Composer and trumpeter Frank London, best known from the group “Klezmatics”, celebrates the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah on the album “Chronika”.

Frank London

Hanukkah is a Jewish festival commemorating the recovery of Jerusalem and subsequent rededication of the Second Temple at the beginning of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire in the 2nd century BCE. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar.

Frank London is a Grammy Award-winning trumpeter, composer, and bandleader with a career spanning over four decades. He is a key figure in the Klezmer music revival and has collaborated with diverse musical luminaries from Itzhak Perlman to John Zorn. Knighted by the Hungarian government in 2016 for his contributions to multicultural music and culture, London continues to push boundaries.

“Chronika” is the 4th release from London’s Klezmer Brass All-Stars – an album celebrating the joyous lights of both Hanukkah.

Frank London explains: “Chanukah is the Festival of Lights, and Chronika’s ecstatic music celebrating life, celebrating unity, celebrating our indomitable spirits, tries to bring light into our dark world. With ongoing conflicts from the Middle East and Ukraine, to here in America, these are all forces of darkness. It is my hope that the joy of Chronika’s music can illuminate and inspire people to find the strength within themselves and work towards the ideal of tikkun olam, healing the world.”

The album starts with two Chanukah classics reimagined by the Klezmer Brass Allstars. ‘TOPZ (Sevivon)’ is a tune based on the children’s Chanukah game played by spinning a dreidel. Sevivon becomes a raucous and frenetic piece that puts the listener in the dreidel’s shoes.

‘UNITY: Carnival in Crown Heights,’ celebrates this dream of peaceful coexistence. It features Michel “Meshach” Nestor’s masterful West Indian vocal performance intertwined with a popular Hasidic Jewish melody. This composition envisions a unified celebration between the Jewish and Caribbean populations in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood. The track echoes a central theme of “Chronika”: the power of ecstatic, joyous music to bring together people from diverse cultures.

‘GREEKZ (Yevonim),’ is another popular song that celebrates the holiday of Chanukah. Originally a statement of resilience in the face of persecution and destruction, it is transformed into an upbeat brass band number with moments of guitar rock and dub reggae.

The heart of the recording is Frank London’s Klezmer Brass Allstars, a group of the leading lights of the Klezmer world, including Susan Hoffman Watts, Michael Winograd and others.

“Chronika” features Yiddish legends Michael ‘Meyshke‘ Alpert, a founder of the klezmer revival, and Sarah Gordon, daughter of the great singer Adrienne Cooper, Hasidic singer Benny Amar, reggae/soca sensation Michel “Meshach” Nestor, and NYC Balkan scene favorite, Eva Salina.

The late legendary guitarist Yossi Piamenta, the ‘Hasidic Hendrix,’ contributes with his unique Jewish blues-rock sound, in combination with the great avant garde guitarist, Brandon Seabrook.

At first we were surprised by the recordings of this album. Although the individual tracks don’t impress at first hearing, they immediately captivate with their original production. We appreciate the modern arrangements and the overall performance, which is the main reason we present this title in the “Album of the Week” section.

NMR (foto: Alan Roche)