Sam Newsome

Sam Newsome
"The potential for the saxophone is unlimited." - Steve Lacy

Monday, March 19, 2018

The NPO Trio Plays Yiddish Jazz: "Oyfn Pripetchik"

NPO (Newsome, Pilc, and Okura) was formed in April of 2016 when violinist Meg Okura assembled this group to perform as a part of her week-long residency at The Stone.

The idea was to have an ensemble that could successfully re-imagined Yiddish songs without sacrificing the jazz aesthetic.

I think I can say with humility and confidence: mission accomplished. 

None of us knew that this would someday become a commercial recording, or if we would even document something that we were proud of.  To be honest, the three of us were all "pleasantly surprised."

In fact, our first response was "Wow. Maybe we need to put this out."  And here we are.

Of course, none of this would be possible without the legwork done by Okura, and the vision and faith in this project shown by Jon Madof and Shanir Blumenkranz from Chant Records.

Now, about the music:

The following is NPO's interpretation of "Oyfn Pripetchik," a Yiddish song by 19th-century composer and poet Mark Markovich Warshawsky. The original Eminem!  Born into a Russian Ashkenazi Jewish family, Washawsky had composed many pieces, but "Oyfn Pripetchik" was one of his most famous ones. It's about a rabbi teaching his students the aleph-bet, which is the Jewish alphabet or sometimes known as the Jewish scripts. I actually took a course at Temple Israel New York called "Aleph Isn't Tough," just to learn some of these scripts. No easy task, let me tell you. But the piece became very popular amongst Jews of Central and Eastern Europe in the late 19th century.  It's still commonly sung by Jewish school children around the world.

The piece is in a minor key, as is the case with many Jewish songs, which makes them very adaptable to a jazz makeover, particularly through the lens of modal jazz.

The melody isn't really stated until 4:29 of the recording, which is played very loosely by me on the soprano, while Pilc and Okura are playing very passionate, and, at times, very textural accompaniment.

So please check out this piece and the rest of the recording NPO Trio Live At The Stone. You won't be disappointed.


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