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New Reviews: Pharaoh's Daughter, Fred Katz, Shtreiml

album coverFinding time to listen to new music, much less time to review it, has become a major challenge. In today's mail two reasons arrived that help explain why I try to keep it happening, however sparseley. And, lest I despair, thoroughly, about catching up on some of the mind-blowing music that has been accumulating, I determine to be late for dinner and share one more.

Pharaoh's Daughter / Haran CD coverPharaoh's Daughter / Haran
Oy!hoo Records, OY1, 2007
Available from Oy!hoo Records
I have been following Pharaoh's Daughter almost from the very beginning. Basya Schechter goes back and forth between songs modern personal Jewish folksongs (most lyrically on the last Pharaoh's Daughter album, Exile (2002).

The new CD, Haran is a return to exploration of old Jewish prayers and texts, set to modern, Middle-Eastern-influenced music. The opening, "by Way of Haran" is a delightfully compact combination of Middle Eastern and Psychedelia. Schechter's American accented Hebrew, and touches like the delightful electric piano on "Ka Ribon", adapted from 16th century zmirot help remind us that this is music of our time.

There is a heart, and a musical and textual depth to this recording that moves me far more than the explicitly religious recordings from the Jewish renewal movement that I hear more often. The escape from simplistic paragraphs repeated, as though mantras, ad nauseum, is such a relief. The exploration of Ladino, Hebrew, Aramaic, is a welcome complement to the more common Yiddish of other new Jewish musicians. Yet, the music of "Lev Tahor" would not sound alien to Ashkenazic tradition. We are not so different from one another as that (nor have the Brooklyn Hasidic-born Schechter's influences been limited to Sepharad). The clarity and beauty of Schechter's singing of the words makes it possible to follow along and explore the prayer (in the sense of both praise of, or wrestling with G-d) behind them. The open spaces created by the music provide room for the mind to wander and to hear these new sounds.

This LP is on a new label, oy!hoo, the latest project by Michael Dorf, founder of the Knitting Factory (now, alas, sold these past few years and a far less interesting place). If the new label succeeds in creating new music as well as this recording, we are in for interesting, and good, times ahead. In the meantime, this is the sort of recording I mean when I say that I am listening for new Jewish music. Get your own copy.

Fred Katz / Folk songs for far out folk CD coverFred Katz / Folk Songs for Far Out Folk
(originally released, 1959) re-released by Reboot Stereophonic, RSR007, 2007
Available from Amazon.com (which helps support the KlezmerShack) and just about everyone but Reboot Stereophonic, so far!
Visit Reboot Stereophonic
Here's an entirely different take on Jewish American music. The re-release of Fred Katz's "Folk Songs for Far Out Folk" is an exciting, lounge-y jazz exploration of folk songs from three traditions: Jewish, African, and American. This is brilliant, effervescent music. You'd have to be Frank London ... or Fred Katz to come up with something this brilliant and listenable.

The original melodies have been thoroughly deconstructed, as if by Cecil Taylor. But the playback? This is lively, lovely, lounge-y jazz. Polish immigrant beat poet Lawrence Lipton's accompanying poems capture that spirit of questioning peacefulness with timeless accuracy. Even better, reading Jo