Joel Rubin Ensemble, Midnight Prayer

Midnight Prayer CD cover

Joel Rubin Ensemble
Midnight Prayer
(Traditional Crossroads CD 4332, New York 2007)

The second CD by the acclaimed Joel Rubin Ensemble continues its meditation on the Russian-Jewish musical legacy, which it began with the 1997 release, Beregovski’s Wedding (Wergo).  The ensemble under the direction of legendary clarinetist Rubin brings together some of the world’s greatest improvising musicians to explore how Jewish music could sound at the beginning of the 21st century – music from another time and place, but thoroughly grounded in the present. It features Hungarian cimbalom virtuoso Kálmán Balogh, Italian accordion wizard Claudio Jacomucci and star violinist David Chernyavsky, along with Ferenc Kovács (trumpet), Csaba Novák (bass), Sándor Budai (second violin) and Pete Rushefsky (tsimbl).

Midnight Prayer brings together two diverse, yet partially overlapping repertoires: the instrumental music of the klezmorim – the professional Jewish instrumentalists who graced every traditional Jewish wedding in Eastern Europe from at least the 16th century onwards – and the mystical nigunim (religious melodies of spiritual elevation) of the Hasidic movement. Recorded in four magical days at the Operetta House in Budapest, Hungary, Midnight Prayer creates its own sonic universe, full of depth, virtuosity, playfulness and introspection. The kaleidoscopic soundscape filters the many historical layers of traditional Jewish music through the lenses of the multifarious musical backgrounds of the band’s members, ranging from classical to Romani (Gypsy) to free jazz to contemporary art music. Here the interaction of a great improvising jazz ensemble melds with the delicacy of a chamber music group and the drive of a hot wedding band at the cusp of klezmer, Romani and other eastern European traditions.

One of the eight best recordings of 2007. “Rubin is in fine form throughout, but particularly electrifying on the niggunim … where he weeps with the best of them”
(George Robinson, Jewish Week, Jan. 2, 2008, “Eight for ‘07”)

“Rubin has spent more than a decade studying, interpreting, and performing traditional klezmer. And it’s this single-minded dedication that sets him apart from nearly every other klezmer act that has, however briefly, taken the stage during the ongoing klezmer revival that continues to run on both sides of the Atlantic. … The dozen tracks here are all outstanding and represent some of the best klezmer you can hear. Highly recommended for both novice and aficionado.
(Dirty Linen)

“One of the most beautiful traditional klezmer albums in a long time; more precisely, since Rubin’s 1997 CD Beregovski’s Khasene … With Midnight Prayer, Joel Rubin has shown himself once again to be a profound authority on the eastern European Jewish cultural heritage and an exceptionally gifted artist who understands how to create great music from mere fragments…”
(Der Bund, Switzerland)

“His command of the style is exemplary: note bends, trills, slides, ‘hiccups,’ all executed with good taste and in service of the music. He exploits the range of the clarinet and demonstrates particularly lovely altissimo playing … This is Klezmer performed with chamber music precision. … Midnight Prayer was recorded in the Operetta House in Budapest, Hungary, and the acoustics are lovely.”
(The Clarinet)

Complete review texts and links:

Midnight Prayer review in Bund 18.07.08

Midnight Prayer review in Dirty Linen 5.08

Midnight Prayer review in Lebns Fragn 2008

Review by George Robinson in the Jewish Week, 2.01.08:

Article “The Arts: Playback” by George Robinson in Hadassah Magazine, Dec. 08

Joel Rubin, clarinet in C and musical direction
Kálmán Balogh, lead cimbalom (large hammered dulcimer)
Sándor Budai, second violin
David Chernyavsky, first violin
Claudio Jacomucci, accordion
Ferenc Kovács, trumpet
Csaba Novák, string bass
Pete Rushefsky, tsimbl (small hammered dulcimer)

Track list:

1. Khabno (trad.) 7:38
2. Zeydl Rovner (Zeydl Rovner, trad.) 4:54
3. Vinnitsa (trad.) 5:58
4. Kiev (trad.) 4:23
5. Brusilov (trad.) 5:04
6. Midnight Prayer (Khtsos) (trad.) 9:21
7. Rebbe of Medzhibozh (trad.) 7:21
8. Volynsk (trad.) 7:46
9. Cherniavsky (trad.) 3:56
10. Yosele Tolner (Yosele Tolner, trad.) 6:06
11. Rabinovitsh (trad.) 6:59
12. Nikolaev (trad.) 3:04