Jewish Discs: 'Shabbat Shalom: A Treasury of Shabbat Songs'

Dudu Fisher offers up a whopping 20 Sabbath tunes on his latest CD.

Dudu Fisher 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Dudu Fisher 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
DUDU FISHER Shabbat Shalom: A Treasury of Shabbat Songs (Hatav Hashmini) Bombastic cantor, children's entertainer, Yiddish singer and Broadway performer Dudu Fisher explored new directions about a year ago when he released Standing Where You Are, a JMG-released collection of classic rock covers backed by the Jerusalem Orchestra. Now he's returned to more traditional territory, offering up a whopping 20 Sabbath tunes on his latest CD. Its vaguely trip-hoppy bossa-nova production styles remind the listener of Craig N Co's "Lounge" series, but its packaging includes rabbinical endorsement letters like the ones seen inside holy reference books. Regardless of the flavor of the arrangements and the timelessness of the material, Fisher uses these tracks as merely another platform for his showy, over-the-top wailing, which takes center stage - most notably on "Ana Bekoach," where he takes Ovadya Chamama's previously laid-back melody to new levels of soaring hazzanut. The "Lecha Dodi" heard here is a medley of many tunes, ending with a "Shabbat shalom" anthem-chant. As goofy as the album is, Fisher is to be commended for his sonic experimentation. Based on a Bialik poem, "Shabbat Hamalkah" uses a "Chariots of Fire"-like echo-beat to provide space for accordion chords and flute noodling. "Me'ein Olam Haba" and two excerpts from the Shabbat Musaf service are given island-dub arrangements. "Tzur Mishelo" sports some flamenco-like guitar picking, and "Yismach Moshe" is dominated by guitar rock power chords. Originally penned by Jerusalem Post alum Martin Davidson, "Eshet Chayil" is a children's sing-along on top of a clicking electro-polka waltz. None of this is exactly ground-breaking or nuanced, but at least a staple of Jewish music is doing his best to think outside the box. DRITA TUTUNOVIC & SHIRA U'TFILA Donde Tiyenes Ojos? (AECI) Cantor of the Belgrade Synagogue Stefan Sablic is involved with a host of side projects. His 2006 musical theater piece, Blonde Jewish Girl, which sets the archetypal Romeo and Juliet feud in early-1900s Bosnia, continues to perform throughout the region, while his prolific Balkan-Turkish Jewish roots ensemble Shira U'tfila is now on tour in Greece. A few months ago, he celebrated the release of Donde Tiyenes Ojos? (Where did you get those eyes?) at Belgrade's Jewish Center for Culture and Art, a vibrant, multi-disciplinary performance space which he founded and continues to lead. Distributed internationally via cdbaby.com, Ojos is a joint project of Shira U'tfila and Judeo-Spanish musicologist Drita Tutunovic, who learned the disc's various wedding-, birth- and lullaby-themed folk songs from her ancestors. The album is reminiscent of what Israeli post-Balkan jammers Boom Bam would sound like if they didn't have a punky edge. It is at once nostalgic and alive. Hand percussion rhythms drive the opening song "The Bride is Coming Down," while Tutunovic's own creatively accented oud improvisations close out "The Birth is Approaching." The title song, a sparse treatment featuring not much more than Tutunovic's vocal and a violin part, provides contrast to tracks like the tongue-in-cheek dowry negotiations of "You Don't Give Her Enough, My Mother-in-Law" and the long-distance love of "In Foreign Land," both essentially group chants. But the song cycle's strongest presentations take place in the closing act, including the guitar-picked waltz duet of "In Your High Palace" and the mood of intoxicated longing, heightened by a bow-stroked bassline in "Go to Sleep, My Fair Maiden." Ben Jacobson can be reached at [email protected]