3 March 2015 08:00AM
There was no better place and time for this concert than the glass-walled, candlelit, if somewhat awkwardly configured space of Omi’s … well, café, surrounded by snow-covered fields on the last night of the coldest February in 150 years.
Omi is as international and crosscultural as Sha’ar, a Hebrew word meaning ‘gateway,’ a meeting point for the strands of musical traditions woven surprisingly but beautifully in this music.
It’s mostly the work of one man, Yedidia Admon, a little-known Jewish composer, who was born Yedidia Gorochov in Ukraine in 1894, died in Israel in 1982, studied in Paris in between, and wrote for the theater, choruses and himself. His music is already a fusion of those currents, but when riffed on by an Israeli guitarist (Oren Neiman), an Argentinian clarinetist (Ivan Barenboim), a bass player from Philadelphia (Doug Drewes), and a drummer from New Jersey (David Freeman, the band’s leader and alumnus of Music Omi), all currently living in New York, it becomes something urban and improvised—jazzy, but still Jewish, still redolent with longing, but aware of its own freedom.
Many of the pieces start spare and slow and quiet, and build in thickness and tempo and intensity on a circuitous journey, best enjoyed, at least by me, eyes closed and body moving, albeit in place, Which leads to interesting versions of davening (the way Jews tilt forward and back when praying). It helped that I was already standing to take photographs.
Sha’ar is more than a band; it’s a project with spiritual as well as cultural undertones, funded by a grant from Asylum Arts. Why Admon? “His music is complex, but also simple. It’s very melodic, and his rhythms move from common to odd time signatures with ease. We’re just mixing it up even more by exploring it all these years later in another context.”
(Note that in the second photo, Jeffrey Lependorf, Director of Music Omi, introduces Sha’ar.)