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Jewish Disc Review 49875
BEN JACOBSON
01/31/2007
Rashanim's Masada Rock served as a key component in progressive jazzman John Zorn's five-disc Masada songbook reinterpretation series.
RASHANIM Shalosh (Tzadik Records) One of last year's strongest and most creative Jewish-themed releases, Rashanim's Masada Rock served as a key component in progressive jazzman John Zorn's five-disc Masada songbook reinterpretation series. With a slew of recent European tour dates now under their belts, the Brooklyn-based power trio has returned with Shalosh, their aptly named third release on Zorn's Tzadik label. Dominated by material penned by Rashanim frontman and lead guitarist Jon Madof, the instrumental Shalosh showcases a band more at ease in their own shoes than the one filling Zorn's on Masada Rock. As is the case with many Tzadik artists, somehow flavors both Middle Eastern and Eastern European drive Madof's prog-jazz-rock melodies, while the band's fresh and exciting arrangements draw from Dick Dale's surf guitar heroics, Benefit-era Jethro Tull and late-Sixties psychedelia. Named after the famous Dead Sea oasis, the opening "Ein Gedi" is a Madof tour de force, with the guitarist searching for the limits of to what extent his instrument can rip our smiling faces off; the disc closes with two low-key compositions by drummer Mathias Kunzli. In between, the surf-jam "Atbash" draws inspiration from a kabalistic numerology chart, resonating with the cover art's diagram of faith, while "Da'at" surveys an especially jazzy acoustic klezmer groove. The centerpiece, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach's signature "Cracow Niggun" is reconfigured here with breakbeat phrasing madness, before "Jerusalem"'s laid back acoustic Spanish picking is taken in new directions by Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz's bendy upright bass lines. In short, those who thought that prog-klez jams stopped breaking new ground 10 years ago ought to give Shalosh a listen. ADAM WINTER AND MENAHEM OFIR Sheya'aleh Ha'or (Winter Productions) Childhood friends and members of the Reka'im wedding band, Adam Winter and Menahem Ofir spent over two years in Winter's home studio cutting tracks for Sheya'aleh Ha'or, the debut album for the two National Religious youth group leaders. In addition to overseeing the recording sessions, Winter plays most of the instruments on the disc, which is impressive unto itself. The album opens with a rendition of Debbie Friedman's Havdalah service, appearing here as an instrumental. Elsewhere, the duo imitates reggae on "Annah Elokim" and goes for the jazz, folk-rock and ska kitchen sink on "Lev Tahor" . Sheya'aleh Ha'or's prevailing feeling, though, is like that of a laid-back youth group campfire sing-along. "Vehavienu" and "Kol Dodi" are acoustic niggunim bookended by Hebrew slang-heavy monologues, while "Yam Shel Dmaot" is a spoken-word Hassidic parable. Even the more schmaltzed-up songs, like "Ashira", are marked by a dry, intimate approach to the vocal tracks' sound. Likewise, the disc's closing blooper reel successfully blurs the line between self-deferential whimsy and home-baked amateurism.
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