Monday, February 27, 2012

Help Kickstart Alison Westermann

As I indicated back in my post about the URJ Biennial, there's a new crew of young musicians emerging in the Reform community. Loosely organized through a musical collective called NuRootz they're adding in their own musical vocabulary of 1990's and 2000's jam-band and alternative-rock sounds to the boomer folk-pop that typifies the established Reform songleader sound. I got a chance to see most of the NuRootz gang perform during the Biennial was impressed, though not always blown away, with the new guard.

One of the NuRootz gang, Alison Westermann, recently put out a Kickstarter appeal for support to record her first full CD. At this point, she's already cleared her goal of $5,000 (yay!) but I want to help get the word out anyway. Don't be shy. You can still get a pre-release of her disc and anything you kick in will give her more funds to produce it.

Here's Alison performing at NewCAGE back in August. Awesome. Love the melody and the intense but languid performance.

Here's a link to Westermann's Kickstarter page

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sefiroth, an electro-acoustic chamber ensemble

Sefiroth, based in London and led by saxophonist & composer Nick Roth, is an "electro-acoustic chamber ensemble" that performs dark and moody arrangements of classics of the Sephardic repertoire. They've recently released a "double EP" that they've made available for listening and download on BandCamp (Arboles lloran por lluvia, Abre tu puerta serrada).

Here's a representative example...

Sefiroth Ensemble - Arboles lloran por lluvia

I'm enjoying these recordings thoroughly, though I admit that some listener's might find the arrangements a bit pretentious / overwrought given the source material. I love Olesya Zdorovetskaya's atmospheric vocals and how the horns and electronics provide texture. For a counterpoint, check this more typical arrangement of this distant-love song by prominent Israeli vocalist Yehoram Gaon. Just a bit more melody and less drama. And, while we're at it, check out this funky Sarah Aroeste arrangement.

These counterpoints aren't a critique, just context. It's great to hear artists use these old chestnuts as launching off points for their own explorations and to draw out of them nuances that we may have not heard in a while. It's also good to remember that these familiar melodies have a lot of miles behind them, and that informs how we hear them.

The other recordings have a vary in feel, with some maintaining the same drama and atmospherics and others straying into jazz territory. Erotokritos, in particular, does the neat trick of mixing an 'early music' style vocal harmony with jazz reminding me of Jacqui McShee vocals in the British folk-rock-jazz group Pentangle. The result is more art-music that Pentangle's pop, but equally engaging.