Members of the N.Y.C.-based Congregation B'nai Jeshurun, one of the largest and oldest synagogues in North America, team with Knitting Factory stablemates keyboardist Anthony Coleman, bassist Chris Lightcap, percussionist Jim Pugliese, guitarist Mark Ribot, and other instrumentalists. They have combined the sacred songs of the Jewish faith from several different ethnic perspectives to create a world music that is based on ancient traditions flavored by contemporary instrumentation, while losing none of its spiritual texture or soul. The songs are sung in Hebrew by Rabbis Marcelo Bronstein and J. Rolando Matalon, Hazzan Ari Priven, Lizzie Leiman Kraiem, and Baysa Schechter, who also adds percussion. They range from the Sephardic "Et Dodim" with piano and Erik Friedlander's reverent cello and "Ein Keloheinu" charged by lilting piano and Josh Roseman's trombone, to the recitation about God on "Adon Olam" and the pure Jerusalemic "Hamavdil." Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach wrote "Niggun," a chant with organ, and "Kaddeshenu," the most spirited piece approaching dervish proportions, with Brad Shepik on Bulgarian guitar, very danceable and upbeat. There's the a cappella traditional Turkish piece "Yigdal," the Sufi-oriented "Hine Ma Tov," and "Lekha Dodi," which uses Turkish, Bulgarian, and Hasidic motifs in a love poem/hymn replete with sounds of the harmonium, oud, bass, guitar, and percussion. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan contributed "Halleluyah," which has rich harmonies and counterpointed vocals, and needs little other joyful explanation. Fiddler on the Roof or even remotely jazz this ain't, but one of the more heartfelt fusions of world music from many perspectives under a religious banner. If you enjoy klezmer, you should check this out -- it is the real thing.
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos