JDub was never supposed to be just a record label, and as JDub records celebrates its fifth anniversary with a free concert on July 27 downtown at California Plaza, it is more clear than ever that the organization's founders have greater ambitions than merely putting out good Jewish CDs
Not much Passover music arrived in this year's mail so it's difficult to speculate on the ebb and flow of certain kinds of Jewish music recordings, but it does seem that fewer holiday-specific records are coming out of late. On the other hand, the flood of spiritually informed contemporary Jewish music shows no signs of abating, and this month's CD reviews focus on some of the most recent examples of that phenomena, including some tasty Pesach treats:
It's not very often that a classical music recital has its roots in an airport, but in a manner of speaking, you might say that the concert that violin virtuosi Albert and Alexander Markov are giving at American Jewish University (AJU) on April 13 was born at LAX 15 years ago.
Jewish music of 2007 reviewed.
It is estimated that 4.2 million closed-circuit TV surveillance cameras are operating in Great Britain, one for every 15 residents of the country. Don't worry, though, the United States is rushing to catch up. Baltimore, for example, already has 400 such cameras in place, and, as filmmaker Adam Rifkin notes, "Mayors Villaraigosa and Daley [of Chicago] and Bloomberg [of New York City] all want to put in more cameras."
It is commonplace that the best comedy is essentially serious. Of course, clichÃÂ(c)s often have an underlying truth, so maybe that explains why Rob Tannenbaum, one half of the comedy-music duo, Good for the Jews, playing at the Knitting Factory on Dec. 14, is both a very funny guy, and nevertheless someone who discusses his work in surprisingly sober terms.
The buzzword in business circles is synergy. That's what JDub Records was looking for when it began to think about its third annual Chanukah event.
And when Daniel Brenner, vice president for education at the Birthright Israel Foundation, told JDub heads Aaron Bisman and Jacob Harris that he was interested in doing a project with the nonprofit music label, the buzz of synergy filled the air.
CD reviews, Metropolitan Klezmer, "Traveling Show", The Polina Shepherd Vocal Experience (featuring Quartet Ashkenazim), "Baym Taykh", Blue Fringe, "The Whole World Lit Up" , Gail Javitt, "Like a Braided Candle, Songs for Havdalah", Klezamir, "Warm Your Hands", Romashka, "Romashka", Chana Rothman, "We Can Rise", Slavic Soul Party, "Teknochek Collision".
In its own oddball way, "I'm Not There" is among the best pieces of music criticism I've seen or read on the subject of Bob Dylan. It is a jigsaw puzzle, with its various pieces scattered around the table by a deft, if quirky hand. It's a film that rewards close attention and deserves repeated viewings. The film's one significant omission is the place of Judaism in Dylan's life.
The records reviewed here are not all (or even mostly) High Holy Days music, but each of them is focused on their spiritual content as much as on the music itself. As a result, they seem an unusually apt group for this time of year.
The Chasidic reggae singer's success has bred a whole new kind of dream among Jewish music acts. Even if most of them won't say it, one suspects that every one of them wants to be "the next Matisyahu." Here are three gifted candidates for crossover success:
Of course, this is a gross oversimplification that does an injustice to both Zohar and Millo, but in essence, the remarkable and swift victory of Israeli forces in 1967 tore a veil of insecurity off the standard cinematic discourse around issues of Zionism and personal self-sacrifice and gave the nation's filmmakers the right to a certain heroic panache without-guilt. It was a sunny day that lasted only a short while, ended by the storms of the Yom Kippur War a mere six years later, but it was quite real.
Trying to encapsulate the Jewish experience in a single film is like pouring Lake Michigan into your bathtub. And it wouldn't be any easier with a dozen films. So you can forgive Hilary Helstein, the director of the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival (LAJFF), for wanting to make her event bigger.
It looks like a spring of big changes and unusual combinations in the Jewish music world.
Even today, Bresnick "listens to everything," and his own compositions have a uniquely American eclecticism.
Preminger retrospective to showcase his cinematic art.
All in all, 2006 was a very good year for Jewish music.
Listening to "The Shabbat Lounge" (Craig N Co.), the latest album in Craig Taubman's "Lounge" series, your first thought is, "Gee, this is such a natural, why didn't he begin the series with this one instead of shuffling through the holidays?" The answer, I suspect, is that the songs for Shabbat are so familiar that Taubman felt on surer ground tinkering with less well-known material.
For so many Jewish men, it always comes back to fathers and sons, despite what Philip Roth might think. Look at the films of Daniel Burman, the rising young star of the New Argentine Cinema.
I will be frank. I'm tired of hearing the same holiday songs over and over. So the best Chanukah present I've received this year is a pile of Chanukah-themed CDs with lots of new holiday songs, many of them quite good.
