Jewish Music Blog

October 8, 2005

BaRock Demo Thoughts

Filed under: Uncategorized — jewishmusic @ 11:14 pm

Jewish Blogmeister has a link to some demos songs from BaRock’s new album. Sameach music also has a sample here.

Although I’ve never actually heard BaRock live, I’ve heard that they are a very professional sounding band. BaRock’s slogan is “Jewish Music with an Edge”. Dooes this demo fit under that moniker?

It’s very hard to make a demo of a band which usually plays live for several reasons. First of all, the players hired to play on albums aren’t usually the same ones that play at actual weddings, and it’s also very hard to capture the feel of a live band in a studio setting. (Gershon Veroba notified me that the standard in the business in general and BaRock in particular is to use the same musicians at weddings as on the album). Having said this, if a band does make a demo album, I hold it to a higher standard of review because they are telling the listeners that you should hire us because of this demo album.

After listening to these select BaRock demo tracks, although there is usually nothing wrong with the recordings and it is very solid, stylistically I think things could be different.

The first track is the intro/fanfare track. This track is supposed to represent to us listeners what a typical BaRock fanfare is like at a wedding. The purpose of a fanfare – the tune that is played before the bride and groom come in for the first time – is to inject energy into the crowd. The fanfare itself does fulfill this role with its complicated horn lines and heavy rock feel, but the transition into freilach and the sound of start off freilach does not. The fill that the drummer uses on his not-very-moving snare just doesn’t sound energetic and the transition doesn’t sound smooth.

The freilach feel itself sounds very timid. I would have liked the drums and bass to be louder in the mix and eq-ed better to add more energy to the groove. Also, the guitar is barely noticeable. Additionally, it sounds like the BaRock people tried too hard when arranging the horn lines. The result is the horn lines sound overdone and excessive. If BaRock was aiming at a more yeshivish style, then that is clearly reflected in their performance of freilach.

Another freilach demo track contains the song Epstein’s. BaRock does a nice jazz interlude in this song with a great jazz trumpet solo backed by Daniel Falik’s tasty chords. The problem with this is that Neshoma Orchestra already put this idea on their wedding album, Nesohma @ Your Simcha. Although not noticeable on this particular demo, seconds later Neshoma goes into a jazz groove. The fact that BaRock copied this idea tells me that they have nothing original to offer (although I’m sure they do!). BaRock does add a piano solo and a fast jazz groove. I simply don’t understand why BaRock copied Neshoma’s idea and put it on their own demo album.

Ma’aminim as well as other rock songs don’t sound very moving. The most apparent cause of this is that the tempo is significantly too slow at 152. (Metronomeonline.com). Rock songs are usually at least 160. Although the bass player and drummer both play the same groove, the groove doesn’t change much throughout the various rock songs. I feel that the drummer should have added more bass notes to change the effect and add drive to his groove.

BaRock’s slow songs sound very nice, mainly due to Daniel Falik’s piano playing. The low part to V’zakeinu sounds very nice. The vocals are reserved and are complimented by gentle piano and flute. The high part, although backed by the same gentle flute and piano, steps up the vocals. The vocalist adds what I feel is excessive vibrato and goes off pitch several times. As a mixing issue, I think that some of the highs should have been rolled off the vocals – they sound kind of shrill at times. The flute player also plays very simply and doesn’t add many typical flute embellishments which make a performance memorable.

All in all, this demo doesn’t show me why BaRock is “Music with an Edge”. The freilach feel is extremely timid and the rock groove is too slow. The best part of the demo in my opinion are the slow songs, but certainly slow songs aren’t supposed to sound edgy.

Update 10/9/05: Jewish Blogmeister directed me to a Mostly Music link which has 43(!) samples of tracks from this album. After listening to those, I am happy to say that I found the disco and hora tidbits more original and edgy than the freilach and rock.

Update 10/10/05: After speaking with someone who frequently works for BaRock, I discovered that BaRock made it a point to only have actual weddings musicians play on their album. Most wedding albums do not have actual wedding players playing on albums.

Update 10/11/05: BaRock’s website has several live recorded samples. After listening to these and finally listening to the entire album, I have a more definitive opinion to offer. Most of my gripes are with the rhythm section during freilach. Although the drummer kind of has the freilach feel, he doesn’t have it to the point where it adds the energy that freilach is supposed to add. He often accents 1 in stylistically wrong places. Danel Falik, the keyboard player, is a superb jazz player. But, his freilach feel also doesn’t add the requisite energy to the groove either. His rhythmic playing is generally exceedingly simple – he often holds chords for a number of beats and doesn’t play certain syncopated rhythms which are charateristic of freilach (listen to Yaron Gershovsky on the Project X albums – that’s syncopation!). Although Daniel often throws in tasty jazz chords, I feel that there is more he could do (a la Gaddi) to add more typical “Jewish Jazz” chords. BaRock’s disco and hora groove has more energy than their freilach groove, but I feel that the keyboard and bass players should vary the groove more.

