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Netanel Hershtik and Eran Klein
Currently serving as the chief cantor of the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem, the gig that he has held for over 27 years now, the great Naftali Hershtik previously held important pulpits in London and has released some nine cantorial albums. Hershtik began publicly performing duets with his son Netanel when the latter was eight-years-old, and the protÃ©gÃ© has been known to fill in for his father at the Great Synagogue every now and then.
Now 29, Netanel Hershtik is finishing up his legal studies in Miami, but his prowess as a vocalist has been gaining momentum. In recent years, he has sung with the Israel Philharmonic as well as the Ra'anana Symphonette.
Now Hershtik Jr. has decided to take his favorite extracurricular activity in a different direction with this aptly titled collection of songs, a collaboration with his friend, keyboard player Eran Klein. The two have shared arranging, vocal and production duties on this disc, a mostly tasteful, if edgeless, collection of laid-back contemporary-style material. Celebrated New York post-klezmer saxophonist Daniel Zamir, whose numerous gigs at Jerusalem's Yellow Submarine club served as highlights on the venue's summer and fall schedules, also contributes.
Hershtik's opening "Bo'ee Veshalom" sports some flavorful jazz guitar parts, a relaxing falsetto lead vocal part and a folky rhythm. Klein's own "Hinech Yafa" has a relatively infectious loungey feel to it, and his "Yosher" piano solo also draws in the listener to an extent. But the album is dominated by a series of six stock Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach songs (nothing new is brought to "Yachad Yachad," "Ki Va Moed," etc.), four of which are presented as a medley. A likewise non-groundbreaking cover of Rabbi Moshe Shur's beloved wedding niggun "Sameach Tesamach" also makes an appearance.
The Nochi Krohn Band
One of the rising stars of American Hasidic bubblegum music, Nochi Krohn, clearly knows what he's doing. Krohn recorded Ananim, his latest album, at his own home in Monsey, and he wrote all of the melodies and arrangements himself.
With its horn section punches and echoed-out saxophone flourishes, infuriatingly straight and clunky beats and saccharine vocals steeped in shtetl-emulating pronunciation, Krohn's music fits the dos-pop mold well.
But take away the aforementioned trappings of the genre, and Ananim has some great songs on it. Even some of the arrangements and production elements reveal plenty of artistry. Much of the disc is dominated by rich and unconventional vocal harmonies and acoustic instruments (especially the title track, "Ki Hem Chayainu" and the closing "Shalom"), and there are even some impressive guitar solos ("Kinneret Nigun").
The demands of the marketplace might be a major driving force, but like a lotus in the mud, sometimes an artist's true craft peeks through regardless.
Ben Jacobson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.