It's not on his resume, but filmmaker Jonathan Berman is really an anthropologist. Each of his three acclaimed documentaries, "The Shvitz," "My Friend Paul" and his latest, "Commune," is an examination of a small self-selected community.<
Bell is, by his own admission, more of a cultural Jew than a religious one. "My mother is Jewish, a very typical Jewish mother," he said. "She was very involved in my practicing. Both my parents were behind me and loved music. But for me, Jewishness was very much a cultural tie. I feel very close to the Jewish side of the family. I grew up with my Jewish cousins, going to all the bar mitzvahs, so I feel very close to that side, and I identify myself as being Jewish."
Steve Reich, composer, turns 70 and wonders what all the fuss is about.
The High Holidays provide some of the greatest frissons one can experience in a synagogue. And the music is, indeed, a big part of those rising chills.
The second annual Jewish Music Awards were given out on Sept. 11.
OySongs.com is the first music download site dedicated exclusively to Jewish music and, with the Web site about a month old, its founder, Joe Eglash, is still breathless from excitement.
Moshav Band, which was founded as a direct result of Carlebach's influence, just released its first English only album -- "Misplaced."
When Shlomo Bar started making music professionally in the mid-1970s, there was no such thing as "world music." So he helped create it.
When Chasidic reggae-rapper Matisyahu sold 350,000 units of his new album, "Youth," in the first weeks after its release, he redrew the rule book for marketing Jewish music.
For 2,000 years, Jewish music has been a hybrid compounded of elements picked up from our neighbors. Salamone Rossi created Italian Baroque settings of Hebrew texts. Chasidic niggunim drew on Viennese waltz music and Eastern European military marches. Sulzer and Lewandowski wrote like German Protestants. In the Diaspora, Jewish music has always been a hyphenate.
Of all the Jewish holidays, none is so firmly rooted in the home and so joyously celebrated with song as Passover. This simple fact would lead you to expect an avalanche of Passover records, but this year the avalanche is more like a mild rain of pebbles, at least in the quantity department.
In response to the glaring absence of Jewish music from the Grammy Awards, the teen-themed JVibe has just released the results of its first "Jammys," a set of Jewish music awards sponsored by the magazine and voted on by readers on the monthly's Web site.
Three Jews are in a room screaming at one another, poking each other in the eyes, hitting each other on the head with objects ranging from frying pans to anvils. It's either a meeting of the synagogue's board of trustees or a Three Stooges film festival. Fortunately, this time, it's the latter, a quick but lethal -- and lethally funny -- display of Stoogehood by the American Cinematheque as part of its year-end festivities from Dec. 28-Dec.30.
I was sitting in a fast-food joint last week when they piped in a pop-salsa version of "Jingle Bells." If it had been Eddie Palmieri or Ray Barretto, I would have been fine, but this sounded like Menudo on crystal meth, and I decided I'd had enough Christmas music for the next millennium.
There were always Jews in punk, even before there was punk.
"It really begins with Lenny Bruce," says Steven Beeber, whose new book "The Heebie Jeebies at CBGBs: A Secret History of Jewish Punk," will be published next year by A Capella Books. "Bruce sort of epitomizes the attitude, the whole smart-ass, clever truth-telling."
In fact, the punk attitude is also a Jewish attitude that begins with the midrash, in which Abram smashes all but one of his father's household idols and blames the sole survivor for the wreckage.
The Days of Awe evoke many feelings, but my first thoughts invariably turn to the special music of these days. From the solemn, almost brooding melody of Kol Nidre to the lilting "High Holiday" tune that unifies the music of both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, there is much in which to delight.
Perhaps because this is the only synagogue music that many Jews hear all year, there are fewer alternative versions of the High Holiday liturgy than of, say, "Lecha Dodi" or "Adon Olam." Still, these albums should help put you in a proper frame of mind.
Greg Pritikin's film takes place in a sort of every-suburb America of tract houses with manicured lawns and two-car garages, and is utterly devoid of anything to place it in historical time.
Despite its air of celebration, Passover is a bittersweet remembrance, one in which the joy of liberation is marked by the pain of recollection of what we were liberated from and what we lost on the way from Egypt to Eretz Yisrael. Our seder liturgy reflects that ambivalence, although it may require hearing some unfamiliar music to remind us.
If ever there was any doubt that Jewish music is a universal language, these records put it to rest.
Given that the first Jews to arrive in what became the United States were Sephardim on the run from the Inquisition's Brazilian representatives, it is ironic that the music of the Sephardic Jews gets so little attention here.
If the mark of a fully matured film industry is that directors have logged enough time behind the camera that one can spot personal styles emerging over several films, then this year's Israel Film Festival proves that the Israelis have definitely reached that plateau.
The number "three" doesn't play an especially important part in Jewish lore and customs. But the pre-High Holy Day musical rush brought to my desk several trios of related recordings, so it's fitting to deal with them in groups of threes.