Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine


November/December 2011: Randy Brecker

Tarbut: Festival of Jewish Culture

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Last year, the dynamic duo of Tamar Barr and Karla Berbrayer put together a brand new festival called Tarbut: Festival of Jewish Culture, and Winnipeggers were swept up in a week of music, books, film, discussions, and celebration. This November, they’re back at the Rady Jewish Community Centre with a new line-up of compelling artists and commentators.

The offerings include three concerts of particular interest to jazz lovers. The whole festival kicks off on Saturday, November 12, with “A Tribute to Bob Dylan” performed by Glenn Buhr’s Broken Songs Band. Acclaimed composer/performer Glenn Buhr and his wife, writer/singer Margaret Sweatman, have been exploring song repertoire together for several years, revisiting work by some of the iconic singers of our time and creating new work of their own.

As their name implies, The Broken Songs Band is not so much a cover band as a musical exploration of song repertoire and song forms. Familiar material is recast through a collaborative process that draws on the artistry of all the band’s members—Ariel Posen on guitar, Chuck McClelland on saxophone, Gilles Fournier on bass, and Daniel Roy on drums and mandolin. For this concert, they’ll be paying tribute to the songs of Bob Dylan (born Robert Allen Zimmerman), one of the most influential figures in popular culture. Dylan established himself in the 1960s as one of the voices of the rising civil rights movement, and has continued to maintain an active musical career for the past five decades.

Expect to hear dynamic performances of some of your favourite Dylan tunes—“Blowin’ in the Wind,” “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” “Lay Lady Lay”—and a few tunes that will surprise you, in a relaxed cabaret-style concert.

A few days later, Tarbut welcomes the young violin virtuoso, Aaron Weinstein, performing a program devoted to great Jewish jazz composers. Weinstein has been named Rising Star Violinist by Downbeat magazine, and has been celebrated widely for both his skill and his stage presence. He has been a featured soloist at Carnegie Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Birdland, Blue Note, the Iridium, and at jazz festivals in England, France, Switzerland, Iceland, and Israel.

Weinstein first linked up with the jazz world through John and Bucky Pizzarelli, who continue to mentor him and champion his work. Both play on his debut recording, A Handful of Stars, and his most recent recording, Too Blue, is a duo with John. To quote Bucky, “He’s is one in a million, this kid…a perfect musician.”

With his pianist Jon Weber, Weinstein will perform the music of George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and Artie Shaw, to name a few. No doubt it will be a memorable show. In the words of Jim Caruso of the Birdland Jazz Club, “He knows how to entertain! He knows from Jack Benny, he knows from Woody Allen. He’s a little bit vaudeville and a touch Borscht Belt with shades of Grappelli and a whole lotta Victor Borge.”

Closing out the festival is a concert by The Afro-Semitic Experience, a group that explores the rich intersections between traditional music of both African-American and Jewish peoples. Co-founded in 1998 by African-American jazz pianist Warren Byrd and Jewish-American jazz bassist David Chevan, The Afro-Semitic Experience played for an interfaith Martin Luther King service, and has continued creating and performing music as an artistic challenge to racism.

Joining Byrd on piano and Chevan on bass at the Tarbut concert are multi-percussionist Alvin Benjamin Carter Jr, African drumming master Baba David Coleman, saxophonist Will Bartlett, and violinist/guitarist Stacy Phillips. They have three popular recordings, and have got audiences revved up at festivals in the US and Europe. There’s no easy category for this band. It weaves klezmer, cantorial, gospel, blues, swing, salsa, and other musics in a celebration of difference. The Wall Street Journal calls the band “a fusion of Jewish and Jazz souls on fire.”

It’s worth pointing out that Tarbut: Festival of Jewish Culture showcases more than music. It also includes several film screenings and a visit from filmmaker Michael King, an opportunity to hear writers Anita Diamant, Alison Pick, Rhea Tregebov, and Roberta Rich, an exhibit of paintings by Leonard Marcoe, and a chance to browse for books, jewelry, art, and Judaica. Find all the details at radyjcc.coma.


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