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My favourite piece from Café Jew Zoo is Imenu Malkatseynu ('Our Mother, Our Queen') [listen -- track 5, 0:00-0:33]. The female chorus is singing a prayer inspired from Gregorian chant. The result is a fusion of Jewish folk modes and jazz with a free-style introduction beautifully sung by Elizabeth Schwartz. She has a clear, powerful, warm, distinct mezzo-soprano voice complimented by the tenor saxophone, guitar and violin. Her technique allows her to use slides (often found in Eastern-European folk music -- eg the Romanian Doina, an ailing song with improvisatory character, with words chosen by the interpreter to suit the need of the moment: funeral, son gone to the army etc). Previous reviews have rightly observed her unquestionably 'soulful' interpretation.

Waltz Amur was composed by Yale while on the train on a Trans-Siberian trip. Therefore it's not a surprise to hear the Russian influence. (Probably he heard a Russian musician play on the train, but the scenery must have been a great influence. When I close my eyes I can see the train running through hills and land, scarred by rivers and wind, trees and forests so dense you can't imagine light ever reaching the ground.) Of course, the accordion and mandolin are both present (as they are in Russian folk-music).

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Copyright © 14 February 2006 Ioana Osoianu, London UK


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