This music is a sequel to my earlier album Music Coming Together, also performed by “Two Worlds.” For that album, I attempted to connect two parts of my musical soul: Jewish music and jazz. I took Jewish tunes and added jazz elements to them, but also took jazz tunes and incorporated Jewish structures. I was trying to find a fusion between the two genres. It was rewarding to see how much expression was shared between the two styles. In this album I’m going much further. The tunes are my own original compositions, and my hope is that the fusion occurs naturally within each piece. Jazz and Jewish music are always different, but hopefully I have created an organic whole where each flows into and enhances the other.
A BISSEL RHYTHM is yet another derivative of the famous Gershwin standard I Got Rhythm. Jazz musicians from Charlie Parker to Sonny Rollins used Gershwin’s structure to compose their own creations. Here, I’ve turned it into a Jewish expression, using the misheberach and ahava raba scales, placing it in a minor Jewish sounding key, and giving it a joyful, freilach fast tempo. However, there’s no getting away from jazz standard structure, complete with improvised solo choruses and a classic chorus of “fours” where everyone solos for four bars until the tune is finished.
ZOEY’S CHOSIDL The sweetness of the chosidl dance form lets me dream about our beloved dog Zoey, who died of cancer a year ago. It’s slow enough to let me ornament and embellish in ways that bring back memories of sweet Zoey to me.
MY OWN FREILACH This is a lively dance, played frequently at Jewish weddings and bar mitzvahs. Sometimes the dancers vie with each other to see who can dance fastest (and longest!). My freilach is at near breakneck speed and it is up to the players to see who can maintain the pace, whether they are playing the tune as written, or improvising their own licks.
DOINA AND RAMBLE Here I’m trying to recreate the feeling of a New Orleans funeral of 100 years ago. In those days, there would be a slow musical reminder of the sad occasion, followed by a joyful song, to show how the person “rambled” during their lifetime. Here my sad musical reminder takes the form of a free form rhapsodic Jewish Doina, turned into a dirge, and played collectively by the entire group. It gives it the pleading quality of a New Orleans funeral while keeping the Jewish structure. My Ramble starts with a rhythmic Jewish vamp that quickly transitions to a bluesy tribute to the dearly departed.
PRELUDE TO THE BLUES I had to have a blues tune on my album! The Jewish misheberach scale is very similar to the traditional blues scale, and I’ve made liberal use of it here. It gives my blues a Jewish “feel” while keeping the blues structure. The Prelude part of the tune is based on several short aleatoric sections. Players choose from a pre-selected basket of notes from which they create their own melody. They can improvise but cannot go outside of the basket. Each basket is derived from a Jewish scale, but improvisation is the core of jazz, so the musical integration is built into the structure.
JOE’S HURRA The Hurra is a slow dance in triple meter, like a Jewish waltz. I’ve dedicated this one to Joe Smith, who has been my jazz composition teacher over the past year. This tune is the closest that I’ve come to a jazz ballad on this album. I’ve tried to keep the improvisation as poignant as possible.
THE JEWISH MARCH Jewish musicians in Russia were often prohibited by the Czars from playing loud instruments, or otherwise sounding too militaristic. When they arrived in America, they let loose with drums, wind, and brass instruments, and “American”-sounding marches. Here is our recreation of an early 20th-century Jewish “March,” complete with drum rolls and plenty of loud playing!
LISA’S SONG is my dedication to my wife, Lisa. The joy I feel when I am with her is expressed in the rhapsodic cadenzas that open and close the piece. The melody in the middle is lyrical and Jewish, (just like she is!), but we then take it and improvise jazz-like choruses in classic jazz styles.
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