David Chevan / The Days of Awe
The Days of Awe
Reckless DC Music, RMCD-1051, 2003
Bassist David Chevan has been exploring sacred music with jazz for many years. His albums with pianist Warren Byrd, which they rework both black spiritual and Jewish spiritual traditions, have always been interesting. Here he brings together his entire Afro-Semitic jazz ensemble, plus Frank London (whose instrumental album, "Invocations", 2000 also focused on cantorial music), and focuses entirely on the Jewish High Holidays. Most of the pieces are from the recordings of the great cantor Yossele Rosenblatt.
Opening with guitarist Stacy Phillips' steel guitar, the album first adopts a quiet, contemplative tone. But on the second song, with the advent of horns and the larger band, I found myself immediately thinking back to Mingus' "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting." As the piece develops it develops its own sense of swing and questing.
On "Here I am," London's pure hazzanus on the trumpet, contrasts with Phillips amazing guitar work in a powerful duet, with Chevan then coming in, again playing off Phillips, and then the three of them sing to each other as the piece closes. Indeed, on many of these pieces, one feels that this is partly a continuation of London's earlier cantorial trumpet. Pulling in Chevan's bass, and especially Phillips on guitar, however, gives these pieces an equally deep emotional depth. Chevan's ear and arrangements are also a wonderful blend of the traditional chazzanus, spirituals, and jazz bringing it all together. As much as I enjoy the interplay between guitar, bass, and trumpet, when the whole band chimes in, as on the end of "Elokai ad shelo notzarti" (or that earlier "R'tzeh Atiratem") there is a lovely ensemble feel and propulsive energy that simply kicks ass (if I can use such a profane expression to describe spiritual music). To my surprise, there is relatively little of Warren Byrd's piano on this album, although it is expected, and fulfills those expectations on "Avinu Malkenu," the title track from an earlier Byrd-Chevan collaboration.
The net result is a lovely jazz album, and a new mirror held up to one of the most intense music periods of the Jewish year. This album forms a valuable link as those of us raised on klezmer and Yiddish folksong discover and rediscover the amazing power and beauty of Jewish cantorial music, both the Ashkenazic traditions represented here, and Sephardic traditions. As we get deeper in, Chevan's explorations of Jewish-American and African-American spiritual traditions form a lovely bridge.
Reviewed by Ari Davidow 11/23/03
Personnel this recording:
David Chevan: bass
Warren Byrd: piano
Will Bartlett: tenor sax, clarinet
Alvin Carter, Jr: drums and percussion
Baba David Coleman: percussion
Frank London: trumpet, quarter-tone trumpet, flugelhorn
Mixashawn.com: tenor sax
Stacy Phillips: lap steel guitar, violin, resonator guitar
- And as for me, my prayer is for you (V'Ani S'filosi) (p.d.; arr. w/new music Stacy Phillips) 3:42
- May our offering be acceptable (R'tzeh Atiratem) (Yossele Rosenblatt and Meir Machtenberg, p.d.; arr. w/new music David Chevan) 9:08
- Here I am, with my meager accomplishments (Hineni, Heani Mima'as) (Yossele Rosenblatt and Meir Machtenberg, p.d.; arr. w/new music David Chevan) 6:21
- And we all believe (v'Khol Ma'aminim (Yossele Rosenblatt and Meir Machtenberg, p.d.; arr. w/new music David Chevan) 6:07
- For the sins that we have committed (Al Khet) (Yossele Rosenblatt and Meir Machtenberg, p.d.; arr. w/new music David Chevan) 9:39
- Remember us for life (Zokhrenu L'Khayim) (p.d., w/new music David Chevan) 4:37
- My God, even before I was created I was unworthy (Elokai ad shelo notzarti) (Yossele Rosenblatt and Meir Machtenberg, p.d.; arr. w/new music David Chevan) 8:56
- On Rosh Hashanah (B'Rosh Hashanoh) (Yossele Rosenblatt and Meir Machtenberg, p.d.; arr. w/new music David Chevan)) 10:32
- Our Father, Our King (Avinu Malkeinu) (p.d., w/new music David Chevan) 4:47