Rabbinical School Dropouts / Cosmic Tree

Album cover: I think the cover is designed to imply that this is the sort of meandering music that only guys playing in the garage get into Rabbinical School Dropouts
Cosmic Tree

Tzadik, TZ7168, 2002

61 E. Eighth St., pmb 126
New York, NY 1003
Web: www.tzadik.com

This first release by the Rabbinical School Dropouts on Tzadik shows how good, and how interesting the band can be. This is an absolutely lovely meld of Middle Eastern rhythms and more. The wood blocks on "Warp to Level Three" give the song a faintly Caribbean feel, while the opening "Dung Gate" or the title track showcase a far harsher, riff-driven band. The music rocks from jazzy, off-the-wall improvisation (a la "Hasidic New Wave") to places farther afield than the immediate cosmos, expert, perhaps, as defined by the late Sun Ra, and then the band returns, with a lovely, primarily piano jazz piece like "Solarium Khosidl" only to demonstrate some minimalist tendencies with "Jebusite Hypothesis". It is the sort of music that works only when the band feels tight, and here they are tight. Very tight.

This is the sort of mostly-jazz, with a bit of a whacked edge that I enjoy immensely. From the deliberate "Adom-atik" Israeli-dance feel of the opener to "Nuclear Jet Set," to the funked up "Mosquito from Megiddo" or the closing "Semitic Slam", this is all a pleasure. If the result is a bit less whacked out than earlier efforts at their extremes (see below), it's also the most enjoyable outing so far. This is very tight, and very enjoyable.

Reviewed by by Ari Davidow, 5/26/03

Personnel this recording:
Michael Friedmann: clarinet, tenor sax, toy piano (track 3), melodica (track 3)
Hank Friedmann: bass clarinet
Scott Paul Levine: bassoon, english horn, oboe, toy piano (track 12)
Jonathan Rotter: trombone
Jon-Jon Friedmann: autoharp, cello, guitar, mandolin
Bob Weller: piano
Danny Weller: bass
Nicolas Carvajal: drum kit
Ravi Deo: tabla
Ze'ev Mahar: congas


  1. Dung Gate (Michael Friedmann) 2:34
  2. Pillow Rock (Michael Friedmann) 3:39
  3. Warp to Level Three (Michael Friedmann) 4:01
  4. Cosmic Tree (Jon-Jon Friedmann) 4:34
  5. Solarium Khosidl (Michael Friedmann) 4:07
  6. Jebusite Hypothesis (Jon-Jon Friedmann) 3:48
  7. Sweet Beat (Nicholas Carvajal & Michael Friedmann) 5:29
  8. Yanatan Hakatan II (Jon-Jon Friedmann) 1:28
  9. Mosquito from Megiddo (Jon-Jon Friedmann & Michael Friedmann) 4:25
  10. Nuclear Jet Set (Michael Friedmann) 3:40
  11. Integratron (Michael Friedmann) 3:11
  12. Semitic Slam (Jon-Jon Friedmann & Michael Friedmann) 5:59

Album cover: Copperplate typeface is soooo seventies. Rabbinical School Dropouts
Counterfeit Gelt

Ethnic Warrior Productions EWPCD101, 2002

Web: www.rsdo.com

Along with the Tzadik release, the band has made an earlier recording available as "Counterfeit Gelt: The Lost Album". I found it less tight than the newest release, but father out in many places. If you like the Rabbinical School Dropouts first album, you likely won't want to miss this one, either. It also contains earlier versions of some of the tunes on "Cosmic Tree," including the title song and "Semitic Slam". Cool! Ari

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