The Fourth World:
Planetary Jewish Music

(ARC, 2000)

The subtitle of Atzilut's CD The Fourth World is "planetary Jewish music" and the liner refers to "Jewish world music fusion." Those two phrases succinctly summarize the vibrant music on this CD. Led by Jack Kessler (vocals, Spanish guitar), Atzilut seeks to "explore the use of music as a vehicle of spiritual ascent ... [and] as a vehicle of mystical journey and world healing."

To this end, the music presented on The Fourth World incorporates inspirations from various sources and traditions, including Ashkenazic cantorial chant, Yemenite melodies, klezmer and Sephardic music. The instruments include Spanish guitar, electric violin, oud, flute, tabla and more, and these diverse elements come together in a smooth, sophisticated and wholly unique sound.

Whether it's "Drok Yikra," a poem set to a Yemenite melody, or "Scalerica de Oro," a Sephardic wedding song sung in Ladino, or the Passover song "Echad Mi Yodea" set to Jack Kessler's original music, Kessler's rich and resonant voice grabs the listener's attention and holds it. While translations are provided, it doesn't matter whether you understand the lyrics; the spirit shines through the tracks beautifully.

The rest of the ensemble are on a par with Kessler. They are Lenny Seidman (tabla), Rich Moskowitz (percussion, djimbe), Jim Babb (udu, dumbek), Josef Kessler (electric violin, viola), Samuel Heifetz (English horn, oboe), Bruce Kaminsky (acoustic bass, KYDD bass), Elliot Levin (flute) and Michael Moss (bass clarinet). Klezmatics co-founder Frank London adds a trumpet solo onto "Echad Mi Yodea." Atzilut is truly an ensemble; the music is cohesive with all the elements crisply defined. The percussion anchors the flute, violin, English horn or whatever instrument carries the melody. The depth of the music is such that there is something new each time you listen to it.

While Atzilut sets high goals for its music; it is never too esoteric, staying well within the average listener's grasp. At the same time, the combination of disparate traditions and instruments stretch the ear and in turn, the heart and spirit.

According to Atzilut's website, the band is committed to very specific world healing through their Concerts for Peace: Jewish/Arab Cultural Bridging Project, performing music from both traditions. In a time when understanding and healing are needed more than ever, Atzilut's CD is a welcome step in the right direction.

- Rambles
written by Donna Scanlon
published 29 March 2003

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