CD Review: The Lights of Rav Kook

“Ha’Orot- The Lights of Rav Kook” by Greg Wall’s Later Prophets Featuring Rabbi Itzchak Marmorstein

Ha’ Orot is a spoken word/jazz album on John Zorn’s iconoclastic record label Tzaddik. It combines the ecstatic mystical poetry of Rabbi Avraham Itzchak HaCohen Kook, TZ’L, artfully delivered by Rabbi Itzchak Marmorstein, with the deep and jazzy grooves of avant klezmer/jazz giant Rabbi Greg Wall and his band The Later Prophets. As a poet, i must be honest, i generally tend to hate poetry. And most of all I find myself turned off by “spoken word” poetry. So when I saw this collaborative project, I was at the same time, interested and instantly judgmental. But, by virtue of the artistic integrity and track record of the record label on which it was released, and in the merit of the burning spiritual passion of Rav Kook, I decided to let my curiosity get the better of me. And within minutes into the album, I was glad I did. Because what I found when I sat down and opened up to listen was both exciting and inspiring. First of all, Rav Kook’s words are like burning coals that warm and illuminate the soul in its incessant seach for something unattainable. His poetry, at it’s best, teases out and transcends all denominational categorization and pierces the veils that separate one thing from the next, swirling all of creation into an intoxicated dervish dance of unity and ultimate redemption. Rabbi Marmorstein’s performance and presentation of these soaring poems truly brings the words to life and turns them into music. They are made to sound relevant and revolutionary, as all timeless mystical poetry should be. It is at once both playful and penitent. There is no dryness nor academic detachment present within Rabbi Marmorstein’s delivery, two things which poetry often suffers from. In my opinion Rabbi Marmorstein really does these poems justice, which admittedly is no small task, given that they were written by a man of such spiritual and social stature within the Jewish tradition as Rav Kook. Chazak Chakak Rabbi Marmorstein. And last but not least is the music itself, the jazz provided so tastefully by Greg Wall’s Later Prophets. Really, a perfect of blend of classic, in the pocket swing, as well as cacophonous and creatively chaotic soundscapes, providing what John Coltrane would refer to as “walls of sound” upon which these Jackson Pollock like poetic portraits were hung. All in all, a great album for those with a taste for the mystical, complex and multi-dimensiounal.

Important Note:
This year we are approaching the 75th Yaartzeit of Rav Kook and thus this ensemble humbly hopes to bring these brilliant lights to the world. All interested parties, as well as those who wish to purchase the cd, are directed to:

Contributing musicians:
Rabbi Greg Wall-tenor and soprano saxophones, clarinet, shofar, moseño
Shai Bachar-piano, keyboards
Dave Ricards-bass
Aaron Alexander-drums
Rabbi Itzchak Marmorstein, spoken word

by Eden Pearlstein


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