Ben Perowsky: Camp Songs

Camp Songs (Tzadik) finds drummer Ben Perowsky riffing on the traditional prayer melodies of his summer camp youth. He couldn’t have chosen better partners in the task; pianist Uri Caine and bassist Drew Gress have worked together in a host of settings and with a wide range of material, and their rapport with Perowsky is airtight. (As it should be, given that the three musicians work frequently together under Caine’s leadership.)

Thanks largely to Caine’s harmonic recasting and melodic abstraction, the group teases out the jazz elements of its ethnic-folk repertoire. And the gambit rarely feels like a gimmick, even when vocalists Oren Bloedow and Jennifer Charles (of goth-pop group Elysian Fields) join the fray for a haunting “Birkat Hamazon.”

Although released under John Zorn’s “Radical Jewish Culture” banner, Camp Songs is less radical than reasonable: It underscores an affinity that always lurked beneath the surface. The album succeeds as a listening experience because of what Perowsky and friends manage to do with the stuff.