called the Story Teller by Uri Gurvich, who leads another jazz quartet with a mellow sounding alto sax.

  3. Elie says:

    Moshe informed me that they’re working on two other albums – another straight ethnic jazz album, and a niggunim album – which he was kind enough to share first listens with me. It’s gorgeous!

  4. mike gerber says:

    Wrong – there’s tons of Jewish jazz. Listen to my Kosher Jam internet radio show at: http://www.ukjazzradio.com/listenagain.htm

    It’s only monthly at the moment but you can listen to whatever is the latest edition anytime, anywhere in the world.

    For more info about the show, see my presenter’s page at: http://www.ukjazzradio.com/presenters-mikegerber.htmr

    Also, see my related book website at: http://www.jazzjews.com

    Mike Gerber
    Writer/Journalist/Broadcaster

  5. Hislahavus says:

    I think we’re talking about two different subjects – I’m talking about jazz in the small music market (known as Chassidic music). I am well aware that there are many Jews who were involved with jazz, beginning with Benny Goodman, along with hundreds (thousands?) of other Jewish musicians. But “Bei Mir Bist Du Shoin” is not exactly Orthodox music material. :-)

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