Sub-titled Meditations for Selichot, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, David Chevan's The Days Of Awe was released on Reckless DC Music in 2003 and features members of his Afro-Semitic Experience and ace trumpeter Frank London.
The Days Of Awe consists of nine instrumental arrangements of traditional prayers sung during the period known as The Days of Awe, the season of Jewish High Holy Days that consists of Selichot, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The arrangements and interpretations subtly blend contemporary jazz idiom with Jewish liturgical styles, in particular, Chazzanut or the art of cantorial singing, as well as elements of Jewish folk styles, in particular, klezmer. David Chevan's (and in some cases, Stacy Philips', or Chevan with Stacy Philips) arrangements and instrumentations are simply awesome, often reminding somewhat of Gil Evans at the height of his career, combining seeming simplicity and elegance and sophistication. Even un-muted, Frank London frequently reminds of Miles Davis. Add into this already heady mix the prodigious jazz chops of all the musicians on this album, not least Warren Byrd - one of if not the most exciting American pianists of his generation -, and you get a result that is sheer magic and that surely ought to rank as a jazz classic of our time.
David Chevan's The Days Of Awe opens with And as For Me, My Prayer is For You (V'Ani S'flilosi), arranged with new music by Stacy Philips. This prayer is traditionally sung by the whole congregation but is of a more personal, intimate nature rather than the more common communal nature. This piece opens with a restrained, introspective guitar, soon joined by as well as alternating with David Chevan's reverential bowed bass, and reflects the intimacy of the prayer splendidly. May Our Offering be Acceptable (R'tzeh Atiratem) is a prayer that is sung by the Chazzan or Cantor during the midnight Selichot service, marking the start of the Days of Awe. This interpretation is based on a recording by the famed early 20th century chazzan Yossele Rosenblatt dating from 1927. Frank London's soloing in particular is outstanding here. Again based on a Rosenblatt recording from 1927, Here I am, With My Meager Accomplishments (Hinen, Heani Mima'as) is a prayer recited by the chazzan on both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, declaring his unworthiness before God and requesting His acceptance of these prayers made on behalf of the community. Chevan's expressive bowed bass stands out and simply exudes humility. And We All Believe (V'Khol Ma'aminim) is another prayer offered on both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a litany of the many attributes found in God, once again based on a Rosenblatt recording dating from 1922. Warren Byrd's piano shines particularly here as does London's trumpet, with some very fine interplay between the two. A prayer that is chanted at least once in every service during Yom Kippur, For the Sins that We Have Committed (Al Khet), based on a Rosenblatt recording from 1925, features some extremely fine resonator guitar from Stacy Philips in superb dialogue and duet with London who also again stands out. The arrangement and new music here is by Chevan and Philips. Remember Us For Life (Zokhrenu L'Khayim) is a prayer sung by the congregation on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and in addition to Frank London features superb Afro-Latin percussion work from Baba David Coleman. Based on another Rosenblatt recording from 1922, My God, Even Before I Was Created I Was Unworthy (Elokai ad Shelo Notzarti) is a Yom Kippur prayer that sees some outstanding ensemble playing as well as London's superb muted trumpet and excellent soloing all round in a lively, even spirited performance. On Rosh Hashanah (B'Rosh Hashonoh), a prayer traditionally recited both on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, is also based on another Rosenblatt recording, this time one of his earliest, made in Hamburg in 1907. At just over ten and a half minutes this is the longest track on David Chevan's The Days Of Awe. The profound sadness is almost overwhelming at times, but made more bearable by fine soloing, especially Chevan's finely judged bowed bass. The album closes with Our Father, Our King (Avinu Malkeinu), chanted by the congregation on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Byrd's relatively lively piano provides much needed relief here after the very somber preceding track.
The liner notes give some insight into the prayers upon which each track is based, as well as details of recorded sources.
This album is indeed a collection of awesome meditations. Reverential, though never over-awed, it is also some of the finest contemporary jazz that you could find, and David Chevan's The Days Of Awe must be considered essential in any such collection, as well as in any contemporary Jewish music collection. If ever there was such a thing, The Days Of Awe is surely the closest thing to "liturgical jazz" yet.
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