September Services and Sundry Soirees

One thing I enjoy as a musician and a creative person is developing/creating works that are spiritually and musically moving and satisfying. I enjoy the intricate challenges of merging my religious/spiritual life with my musical life and I have thrived on that for as long as I can remember. My Days of Awe and Further Definitions of the Days of Awe projects are good examples of how I have been able to find new ways to express traditional synagogue songs and music for the high holy days in an entirely new light. To that end I am excited to let you know about two synagogue services coming up this month that I have helped to develop and arrange and will be playing with the Afro-Semitic Experience. 

The first service is coming up next weekend. We are playing a Selichot service in West Hartford at The Emanuel Synagogue. Yes, we’re beginning the High Holy Day season with some spiritual music making here in the state where I live. Playing a Selichot service is nothing new for the Afro-Semitic Experience. We’ve been involved in playing that service now for the past 15 years or so, ever since we began work on the music for the Days of Awe CD that we released back in 2003. And this year we are going to give a service not with one, not with two, but with five cantors!! We have some new pieces and some revised older pieces planned for the service. And yes, we are going to give a little sermon in song during the evening so look out for an Afro-Semitic Experience moment in the midst of it all. tiny tangent of respect and gratitude: One direct result of the Days of Awe project was that we were introduced to Cantor Jack Mendelson. We played our first Selichot service with him and accompanied him at his synagogue for over a decade. And through our experiences working with Cantor Mendelson our knowledge of the liturgy and music for Selichot also grew. Even though Cantor Mendelson is now retired we continue to be invited to play at synagogues and to share the music we have arranged and developed and we continue to be grateful for the guidance and support he gave us during those many years of learning together. 

Our second synagogue service is going to be in South Orange, New Jersey at Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel. We are going to be playing two services for Rosh Hashanah eve, one at 5:30 p.m. and the second at 7:30. For me this is a moment of arrival as I have wanted to make music for these services for a very long time and now we are getting to play not just for the service that comes just before the High Holy Days, but actually on the eve of Rosh Hashanah! How cool is that!! I mean, how many bands do you know that are playing for Rosh Hashanah services? I could imagine there might be a few, but the only one that I know about is the Afro-Semitic Experience. We’ve been talking, planning, and rehearsing these two services with Cantor Rebecca Moses and both services are going to be open to the public so if you wish to attend the synagogue will welcome you with open arms as long as you call in advance. If you want to observe Erev Rosh Hashannah with a wonderful community and share in our musical celebration of 5778 please contact the temple office of Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel at 973-763-4116. The early service is going to be very family friendly with moments for dancing and interaction. The later service will be a little more somber and we’re planning some pretty interesting arrangements that are intended to bring you into the High Holy Days in a way that is spiritual and visceral. Please call the synagogue if you wish to join us. 

Other gigs in the coming weeks. 

This Saturday evening, September 9, I am hosting a jazz jam from 6:30-9:30 p.m. at Fornarelli’s in New Haven. I’ll be joined by Drew Fermo on piano and you are all invited to come hang out to hear the music. Musicians please come on over and sit in with us. We’re looking forward to a good evening of music making. Fornarelli’s Ristorante is located at 99 Orange Street in downtown New Haven. 

Next weekend (not this one) is just before my birthday so I am going to celebrate my birthday at all of my gigs (well, maybe not my Selichot service, but who knows). The weekend begins with a Friday night performance (September 15) with my group Bassology at the 323 Restaurant and Bar. Music begins at 7:30 p.m. I’ll be joined by Will Bartlett on sax, Warren Byrd on piano and Jocelyn Pleasant on drums. The 323 Restaurant and Bar is located at 323 Main Street in Westport. 

At 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 16, I will be playing with the Nu Haven Kapelye at the Whitneyville Fall Festival in Hamden. Enjoy a great community event with live music including our set of Klezmer. The festival takes place on the fields of the Whitney Cultural Commons, 1253 Whitney Avenue in Hamden. And later that day I will be in West Hartford for the Selichot service. 

Then on Sunday, September 17, I am playing at the jazz brunch at Elm City Market with my swing and blues group, Bassology. For this performance, I’ll be joined by Will Bartlett on sax, Warren Byrd on the keys, and Jesse Chevan on drum set. Music begins at 10:30 and goes till 1:30. What a perfectly morning, you can shop, eat brunch, hear great jazz and then wish me a happy birthday. Elm City Market is located at the corner of State and Chapel streets in downtown New Haven. 

I hope you will join me and my friends at one of these upcoming performances or worship services. 

For all of you who celebrate I wish you a very Happy and Sweet New Year, 


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