Tzimmes / הנתיב הנסתר The Road Never Traveled

Yup. A faraway road.

Tzimmes / הנתיב הנסתר The Road Never Traveled, 2021
CD, Digital Download available from Bandcamp.

Tzimmes is an experienced Jewish music ensemble. In this, their first release in some 23 years, they demonstrate their range and ongoing interests, and their many decades of performing experience. The recording is divided between songs from many Jewish traditions: Sephardic, Ashkenazic, Israeli, Mizrahi, as well as North American folk/pop, from the Lennon-McCartney "In my life" to Denburg originals such as the title song and "Sweet Melissa." The second disc contains the band's settings of Jewish sacred texts, again inspired by many Jewish traditions.

The opening chestnut, "Cuando el rey nimrod" (When King Nimrod) is given fresh life by jazzy improvisational tight arrangements, and being recast to a flamenco beat. Likewise, the Yiddish "Oyfn Veg" (on the way) is given sure treatment with strong vocals and harmonies, and a similarly jazzy stretch. The adaptions reflect the ensemble's diversity and interests, as in their melding of a 12th century poem by Yehuda HaLevi with a 17th century Yemenite Tune, “Ahavat Hadasa - Libi V’Mizrakh” (The Love of Hadasa - My Heart Is in the East).

The second disc features mostly liturgical songs. There are a couple of remixes from earlier Tzimmes recordings, "Hashem Yishmor-kha" and "Adon Olam", other common liturgical pieces such as the blessings for the Sabbath candles and "Shalom Aleichem" (Peace be unto you). There are also settings from the High Holiday liturgy including "Simkha L'Artsecha" (Joy to your land), and "Shiviti Adonai l'negdi tamid" (I have set Hasham always before me) from the Yizkor service. As we read in the Rosh Hashana service (and often), Hashem "delights in songs of praise."

At its best, Tzimmes' blend of jazz and folk traditions evokes the British folk-jazz band, The Pentangle, if you can imagine, say, the Pentangle stretching out on the theme from the Israeli movie, "Mashiakh Hazaken". This recording is both a summation of decades of music-making, and a snapshot of the band and its repertoire refined to perfection so many decades on.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 8 Sep 2021.

Personnel this recording:
Moshe Denburg: vocals, guitar
Yona Bar-Sever: guitar, electric bass, vocals
Fabiana Katz: vocals
Amy Stephen: vocals, accordion, tin whistle, lever harp
Saul Berson: clarinet, alto saxophone, flute
Tim Stacey: upright bass, electric bass
Phil Belanger: drums/percussion

Featured performers
Adel Awad: daf (frame drum)
Cameron Wilson: violin
Debby Fenson: vocals
Finn Manniche: cello
Itamar Erez: keyboards
Joseph “Pepe” Danza: bansuris (bamboo and crystal)
Julian Siegel: accordion, synth bass, backup vocal
Myrna Rabinowitz: vocals
Naomi Arney: vocals
Naomi Taussig: vocals
Russell Wallace: vocal chanting
Yuji Nakagawa: sarangi


    Disc One: The road never traveled

  1. Cuando el rey Nimrod—When King Nimrod (trad. Ladino; arr. Denburg) 4:55
  2. Ahavat Hadasa/Libi v'Mizrakh—The love of Hadasa/My heart is in the East (texts: Shalem Shabazi, 17th c.; Judah Halevi, 12th c; music: trad. Yemenite/Moshe Denburg; arr. Moshe Denburg) 5:38
  3. Oyfn Veg—on the way (text: Itsik Manger; music trad/Moshe Denburg; arr. Denburg) 7:25
  4. The road never traveled (Moshe Denburg) 6:27
  5. Sweet Melissa (Moshe Denburg) 9:58
  6. Joy to your land (trad Modjitzer; arr. Denburg) 2:37
  7. Moishe's Freylakh (Moshe Denburg) 3:03
  8. Mashiakh Hazaken—Messiah the elder (music: Yohanan Zar-ai; lyrics: Uriel Ofek; arr and added to: Denburg) 6:45
  9. In my life (Lennon/McCartney) 4:16
  10. Disc Two: Liturgy Lane

  11. Hashmi-ini—Let me hear your voice (text: Song of Songs; music: Denburg) 2:13
  12. L'hadlik ner shel Shabbat—Lighting the Sabbath candles (text: trad; music: Denburg) 2:05
  13. Shalom Aleichem—Peace be unto you (text: trad, attrib. to 17th c. Tzfat Kabbalists; music: Denburg) 3:48
  14. Adon Olam—Ruler of the universe (text: trad; music: Myrna Rabinowitz; arr. Denburg) 4:43
  15. Simkha L'Artsecha—Joy to your land (text: trad High Holiday liturgy; music: trad Modjitzer; arr. Denburg) 4:36
  16. Shiviti Adonai l'negdi tamid—I have set Hashem always before me (text: trad Psalms, ch 16 v8; music: Denburg) 2:23
  17. Hashem Yishmorcha—May the Lord watch over you (text: trad 'prayer for the way'; music: Denburg) 5:15
  18. Vechitetu—Swords into plowshares (text: Isaiah, ch2, v4; music: Denburg) 4:46
  19. Biy'mei Hayai—The days of my life (text: Lennon/McCartney; music: Denburg) 4:16

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