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CD Review: Kenny Ellis – Hanukkah Swings

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What’s the 4-1-1?
Multi-faceted musical performer and cantor makes Hanukkah hip with his Favored Nations debut.

Genre
Swing / big band / traditional / holiday

The Good
Honestly, if you’ve heard one swing style song in your life, then you have an idea of what these songs sound like. Ellis mixes traditional Hanukkah songs with some of his self-penned works. Most people are probably familiar with “Swingin’ Dreidel,” but Kenny sure makes it interesting and different. “Medley: Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah / Who Can Retell” is mostly delivered in a spoken vocal style while Ellis switches between English and Hebrew lyrics. “Hanukkah Candles” is a track that Kenny wrote for adults, because according to him, most Hanukkah songs are geared toward children. This track deviates from swing, and leans more toward singer-songwriter with its warm strings and touching piano.

The rhythms of “Sevivon Sov, Sov, So” are inspired by Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing.” “Children of the Macabbees” is another track that isn’t really swingin’. It’s more of a chant that morphs into a big band jam session. I don’t think I have to explain what “Hanu-calypso” sounds like. The lyrics made me laugh, so I hope that’s what Ellis was going for. “’Twas the Night Before Hanukkah” is another parody that’s worth a chuckle or two.

The Bad
It’s tough to take the serious songs seriously when their intertwined with funny songs.

The Verdict
There really aren’t too many Hanukkah albums out there, so it’s a good thing that Kenny Ellis has released such a complete and enjoyable collection of material. One can only listen to Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song” so many times. Ellis makes the traditional songs unique by using the swing-era sound, and manages to toss in a few of his own without missing a beat. I don’t think that kids or teenagers will care for this sound, but older adults will be pleased. If there’s one thing I learned about these Hanukkah songs, it’s that most of them are about eating and having a good time. That can’t be a bad thing.

Did You Know?
Hanukkah commemorates the first struggle for religious freedom in the history of the world. It was the Jewish people’s first declaration of their right to worship as they wished and their willingness to die for this right. Hanukkah symbolizes the fight against totalitarianism in all forms. The struggle was waged in a particular context, but its implications were and are universal – – a festival of liberty and freedom.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Originally posted by author at Rock-Is-Life.com

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