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.