Frank London, Lorin
Sklamberg & Rob Schwimmer,
The Zmiros Project
(Traditional Crossroads, 2002)

Frank London, Lorin Sklamberg and Rob Schwimmer combine their considerable talents in The Zmiros Project, a collection of zmiros, songs sung as part of the ritual accompanying the Sabbath meals in the Jewish tradition.

Frank London, one of the founders of the Klezmatics and leader of Frank London's Klezmer Brass Allstars, among other groups, contributes trumpet, cornet, alto horn, piccolo trumpet, harmonium, piano, organ, Wurlitzer electric piano and vocals, while Klezmatics co-founder Lorin Sklamberg provides lead vocals and accordion. Musical duo Polygraph Lounge member Rob Schwimmer rounds out the trio with harmonium, piano, theremin, daxophone, taisho harp, body percussion, organ, Wurlitzer electric piano and vocals.

Zmiros (singular, zemer) represent a point midway between the Jewish sacred and secular musical traditions, combining liturgical themes with strong and appealing melodies. They commonly accompany the three major Sabbath meals on Friday evening, Saturday midday and Saturday late afternoon. Ethnomusicologist Jim Loeffler provides thorough and careful notes in the booklet accompanying the CD, both in a historical overview as well as the songs themselves.

The trio of musicians have been equally as thorough in their selection, interpretation and arrangement of the zmiros. The CD starts off with two different musical versions of the same zemer, "Sholoym aleykhem." The first is a smooth, fluid melody while the second has more of a dance melody; only by reading the liner notes or paying attention to the lyrics does one know it's the same song. Some tracks are very lively, such as "Mizmoyr ledovid," which surprisingly accompanies the text of Psalm 23. Other tracks are slower and contemplative, such as the final song, "A gute vokh" or the haunting "Omar hashem leyakoyv."

Sklamberg's vocals are rich and smooth with modulation sensitive to the spirit of each zemer, and the musicianship of all three is brilliant, adding majesty and celebration to each track, and overall, the CD is a model of cohesiveness. This exploration of an important Jewish religious and cultural form will be a welcome addition to any culturally diverse CD collection.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]
Rambles: 14 September 2002

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