“Chassidic Jazz”

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When one teams incredible musicians like violinist Mark Feldman and pianist Uri Caine with the Masada rhythm section of bassist Greg Cohen and drummer Joey Baron, only the finest in modern jazz music should be expected.

This quartet delivers on a very high level during this program of centuries-old Hassidic spiritual themes from the dynasties of  Lubavitch, Satmar, Bobov, and Modzitzer Hassidim translated into contemporary jazz. The high drama and inflated emotional content of these compositions are faithfully served, especially by Feldman, on this series of adaptations on Jewish traditional musics where traditional and progressive genres meet without colliding.

One delightful aspect of this recording — another item from the ongoing and outstanding Radical Jewish Culture series from the Tzadik label — is the enviable addition of several bebop themes injected by Caine, as if he is channeling the spirit of  Bud Powell. Then there’s the solid-as-a-rock rhythm section of  Cohen and Baron, who are seemingly incapable of making any mistakes, driving this music into hard swinging or pensive, reflective moods at will.

The waltz rhythm is most prevalent to these songs, as a basis for the pretty, reverent “Avinu Malkenu“; the peaceful Baroque-stylized “Bobover Nigun” with Feldman’s lilting violin; the free to 3/4, distinctly Jewish and somber “Kel Adon“; and the delicate “Moiditzer Nigun,” replete with melodic references to “Greensleeves.” A prayer, or perhaps a fond farewell, to a fallen friend identifies the sadly hued “Z’chor Dovon.” But subtleties and wistful feelings encompass only half of the album, for this band has all the potential to cut loose. Caine gets to it on “Lubavitcher Nigun” with the rhythm section in a fervent display of the two traditions, and he flies in supersonic speed for the modern modal “Z’chor Hashem,” where hard bop meets klezmer, his lines merging with Feldman beautifully. The always potent violinist works out during “Satmar Rikud” with Caine’s chiming chords over Cohen’s three-note ostinato and another bop refrain from the pianist, while the band gets funky during “Chabad Nigun,” another definitive ancient Jewish theme renewed.

Of course, this is music anyone can enjoy, no matter your religious or non-secular persuasion. What is most evident is that, although these songs are revealed perhaps for the first time on a contemporary recording, it’s no secret as to the absolute brilliance of these four quality modern creative improvising musicians making this music all their own. It’s a very strong release, and comes with the highest of recommendations.  Michael G. Nastos, All Music Guide

Album:  Secrets by Mark Feldman, Uri Caine, Greg Gohen & Joey Baron
Price: $8.91
Genres: World, Music
Released: Jan 27, 2009
℗ 2009 Tzadik

(buy album listen to samples)


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