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Jewish World Review
Sept. 20, 2005
/16 Elul, 5765
New year, new and old sounds: Five new CDs for the High Holidays
By Paul Wieder
Chanukah probably has the catchiest songs of any Jewish holiday, but
the High Holidays are hard to beat for sheer musical depth. Jewish
composers have been inspired by the season's themes of repentance
redemption for centuries, creating a whole body of profound work.
Many recent releases, in a variety of styles, can help awaken
sluggish souls to the spirit of this time of year.
CANTOR BENZION MILLER: THE FIRST S'LIHOT
The Milken Archive is dedicated to preserving and presenting the
works of American Jewish composers. Its two-disc edition of "The
S'lihot" features the powerful vocals of Cantor Benzion Miller
both the words of the liturgy and the arrangements of his cantorial
forebears, including Yoselle Rosenblatt. He is accompanied by full
choruses and both adult and young soloists. Haunting and stirring,
this is very old school- old shul?- music that still resonates.
KOL ZIMRA: THE MUSIC OF ABIE ROTENBERG
There are no instruments on "The First S'lihot", and none on this
either. But you will have a hard time believing that the drums,
and harmonies are all voices. Or maybe not, after you see which
help Kol Zimra out: Shlomie Dachs, Elli Kranzler, Yehuda!, and Blue
Fringe's Dov Rosenblatt, for starters. The performers and source
are strictly Orthodox, but the songs' treatments are not;
Sean Altman produced this album, which may explain why it can sound
everything from Boys II Men to Manhattan Transfer. It is redundant
say that Jewish vocalists are "out of the chapel" (which is what "a
cappella" literally means) but the guys in Kol Zimra are also out of
SAM GLASER: EDGE OF LIGHT
This album presents even fewer instruments --- just one voice and a
But the voice is Sam Glaser's, and the piano his playing his
arrangements. Which is plenty. Glaser moves beyond the usual
and-here-they-are-again concept of best-of compilations with "Edge of
some of his most spiritual songs from his previous albums. Glaser's
voice, unplugged and unadorned, is both strong and warm; why hasn't
been cast as Joseph in the musical yet? And Sha-Rone Kushnir's
crystalline playing recalls George Winston's, and is also featured,
solo, on a bonus disc. An inspiring work.
CRAIG TAUBMAN: INSCRIBED
Evidently, giving the Jewish world a new nigun (powerful wordless melody) for Sabbath on "Friday
Night Live" and "One Shabbat Morning" isn't enough for some people. On
"Inscribed", Taubman starts with the High Holiday liturgy and follows
themes throughout the Jewish year, touching on some of lesser-used
material. After his showcasing some of the best Jewish musicians
around on the
Celebrate Series he produces, it is nice to see Taubman stretching
own musical muscles again. Here, he smoothes his sandy voice over
new moving and meditative melodies. The V'al Kulam here is one of
most simply and beautifully elegant settings of Jewish liturgy
well, since the Hashkivenu on Taubman's Friday Night Live album.
LAZER LLOYD: HIGHER GROUND
Anyone who knows the blues knows it is a deeply spiritual music. And
album with tunes named "Peace Love & Joy," "Life Goes On," and
Ground" certainly favors that side of the blues. But here, Lazer
does not forget the other side... the one that people need to be
to the Higher Ground from. Lloyd was born in Madison, Connecticut,
played in bands starting in high school, and majored in music at
He eventually opened for Johnny Winter and Little Feat. Lloyd plays
kind of blues you would expect from someone who grew up wandering
around Nature; call it laid-backwoods blues. His influences run from
Ray Vaughn and Neil Young to Willy Nelson, and of course Bob Dylan.
also the Ba'al Shem Tov, the Chofetz Chaim, and the Rebbe. There are
overt Jewish references on Higher Ground, but the messages of faith,
acceptance, and salvation are embedded in the lyrics... and flow
every guitar lick, slide, and wail.
The High Holidays are a time for introspection, reflection,
They also gives us some of the most soulful music of the Jewish
May 5766 be one of both melody and harmony.
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JWR contributor Paul Wieder is a public relations associate at the Jewish United Fund and a columnist for
JUF News. Contact the author or the magazine by clicking here.
© 2005, Paul Wieder