If you think you know what to expect when you hear the words “Yiddish Song,” you’re in for a surprise with the release of Adrienne Cooper’s new CD “Enchanted.”
With “Enchanted,” Cooper has launched a fantastic exploration of the emotional and textural possibilities that Yiddish song can provide; from deeply traditional a capella passages to multi-layered arrangements ala Spike Jones.
The cornerstone of the CD is the profoundly heart-wrenching song collage “A Lider Bukh” (A Song Book), which opens with a 1949 vaulted recording of Cooper’s grandfather chanting a portion of the Yom Kippur High Holy Days prayer, overlaid with ambient sound mists that clear into various songs, woven around parents, grandparents and even Cooper’s own child’s voice in the background. The effect of this masterpiece - created by Marilyn Lerner and based on a poem by Meir Kharatz, with music by Fima Chorny - is mystical and haunting, deeply connected to family and history.
Cooper has stood at the forefront of the Yiddish scene for decades, and can comfortably be called the Grand Dame of Yiddish. She has a powerful stage presence, which, even in studio productions, comes through directly to the listener. Her interpretations utilize the voice quality, diction and detailed research of a seasoned Lieder singer, whereby every word is understood, shaded, and given nuances that inspire the listener to experience deeper levels of meaning in the text, while transported in transcendent emotion.
And yet, Cooper does not shy away from extroversion. The theater song, “Gefilte Fish,” brilliantly arranged by Michael Winograd, is Spike Jones inspired, complete with cartoon-like xylophone and klezmer big band styling. Humor and orchestral color combine in levity and just good fun, with playful instrumental hoodwinks weaving in and out of the vocal playground.
The styles on this CD are so varied one may be tempted to ask what genre it really fits into. No doubt, it is an amalgamation, with singer-songwriter vibe in the guitar accompanied Harbst Lid (Autumn Song), jazz ballad collaboration with the masterful Lerner and London in In Der Finster (In the Dark), to the delicate pop Bekhers Mit Vayn (Cups of Wine), the marbling of styles welcome throughout. Every song is carefully conceived, never straying from the edict that audiences want to be moved and entertained.
Cooper is joined by a stellar collection of luminaries in the klezmer, Yiddish, Jazz and even Irish scenes on this CD, including Marilyn Lerner (piano) Mike Winograd (clarinet), Benjy Fox-Rosen (bass), Avi Fox-Rosen (guitar), Patrick Farrell (accordion), Kenny Wolleson (drums), Jon Singer (marimba) and Frank London (trumpet). Half the songs are new works - products of a contemporary Yiddish songwriting revival ; but the songs that are drawn from traditional folk and theater music are re-imagined, restyled, and a revelation.
Anyone familiar with Cooper’s body of work will tell you that she is always personal and intimate in her music. But this CD pushes the envelope beyond what we know of Adrienne Cooper. It’s as if she’s peeled away the layers of Yiddish so far and added the core to a cultural mix that retains the essence of Yiddish style, infused with flavors that enhance its emotionality and range, making it finally a world music.