Archive for the 'World' Category

Bar Kokhba Sextet

First off, I would like to apologize for my lack of posts as of late. Mea Culpa. The end of Winter quarter was a bear to be sure. But alas, Spring has sprung! And with it, I have a whole bunch more music to share with you kids. So without further adieu, I bring you one of the most unique and intriguing groups I’ve run across within the jazz genre: the Bar Kokhba Sextet. (If you weren’t previously aware, I am a huge jazz junkie).

Bar Kokhba is collective of six core members from the Masada family, an innovative and dynamic music group under the guidance of radical, Avant-Garde saxophonist and composer John Zorn. Zorn, who has been one of the leading forces of experimental jazz in the past decade, specifically assembled Bar Kokhba to explore the soundscape of his Jewish heritage. To accomplish this, Zorn brought together some of New York’s finest musicians to fuse jazz with a Middle Eastern flair. And it’s awesome to say the least, a mystic and intoxicating swirl of percussion, bass, cello, guitar, and violin. Always compelling and never coming across as forced, the jazz influence challenges a stereotyped Middle East sound to reach new depths. Zorn’s label, Tzadik, even describes it as “sephardic exotica for young moderns.” Now tell me that doesn’t intrigue you.

I first discovered Bar Kokhba while listening to Pandora, and I immediately knew I had to have the album, titled “Lucifer: Book of Angels, Vol 10.” (Yes, it’s volume 10 out of 14) The only problem was, I couldn’t find it anywhere! Finally, one time at Amoeba I glimpsed the gold album cover peeking out from one of the crates underneath the main shelves. I felt like I’d found buried treasure. Anyway, the album is fantastic and arguably Kokhba’s best work. The last song, “Abdiel” actually features one of my top 3 favorite musical moments of all time. Listen to the key change right at 1:13 and you’ll see what I mean.



Jeff Buckley – “Live at Sin-é”

Jeff Buckley. I honestly have no idea where to start – there’s so much you could say about his music, but it would be like describing food: you can tell someone in great detail how something tastes, but it doesn’t come close to capturing the experience of eating a perfectly seared filet mignon. Jeff Buckley is that filet mignon.

This is a genius who died young. He only released one studio album before his untimely death in 1997, at the age of 30 (he drowned while going for a swim in the Wolf River in Memphis, TN). Beyond a shadow of a doubt, 1994’s “Grace” is my pick for best album of that decade; it’s absolutely flawless. His distinct and incredible vocals soar on each track, his guitar work and composition is insanely original yet familiar, and he manages to go everywhere from a 1504 Middle English hymn to crushing grunge. His recording of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is one of the most iconic and emotional recordings of all time; you’ve heard it before, trust me. All in all, “Grace” is a perfect studio album in every single way.

This is not that album. I’ll write about that album some other time, but this is Jeff Buckley, the man, captured on two discs.

“Live at Sin-é” is a recording of a gig he played on July 19, 1993 at a café in New York’s East Village called Sin-é (Irish for “That’s It”). The most endearing thing about Jeff is the rawness and conviction of his voice, and there’s no better setting for it or recording of it than this album. No band here; just Jeff strumming a borrowed Telecaster in a small café. Most of the tracks from “Grace” are performed here in their early states, along with covers of everyone you’d never think of: Van Morrison, Nina Simone, Billie Holliday, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and Led Zeppelin. His guitar playing is simple, emotional, and controlled, while his vocals will send shivers down your spine. He sings a traditional Pakistani Qawwali devotional, in Urdu, for God’s sakeI feel that Jeff Buckley was always at the peak of his short-lived career. This recording, then, captures him at the very top of that peak.

If this doesn’t give you goosebumps, I give up.




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