Thursday, March 19, 2009

Binyomin Ginzberg's Purim Sameach

Unfortunately, timeliness is not always one of my virtues. Having my whole family sick for the last couple of weeks has meant that I missed a number of personal deadlines. One of which was writing about Binyomin Ginzberg's lovely album Purim Sameach. Before I get to the album, a quick note about Binyomin. This guy is one of the most interesting and engaging musicians in Jewish music today. He's a popular gigging simcha musician, playing the Orthodox and Chassidic parties across the northeast, and is a resident expert at the annual KlezKamp event teaching Chassidic music. Binyomin has a wonderful ear and encyclopedic knowledge for not only the traditional sounds of his standard repertoire and all it's contemporary variations (yeshivish, orthodox disco, shiny shoe) but for a wider repertoire of contemporary music (his Breslov Bar Band collaboration with the ever funky Yoshie Fructer of PITOM, being just one example.)

Purim Sameach reflects both Ginzberg's deep knowledge of tradition and an enthusiasm for exploration. On the surface it takes the form of an uptempo jazz standards album, polishing up one traditional Jewish Purim song after another. As such it makes a great business card for his gigging band, these guys are tight, joyful, and know the score(s). Hire 'em. Quick. Underneath, though, there's something else going on. Under the cheerful vocals and steady keys and clarinet, there's some happy mayhem churning. Rock guitar here, sharply syncopated jazz drums there, a fast keyboard break. Nothing so up front that it breaks the 'standards' mood, but expanding on the scope of what fits as a standard.

Ginzberg's Purim Sameach isn't a full-on Jewish jazz album in the mold of folks like Anthony Coleman or David Chevan. It's committed to the tradition and isn't out to deconstruct and improvise on the traditional repetoire in that way. It's clear, though, that given right opportunity (maybe the Breslov Bar Band?) Ginzberg could break-loose with some wonderful explorations. I really hope that happens. Soon. We need more folks willing to build deep chops in the tradition before getting experimental.

But in the mean time, Purim Sameach is a great album highlighting a musically under appreciated holiday and highlighting one of the best gigging Jewish musicians in America. Listen to the clips below, go order yourself a copy off of CD Baby, and, if in the need hire him for your gig. You'll be happy you did.

Clips from Purim Sameach

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