New York, NY (Top40 Charts/ Gregg Robins Official Website)
Russian Bard Music, Klezmer, the Passover Seder, Little
Odessa in Brighton Beach and Other Jewish Elements/Imagery Infuse Debut CD of Singer-Songwriter Robins
A 'Jewish Kid From the Bronx' Now Lives in Moscow - His Music
is Reminiscent of Early Shlomo Carlebach
Jewish imagery and musical reference points infuse the debut of singer-songwriter Gregg Robins. Instrumentation ranging from klezmer/clarinet to strings, lyrical references to the Passover Seder, a direct and indirect connection to Little
Odessa in Brighton Beach, an affinity for Russian Bard Music
and more come to life on Robins' critically-acclaimed 'Everything That Matters.'
Robins, a Bronx native now living in Moscow, mines his Russian Jewish roots on two songs in particular, the beautiful track 'Pages of My Life' (presented in both English and Russian-language versions on the new CD,) and the lush standout 'If I Could Be There'. Many have said the music is reminiscent of early Shlomo Carlebach.
On 'Pages of My Life', Robins pays homage to his grandfather (who was from Odessa in Ukraine,) and makes lyrical reference to the Passover Seder in a song that has a distinctly Eastern European Jewish texture (highlighted by its string section). Robins notes that 'Pages' was "written when I became very aware of the extent to which loved ones were leaving my life and that generations were changing. The structure of the song derives from Russian "Bard" music and oscillates between reality and fantasy." As mentioned above, there is a Russian-language version of the song on the album, and its flavor and feel are distinct from the original English version. Robins, who considers musician Alexander
Rozenbaum to be one of his Russian Bard influences, feels the Odessa lineage extends from recollections of his grandfather to his current life in Moscow to New York's Russian Jewish community in Little
Odessa/Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. On 'If I Could Be There,' clarinets and violins evoke klezmer music, as Robins delivers a winning track about being half a world away from a loved one.
Robins, who is fluent in Russian, Spanish, and French, and also speaks a bit of German, was Bar Mitzvah in the Bronx (and even played clarinet with the band at his celebration party). Prior to his move to Moscow, Robins recalls, "I was a Trustee on the board of the Pleasantville Community Synagogue for several years. I was initially drawn to the synagogue by its rich and warm musical atmosphere. Sometimes I would play my clarinet with Rabbi Mark Sameth on the piano and others during certain services, like during Simchah Torah when we would play klezmer music as congregants joyfully danced through the aisles with the torah. The Rabbi is a former professional songwriter and a fine musician."
More about the new album, in notes by Gregg Robins:
"I'm drawing on a range of musical styles and influences from classical to jazz, and Russian and American folk-rock, with songs that range from ballads to sing-out-loud, clap-along tunes. While the songs vary musically, for me the common thread is the lyrics that I try to make honest, forthright, and hopeful."
"I began as a classical clarinetist, performing a broad classical repertoire at an early age. As a teenager, I added alto saxophone and ventured beyond the classical stage into jazz improvisation, a passion extended more recently to klezmer, which harks back to my East European roots. My roots have led me to spend decades traveling in and working with Russia. I am a native of the Bronx, New York, who has traveled a journey from high school dropout to Oxford Phd."
With plain-spoken, emotive lyrics and unexpected instrumentation, Robins has crafted a heartfelt debut CD dedicated to his three daughters. He builds engaging songs that are direct and conversational in tone, many driven by the pain of a broken marriage, the estrangement from and ultimate reconciliation with his daughters, and the hope of finding new love. Robins' understated delivery is often juxtaposed by lush instrumentation, ranging from strings to klezmer-infused solos to songs that suggest a Native American rhythmic undertone, and more. Visit www.greggrobins.com for audio samples and additional information.
There's an emotional integrity to the music that is reflective of the subject matter. Early reviews have praised the CD as evoking the music of Cat Stevens, and as "an album with a musical underpinning that keeps providing these small bursts of sunlight and surprise. Taken together, they make this one of the most uncommon of delights — an exploration amongst very familiar landmarks that somehow feels brand new."
Listen to Robins discussing the evolution of the CD, via this expansive podcast: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDgWTc58Rjc