1/  Der Khusid Geyt Tantsn                     (Traditional)                 8.06
  2/  Chroma                                     (Madof)                       5.17
  3/  Meshek                                     (Madof)                       6.54
  4/  Dovid Melech Yisrael/Lecha Dodi            (Carlebach)                   5.22
  5/  Chanshe’s Nign                             (Madof)                       5.05
  6/  Fel Shara/Uskudar                          (Traditional)                 4.38
  7/  Dybbuk                                     (Madof)                       4.49
  8/  Brooklyn Dance                             (Madof)                       3.27 
  9/  Passing                                    (Madof)                       3.52
  10/ V’shamru                                   (Rabbi Rothblum)              6.21
  1/  Kamancha                                   (Sayat Nova)                  2.21

          Recorded at Orange Music, West Orange, New Jersey
          Engineer: Robert Musso
          Mix translation by Bill Laswell
          Produced by Jon Madof
          Mastered by Scott Hull
Jon Madof: guitar; Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz: bass; Mathias Kunzli: drums, percussion.

          2003 - Tzadik (USA), TZ7178 (CD)


Jewish music is as varied as the people that make up the diaspora. Depending on where you're tuning in, the music might be traditional or it might lean toward funk, jazz, metal, punk, orchestral or even spaghetti western. The Jewish guitar power trio, though, remains elusive. There is, of course, Yossi Piamenta, who some call the "Hasidic Hendrix." His ability to wail out ancient Jewish tunes and prayer melodies on a Stratocaster is legendary . . . well, around Brooklyn, anyway. And good luck finding any of his albums.

Fortunately, we now have "Rashanim," the readily available debut of a power trio led by guitarist Jon Madof. Madof, who lives in Brooklyn, flavors the Jewish and Middle Eastern-influenced tunes on this album with jazzy improvisations and a rock attitude. But as he said in a recent interview, jazz is one thing, but rock is something he tried to keep out of his music for a long time: "I used to listen to punk, I used to listen to rock, but [I said to myself] 'Now I'm a jazz player. I'm not going to play with distortion -- I'm going to play with a clean sound straight into an amp.' "

Fortunately, Madof's career as a jazz snob didn't last long and he learned to comfortably integrate, rather than suppress, his early rock influences. As a result, "Rashanim" contains tunes such as "Der Khusid Geyt Tantsn," where the drummer and bassist thrash like a metal band behind Madof's sizzling tone. Or "Chroma," on which, after a clean intro, Madof lights up and blazes through a searing solo.

Although Madof can't name any power trios, besides Piamenta's, who play Jewish music, he says there are a lot of European and Middle Eastern musicians who are doing it to some extent. "But they're doing it from the other side, from another perspective," he explains, "like growing up in [their own] tradition and then having a rock or jazz influence." He cites the Lebanese oud player, Rabih Abou-Khalil, a musician who grew up playing Middle Eastern music but who changed his sound after hearing Hendrix and Coltrane.

Overall, "Rashanim" is deep, varied and contains quieter moments, too. For a young musician who only recently found a way of harnessing all of his influences, Madof sounds incredibly comfortable in his own skin.

Tom Bojko (courtesy of the Japan Times)


I really enjoy listening to the guitar work of Jon Madof, especially as exemplified on this new Tzadik release, featuring his jazz trio, "Rashanim." Like many Tzadik releases, I find the music less relevant in terms of some broad genre of "Jewish" music, than exciting, interesting new music that includes Jewish influences. Madof compares some of what he plays with hasidic-inspired guitarist Yossi Piamenta, originally from Israel. In the sense that there are some Jewish melodies here, and in the way that Madof sometimes turns on the fuzz pedal and screams, there is some similarity. But, I think that we shortchange ourselves in trying to fit this sort of music into a Jewish mold. Rather, as I said, the opposite is true. A Jewish musician who has absorbed the panoply of American musics is going to reflect that amalgam in creating a person sound. Without the intentional reflection back on the Jewish community, or anchoring to specific Jewish musical traditions, I would not argue that this is not Jewish music, or Jewishly relevant music. But I rejoice in hearing music that I enjoy, which this very much is. And I like the subversive, and paradoxically validating effect of hearing Jewish melody and rhythm mixed in with those of other cultures.

This ia all a long-winded way of saying that I don't understand some of the press material relating to this band referring to the music as "klezmer", despite opening with a delightfully-fuzzed guitar ripping apart "Der Khusid Geyt Tantsn". I think that this melding of styles is better illustrated by Madof's take on "V'Shamru," bluesy riffs merging with a folky take on Jewish prayer. Another side of Madof's guitar work lies in the intricate picking of two traditional melodies, "Dovid Melech Yisrael/Lecha Dodi", or his own "Brooklyn Dance," in a manner more reminiscent of, if also more improvised than, the work of Tim Sparks. "Brooklyn Dance," of course, quickly moves into more generalized territory. Similarly, consider the Sephardic melodies of "Fel Shara/Üsk¨dar". But to focus on this that might also be to ignore the intricacies of tunes such as Chroma, which seems more "downtown jazz" that culturally specific, or the impressionistic picking of "Passing," which was my original point. And then, on Madof tunes such as "Chanshe's nign," despite the implication in the name that this is Jewish, the music reflects, again, much more than specifically Jewish melody. The album closes with a delicate accoustic piece, "Kamancha" by Sayat Nova.

In the end, I very much like the quote which Madof placed on the CD notes, under the band listings. It has long been one of my favorite Hasidic quotes, by Rabbi Zusya: "In the coming world, they will not ask me: 'Why were you not like Moses?' They will ask me: 'Why were you not Zusya?'" I think it puts the boxes into which I, and other reviewers, have tried to fit this album, into perspective. The box isn't relevant. Making honest, interesting, new music is very relevant. And on those terms, this album is delightful.

Ari Davidow courtesy of the Klezmer Shack website)