Blue Box

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

Nefesh Mountain plays Old-Time Jewish music

A number of musicians have wed Jewish melodies to American bluegrass music. Mandolin and clarinet virtuoso Andy Statman bends Jewish liturgical tunes to bluegrass. And clarinetist Margo Leverett and the Klezmer Mountain Boys perform a repertoire of klezmer and bluegrass songs. Now comes Nefesh Mountain — married musicians Doni Zasloff, vocals, and Eric Lindberg, vocals, […]

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

Peter Bernstein stays loose and lyrical

Peter Bernstein, an acclaimed jazz guitarist, interprets his own tunes and some standards on his new album, Let Loose (Smoke Sessions Records). The fleet and lyrical guitarist and his longtime collaborators, bassist Doug Weiss and drummer Bill Stewart, are joined here by Gerald Clayton, a brilliant young pianist who has played the Dakota in recent […]

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

Short stories touch on sex and death

Rebecca Schiff’s short stories collected in The Bed Moved (Knopf) generally revolve around themes of sex and death. They’re from the perspective of a young Jewish woman. She is having sex in the same room again — the previous tenant collected banjos; or she’s at a shiva in New Jersey, where her aunts collect coats […]

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

Semer Ensemble revives lost music

Amid a “Golden Age of Jewish Music,” in Berlin, Hersch Lewin, who ran a shop selling books, Judaica and gramophone records, founded his own label, Semer, in 1932. The timing was bad, as the Nazis came to power a year later and banned Jewish musicians performing in non-Jewish settings. Sixty years later, musicologist Dr. Rainer […]

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

Anat Fort entrances with ‘Birdwatching’

Israeli jazz pianist Anat Fort’s third album for ECM, Birdwatching, features her regular trio mates — bassist Gary Wang and drummer Roland Schneider — and welcomes guest reeds player Gianluigi Trovesi. Fort’s solo piano journeys here — on “It’s Your Song,” “Meditation for a New Year” — are beautiful and spellbinding. The ethereal mood is […]

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

‘Rabin, the Last Day’ probes Israeli tragedy

In Rabin, the Last Day, acclaimed Israeli director Amos Gitai examines the overheated right-wing incitement, and the security lapses, that preceded the Nov. 4, 1995, assassination of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin by a 25-year-old Jewish extremist. The 256-minute film, a political thriller that mixes reenactments with archival footage, is available for pre-order in Blu-ray and […]

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

Avishai Cohen’s evocative ‘Silence’

Trumpeter and composer Avishai Cohen’s new album, Into the Silence (ECM), is dedicated to the memory of his father, who died in November 2014. The music, which was composed over six months following his father’s passing, has a muted, lovely and elegiac feeling. The title song evokes late-1960s era Miles Davis music (In a Silent […]

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

Appelfeld writes for young readers

Aharon Appelfeld, one of Israel’s most acclaimed writers, escaped from a Nazi concentration camp in Transnistria, at the age of 10, and then wandered the forests for two years, until he was picked up by a Red Army unit, in 1944. Appelfeld, who reached Palestine in 1946, has set most of his novels in central […]

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

‘Imagine That’ sounds sublime

Drummer Daniel Freedman follows up his acclaimed 2012 album, Bamako by Bus, with Imagine That (Anzic Records), a vibrant collection of tunes that draws on musical modes from around the world. Freedman, 41, has played the Dakota Jazz Club as part of the Anat Cohen Quartet. The always inventive Jason Lindner, here on keyboards, is […]

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

Israel’s great poet, Yehuda Amichai

Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000) is widely considered to be Israel’s greatest contemporary poet. The Poetry of Yehuda Amichai (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), edited by Robert Alter, is the largest English-language collection of the poet’s work. Israeli novelist Amos Oz says: “Yehuda Amichai’s language weaves together intimacy, casual conversation, hushed tones, and words exchanged in bed by […]