Many national musical icons have gone global and this CD of traditional Jewish songs fused with jazz contains themes that non-Jewish listeners will recognize. Perhaps the most famous, Hava Nagila is included, in a clever arrangement that puts a jazz feel onto the dance’s stopped rhythms, and bends the melodic line into what could be bop phrases.
Sydney pianist/arranger Cohen has assembled a high calibre quintet capable of improvising well in the jazz idiom while retaining something of the original mood of the songs. A good example is Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem. It opens with flowing piano, moving into a quietly relaxed rhythm as cymbal and bass arrive, then building majestic chords against a lightly swinging treble solo, so that when Paul Cultan’s soprano sax floats its first long note plaintively above the mix, the effect is a sharp emotional wrench: a mournful wail, yet at the same time an uplifting paean.
Roger Manins on tenor sax delivers some brilliant solos, lyrical, raw-edged, swinging and at times funky, whatever the arragement suggests, then adding his own agile inspirations. Apart from high quality musicianship and soloing, what really stands out in these pieces is Cohen’s distinctive arrangements. She has succeeded in orchestrating with compassion and innovation traditional songs from her Jewish heritage and finessing them with strong jazz overlays.
The ensemble work swings with precision and the entire production is a pleasurable listen, beautifully balanced and technically produced by the ABC’s mixer maestro, Mal Stanley.