Jewish Discs 83545

Chaviv's album successfully emulates contemporary smooth and sexy R&B pop, with lyrics focusing mostly on the individual's transformation from secular to observant Jew.

jordan disk 88 224 (photo credit: )
jordan disk 88 224
(photo credit: )
JORDAN CHAVIV Baal Teshuva (Baal Teshuva Records) Born and raised in France, Jordan "Chaviv" Cohen relocated with his family to Montreal when he was 13. It was then that he began experimenting with his voice. Following some efforts to forge a career in secular music, Chaviv decided to drop everything and began studying at a yeshiva in Israel. With the release of the self-produced Baal Teshuva, he has emerged as Judaism's answer to R. Kelly - a niche that has been, until now, vacant. The album successfully emulates contemporary MTV-style smooth and sexy R&B pop, only with lyrics focusing mostly on the individual's transformation from secular to observant Jew. The disc's sound is highly faithful to its stylistic inspiration, even using layers of electronic and hand percussion beats in a manner that evokes the quirky work of the Neptunes. On "Shema," Chaviv pulls out all of the stops, deploying a barrage of Justin Timberlake-like groans and falsetto coos. "Rabbi Inberg on Teshuva" features Chaviv on keyboard, setting the stage for the titular teacher's awestruck monologue on repentance. On the album's closer, entitled "Bonus Track," Chaviv reminds the listener, "Don't worry/ You've got a place in the world to come/ Because He remembers where you're from." For the most part, though, Chaviv is in R&B love song mode, using the conventions of a decidedly unrighteous genre to extol righteous values. SHAKSHUKA It's All Relative (Self-release) For over a decade now, Shakshuka has been releasing albums, leading prayer services and playing mostly Jewish community gigs in the Chicago area. The group's latest release is entitled It's All Relative, presumably because many of the band members have invited their offspring to contribute to the recording. Named for the beloved piquant Middle Eastern red stew into which eggs are added, one might assume that the band purveys sounds that are decidedly edgy and ethnic - which it does, but only when compared to other North American ensembles led by Ashkenazim. Relative resides primarily in the realm of light, jazzy, Western adult rock, although the band members do display some impressive chops. "Mi Ya'aleh" starts out as breezy pop, but meanders into jazz breakdown sections and secondary melodies, employing an ambitious compositional structure. Moreover, to be fair, the disc takes cues from classic Israeli pop, covering works by Hannah Senesh, Naomi Shemer and Mosh Ben Ari. It also achieves respectable levels of Eastern spiciness, such as the frenzied jam that closes out "Roeh V'roah," the rhythmic guitar solos that bring "Eli Eli" to life, and the "Shalom Aleichem" sing-along that paves the way for a disc-closing darbuka circle called "Tachanah Merkazit." Ben Jacobson can be reached at [email protected]