Paul Shapiro: Midnight Minyan

Midnight Minyan (Tzadik) is tenorist Paul Shapiro’s reverential tribute to Jewish music. Shapiro explains that “a minyan is a group of 10 who gather together to pray communally, morning, afternoon, and evening,” although in this case it’s a group of six-two tenors, trumpet/slide trumpet, piano, bass and drums. Most of the pieces are from the traditional Jewish liturgical repertoire, with two Shapiro originals and the composer’s adaptation of “To Life,” from Fiddler on the Roof, being the exceptions. The venerable melodies receive appealing contemporary treatments and are complemented by excellent mainstream jazz improvisations. Of particular interest among the latter is Steven Bernstein’s unconventional slide trumpet solo on the traditional “Sim Shalom,” where he slips and slides between notes in an intriguingly unhackneyed fashion. Shapiro’s own “Lester Young’s Misheberakh,” whose melody he happened upon while exploring the misheberakh mode, does in fact evoke the cool, melodic style of Young, as does the tenorist’s smooth sound and laid-back improvisation.