David Chevan with Hazzan Alberto Mizrahi and The Afro-Semitic Experience
Yizkor: Music of Memory (Reckless DC Music RMCD 1053, 2008)
Combining musical roots of the cultural and spiritual duality implied by their name, the Connecticut-based Afro-Semitic Experience is one of the more intriguingly inventive bands out there. Their 2005 release Plea For Peace has been a continual source of enjoyment, though its entirely instrumental approach left me wondering what the group might sound like if vocals were added to the mix. The question is resolved with Yizkor: Music of Memory, which features the voice of noted cantor Hazzan Alberto Mizrahi intoning mystically among arrangements that shrewdly blend jazz, African beats and hints of everything from klezmer to bluegrass to classical.
A Yizkor is a type of Jewish memorial service involving specific prayers, and the musical settings which those prayers are placed in (mapped out primarily by bassist David Chevan) give Mizrahi’s almost operatic voice the benefit of dramatic builds, insistent rhythms, quirky mood-setting sounds and, most importantly, enough space to allow his entreating tones to soar straight to heaven.
The entire disc is captivating, a particular standout being the nearly 11-minute “El Maleh Rakhamim (God, Full of Compassion),” on which the give and take between the players and their special guest is particularly felt. After that climactic piece, a pair of crackling instrumentals wrap up the CD, capping a new turn by the Afro-Semitic Experience in fine style.
Buy the CD:
- In North America: Yizkor: Music of Memory