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Friday, February 17, 2006

Aaron Razel



The blogosphere is a strange and wonderous place. I have benefited greatly by my participation in this new virtual community. Aside from the opportunity to vent my frustrations, share my celebrations, and find amazing new friends who have been there to share the burden during some tough times, there have also been some opportunities presented to me in the real world, which I am sure I would not have received were it not for this humble little blog.

So in as much as it has given many of you the opportunity to meet me, an unassuming father of six, marooned in the snowy Midwest, it has also given me the opportunity to meet many of you. One person I met early into my foray into blogland was MoChassid, whom I soon found shared many of my frustrations with the state of Jewish Music. In fact, it was his colorful interactions with Velvel and BloginDM that inspired me to start PsychoToddler, and for that alone, I owe him more than I can ever repay (so..um...don't expect any cash, MO).

MOChassid is inspirational in many other ways as well. If you don't believe me, go read his account of the OHEL dinner. I couldn't imagine taking in a foster infant at my age, settling as I am into familiar lazy habits. And speaking of bad habits, I credit MO in part for guilting me into overcoming my fear of exercise. And trying to show up to shul more...on time...still working on that one, MO.

So at this point I should get around to explaining why this post is titled "Aaron Razel" and not "MOChassid." I'm getting to it. Regular readers here know that I have a band. Recently, The MSB has been playing our mix of Kabbalah, Piamenta, Diaspora Yeshiva Band, Shlock Rock, and of course, original MSB tunes. But before I formed this band (more than ten years ago, now), I was a freelance bass player and played with many different performers.

I don't know if MO knew this when he emailed me, a few months ago, and told me that one of his favorite Israeli performers, Aaron Razel, was doing a show in Chicago on February 19 and needed a backup band. More likely it was along the lines of "do I know anyone in the Midwest who can play an instrument...hey, doesn't that Psychotoddler weirdo have a band?" Well, whatever the motivation, I am again in debt to MOChassid, because he turned me on to a great musician with some amazing compositions and I am really looking forward to this show.

Aaron writes and plays his own music, which already puts him one level above most of the drek which eminates from the Jewish Music world. His music is complex but deceptively catchy. It works its way into your brain and refuses to leave. As part of my preparation for any backup project, I listen to the artist's music over and over in my car. Within one or two listens I had already assimilated the melodies, and it was driving me crazy, because I was hearing his live album in my head NON-STOP. In fact, several times I woke up in the middle of the night realizing that I was dreaming about one of his songs! This has not gotten much better over the past two months.

Mendel, my guitar player, who is, by the way, usually not too impressed with any kind of Jewish Music (at least not compared to the likes of Steve Vai or Jimi Hendrix), reports similar effects. In fact we have become so intimately familiar with Aaron's excellent Live album that we have memorized all of his ad-libs, grunts, and even his band introductions (I think half of the band is named Doni). I feel a little bad for Aaron; as we reahearse a song and I'm singing the melody, I'll purposely go a little off key or insert a little "Tagidu Li! (Tell me!)" and Mendel will crack up. I don't think Aaron will know what hit him.

This is probably the first time in many years of playing Jewish Music that I've had some trouble figuring out the bass parts to a song. I've had to listen to the bridges of some of his songs over and over and over again just to figure out the right chords. Either I'm getting old, or this is just complex stuff. I mean, I know the entire Rush Chronicles by heart; this shouldn't that hard to figure out! But it is in many places, and yet, to the audience I'm sure it sounds very natural. This has been, in many ways, a great musical exercise for me, and for that alone I'm grateful for the opportunity I've been given.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the show is open to the public, or I'd invite some of you Chicagoans down. I'll do a post-show review next week.

18 comments:

Irina Tsukerman said...

That's a hilarious post... and this guy sounds like quite a musician! i'm very much looking forward to your review! : )

drumbumJ said...

aaron razel is a musicians's musician. his "shir tzion" album is one of my faves (the others... not so much, but some have their moments). and it's NOT you/your age/etc - he IS that complicated. he has the technical sophistication (having an extensive musical training and education will do that, y'know) but he also has such tremendous soul (that's something getting a masters in music can't help you with).

wow - that's so awesome that you're his backing band... hatzlachah rabah!

hey, is anyone gonna be taping this show? maybe? please? pretty please?

PsychoToddler said...

I doubt it will be recorded. I personally would love a copy.

30cal said...

at some point, you should tell mom about this gig. before you leave tommorrow, for best effect.

tuesdaywishes said...

I hope this one is for sale in Canada! (Checking bookstore today)

drumbumJ said...

is it possible to privately (not professionally) record it (like with a simple mp3 recording device or even tape recorder)? or are there label/political issues?

PsychoToddler said...

Mostly it's technical. Someone has to have the right equipment and just be there to do it.

Personally, I encourage bootlegging of MSB shows. Aaron may feel otherwise.

Doctor Bean said...

Rush!!!! I love Rush!!!

Sorry.

Have fun. Rock well.

BTW, has Mrs. Balabusta forgiven me yet? Are further acts of kindness and contrition required? (Do I need to send her a fat blue comfy pen?)

shmavis said...

wish I could come check it out... igot a call from his agent about doing a show at a club two weeks ago... sadly not enuff time to put it together, along with the issues of availability of the backing band and how to pay for it given the present state of things... can't wsit for the bootlegs

Sweettooth120 said...

PT or Fudge - in addition to Etan G., do you know of any really good Jewish Rap musicians/cd's that you can recommend to buy?

Thx

PsychoToddler said...

I really wish we could have done a club date. Considering the amount of work the band put into it, it would have been nice to do this music justice in the proper venue.

As it was, we did rehearse for about 2 hours while they were setting the room up, and we went through his entire live album. Aaron was totally blown away. He told us his band in Israel doesn't know his stuff this well and couldn't believe that we didn't have charts in front of us.

But it was clear the hosts weren't looking for a full volume rock show. Still, we had a great time, and what was really nice was that quite a few people showed up from our Young Israel Show to see us play too.

Maybe next year.

J: Good rap? (biting my tongue)

Mincha Man said...

I'm going to be in chicago this weekend - when/where is the show?

drumbumJ said...

wow! that's so awesome that aaron was blown away by you guys! so what details can you give all the music fans who couldn't astrally project themselves to the show? setlist? things that struck you? you promised a review, remember?

dilbert said...

was this the kollel Torah M'Tziyon dinner? I was going to go but was sick. Missed you again......

PsychoToddler said...

Yes, the chocolate was unbelievable...

Formerlurker said...

If I didn't learn there, I'd love the Kollel just for being the only way we get real music into Chicago once in a while (present company excluded of course). Great show for those of use who were more interested in the music than shmmozing.

PsychoToddler said...

Formerlurker: Maybe you can pester Tzviki to email those pictures to me and I'll post them.

Sweettooth120 said...

Good Rap? I know, but I am hooked on it. Can't help to start grooving whenever I listen to it.

I am on a Eminem kick right now.