Eight Nights Of Joy
Rabbi Joe Black With The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band's Eight Nights Of Joy was released on Sounds Write Productions in 2008. It's a huge pleasure to catch up with this most recent album featuring the Windy City's fabulous swinging Maxwell Street Klezmer Band, and to discover a formidable and original singer-songwriter in Rabbi Joe Black.
Recorded during a live concert during Chanukah 2006 at Temple Sholom in Chicago, this collaboration had been talked about by Rabbi Black and Lori Lippitz, the leader of Maxwell Street, or Max as it is known to its friends, for many years. It is delightful indeed that talk was turned into reality with this wonderful live recording. Additionally taking part were Maxwell Street's Junior Klezmer Orchestra and the Children of North Shore Jewish Day School.
Although themed around Chanukah - one of the major Jewish holidays, commemorating the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem after the Maccabee rebellion against the Babylonians when the lights in the Temple are said to have burned for eight nights even though there had been only enough oil to keep them burning for one night - Eight Nights Of Joy will be equally enjoyable at any other time of the year, so don't think this album is purely for Chanukah! Nor indeed, of course, do you have to be Jewish to enjoy and appreciate this music. Being a music lover, perhaps with an interest in general world music, will be quite sufficient.
Max will need no introduction as one of the finest and most eclectic klezmer big bands on the scene. I have to confess, however, that this is the first time I've had the pleasure of (musically) encountering Rabbi Black, but I'm sure this won't be the last time for he really proves himself an original, very witty singer-songwriter here. And every bit as eclectic as Max, too.
The material on Eight Nights Of Joy proves a most delightful blend of traditional and new, with styles ranging from klezmer and Yiddish song to jazz, bluegrass, country, rock 'n' roll and soca, and often featuring that gorgeous hard swing that is so characteristic of Maxwell Street. Of the twenty tracks that Eight Nights Of Joy generously presents in over an hour of sheer joy, eight are originals contributed by Rabbi Joe Black, including a few in conjunction with others or featuring the music or lyrics of others. A further two are contributed by Maxwell Street's bandleader, the irrepressible Lori Lippitz, one of them with Marc Chinitz, while musical director Alex Koffman contributed one original and two traditional tunes arranged by him. The rest consists of material from principally the golden age of the New York Yiddish theatre around the 1920s/30s, as well as traditional Yiddish songs and klezmer tunes.
Soca? Yes, indeed! Originating in Trinidad & Tobago, this genre originally blended traditional calypso with soul but has since taken on other influences as well. And soca (incidentally, pronounced 'soh-cah', not 'soccer'!) is represented on a track that really needs singling out for further comment. Who Led The Slaves Out features Rabbi Black's original and witty lyrics set to the tune of Anslem Douglas' 1998 soca hit Who Let The Dogs Out, which is better known outside the Caribbean in a 2000 hit cover by Bahamian band, The Baha Men. Rabbi Black stays closer to the original, giving it considerably more edge. (The authorship of the chorus of Who Let The Dogs Out was subsequently disputed; Douglas lost the case and settled for an undisclosed sum.)
While it is impossible to single out any favourite tracks on Eight Nights Of Joy, Who Led The Slaves Out somehow manages to stand out even on this album of stand-outs. Not only is Eight Nights Of Joy a superbly consistent album, but, more than compelling, it is also utterly charming, enchanting and just plain enjoyable. Of course, one would expect nothing less from the great Maxwell Street Klezmer Band, who tackle all the different material and styles with customary panache. The real surprise here is Rabbi Joe Black, who not only possesses an excellent voice but moreover is an excellent interpreter of the material on which he appears, and a superb singer-songwriter with wit, charm, and sincerity to boot.
The album also delightfully gives the horrible jewel case a miss in favour of a well-designed double gatefold, with an exceptionally effective cover featuring superb artwork representing the band and the Rabbi. The small size of the CD has always made well-designed, effective covers extremely difficult, and this one really stands out.
Eight Nights Of Joy may well be the ideal Chanukah album. But it is far too good to confine to just these eight days and nights of the year. Besides that, it also makes for a wonderful general world music album that should appeal to almost anybody.
Rabbi Joe Black With The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band's Eight Nights Of Joy therefore is not only an absolute must for any decent Jewish Music collection, but also makes a perfect addition to any world music collection.
© 2011 Rainlore's World of Music/Rainlore. All rights reserved.
1. Eight Nights Of Joy (Joe Black) - 3:21
2. Crazy Dreydl (Alex Koffman) - 3:52
3. Open The Gates (Pitchu Li) (Joe Black, lyrics based on Ps. 118:19, 22) - 4:34
4. Chanukah Lights ((Lori Lippitz) - 3:08
5. Soufganiot (Joe Black) - 3:10
6. Galitzianer vs. Litvak (Trad., arr. Alex Koffman) - 2:20
7. Ocho Kandelikas (Flory Jagoda) - 2:08
8. Yodel Dreidel (Joe Black / S.S. Grossman) - 2:25
9. Little Dreidel (Samuel Goldfarb, arr. Robert Applebaum) - 3:21
10. Who Led The Slaves Out? (Music 'Who Let The Dogs Out' by Anslem Douglas, lyrics Joe Black) - 3:26
11. Faith Is Not A Flag (Duomo) (Joe Black) - 4:49
12. Build A Sukkah (Joe Black & Sue Black) - 2:43
13. Abi Gezunt (Abraham Ellstein / Mollie Picon) - 2:44
14. Kolomeikes (Trad., arr. Alex Koffman) - 3:53
15. Shine (Marc Chinitz / Lori Lippitz) - 3:27
16. Leave A Little Bit Undone (Joe Black, inspired by Yotzeir Or prayer) - 4:01
17. Yoshke (Trad.) - 3:09
18. Judah Maccabee (Joe Black) - 4:01
19. Candle Blessings (Trad.) - 1:16
20. Chanukah Sing-Along Medley - 5:08
a. Maoz Tzur (Trad.)
b. Mi Y'maleil (Folk melody, lyrics M. Ravina, English lyrics B. M. Edidin)
c. Oh Chanukah (Folk melody, English lyrics F. Minkoff)
d. S'vivon, Sov, Sov, Sov (Folk melody, lyrics L. Kipnis)
e. Chanukah, Chanukah (Chag Yafeh) (Folk melody, lyrics L. Kipnis)
f. I Have A Little Dreidel (Samuel Goldfarb / S. S. Grossman)