Wisconsin pianist David Adler puts a soulful, contemporary twist on some classic Hebrew melodies with his new album “Mazel Tunes,” now available on music streaming services.
To create his instrumental pieces of 11 Jewish standards, Adler, 56, was inspired by the experience of his immigrant parents who left Germany in the 1930s as the Nazis took power and anti-Semitism took hold. intensified.
“I grew up with stories of Jewish life in Europe and a deep understanding of the Holocaust,” said Adler, who lives in Oconomowoc. “This recording project inspired me to look closely at my relationship with Judaism. I just thought it was a really good opportunity to represent my parents and the perseverance, sacrifice and triumph of their survival. I have endeavored to pay homage to them through the telling of these ubiquitous and timeless melodic stories.
Adler is a blues and rock artist, playing in Madison, Milwaukee and other cities. But like many live musicians, his public performance life came to a halt in March 2020. “I was always a professional musician, but I didn’t really have time to think. I was too busy playing all the time.
During the pandemic, he embarked on a spiritual journey, reading the full Tanach every day. “It became a real wake-up call for me,” he said, “a new dedication to my story and a new relationship with myself and my place in the world.”
He decided to take a contemporary look at the Hebrew songs he learned as a child from his parents, in the synagogue and in the Jewish camps he attended in Oconomowoc and Eagle River. “I wanted to combine them with my American and contemporary musical sensibilities. I knew that the lyrical messages of these melodies, whether taken from the Bible or other poems, were messages of gratitude and praise.
Among the traditional selection are “David Melech Yisrael”, “Hevenu Shalom Aleichem”, “Kol Dodi” and “Sim Shalom”. Tunes like “Bashana Haba’ah” and a version of “Dodi Li” came out of Israel in the 1970s.
“This is meant to celebrate ancient traditions and the enduring survival of my people, and to help preserve this vital legacy in our modern world,” Adler said.
The compositions originated with Adler just “messing around with that on the piano. I thought after I started doing that for a while, I really hadn’t heard anything like that before with those songs. He appealed to l sound engineer Lance Ketterer of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
What he appreciates most about Jewish music is “the way it resonates in a very primitive and direct way to my story. I feel that music is a conduit to the spirit. When I play, I feel like I’m channeling old ideas and thoughts.
His experience as a first-generation American Jew informed “Mazel Tunes,” he said. “I also want to declare that I am proud to be Jewish. I am proud of my heritage. I want to add to that canon, and I want other people to enjoy it and maybe get some joy and some connection out of it.
To learn more about Adler, visit his website at DaveAdler.com.
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dan of steel
In addition to releasing “Mazel Tunes”, David Adler is co-founder of the Wisconsin-based Steely Dan tribute band, Steely Dane. Performance dates include:
- Atwood Fest, Madison, July 31
- Animal Crackers, Root Zoo, August 10
- Riverfest, Watertown, August 11
More info: SteelyDane.com.