A Chanukah Feast

a bit stern for my taste

A Chanukah Feast
Hungry for Music, HFM021, 2004
Tel (toll-free in North America) 1-888-843-0933>

What wonderful chaos! As might be expected when Jewish musicians, even if primarily from Washington, DC, are asked to contribute to a Chanukah benefit album, the musical styles vary, very, widely. Depending on your outlook, that either makes this a somewhat inchoate cacophony, or, if you live in a house like ours, it's a wonderful celebration of the diversity of today's Jewish music (and this is still just the tip of the iceberg).

Take the three opening cuts. The Alexandria Kleztet provides a tight, wonderfully played, exciting "O Khanuke, O khanuke" as might be expected from a premier klezmer band. Then Lox and Vodka, from slightly to the north in Washington, DC, do a rather excellent Jewish take on the old spiritual, "These Chanukah lights are a sign," followed by the Hip Hop Hoodíos performing their (perhaps) over-anthologized hip hop "Ocho Kandelikos" (inspired by the Flory Jagoda song). This particular rendition owes more to hard rock than to hip hop, at least to my ears. It may be a guilty pleasure, but I love it.

The diversity never stops. A bit of satiric hip hop, more in the "Two live Jews" mode than necessarily memorable, some proof that Jewish and honky tonk might have a future ("Honky Ton Hanukkah you don't want to miss / just don't confuse it with a briss." Need I say more?) and even well-done New Orleans sounds (Evan Johns & Dr. Louie), recorded in Vancouver, Canada. Some excellent satiric blues (think of Chuck Brodsky's imitation of "Blood on the Tracks" era Dylan in "On Christmas I got nothing" or Mikhail Horowitz' "Hebrew Blues"). The Alexandria Kleztet returns a few more times to offer palette cleansing versions of Chanukah standards as the styles change. I wouldn't mind if they did a whole album of this, but I have long been a fan of Seth Kibel and his various bands.

There are also some incredibly well-done children's songs, including songs by Jinny Marsh and Robyn Helzer, both of whom I believe have albums out—must find them for the family's younger set. Marc Glickman and the Gelt-tones (looking suspiciously like the usual DC-area suspects!) sets the rules to playing dreidl to a traditional Irish tune—shades of Wendy Morrison's "Celtic Klezmer" or the more recent CeiliKlezmer project!

Some of the performances are genre-defying gems in their own right. Windham Hill artist George Winston does a wonderful set of harmonica improvisations to "Rebbe Elimelech". The "Jew-Bop All-Stars" do a lovely Texas swinging version of "(I have a little) Dreydl", Flory Jagoda and her family do "Hanuka, Hanuka," and the album closes with an a capella choir, "Makela" doing an oddly mis-spelled "Maoz Tzur". Nevermind. In an age when every college with Jews has a capella singing, this is a lovely representative of same.

This is a delightful package. Fun for the whole family, and especially fun, I suspect, for those with MP3 players or iPods who will want to choose their favorites and then mix things up. To quote Wendy Morrison (whose interplay with David Julian Grey on "Haneirot Halalu" is another of the album highlights:

But you know what the best thing is about this CD??? It's all for a good cause! All proceeds from this album benefit Hungry for Music, a wonderful DC-based charity that promotes music and music education for disadvantaged youth. Can you think of a better gift this holiday season than that, for only $15.99?

To order "A Chanukah Feast" go to www.hungryformusic.com or call their toll-free order line at 1-888-843-0933. You won't regret it! And please spread the word!

Now, this is a great way to celebrate the Festival of Lights! Enjoy.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 11/22/04


  1. O Khanuke, O Khanuke, by the Alexandria Kleztet (trad., arr. Seth Kibel) 2:18
  2. These Chanukah Lights are a sign, by Lox and Vodka (trad., w/lyrics by Caron Dale) 4:42
  3. Ocho Kandelikas, by Hip Hop Hoodíos (lyrics: Flory Jagoda; music: J. Norek, Flory Jagoda) 3:29
  4. Get your Chanukah on, by the Velveteens (Wilson Rickerson, Ben Miller & the Velveteens) 3:19
  5. (I have a little) Dreydl by The Jew-Bop All-Stars (trad., arr. Seth Kibel) 2:58
  6. O, Ir Kleyne Likhtelekh—Oh, you little candlelights, by Jinny Marsh (trad.) 3:14
  7. Al Hanissim/Adir Hu by MiraMar Klezmers (trad., arr. MiraMar Klezmers) 4:02
  8. Banu Choshech L'Gareish—Banish Light, by Robyn Helzner Trio (E. Amiran) 2:24
  9. Haneirot Halalu, by Klezcentricity (trad., arr. David Julian Gray, Wendy Morrison) 3:18
  10. Dreidl Time, by Marc Glickman and the Gelt-Tones (lyrics: Marc Glickman, Dennis Botzer; tune: trad. Irish) 2:54
  11. Mi Y'malel—who can retell, by The Alexandria Kleztet (trad., arr. Seth Kibel) 1:17
  12. Honky Tonk Hanukkah, by Honky Tonk Confidential (lyrics: Diana Quinn, Roxanne Russell, Josh Cooper; music: Diana Quinn, Mike Woods) 2:21
  13. Feel the Holiday Cheer, by Evan Johns & Dr. Louie (Dr. Louie, Tain-Hamilton) 3:05
  14. On Christmas I got nothing, by Chuck Brodsky (Chuck Brodsky) 3:06
  15. Hanuka, Hanuka, by Flory Jagoda & Family (Flory Jagoda) 2:08
  16. If you're a macabee (then you're a hammer), by Mark Novak aka MC Macabee (Mark Novak) 4:08
  17. Hebrew Blues, by Mikahil Horowitz & Gilles Mallkine (Mikhail Horowitz) 5:02
  18. Rebbe Elimelech, by George Winston (trad., arr. George Winston) 2:34
  19. Chanukah Chag Yafe, The Alexandria Kleztet (trad., arr. Seth Kibel) 0:43
  20. Ma'oz Tzur, by Makela (trad., arr. Steve Sax) 1:35

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