weiss disk 88 298.
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Born in Winnipeg, Ron Wiseman became a blues pianist in Toronto. Now he's based in the Tel Aviv area and focusing on the blossoming genre of Jewish reggae. In Israel, Wiseman has played many club gigs - including a recent appearance together with Aharit Hayamim. He even played a set at last year's Boombamela festival.
Wiseman's latest album, a repackaging of his reggae debut Mystical Mood, was recently released by his Canadian label. The disc is comprised of smooth, acoustic-leaning and adult-friendly reggae grooves, but should make heads of all ages bob. Wiseman's songwriting craftsmanship is strong and lyrics heard on Mystical Mood draw from reggae's traditional love of Zion and disdain for Babylon.
The disc opens with the driving reggae pop of "Measure for Measure," which addresses true justice's relegation to the world to come amid trippy saxophone flourishes. That song's counterpart, "Relatively Speaking," ponders the inherent imperfections in the material world and the various conflicts that arise here as a result.
Not all of the tracks are so heady, though, with the huge horn riff-driven "Promised Land" boasting the artist's drive towards his homeland: "I'm leaving all of this behind / Nothing here is really mine," he sings. "Modern Idols," which catalogues the trappings of an over-capitalistic existence, is so punchy that it might even find a place on mainstream pop radio. Highly approachable, Mystical Mood offers more than one layer of pleasure.
Seeds of Sun
As King Solomon put it in his ode to disillusionment, Ecclesiastes, "There is nothing new under the sun." This axiom is surely referenced in the title of the latest disc from Seeds of Sun. Comprised of Israelis living in the US, Seeds is a jazz ensemble that reconfigures traditional spirituality ("Yedid Nefesh") and Israeli classic rock tunes ("Hayalda Hachi Yafa Bagan," "Halleluya" and more) as downtown grooves.
The ensemble is clearly unafraid to go a bit avant garde and show off its chops, as displayed on the extended jams of "A Bottle of Colored Sand," the title track, and others, where complex instrumentation tinkers with time signatures and open-chord improvisations. On a cover of Gershwin's "Summertime," the syncopation is appropriately edgy and the solos are as jazzed-out as one could hope.
Neshama Carlebach has forged a successful career based on presenting Judaism through the prism of downtown jazz mixed with pop balladry. This band, on the other hand, is focusing solely on the first part, and the resulting song cycle comes off as remarkably cohesive. It's hard to determine what audiences respond to more when hearing this band: the pleasant feel coupled with a plethora of recognizable melodies, or the artsy craft. But Seeds of Sun is already booked for a summer filled with concerts at Jewish community venues across North America, so does it really matter?
Ben Jacobson can be reached at email@example.com.