Frank London

Nigunim

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An excellent album of nigunim -- Hasidic melodies traditionally composed by Jewish spiritual leaders for Sabbath and holidays -- from the Gerer, Lubavitch, and Belzer (all European) traditions. The musicians here are not only klezmer revivalists, but also accomplished jazz and classical musicians. The trio consists of trumpeter Frank London, pianist Uri Caine, and the classic Hasidic stylings of vocalist Lorin Sklamberg, with a guest appearance by organist Brian Mitchell, and all present add keyboard work at some point on harmonium, Fender Rhodes, etc. Nigunim opens with "Eyli Ato," a nostalgic, classically sung rendition of a melody composed by an Alter Lubavitcher Rebbe (a Lubavitch Elder Rabbi) for singing Psalms 118:28. Other tunes from the Lubavitch tradition: the longing-filled, nearly melancholic "Esn Est Zikh," during which Uri Caine's piano at times brings to mind Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata"; and "Tsomo Lekho Nafshi," which opens with a warm trumpet solo filled with promise for the song that's about to unfold, after which the piano and accordion come in with a simple looping melody as London uses his mute, the piano solos over the top, then Sklamberg belts out in Middle Eastern-like bending moans. The "Gerer Medley" is a festive and upbeat tune composed for the meal following the Havdalah, or night service marking the end of Sabbath. Nigunim have long drawn from secular, as well as religious, sources, incorporating them into the Jewish tradition by giving them distinctly Jewish musical traits. Thus, the soul gospel stylings of the closing track, "Tayere Brider," during which Mitchell adds the anointed handclaps of his Hammond B-3. Nigunim is an excellent album for those who already know and own nigunim recordings, and for those who don't yet, but are open to enjoying incredible Jewish music from inspired musicians.

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