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Jacques Schwarz-Bart: Hazzan (Enja/Yellowbird)

A review of the saxophonist's album contemporizing traditional Jewish liturgical melodies

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Hazzan by Jacques Schwarz Bart
Cover of Hazzan by Jacques Schwarz Bart

The world’s religions have long provided jazz musicians with melodies to explore, and while Judaism has never been as pervasive an influence as Christian gospel music, it has nonetheless turned up in jazz over the years. The Guadeloupe-born tenor and alto saxophonist Jacques Schwarz-Bart dives into that canon for his latest—the title, Hazzan, is synonymous with cantor—contemporizing 10 mostly traditional Jewish liturgical melodies.

Some of these songs, even in their reimagined form, will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s ever set foot inside a synagogue, others less so. Along with pianist Grégory Privat, bassist Stéphane Kerecki, drummer Arnaud Dolmen, and guests David Linz (vocals) and Darren Barrett (trumpet), Schwarz-Bart approaches these tunes with reverence but also a determined willingness to use them as springboards.

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