Wednesday, August 12, 2020
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Artist: Roberto Rodriguez (@)
Title: The First Basket
Format: CD
Label: Tzadik (@)
Rated: *****
OK, first off, I was a bit thrown off when I saw the name of the composer and the fact that it was part of the Radical Jewish Culture series. According to the label, this album is "Charming and imaginative music for a controversial film that follows the Jewish basketball experience from ash cans placed on the stoops of brownstones to the bright lights of Madison Square Garden" that "jumps from klezmer to classical, dixieland, pop, rock and back again." This is my introduction to the series (I did not even know that Cuban-Jewish fusion music existed) and I must say that it is a lot of fun. What first caught my eye is that the album crams 30 songs into just under an hour. Although the album is varied, it does not seem at all disjointed, flowing well between styles. After all, where else are you going to find songs like "Catskills Jump," which is a straight up jazz number next to "Kosher Rasta" with a nice slow off beat reggae groove next to "Jewish America Jump" which is just what it sounds like – Oy Vey, Sousa! – next to "Red Auerbach," which is a rocking little track with electric guitar that sounds like it could be played by any bar band followed by "Doina 1," which is a solo clarinet, and "The Jewish Suburbs," which is a kind of cheesy Latin lounge track that would be right at home on Lawrence Welk. And this is just one chunk of the album. The rest of the album follows a similar trajectory, which is to say that it is seemingly random. Is there Klezmer on this disc? Oh yeah – "Philadelphia Spahs" is a great spastic track; you can almost see the people dancing. This disc has everything, but unlike many albums that try to blend a million different styles, this one actually works, partly because some of the same musical themes keep reappearing in different songs, providing a kind of continuity. If you are looking for something different and want to expand your musical horizons a bit, this is worth checking out. This disc weighs in at 59.15.


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