Hasidic New Wave and Yakar Rhythms at Littlefield, Brooklyn, NY

 

It's a treat to have the opportunity see a band who rarely play live. In the case of Hasidic New Wave, the anticipation that accompanies this rarity is amplified by the band's genre-crossing, convention-defying attitude and musicality. Hailing from New York's downtown scene, with already atypical roots in jazz and Jewish song, the quintet span experimental and more traditional sounds, written melodies and free improvisation, via spacey dub, Arabic dance, funky bass, avant-garde rock, and beyond.

And what else would one expect from a band fronted by jazz rabbi saxophonist Greg Wall, and trumpet player Frank London, whose roles range from Grammy-winning klezmer band The Klezmatics to collaborations with the experimentally diverse composer-improviser John Zorn? Drummer Aaron Alexander, bassist Fima Ephron, and guest keys player Brian Marsella are rooted in similar eclecticism, frequently marrying jazz and Jewish sounds, and each worth checking out in the context of their other projects.

The Brooklyn concert included great moments of improvised exchange between wind players London and Wall, and some fantastic individual soloing. London's heartfelt playing made exciting use of range, rhythm and his signature turns, trills and bends, crossing more traditional klezmer technique with exploratory jazz. Marsella's improvised passages also stood out, stretching into wild moments of note-bending frenzy, appearing to energise both band and audience.

Part-way through the set, and returning to the stage after their opening performance, Hasidic New Wave were joined by Senegalese sabar drummer trio Yakar Rhythms, led by Alioune Faye. In a stunning collaboration the ensembles performed material from their joint album From the Belly of Abraham, as well as new pieces. At times they swapped in and out, leaving space and respect for diversity of sound; at others they performed fluidly and energetically as one. The driving rhythms of Faye's griot legacy appeared to propel Hasidic New Wave's fervency, while Alexander masterfully worked in the sounds of his kit to the phrases of the sabar drums.

Bending notes, genre and 'rules', Hasidic New Wave and Yakar Rhythms both accentuate and defy traditions, questioning convention and preconceptions, musically and, more implicitly, socially and politically. Their playing was sweet and wild, with fantastic energy. My only criticism: that it doesn't happen more often.

– Celeste Cantor-Stephens

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