The Zmiros Project

In the popular mind (including the mind of many Jews), Judaism is all about rules, deprivation, and maybe a general moroseness. Not true! OK, maybe on Yom Kippur (atonement, fasting, etc.). And at Holocaust museums. But Jewish religious tradition has plenty of room for joy, and some of the best of times can be had in the tradition of singing zemirot, ecstatic and bittersweet songs pounded out on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons around the Sabbath table. Trumpeter Frank London and vocalist Lorin Sklamberg, who helped lead the huge rebirth of Jewish music among progressive New York jazz players 20 years ago (and still going strong), have more recently put together a project focused on these poetic melodies. Their 2002 CD (just called The Zmiros Project), with multi-instrumentalist Rob Schwimmer, is a gorgeous and sophisticated revival of lesser-known tunes and arrangements for some of the more popular zemirot, which evolved over generations, in countries all over Europe, in a mix of official liturgy and folk art. They’ll appear in Seattle for the first time tonight as part of Town Hall’s “Jewish in America” weekend (which includes family shows on Sunday), and it’s absolutely essential for anyone drawn to spiritual music. Also performing is the Jewish gospel singer Joshua Nelson (who has collaborated with London and Sklamberg in their well-known band The Klezmatics), plus a local trio specializing in the music of Sephardic Jewry. (Pre-concert talk at 7:20 p.m.) MARK D. FEFER

Sat., Jan. 31, 8 p.m., 2009

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