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18 Comments »

  1. Wow! what a serious post. You probably could do a more extenstive bit by listening to more clips on mosty music site :
    here.
    Your point are well taken and style is just that. It would obvious to state that Steve Simcha) Bill doesn’t agree with your observations but style is certainly subjected to opinion. As far as the “off pitch” part”. I certainly beg to differ. That is a “style” and was done on purpose. It’s a type of “pitch bend” if you will (for lack of a better term). You may not like the style and consider it “off pitch” but you can be assured Steve would know a bad note if he heard it and he left it in for a reason. Appreciate your thoughts keep up the good work.

    Comment by Jewish Blogmeister — October 9, 2005 @ 7:40 am

  2. blogmeister, what is your role in this production that you know so much about it?

    Comment by Anonymous — October 9, 2005 @ 12:49 pm

  3. Thanks for the update.

    I happen to be good friends of the people who are involved in this production. Steve Bill was the recording engineer on this project.
    I know a lot about this project as I do about others if you read my blog often enough.

    Comment by Jewish Blogmeister — October 9, 2005 @ 1:04 pm

  4. you posted here and elsewhere and on your own blog more intricate details about this than any other jewish music project. it seems to me that you are one of the producers or something. You don’t have inside info about other projects only speculative information and open questions which you put out there. If you are involved why would you be ashamed to admit it? It might help your cause.

    Comment by Anonymous — October 9, 2005 @ 8:50 pm

  5. You are a funny guy, I’m interested in helping out some very close friends of mine. The others are people I know from the biz but not people I keep in touch with. I’m certainly not the producer, I do work for them occasionaly as I do with other offices. I happen to like their office best.

    Comment by Jewish Blogmeister — October 10, 2005 @ 11:31 am

  6. Thanks for admitting that you do indeed have a personal stake in this.

    Comment by Anonymous — October 10, 2005 @ 12:33 pm

  7. I just received your comments by email. After reading it, I must respond, even though I have nothing to do with the recording, nor have I discussed it with anyone. I do know the people involved and I know their music. I haven’t even heard the CD, but I do know that using non-connected studio musicians is no longer the practice in this business, since the reputable band offices (Barock included) have enough studio- and Broadway-caliber musicians in their regular employ to use in their recordings. Check your facts and priorities. Gone are the days of yeshiva bochurim ruling the roost. Bands started hiring mainstream long ago. Face it: Public schools teach music appreciation, history and theory, yeshivas do not. Frum is almost the exception now, not the rule.

    Also, if Barock has chosen to use a style similar to Neshoma’s, it’s a valid thing to do, especially since those styles sell bands at weddings, which is what this album’s for. It compliments Neshoma, and it may show that Barock can do the same or similar, saying it with music instead of with slanderous and manipulative words (as others have). If they wanted to make any profound musical statements, they have every ability to do so. But, unfortunately, they made the correct assumption that it would severely narrow down the market of buyers for this album, which is a narrow market to begin with.

    If each person interested in good Jewish music became a buyer and then each buyer bought 5 copies of each album they like (or at least convince 4 others to buy), then you might begin to see superior bands like Neshoma and Barock actually create in the studio the fun artistic chances they take on the bandstand. This would create more original musical products on disc like you hear live. Until then, wedding bands must record what appeals to the most common denominator of customers that hire them from hearing these CDs.

    You and I do not represent the return on investment these musicians need.
    Unfortunately, with most buyers wanting free copies or burning their own, or buying only one of the newer $75,000 productions of the same ol’ same ol’, you will continue to see a limited, but quite admirable showing of effort, like the album you’re hearing.

    I assure you, if they could be assured that art will be rewarded, they are more than able to make it for you. But it won’t, so they don’t.

    Comment by Gershon Veroba — October 10, 2005 @ 1:28 pm

  8. Gershon-

    I agree that this is a great showing of effort, and there are plenty of original ideas. My gripe with BaRock using Neshoma’s Epstein idea is that they could have used a sytlistically similar idea as they do on other parts of the album without running the risk of sounding like they copied someone else.

    My comment about studio musicians not usually being the ones that play at simchas was more of a general comment – I do not have a copy of BaRock’s album in front of me; I wrote these “thoughts” based on the demos that I heard. Based on what you said, I stand corrected.

