‘Hallelujah!’ Combines Jazz and Judaic Melodies

Hallelujah! Jazzy and Classical Piano Variations
Eugene Marlow Oasis Disc Manufacturing, 2015

Eugene Marlow has done it again. The composer/arranger/ performer of classical and jazz compositions recently released an anthology of Heritage Ensemble piano tracks that puts a new spin on traditional and familiar Jewish melodies. This CD, the group’s fifth, is guaranteed to make you rethink and appreciate new melodies that have become old hat.

Try listening to the songs before reading their titles. Marlow is a superb pianist, his style a blend of innovation and tradition. It is several bars into “Hatikva,” for example, before the familiar strains of the melody beckon recognition and then fade into the background of a composition that could hold its own among that of any contemporary jazz pianist. What a thrill for a jazz fan to hear “Mah Nishtanah Halaylah Haze (Passover’s Four Questions)” as a bright, lively rendition of the traditional Passover melody. Maoz Tzur (Rock of Ages), recorded specifically for this album, feels playful and new.

Pianist Marlow founded “The Heritage Ensemble,” a quintet dedicated to performing and recording his original compositions and arrangements of Hebraic melodies in various jazz, Afro-Cuban, Brazilian and classical styles. Other members are of Puerto Rican, Lebanese and Eastern European descent. Marlow’s family background is Russian, Polish, German and British.

Marlow didn’t get serious about music until he was in his 20’s and didn’t start studying composing formally until he was in his 50’s. He is a professor at New York City’s Baruch College in the department of journalism and writing.

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