Tradition and jazz fuse
Sim Shalom founder Rabbi Steven Blane leads the services and the band on the online synagogue’s new CD. (photo from Sim Shalom)
Google “Canada synagogue live streaming” and a handful of choices come up, including Vancouver’s Temple Sholom. There are many more options out of the United States, but it appears that there is only one completely online synagogue – Sim Shalom. Though if you’re in New York at the right time, you could attend Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services. This year, they will take place at the club Bitter End. But, if you can’t make it or watch them online, you can hear a sampling of the congregation’s interpretation of the prayers on their new CD, Sim Shalom’s Live Jazz High Holidays.
Sim Shalom founder Rabbi Steven Blane leads the services and the band. The CD comprises some of music from the services last year and was recorded live at Zebulon Sound and Light (aka ZEB’S) with jazz guitarist Saul Rubin. It features Carol Sudhalter (sax and flute), Tai Ronen (bass), Jack Glottman (piano), Frank Levitano (drums) and Itai Kris (flute). Sudhalter, Ronen, Glottman and Levitano will once again join Blane for this year’s High Holiday services – Sim Shalom’s fourth – which will be live streamed, and include live chat.
For those who are not willing or able to bring themselves to participate in – or even watch – Shabbat or holiday services online, the CD is a nice compromise. That is, if you like jazz. With the exception of a mostly traditional rendition of Kol Nidre and Ashamnu, the prayers are full-on jazz, though many regular attendees at a non-Orthodox synagogue that has a cantor and/or choir will recognize most of the main melodies and be able to sing along.
Given that Sim Shalom’s vision “is to become the principle online worship, spiritual and learning resource for the Jewish unaffiliated and the interfaith,” it is appropriate that Sim Shalom’s Live Jazz High Holidays begins with Hine Ma Tov, a hymn expressing how good it would be if people could sit together in unity.
The Barchu and Sh’ma that follows will be familiar to anyone who has heard White Rock South Surrey Jewish Community Centre Cantor Steve Levin lead a service (sans instruments), as will at least a couple of others. Rounding out the CD are Halleluyah, Amidah, M’chalkayl, Untanef Tokef, B’rosh Hashana (which will become a favorite of listeners), Ochilah L’el, Sh’ma Koleynu, Shofar Service (the blowing of the shofar followed by a rousing Areshet Sefataynu), Avinu Malkeynu and Hayom.
“During the High Holidays, members of the Jewish community reflect upon life and the year that has passed. They pray that the year ahead will bring blessings and peace,” reads the CD’s promotional material. “Jazz is thoughtful music, improvisation within a structured form that can be filled with many emotions. Playing jazz in many ways is a metaphor for experiencing life. The new CD reflects the juxtaposition of emotions where jazz and the High Holidays intertwine.”
In reality, the range of emotions this CD evokes most likely will be limited to the happier, less introspective end of the spectrum, but that’s not a bad thing. Sim Shalom’s Live Jazz High Holidays is a well-produced live recording that captures the positive energy in ZEB’S at last year’s services. It is an enjoyable and uplifting CD.
A downloadable version is available at cdbaby.com/cd/rabbistevenblane for $9.99 US, or 99 cents US per song. For more information about Sim Shalom, including how to join its services online, visit simshalom.com.