    I fully understand that any Jewish album must produce what it thinks will sell; I would have just preferred to hear more of what makes BaRock unique.

    Comment by keyboardguy — October 10, 2005 @ 3:38 pm

  9. Gershon – I would like to make a comment about gone are the days of yeshiva guys ruling the roost, the bands that I have seen and heard all have what I would consider to be “yeshiva guys” as sub leaders (either keys, guitar, sax or trumpet) so you are guaranteed at least one in your band and very often more than one on a somewhat busy day, I have only seen broadway calibre musicians as sidemen and on instruments that were never played by yeshiva guys to begin with like trumpet or trombone. It therefore stands to reason that in order to have a truthful demo album either 1) a band should have some yeshiva guys playing on the album or 2) announce that one of the bands we put out has all session players, but the one you are likely to get will have some yeshiva guys although probably not the trombone.

    Comment by Anonymous — October 10, 2005 @ 5:06 pm

  10. The players on the CD are in fact the guys who are on the gigs. You could think of it as a combination of the A and B band guys. Not that every one is always available for every date. There is only 1 sunday in every week after all.

    Comment by Anonymous — October 11, 2005 @ 11:38 am

  11. 1. Well obviously – if the point is to make money selling albums, go with what you know will sell. If the object is to get an example out there for hopeful future bookings, then strut your stuff and don’t be ashamed of it.

    2. Gershon, for someone who took amazing chances with his work over the years in a very difficult market it seems disappointing that you seem to be “throwing up your hands” at the idea that people won’t appreciate art and only want to hear the same ‘ol junk. They want to thear that because that is all that they know! I thought the whole point was to be initiate and elighten and not to have to reluctantly conform time and again to what ultimately makes lotsa bucks for some other guys. I don’t think Ben Bag Bag is truly resting in peace.

    Comment by ephshap — October 11, 2005 @ 12:53 pm

  12. 1) Very apt observation about Epstein- they didn’t “compliment” Neshoma as GV aserts, they simply ripped it off from Neshomah @ Simcha. I was surprised they did that so balatntly.
    2) Good call, The vocals are not very good on the album.
    3)Alot of what Barock does is derivitive of the Neshoma thing, this is b/c Barock’s bandleaders have all worked for Neshoma in some capacity. Barock is an outgrowth of Neshoma in some respects and this album is a Boiangiu-less, grainier version of their albums.
    3)Why so defensive GV? Might The ‘Roba be jumping ship over to Barock? I hear there is a keyboard spot open.
    4) Shwekey and “Bag Bag” are the work of Satan. It is terrible that he has become the Rebbe of the sea of wing tipped shoed, cigarette smoking, big knotted tie wearing, cell phone-during-chupah-talking, huge-slanted-black hat wearing hocher nation which is slowly invading long island.
    This is a time to repent!- burn you Shwekey CDs and black hats- don srugis and get a job, go to college, lower thy mechizot, support the Israeli government, learn to speak english and disband haztaloh, boycott Dougies…I think that is it…OH and bring music education to yeshivot- actually close the yeshivot, send your kids to public school! and tell all the people in ‘chinuch” to get PHDs if they want to teach. What else? Oh yeah, no more Lubav Telethons, NO MORE ONE MAN BANDS. Gmar Chatimah Tovah

    Comment by Anonymous — October 11, 2005 @ 6:24 pm

  13. anon- I have the number to a good therapist for you:)Veroba being one of the most requested keyboardist is not going anywhere.

    Comment by Jewish Blogmeister — October 12, 2005 @ 11:46 am

  14. Aryeh:

    Thanks for your review, compliments and constructive suggestions. Here are some of my thoughts:

    >It’s very hard to make a demo of a band which usually plays live for several reasons… it’s also very hard to capture the feel of a live band in a studio setting.

    Exactly! The fact that this is a studio setting helps explain why the energy and groove are more “timid” (as you put it) than our live performances. Three simple reasons:
    1) In the studio, the band does not record together but in pieces. (Personally, that means I have to play less to stay out of the way of the vocal and instrumental tracks that will be laid down later.)
    2) In the studio, the band is in a sterile environment. Playing in front of a leibidig crowd, on the other hand, greatly enhances the overall energy of the band.
    3) Our studio album is for listening pleasure. This calls for a performance that is more palatable to the ears than to the feet.
    In any case, “energy and groove” are hard to quantify in any scientific or objective way.
    Having said that, I strongly urge you to check out the upcoming website which will have clips of our live performances (the clips on the current website are quite ancient) or to come hear us in person.

