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Thursday, August 19, 2004

Session Players, part too

Blog in DM is getting a lot of comments about my piece on Session Players that he linked to. Dunno why they're bugging him. I'm the one with the big mouth. Anyway, I should probably clarify a few things.

First of all, the opinions that I post here are my own, and as my wife is fond of saying, that means they're probably wrong.

I think that what started out as praise for bands that do their own studio work ended up as more of a criticism of session players. I don't want to leave anyone with the impression that I blame the players for the lack of creativity in Jewish Music. As I said in my post, I think these guys are phenomenal players. They are generally much better than the typical player who's going to join an upstart band and start working on his own material. And they're just trying to make a living, doing something that very few, including myself, can do.

I blame the producers.

I would personally rather listen to someone who isn't quite perfect play something that he wrote and put his heart into, than something that sounds like the theme from a 7o's TV show, because a producer or arranger somewhere thought that that's what "authentic" Jewish Music is supposed to sound like. And from the comments I read, it sounds like the musicians playing the music aren't that pleased with it, either.

Regarding specific comments, Abe Solomon wrote:

First of all are you there when the musicians record the albums? Do you live in Israel and see that Singolda is just sitting there totally not into the music etc.

I've watched recording sessions with 2 out of the 3 musicians I named. My reaction was basically jaw-dropping-to-floor. It is truly amazing to watch. I haven't seen Singolda record, but I've listened to him quite a bit. He along with the others, was on the most recent 5 Jewish Albums that we've purchased (and listen to endlessly in the car; even the psycho toddler demands them). And these 5 albums are more or less indistinguishable from one another. Some of the voices are a little different, but pitch-tuning tends to homogenize them. Singolda tends to jam all over the songs. Not my cup of tea (I prefer a solo that is singable), but my guitar player loves him.

Jordan Hirsch, whose opinion I have always had tremendous respect for, said:

While we are at it, I also take note of Psycho's description of Moshav Band, Blue Fringe, Kabbalah etc. as the source of the new ideas in Jewish Music. He meant the ideas that Jewish Musicians are not already doing. The music of the
current Folk Rock Guitar Band Singer Songwriter fad in Jewish music is just an alternative source for derivative Jewish Music. That does not mean it isn't good. Some of it is very good. But let's not kid ourselves about originality.

I agree with his clarification of my words. These bands aren't coming up with original styles of music. (Is there anything new under the sun?) They're playing in the idiom they enjoy. If they were doing it just to be commercial or cash in on a trend, I'd have a problem with that. All original music isn't necessarily good; it's just different.

I will be the first to admit that my music is completely derivative. I've always had very specific ideas about whom I wanted to emulate, and listening back to songs I recorded 19 years ago, I can hear lines that were directly influenced by bass players of the time. But back in those days, we were being quite risque by putting rock beats into Jewish Songs. Now, it's the norm.

Each one of the songs that I recorded means something to me. I wrote the melody. I worked with the band on the arrangements. And I toiled in the studio to get it to sound good. And I can appreciate it when someone has done the same.

Bottom line is, when you buy an album that was performed by a band, you're hearing their sound. When you buy an album performed by studio musicians, you're hearing what the arranger or producer thinks the music should sound like (and the smaller the pool of producers/arrangers/musicians, the less variety). You have to decide what you prefer.

1 comment:

MoChassid said...

I think Aron Razel is new under the sun