December 20, 2007
Eight Jewish albums hit high notes in ‘07
(Page 2 - Previous Page)The band swings hard; everyone has ample solo room and plenty to say. There's even a track from Eve Sicular's other band, Isle of Klezbos. In short, this is what a live set should be. Great fun. Available from www.metropolitanklezmer.com.
Pharoah's Daughter: "Haran" (Oy!hoo). It is one of the commonplaces of criticism that every filmmaker/novelist/composer spends her life directing/writing/composing the same piece over and over. Or, if you prefer, a series of chapters in a single, evolving work.
You could accuse Basya Schechter and Pharoah's Daughter of remaking the same CD several times, but that would mean you had missed the subtle evolution that has been going on from one recording to the next, as Schechter emerges as one of the most talented Jewish musicmakers of her generation.
The latest album, "Haran," continues the group's exploration of Middle Eastern modes and liturgical texts with a series of sinuous, winding tunes that are frequently hypnotic and invariably compelling. The new set foregrounds the keyboards more than its predecessors, and the drumming takes on an insistent backbeat that gives some of the up-tempo numbers an odd R&B feel, but the end result is another progression along the same road that Schechter and company have been exploring so fruitfully for the past several years.
To put it another way, what is wrong with repeating yourself if you say it right every time?
The Polina Shepherd Vocal Experience (featuring Quartet Ashkenazim): "Baym Taykh" (Oriente). I will admit that my Jewish music listening habits are hardly ordinary. I get paid to listen to a lot more new Yiddish music than you. So you can take my word if I tell you that this dazzling new recording is a distinct change of pace from what I usually hear.
The songs are all originals, composed by Polina Shepherd and sung by Shepherd and a quartet that includes her and husband Merlin Shepherd (who also contributes memorably on reeds and guitar), Yana Ovrutskaya and Evgenya Slavina. This is elegant chamber music that dances nimbly from post-modern a cappella to jazz to art song without missing a beat.
A beautiful, frequently moving CD. You can't dance to it, but you can listen for hours without losing interest. Available from Hatikvah Music (www.hatikvahmusic.com).
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