I love music events in our Community Hall performance space. They’re so intimate…when else in my life will I get to see a professional opera singer or a member of the National Symphony Orchestra performing just a few feet from me? I also love the mix of people who take advantage of our affordable concert series–from preschoolers (feeling the music in their own hilarious way), to young couples on dates, to retirees. That’s why I’m so excited for our post-Chanukah concert with the Roy Assaf Trio on December 19. Here’s a sneak peak of what’s in store:
What more perfect way could we choose to kick-off the 10th Annual Washington Jewish Music Festival than with Andy Statman, a giant in the alt-neu Klezmer movement. His return to perform at the Festival is more than an opening night, it also serves as a keynote to the other performers that make up this year’s lineup. For Statman is an artist who has never stopped evolving, never stopped exploring new forms of music and meshing them together into deeply personal compositions and performances. He is the rare musician as devoted to his Judaism as he is to the craft of musicianship and brooks no compromise in his simultaneous devotion to each. Even rarer is his authentic aesthetic commitment to tradition and experimentation. His work provides by turns the comforts of the old world followed by sonic explosions and staccato riffs that break down traditional forms and morph into something like jazz before returning full circle to pulse thumping, foot stomping jams. For all of the subsequent acts in the Festival that combine forms into a new Jewish medium — a capella, funk, hip hop and classical — Statman provides inspiration at both ends of the spectrum between experimentation and accesibility.
The title track from his recent album East Flatbush Blues is a great example of both Statman’s virtuosity and broad musical vocabulary.
East Flatbush Blues (Andy Statman, Oceana Music, ASCAP)
Whenever you set out to compose and perform a song cycle set to “the erotic Biblical love poem of Song of Songs,” you better bring a voice equipped for the task. It is clear from a even a quick listen that Ayelet Rose Gottlieb has the chops to pull off such an endeavor when she performs on Sunday evening, June 1 at Bohemian Caverns as part of the Washington Jewish Music Festival.
Because of its biblical origins, Song of Songs often gets kid-glove treatment, especially when it comes to some of its steamier sequences. I’ve always been a fan of those who are able to incorporate the sensuality inherent in the text without either de-sexing it or erring in the other direction and making it sound like a letter to Penthouse forum. Rose Gottlieb’s pipes and the accompanying instrumentation seem to do the trick and while the clip below isn’t from her album Mayim Rabim, it does show off the expressiveness of her voice. The clip is What’s Done is Done off her 2004 album Internal-External.
A lot of lip service gets paid to the historic alliance between African-Americans and Jews. The actual experience of that history is a lot more complicated. All it takes is something like the recent media circus surrounding Reverend Jeremiah Wright to remind us that tensions below the surface can come gurgling to the surface with an intensity that evokes strong reactions and escalating rhetoric. By the time the shouting dies down, the gulf of misunderstanding has grown that much wider.
Enter The Afro-Semitic Experience on June 5th as part of the Washington Jewish Music Festival to narrow that gulf, if only a little. Led for nearly a decade by Warren Byrd and David Chevan, TASE not only talks the talk, but walks the walk by responding to racism and anti-Semitism with its unique fusion of Gospel, Klezmer, Jazz, Niggunim, Spirituals, Swing and straight-up Funk. Granted, the premise seems tailor-made to produce cheap warm fuzzies of racial tolerance–but TASE brings the chops that imbues their polyglot sound with artistic validity that is impossible to deny.
The only way to become a believer is to take a listen for yourself. The track below is “Nefesh” from This Is the Afro-Semitic Experience.
Tickets are on sale May 1 for the Washington Jewish Music Festival. The Festival begins June 1 with the Capital Celebration of Israel @ 60 on the National Mall featuring Regina Spektor, Mandy Patinkin and Mashina.
A sampling of some of what’s on-offer this week at the Washington DCJCC…
Monday, March 3–The Screening Room Presents: The Champagne Spy. An amazing but true story of a Mossad agent who never really ever came in from the cold. On assignment in Cairo posing as an ex-Nazi billionaire, Wolfgang Lotz became so enmeshed in his new identity that he never returned to his family again–even to the point of marrying a woman he met in Cairo. Told through the eyes of his son Oded, Lotz’s legacy is viewed from the perspective of the family he left behind.
Tuesday, March 4–A new session of Hebrew Classes begins. With five levels to choose from, there’s never been a better time to start learning from aleph or brush up on your ivrit.
Tuesday, March 4—Learn how to play Mah Jongg in a four week class that will take you from rookie to maven in no time. This isn’t your bubbe’s Mah Jongg!
Wednesday, March 5—Speak Out! A Public Speaking Workshop with Sarah Gershman. Want to improve your presentation skills for work and life? This workshop will help you overcome anxiety and develop stage presence.
Thursday, March 6—
Jews in Jazz with Larry Appelbaum. From Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw to John Zorn and Anat Cohen, Jews have not only been a presence in this most uniquely American music form, but they have brought a Jewish influence to the form. Library of Congress Senior Studio Engineer and jazz specialist Larry Appelbaum returns to the 16th Street J with this four week class that covers the history of Jews in Jazz from the 1920s right up to the current wave of Israeli jazz musicians. This class has been cancelled.
Saturday, March 8–Theater J’s $25 Preview of The Price by Arthur Miller, starring Robert Prosky, John Prosky and Andrew Prosky. This scorching, three-time Tony Award nominee for drama features beloved DC treasure, Robert Prosky, alongside his two sons for the very first time on a DC stage. A pay-what-you-can preview is also available on Sunday, March 9 at the 7:30 pm performance only and again on Tuesday, March 11. The show runs through April 18.