Word Jazz: Music and the Poetry of Rav Kook

By Goodman, James Stone | Tikkun, July/August 2010 | Go to article overview

Word Jazz: Music and the Poetry of Rav Kook


Goodman, James Stone, Tikkun


Word Jazz: Music and the Poetry of Rav Kook

WE CAN SENSE THE SHARED MATRIX OF POETRYAND MUSIC IN the rhythmic loam of language from which they both arose. Some of our languages preserve the connection in name: in Hebrew we use shir ah to signify both songandpoem,asifall song implies poetry and all poetry implies music.

It is no stretch, in a theoretical sense, to walk the bridge between poetry and music, but to accomplish it in a compelling way that elevates both the music and the poetry- well, that is tricky. I hear this sort of bridging on the new Tzadik Records CD, Ha'Orot: TL· Lights of Rav Kook, a collaboration between New York jazz group Greg Wall's Later Prophets and Rabbi Itzchak Marmorstein. For the music to complement the words, and the words to integrate around the musicthis is rare.

Rabbi Avraham Itzchak HaCohen Kook (1865-1935) was one of the great fights of our tradition. He came to Israel in the early years of the twentieth century. He spent the World War I years in England, and later returned to Israel to become the rabbi of Jerusalem and then the first chief rabbi of the land of Israel, before the state was founded. He was a great teacher, a master of both Halachah (law) and Aggadah (lore), a practical man, a poet, and a mystic. He made a profound impact.

Rav Kook's poetry is a visionary poetry of traditional associations and allusions, of yearning, purity, return, a sense of brokenness, and a universality of spiritual reach and redemption. Itzchak has dedicated himself to be Rav Kook's interpreter, and joining him on this album is a stellar quartet that deeply respects the music of Rav Kook's poetry

A solid rhythm track begins and ends the CD, a bluesy accompaniment that is not too stingy but does not usurp the place of the language. …

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