Rob Burger / Lost Photograph

A mezuzah, with a ribbon tied around for memory, as a photograph, perhaps Rob Burger
Lost Photograph
Tzadik, TZ7170, 2002

Tzadik Records
61 E. Eighth St., pmb 126
New York, NY 10003 USA

There is more to Jewish music than Klezmer. As this new Tzadik release by Rob Burger makes clear, there is a world of music ranging from Tango to Lounge that echoes Jewish identity. From the opening strains of "Insihuat" this CD reflects not Sephardic or Ashkenazic as much as Latin-drenched music coming in from the fire escape and hot clubs in the humid night. Some pieces, such as "Sleepless Bandit" turn this fusion into a loungish dance riff, redolent with borrowings from all over, urgently danceable.

The "lounge" sounds are exemplified in yet another take of "Aveenu Malkenu," in a version that manages to be both thoughtful and prayerful, yet is also not to be confused with Yom Kippur or a cantor's voice. There is a transform that happens here, as with all of this music, that signifies a modern identity comprised of fragments. The abrupt wheezer organ transition from "Aveenu Malkenu" to "Constantinople" and then back to something that quotes "Aveenu Malkenu" and moves on, in "Ringling Kid," and with a reprise of nusakh in the concluding "The Cantor & His Grandson" illustrates this mosaic'd identity in all of its ADHD fragmentation.

Having said that, the mosaic created from all of these pieces is superb, and very Jewish. In pulling together so many sources--not just the usual klezmer or nusakh (Jewish cantorial, to use a simplified translation), Burger is also illustrating a new form of Jewish identity which merges Jewish and American and an infinite variety of "stuff" coming at us, and integrated by us, from all over. In that sense, this album shows how rich the meeting of tradition and the world can be. It feels like the inclusion of Kurt Weill's "Youkali", one of the few tunes not composed by Burger, is no accident. The words, not sung here, echo the place this album describes: "Youkali is the country of desire / Youkali is happiness, it's pleasure ... There is no Youkali!" This album may not represent the full headlong joyous melding of Orthodox and modernism that Samuel Raphael Hirsch envisioned two hundred years ago, but it is very much the sort of musical melange that those of us grappling with the over-variegated world around us dream of. In this case, Burger's accordion and percussion and keyboards, with the underlying stress on Latin and lounge sensibilities makes for something quite interesting and worth listening to. It makes me eager to see this ensemble live. I hope enough folks get this, so that Burger continues exploring.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow 5/4/03

Personnel this recording:
Rob Burger: accordion, pump organ, piano, prepared and toy pianos, celeste, glockenspiel, chamberlin, orchestron, hammond S-6 organ, claviola, bass harmonica, marxophone, indian banjo, casio, shortwave, music boxes
Greg Cohen: bass
Kenny Wolleson: vibes, drums, percussion


  1. Inziuat 4:12
  2. The Couch Episode 2:27
  3. Below Delancey 3:09
  4. Sleepless Bandit 2:54
  5. Linguist from Latvia 3:06
  6. Dem Monastrisher Rebin's Chosid'l (trad.) 2:17
  7. Arturo, The Aqua Boy 2:17
  8. Mem 5:42
  9. Aveenu Malkenu (trad.) 3:01
  10. Constantinople 3:07
  11. Ringling Kid 4:02
  12. Youkali 3:09
  13. Storyteller 3:27
  14. The Cantor & His Grandson 2:34

All Songs by Rob Burger, unless otherwise noted.

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