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Jazz 27/09/2017

The Eyal Vilner Big Band Hanukkah Album Brings Traditional Hanukkah Songs To The Swing Era, Blending Jazz With Jewish And Middle Eastern Music

The Eyal Vilner Big Band Hanukkah Album Brings Traditional Hanukkah Songs To The Swing Era, Blending Jazz With Jewish And Middle Eastern Music

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New York, NY (Top40 Charts) Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, saxophonist/clarinetist/flutist-arranger/composer/conductor Eyal Vilner moved to New York in 2007 and graduated from the prestigious New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in 2009. Since its inception in 2008, The Eyal Vilner Big Band has performed at many of New York's landmark venues such as Jazz at Lincoln Center, Smalls Jazz Club, the Iridium, Minton's, Ginny's, Fat Cat and Central Park Summer Stage, as a result, Vilner has emerged as one of the leading voices in the NYC big band scene. The big band's first two albums, Introducing the Eyal Vilner Big Band and Almost Sunrise, received rave reviews and stood strong on the American and Canadian Jazz Radio Charts.

The Eyal Vilner Big Band has collaborated with some of the top jazz legends of our time, including NEA Jazz Masters Frank Wess, Jimmy Heath and Jimmy Owens, as well as young stellar vocalists: Charenée Wade, Brianna Thomas and Charles Turner. The big band performs Vilner's new arrangements of jazz standards as well as his original compositions.

The ever-prolific composer and arranger Eyal Vilner has come up with a uniquely original holiday offering. His latest release is an exciting and festive Hanukkah album that offers both harmonic sophistication and richness while staying lyrical, soulful and swinging.

The Eyal Vilner Big Band Hanukkah Album presents a new and original way to celebrate the beautiful repertoire of traditional Hanukkah songs, blending holiday melodies with sounds influenced by jazz and swing, Israeli, Jewish and Middle Eastern music, in addition to Brazilian Choro and Afro-Cuban rhythms. Truly encompassing the spectrum of the holiday spirit and its beauties, the album features Vilner's 16-piece big band, a vocal trio (singing in a Boswell Sisters style) and a special guest - Israeli flutist the virtuosic, Itai Kriss.

An additional treat is the recording location. The big band gathered at one of the oldest synagogues in the U.S. - the Museum at Eldridge Street - a National Historic Landmark dating back to 1887 in what used to be a Jewish immigrant neighborhood and is now Chinatown, to record this delightfully unique project. Because the landmark is now a museum and open to visitors during the day, the big band recorded after hours, adding to the mystique of the recording process. The old walls of the gorgeous building created fantastic acoustics that gave a special touch to the overall experience. Certainly, this exceptional setting conveyed the right mood for the musicians to be at their best.

One of the inspirations for the album was Duke Ellington's Nutcracker suite, which offered a new way to celebrate holiday music and to swing music that, in its traditional form, is not fashioned in swing. Each track has a special flavor and showcases different sides of this versatile project, making it a wonderful variety of music for any holiday setting.

"Prelude" opens the album with a classical choral, played by the twelve horns in a festive, almost formal dramatic fashion. The unique acoustics of the old synagogue are deeply felt on this track, as if the old walls were joining the big band, echoing and singing the traditional melody whose lyrics originated in prayer. This song is sung every day of the holiday, right after the lighting of the Hanukkah candles.

"Maoz Tzur" segues right from the prelude and takes the same melody into the swing era. With plunger brass and walking bass, the band swings into action. This track embodies the fun and frolics of the holiday season. Vilner's solo on this piece is a delightful showcase of his warm sound and prowess, not only as a conductor, composer and arranger, but clearly as a specialist on alto sax. Jack Glottman also delivers an inspired piano solo.

"Sevivon" (The Dreidel Song) "When I started working on this arrangement, the spin of the Dreidel reminded me of the Brazilian samba and the sounds of carnival," says Vilner. In that spirit, Brazilian influences abound throughout the piece. Drummer Erán Fink kicks it off with a hip drum groove followed by a brilliant solo by flute virtuoso, Itai Kriss. Notably, Vilner wrote a section inspired by Choro music and a special section dedicated to Batucada music (a Brazilian drum ensemble). In this section, Vilner layered each horn with a different line, based on a drum part from the traditional Batucada ensemble.

"Oh Hanukkah!" harkens back to the roaring 20's with growling trumpets and slinking clarinets. It features special guest appearances by three of NYC's finest trad-jazz vocalists Tamar Korn, Martina DaSilva and Vanessa Perea in a vocal trio setting. Unlike the vocal trio featured on Almost Sunrise, which was written in a Lambert, Hendrix and Ross fashion, on this arrangement Vilner tributes the legendary New Orleans vocal group of the Boswell Sisters. Tenor man Evan Arntzen is featured on this track.

"Mi Yemalel" (Who Can Retell?) This piece tells the story of a great war from 200 BC, traversing a journey that starts with Vilner's call of the shofar, a biblical musical horn used to this day. The shofar motif develops through the different sections of the jazz orchestra. Trumpeter Wayne Tucker continues by playing a Taqsim (intro, in traditional Arabic music, which sets the mood of a piece) followed by the harmonized trombone section. The woodwinds present the "A" melody and begin a canon of different variations of that melody. Just when things seem relaxed, the trumpets signal the start of the war and present the "B" melody, which evolves into a raging chaos. After the storm comes a conclusion, with an epilogue that celebrates going back home in a swinging fashion! The piece brings together Middle Eastern rhythms, the Ethiopian Ambassel scale and the swing and the blues. The different elements blend into a story of epic proportions, celebrating multiple voices and sounds. This special piece was selected to be performed at the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop recital judged by Wynton Marsalis, Jimmy Heath, and Alan Ferber, with warm reception.

"These Candles" (Hebrew: Hanerot Halalu) is a swinging instrumental version of the holiday's traditional song. A bonus track, only available digitally, the tune commences with a formal march and takes a quick turn to an Ellington style swing that is reminiscent of the Nutcracker Suite. Features on this track include; a trumpet solo by Irv Grossman, the gritty-sounding tenor saxophone of Michael Hashim and a swinging shout chorus sending off a piano solo by Ray Gallon.

The album was featured on the Israeli TV (Channel 2) and on the major Israeli radio stations including Galatz, 88fm and Kol Israel. NRG described it as the "the most joyful version of Hanukkah Songs."

Eyal Vilner: alto sax, clarinet, shofar, conducting, arrangements (solo: track 1)
Pronounced A'-yall
Vocals: Tamar Korn, Martina DaSilva, Vanessa Perea (track 3)
Itai Kriss: - flute (track 2)
Jay Rattman: alto, clarinet, flute
Bill Todd: alto, clarinet, flute
Evan Arntzen: tenor, clarinet (solo: track 3)
Dan Pearson: tenor, clarinet, flute
Eden Bareket: - baritone, bass clarinet
Bryan Davis: lead trumpet, shofar
Andy Gravish: trumpet
Wayne Tucker: trumpet (solo: track 4)
Jim Seeley: trumpet, shofar
Stuart Mack: trumpet
Matt Musselman: trombone
Becca Patterson: trombone
Max Seigel: bass trombone
Jack Glottman: piano
George DeLancey: bass
Erán Fink: drums
All music was written and arranged by Eyal Vilner (BMI) based on traditional holiday songs.

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