El Danzon de Moises

The Rabbi’s Lover

Anyone who has dipped their toes into the Tzadik catalogue will, at the very least, come away with a fewer preconceived notions about the many strands of Jewish musical culture. On El Danzon de Moises, percussion ist / composer Rodriguez presents us with a music that juxtaposes two seemingly unrelated genres (I am being very broad here): Afro-Cuban and Klezmer. To get a flavor of Rodriguez’ music, imagine what the Buena Vista Social Club would sound like after jamming with Dave Tarras, Giora Fiedman, and a bunch of Hungarian Gypsies for a few months. As improbable as it might seem, this Sephardic / Klezmer / Afro-Cuban fusion is seamless and organic. None of this is watered-down, nor does it sound contrived or cutesy. On the contrary, Rodriguez’ music retains the wit and joy of Klezmer, while maintaining the mysterious sensuality and passion of Afro-Cuban music. Rodriguez’ core band (Feldman, Darriau, Rodriguez, Ibarra, Rojas, Jones and Reichman) generates a lot of heat on its own, but guest soloists Krakauer, Taborn, and Apfelbaum (to name a few) add an extra spark to this quite combustible mix. Feldman and Darriau are the featured throughout, though Rojas (on the bombardino – whose sound resembles a euphonium) and Reichman get some opportunities to shine as well.Ibarra and Rodriguez keep the intricate rhythms light, airy and well-articulated. If you are looking for something unique and different that will really stick out in your mind when you can’t figure out what CD to play, I would recommend El Danzon De Moises.

Scheinman’s music comes as much from modern jazz and rock as it does any Judaic style. Listening to The Rabbi’s Lover, one influence that leaps to mind is
the work of guitarist / composer Bill Frisell, with whom Scheinman has worked extensively of late. Like Frisell, Scheinman is a lyrical player who has clearly put a tremendous effort into developing her own sound. Scheinmann’s compositions tend toward moderate to slow tempos, and utilize tango-derived and loping, asymmetric Balkan rhythms. Her violin tone is warm, deep, inviting and perfectly intoned; not squeaky and scratchy like so many other violinists. Her violin blends so seamlessly with Russ Johnson’s trumpet that, at times, they sound like one inscrutable, otherworldly instrument. Johnson, for me, was a revelation. Like Scheinman, he has a lush, open sound, and acres of technique and imagination. Scheinman wisely gives him ample solo time, and his fluid improvisations on the violinist’s emotionally-charged themes (e.g., The Shofar Place) provide several spine-tingling moments. The rest of the band plays with the sort of carefree mastery that lets the music open up and breathe. Kenny Wolleson’s drums are surprisingly up-front: his loopy fills and exotic shadings add considerable depth and variety to the proceedings. Guitarist Adam Levy largely provides rhythmic support and counterpoint, though he never plays like he’s been relegated to that role – his contributions make the deep colors of Scheinman’s music all the more vivid. The Rabbi’s Lover is deep and statifying listening.

--Dave Wayne

Tracks (Moises): 1) El Polaco; 2) Danzonete Hebreo; 3) The Shvitz; 4) Guahira; 5) Shron; 6) El Danzon de Moises; 7) Comparsa en Altamar; 8) Shalom a Shango; 9)
Jerusalem Market

Tracks (Lover): 1) The Rabbi’s Lover; 2) Dance Party; 3) Seating of the Bride; 4) Firn de Mekhutonim Aheym; 5) The Shofar Place; 6) Rafi’s Song; 7) Diaspora Metaphor; 8) Motherlap; 9) The Burro

Personnel (Moises): Rodriguez - percussion; Roberto Luis Rodriguez - trumpet (9); Peter Apfelbaum - soprano sax (9); David Krakauer - clarinet (1); Matt Darriau - clarinet, trompete china; Mark Feldman - violin; Jane Scarpantoni - cello; Marcus Rojas - tuba, bombardino; Ted Reichman - accordion; Craig Taborn - piano (7, 8); Brad Jones - bass; Susie Ibarra - percussion

Personnel (Lover): Scheinman – violin; Russ Johnson – trumpet; Adam Levy – guitar; Greg Cohen – bass (1, 3-4, 6-9); Trevor Dunn – bass (2, 5); Kenny Wollesen - drums