Great Jewish Music: Sasha Argov
Great Jewish Music: Sasha Argov
Tzadik TZ7173, 2003
You can hear a Sasha Argov song at 50 paces. It has a special beat, a special smooth flow. It's like listening to music by Stephen Sondheim, but Israeli — a unique blend of the Middle East and European sounds.
This tribute album from Tzadik Records has taken many of my favorite tunes and renewed them. It isn't until you hear Basya Schaechter singing, say, "Anakhnu lo rakdanim" (we're not dancers) that you realize how far out on the edge Argov already was. Setting the likes of Pharoah's Daughter or Charming Hostess (the heavy metal guitar contrasting with Jewlia Eisenberg's strong, longing voice are perfect for each other!) or Jamie Saft loose on these is perfectly natural. The two worlds were meant for each other. Sometimes there is a fusion that makes it all even better: Zahava Seewald sounding like a cross between Esther Ofarim and Judy Collins on "Viduy".
Granted, this isn't Israeli music like you thought you knew it, even if, like me, you were only a generation (or few) behind his initial popularity. Yet, many of these songs aren't so different in these arrangements — the gently percussed flow of "For my beloved" comes to mind — than from the originals. Indeed, Vanessa Saft's voice on "Ad" catches the Israeli gestalt that Argov personified, perfectly, as does the Tin Hat Trio's vocalist on "Tin Hat Trio" or "Ganda" singing "Golden Apple". This is music that reflects an optimism and sophistication, a belief in love and life and the future.
Part of what makes this album special is that the musicians get it. This is not a post-modern smirk at Israel in the light of how we now see it (not necessarily for worse, but certainly not the way the founders of Tel Aviv and Degania saw it). It is music that caresses the future, that speaks to the future and to how good it is to be alive right now. Argov didn't write ditties. He wrote sophisticated songs. If nothing else, an album as understatedly exciting as this brings his music to a whole new audience — hip Americans? who would not otherwise have thought to listen. Listen to the way that Roberto Rodriguez turns "Milim" into a prayerful instrumental, or that Ben Perovskyand Uri Caine fit "Ahava Achrona" into forceful, edgy, piano jazz.
Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 5/22/04
- Daniel Zamir "Panas Boded" (lonely light) 3:20
- Cyro Baptista "Ha-ahava sheli eyna tluya b'davar" (my love is independent) 4:18
- Pharoah's Daughter "Anakhnu lo rakdanim" (we're not dancers) 5:01
- Charming Hostess "Me'ever la'tchelet" (beyond the horizon) 2:18
- Erik Friedlander "Ahuvati sheli livnat tzavar" (for my beloved) 5:47
- Jamie & Vanessa Saft "Ad" (until) 4:31
- Tin Hat Trio "Shir Ha-haflagah" (sailing song) 2:18
- Roberto Rodriguez "Milim" (words) 4:02
- Yuka Honda & Ganda "Im tirzi" (if you want) 4:02
- Zahava Seewald & Psamim "Viduy" (confession) 3:43
- Ben Perowsky & Uri Caine "Ahava Achrona" (final love) 4:05
- Elysian Fields "K'she-or dolek" (when there's a light in the window) 3:41
- Ori Kaplan's Shaatnez "Im tirtzi" (if you want) 4:15
- Kramer "Erev" (twilight) 3:57
- Shachar Haziza "Kacha Stam" (just like that) 4:31
- Mark Feldman & Sylvie Courvoisier "At Va'ani" (you and me) 6:56