Jaffa Road / Until When (2021)

a surfeit of timepieces

Jaffa Road / Until When, 2021

CDs, MP3s available available from Bandcamp.

I am missing Toronto's Ashkenaz Festival for the first time since 1997. I broke an arm while bike-riding and simply could not make the drive. As solace, I am finally getting around to reviewing some recordings that are being showcased by Ashkenaz artists this year. High on that list is Jaffa Road. I had the pleasure of seeing them live several years ago, featuring Aviva Chernik, and back-to-back with Pharaoh's Daughter, NYC khazzanitBasya Schechter's band. Here it is, years later, and the amazing Flamenco/world-music singer, Tamar Ilana (daughter of famed musicologist/singer Dr. Judith Cohen), whom I have had the pleasure of catching as a singer from childhood, has recently has joined the band.

The band's Arabic-inflected jam-band style music is perfect for sitting and listening. The soaring scat singing on "Wordless Melody" remind one of the band's roots, and how much I enjoy their unique new Jewish music. Songs range from wordless nign to traditional Jewish piyut, powerful electric-guitar-inflected adaptations of traditional Hebrew poems such as "Ben Adam" (Human being, Descendent of Adam) and trippy, peaceful newer songs, such as "If I ran from you" with its joyous, jazzy saxophone; or "Hear my sound," featuring former lead singer Aviva Chernick.

Much of my Jewish music listening starts with Eastern European Jewish traditions. Jaffa Road remind me that we are a world music people, and especially reminds me of my favorite piyutim and music from Israel and the surrounding lands. Hearing ancient poetry set to new melodies is, to borrow a word from that eastern European language, a mekhiye. Yet, lest one doubt the ability of the band to bring new life to old texts in their traditional arrangements, there is their renewal of "Dror Yikrah" (Proclaim Freedom, or in the band's translation, "Free Bird"). Their rendition rivals that of the Israeli band, Breira Ha-Tiv'it.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 5 September 2022.

Personnel this recording:
Aaron Lightstone: guitars, oud, synthesizers, backing vocals
Justin Gray: bass, bass veena, backing vocals
Rakesh Tewari: drums and percussion
Sundar Viswanathan: vocals, saxophones, bansuri
Tamar Ilana: vocals

Shawn Rompre
: electronic percussion, samples
Joel Visentin Hammond organ, electric piano
Ed Hanley: tabla
David Wall: vocals
Aviva Chernick: vocals

Song Titles

  1. Until when (trad., arr. Lightstone, Gray, Viswanathan, Tamar Ilana, Tewari) 5:58
  2. Ya'ala Ya'ala (lyrics: adapted by Lightstone after Rabbi Israel Najara; music: Lightstone, Gray, Viswanathan, Tamar Ilana, Tewari) 4:25
  3. Yonati ziv yifatech—My beautiful dove (lyrics: adapted by Lightstone after Rabbi Israel Najara; music: Lightstone, Gray, Viswanathan, Tewari) 4:53
  4. Wordless melody (music: Lightstone, Gray, Viswanathan, Tewari) 4:19
  5. If I ran from you (lyrics: Karen Shenfeld, Aaron Lightstone; music: Lightstone, Gray, Viswanathan, Tewari) 4:14
  6. Ben Adam (lyrics: trad, arr. Lightstone; music: Lightstone, Gray, Viswanathan, Tewari) 5:33
  7. Dror Yikrah—Free bird (trad; arr. Lightstone, Viswanathan, Gray, Tewari, Tamar Ilana) 4:35
  8. Hear my sound (lyrics: Lightstone, Heidi Lightstone; music: Lightstone, Gray,Viswanathan, Tewari) 5:30

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