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The Days of Awe by David Chevan

The Days of Awe is an interesting project from bassist David Chevan with Frank London and the Afro-Semitic Experience. The CD's nine pieces are each prayers written for Jewish holy days by the early 20th century cantor Yossele Rosenblatt, arranged with some new material by Chevan and guitarist/violinist Stacy Phillips as jazz for a seven-piece ensemble. As the name of the group suggests, the players are a mix of Jewish and Afro-Americans who bring different cultural and musical elements into the jazz melting pot.

While everyone plays well, Stacy Phillips' lap steel and resonator guitar are consistently compelling. Phillips manages to connect with not only Jewish folk traditions, but also those of the Mississippi Delta and the Appalachians. Prayers like "May Our Offering Be Acceptable (R'tzeh Airatem)" and "Our Father, Our King (Avinu Malkeinu)" come in already informed by traditional Jewish folk melodies, with the savvy jazz playing of pianist Warren Byrd, saxophonists Will Bartlett & and the other players further enriching them.

The Days of Awe is a worthwhile collection. Imbued with spiritual meaning, one need not be Jewish to get something from it any more than, say, one has to be Muslim to appreciate Pharaoh Sanders' Jewels of Thought. Though we are frequently told in the media about the frostiness of black-Jewish relations, members of both communities have been profitably worked together in jazz all throughout the music's history. The work of Chevan & the Afro-Semitic Experience shows that this tradition has not come to an end as it simultaneously works to explore music of the Jewish Cantorial tradition.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: David Chevan
  • CD Title: The Days of Awe
  • Genre: Folk Jazz
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Record Label: Horizon Music Group
  • Rating: Four Stars
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