(photo credit: )
The King's Clothes
A British klezmer violinist who made aliya in the late Eighties, Daniel Ahaviel derives inspiration from a cryptic classical rabbinical parable. The story explains that the Torah is in essence God's clothing, enabling God to be more accessible to the inhabitants of the material world. Ahaviel named his violin solo album after this heady concept.
The song "Melody From the Holy Baal Shem Tov" is appropriately sweeping and slow, and it somehow avoids cheesiness - at least until the end, when the cymbal crashes come in. "In Abu's Yard" uses a poly-percussion heart as a springboard for staccato fiddling. Later, Ahaviel transforms himself into a faintly-heard harmony choir for a medley that combines a Vishnitz Hassidish "Ya Ribon" with a Bobov "Lekha Dodi," the latter commonly sung for newlyweds at sheva brakhot meals.
While the first half of Clothes is certainly creative in its open and changing meter structures, the second half of the album is more experimental in its styles of instrumentation. "Melody From the Satmar Hassidim" uses a trip-hop beat, which might or might not go well with its violin-led niggun melody and wah-wah guitar accompaniment - although two later sections bring the arrangement to life, first when a "Shaft"-like funk bass comes in, and even more so when fuzzed-out power chords inspire Ahaviel's violin playing to abandon the melody and instead carve waves of freak-out scales. "Hamol Al Maasecha" uses a classical string quartet structure, while rich, echoey a cappella barbershop harmony parts come and go on the closing "Arba Babot."
A slew of mostly orchestral-style musicians accompany Ahaviel on the disc - including Reva L'Sheva's electric guitarist Eliezer Blumen - but the album is driven by the lead violin parts exclusively. Ahaviel's skills, flavors and arrangements take over the spotlight because they are designed to do so and deserve to do so.
Amiran Dvir and His Band
With the help of many contemporary Hassidic pop stars appearing as "guest musicians," Amiran Dvir and His Band have released a two-disc epic of schmaltzy dos-pop. Shamra Nafshi is split into seven themed medleys ("Songs of the Soul Medley," "Rock Medley," "Mizrahi Medley," etc.) interspersed among six stray songs.
Along the way, Shlomo Carlebach's "Yahad" is transformed into a show tune - listeners may cringe as they imagine a chorus line twirling color-coordinated umbrellas while singing this one - and "B'Midat Harahamim" receives a horn section intro that samples the Rocky III theme "Eye of the Tiger." Elsewhere, Dvir's over-the-top "Barukh Hagever" uses the oft-sung "Heart and Soul" melody, while his "Aneini" features an interminably looped "ah-naaay-ni" whine. The set closes with three ballads in a row, mostly in the Hassidic crooner tradition but incorporating some Mizrahi flavor as well.
Ben Jacobson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.