Trumpeter Steven Bernstein gathers an excellent cast of some of New York's more adventurous jazz musicians. Tzadik's Radical Jewish Culture series has presented an endlessly creative variety of music that incorporates elements of Jewish music traditions into new jazz, rock, and experimental contexts, and the release of Diaspora Soul means a few more styles can now be added to the list! With a sense of humor lacking any condescending irony, Bernstein throws some cha cha into his New Orleans R&B and Afro-Cuban-influenced arrangements of traditional cantorials, an Ashkenazi wedding song, a Chanukah song, and more, resulting in a sultry and grooving album. Paying tribute to these music traditions, Bernstein adopts them in a way that's heartier than mere imitation. This fun album doesn't grow old with repeated spins, and the approach is as enjoyable as Marc Ribot's take on Cuban music in Prosthetic Cubans, which also features E.J. and Robert J. Rodriguez on percussion. Other musicians on this recording include Bernstein's fellow Lounge Lizard, tenor saxophonist Michael Blake (whose Kingdom of Champa pays tribute to another world music style, creating a fresh jazz loaded with Vietnamese influence), the distinctively twisted sound of Briggan Krauss playing baritone sax, and the soulful, mean keyboard work of Brian Mitchell. Bernstein sounds strong, leading the band through upbeat arrangements that are a little closer to lounge music than the gritty drawls (and slide trumpet!) of his band Sex Mob, also with Krauss and bassist Tony Scherr.
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AllMusic Review by Joslyn Layne