The Arty Semite

Jews Get Musical With Ecstatic Summer

By Matthew Kassel

  • Print
  • Share Share

Judd Greenstein is as much an impresario as he is a composer, and sometimes the line between those roles can blur. On Saturday, June 30, on an outdoor stage in the World Financial Center Plaza in Manhattan, he performed his own music in a free concert to kick off Ecstatic Summer, produced by the arts organization he directs, New Amsterdam Presents.

Courtesy of Six Points Fellowship

Greenstein played selections from his new work, “Sh’lomo,” commissioned by the Six Points Fellowship. A musical interpretation of the life of King Solomon, the work doesn’t appear to be finished yet, but the four pieces I saw — performed by his nine-piece band, the Yehudim — were bright and buoyant and promising.

The strongest piece was “These Are The Sons of Israel,” gliding smoothly through sections of choral incantation, jazz-fusion and synth-pop. It was undergirded by an Afrobeat pulse, with funky guitar and bass. Greenstein, on Fender Rhodes, confidently traded lead vocals with Olga Bell, also on keyboards.

Ecstatic Summer, presented by Arts Brookfield as part of the River to River Festival, is an offshoot of the Ecstatic Music Festival, a winter endeavor curated by Greenstein and dedicated to presenting collaborations between musicians who might not otherwise collaborate: The Mountain Goats and Anonymous 4, for example. Basically, it’s indie meets classical.

It’s a good idea, if it works. On Saturday, it did and it didn’t. The evening was billed to feature the vocal octet Roomful of Teeth, performing after the Yehudim’s opening set. The group sang works by Merrill Garbus (of Tune-Yards) and the composer William Brittelle, who co-directs New Amsterdam with Greenstein. To finish the night, the Yehudim accompanied the a cappella group for one relatively anticlimactic song.

Garbus sang two songs with the group, one with the four women in the octet and the other with the additional four men. The group is known for its virtuosity, using difficult techniques like throat singing, which involves overtones. But when the singers tried to imitate Garbus’s idiosyncratic yodel — with all the groaning and screaming and panting thrown in — it seemed like a parody of her style.

The pieces Brittelle wrote for the octet worked better than Garbus’s. At times they could be lush vocal landscapes with satisfying harmonies. But most often, they failed to seem like more than self-conscious exercises. Roomful of Teeth would probably have been better served if they had been able to perform their own music, as Garbus did.

Right after Greenstein’s opening performance, Garbus took the stage. She stood in a black dress flanked by a bass tom and a snare drum, which she hit occasionally with drumsticks, looping her voice underneath her animal-like screams. She wore a necklace with orange and yellow beads and had white bars painted below her eyes. “You are a party in a can,” she intoned, the crowd buzzing with excitement.

It became clear that the strongest collaboration of the night had occurred between Garbus and the audience.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yehudim, Music, Sh'lomo, Matthew Kassel, Judd Greenstein, Ecstatic Summer

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.