A bit obscure to be sure, Jewish music nonetheless has a rich legacy with a wealth of variety. Here, acoustic steel-string guitarist Sparks, bassist Greg Cohen and percussionist Cyro Baptista tackle a gamut of sub styles rife with exotic sounds, infectious rhythms and atypical forms and time signatures.
"What Were You Doing Before Prohibition?" opens the set and immediately catches the ear, seducing the listener with its hypnotic pulse, seamless contrasts and gorgeous instrumental blend. After running through the head, Sparks extemporizes with some bluesy bends and fancy fretwork that perfectly complement the song's overall vibe. "Araber Tanz," propelled by a pedaled bass and insistent pulse on triangle and written by legendary Klezmer clarinetist Naftule Brandwein, moves on to an extended improvised episode that gives Sparks yet another chance to demonstrate his mastery of Middle Eastern nuances. Equally fascinating, the remaining material covers a wide range of sounds that encompass Sephardic traditions and the sounds of Persia, Dagestan and elsewhere.
Of course, this beautiful recording isn't jazz per se, but it does have a spontaneity, depth and improvisational aspect that will appeal to anyone willing to step outside their everyday listening experience.