Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mamma, That Man's Back Again


That was some infection. Three-and-a-half months’ worth.

No, not really. I can’t even explain the long, long silence, although if you are a regular reader of Jewish Week, you know I’ve been anything but silent. It’s not even that I’ve been so preoccupied with paying work – or the lack thereof – that I couldn’t find the time for the blog(s). I suppose it’s a case of the cobbler’s barefoot offspring. Consider this some kind of an apology. The half-assed kind.

I’ve been listening to a lot of ‘70s free jazz in the past week or two, focusing a lot on the spiritually driven stuff spawned by John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. So it’s been a steady musical diet of Pharoah Sanders, Leon Thomas, Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre and the like, a sentimental journey, if you wish, to the loft jazz scene of my college days. Back then I was probably more at ease with the political music coming from Archie Shepp et al., but the attraction of the spiritual search was undeniable. If you’ve read Essential Judaism, you know that when I hit my thirties I began my own spiritual searching, leading me back to Judaism, in no small part through music.

So what was I looking for last week? Probably my youth, maybe another source of musical religiosity. But you can find a very fine, specifically Jewish version of the spiritual free jazz of the ‘70s in the work of Greg Wall and Later Prophets, whose new CD, Ha’Orot, I’ll be reviewing in a few days. Wall is someone who has moved seamlessly from avant-garde jazz into the rabbinate without abandoning his musical pulpit. The new set was inspired by HaRav Avraham Kook, one of the most invigorating Jewish thinkers of the 20th century. It’s also the impetus behind excellent Jewish-themed jazz albums from the Afro-Semitic Experience and Frank London, to name a couple of outstanding examples. What’s nice – for me – is that connecting to these works is like delving into my own roots twice over.

Actually what triggered this line of thinking probably was listening to and interviewing tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger. The result of that process can be read here.


  1. Dear George,
    I'd like to contact you about a new cantorial project I've just completed- three KATCHKO Three Generations of Cantorial Art.
    It's the greatest hits of my grandfather, Adolph Katchko, his voice remastered after 80 years, my father's voice, and acoustic guitar, my harmonies and my chanting as well. I would love to send you a copy to review and just speak with you about it.
    Cantor Debbie Katchko Gray

  2. Hello, we are the Kol Lev Band, from Brazil, and would like to present our work.

    Well known prays with modern arrangements, causing great impact on who listens. Bringing or renewing spiritual elevation.
    All the songs are singed in hebrew but with a touch of rock, reggae, disco and flamenco. The setlist includes what is the most representative on classics hebrew prays.
    We're doing a unique work, and we are sure you will love the band.

    Our site is in

    We await your return.
    Sincerely, Kol Lev Band.