Prayers Beyond Words
Full Price (60 mins)
Israel has for years been home to a number of masterful exponents of traditional Arabic, Turkish and Persian instruments such as ud, ney and saz, who, through interplay with both Eastern and Western art musics and the many local folk and Jewish liturgical traditions, manage to create a dynamic scene that sounds quite unlike any of its neighbours. Step up Amir Perelman, a cello and Turkish bouzouk player, whose New Song Of Jerusalem Ensemble’s debut album gets its first international release here. The instrumentation of the ensemble – violin, cello, bouzouk, piano, clarinet and percussion – is designed expressly to float between genres, coaxing out lush textures while taking in associations from Satie to Oum Kalsoum to Hasidic wordless nigun songs. Much like Tunisian oud player Anouar Brahem, it is the sheer beauty and space in the arrangements that gets you here. ‘Ya’ala Ya’ala’ is a case in point: starting out with just bouzouk and percussion playing the simple melody over Ofir Tal’s repeated piano drone, the theme is developed with increasing intricacy until the ecstatic solo section, where violinist Oren Tsor unfurls spectacularly over the hypnotic rhythmic drone like a peacock. The pace is not all stately explorations of mood: ‘The 5th Tov U Meitiv’ is a partly clarinet-driven tango, and ‘Hushi’ is more an uptempo Eastern jazz workout. But it is on the more meditative, spiritual numbers that this band really excel. A record to make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.