Outside of the Klezmer tradition, I know little about Jewish music and culture. I think music from any religious tradition reaches more people when it undergoes modernization and innovations. This is no exception with The Afro-Semitic Experience recording Further Definitions of the Days of Awe which incorporates musical styles outside the Jewish realm such as tango, rock, Afro-funk, and salsa. However, with so many diverse styles traipsing in and out of the studio and live performances featured on this recording, in my opinion, the overall production feels cluttered at times.
The musicians bring passion and enthusiasm to this collaboration which includes old school cantors jack and Daniel Mendelson and in the live performances, cantors Lisa Arbisser and Erik Contzius along with horns, percussion, woodwinds, and keyboards. The opener Ashrie, Part 1 sounds haunting and traditional, but Ashrei, Part 2 falls into funk and jazz. Mitzratzeh B’Rachamim features heartfelt vocals as the vocalist laments over a lush musical backdrop. Adoshem, Adoshem, Part 2 heads into salsa territory with its Cuban-style percussion and splashy horns. And all 12 tracks give listeners something musical and holy to ponder.
The album with its September 13 release date coincides with the Jewish High Holy Days starting with Selichot and ending with Yom Kipper, “the holiest day of the Jewish year,” according to the liner notes. However, with any music hailing from a religious tradition outside of my experience, all I can say is thanks for sharing and exchanging culture. And as in most cases, I listen to this music out of context. The compositions and arrangements stand out and the musicians perform to their hearts’ content.