    >why BaRock copied Neshoma’s idea

    I don’t know the answer, but I think Gershon Veroba’s response is quite plausible. I’ll just add that, as far as I know, BaRock was the first Orthodox wedding orchestra to play great, authentic Jazz at almost every shmorg (barring the client’s specific request for something else). Part of the “Edge”, that I belive contributes to BaRock’s success, is the seamless infusion of other great musical styles into every performance. This album shows some aspects (including Jazz, Klezmer, Latin, etc.) Due to time constraints (the album is almost 80 minutes long!), two tracks didn’t even make it — a Dixieland track and a Bossa Nova track. I hope that they’ll eventually appear on the website.
    (BTW, having seen your original post, I’d like to thank you for editing some comments in this specific paragraph for the final version of the post)

    >Most of my gripes are with the rhythm section during freilach. Daniel Falik[‘s].. freilach feel also doesn’t add the requisite energy to the groove either. His rhythmic playing is generally exceedingly simple – he often holds chords for a number of beats and doesn’t play certain syncopated rhythms which are charateristic of freilach (listen to Yaron Gershovsky on the Project X albums – that’s syncopation!). Although Daniel often throws in tasty jazz chords, I feel that there is more he could do (a la Gaddi) to add more typical “Jewish Jazz” chords.

    1) I doubt that you would have the same objections after hearing us live. As to why (IMHO) these objections are not a detraction to a studio album, see above.
    2) I learned about playing the freilach groove from some of the best keyboard players in the business. Yaron’s (very enjoyable) percussive playing was never mentioned or encouraged by my mentors. I don’t remember ever seeing other keyboard players play that percussively on a bandstand. I mention this because your description of that style as being “characteristic of freilach” is surprising. If that were so, I think we would see it on more bandstands. Personally, I happen to prefer a more percussive style (and actually play that way live), but I intentionally omitted it from the album for several reasons (some of which are already mentioned above).
    3) “Mikol melamdai hiskalti” — I’d love to hear more from you about “Jewish Jazz” chords.

    Keep bloggin’!
    -Daniel

    Comment by Daniel Falik — October 20, 2005 @ 1:40 am

  15. Daniel-

    Thanks for your post.

    I listened to the live tracks at the website. Am I correct in assuming that the drummer that plays on the live tracks is not the same as the one that plays on the album? If so, I think he should have been the one to play on the album.

    Also, I’m pretty that you are playing on the live tracks. If this is correct, although your freilach style is a little more percussive, I still don’t think it is percussive enough in both degree and kind. Try to imitate the typical freilach drum beat rhythm on the keys. Also, try to make your playing your playing more “bouncy”. This is kind of a hard concept to explain in words, but it’s the type of feel that comes when your left bass and right hand comping really mesh and “bounce” off each other.

    Also, you might try using a more energetic sound. I feel that the DX7 tines does this best, but I’m sure there must be some other comparable sound on modern keyboards.

    Comment by keyboardguy — October 30, 2005 @ 7:46 am

  16. Aryeh:

    1) No, I’m NOT playing keys on any of the clips that are currently online. As I posted earlier, those clips are quite ancient and will be replaced as soon as the new website is up and running.

    2) While a live setting does call for a “busier” style of playing, one must still be mindful of the rest of the band (especially when the rhythm guitar’s part is very close harmonically and rhythmically to that of the keyboard).

    3) “The DX7 sound” is considered by many to be the “standard” freilach sound. Personally, I find piano and organ patches (that are played well) to be more energetic sounding. I frequently use various EP patches as well, but when the band really starts cookin’, an EP patch just doesn’t cut it for me. Either way, this type of thing is obviously very subjective.

    4) While we’re on the subject of “subjectivity”, let me say this. As far as I know, there’s no authoritative mesorah or halacha l’Moshe m’Sinai on how to play freilach on a keyboard. There’s no published work that identifies the method, nor a school that continues on the tradition (unlike, say, chazzanus — which has published works and cantorial schools that perpetuate it). The way any keyboard player plays freilach comes down to a few factors — a) his technical ability and musicality, b) what he learned and observed from others, and c) what his bandleader or situation call for. I sincerely value learning from other people (and therefore appreciate and value your input), but I don’t understand why I get the impression from your posts that you believe to possess the the “real, emisdikeh” way of playing freilach.

    I think it’d be really great if your comments would be less didactic (“they should have done this differently”, “he played this wrong”, “that was a bad style”, etc), and more objective (“they played notes/chords/styles XYZ, but I prefer ABC”). On the other hand, any objectively verifiable criticism should not be neglected.

    5) How old are the MIDI files on your website (http://geocities.com/keyboardguy/) and do they accurately represent the approach to freilach playing that you espouse on this blog?

    Kol tuv,
    Daniel

    Comment by Daniel Falik — October 30, 2005 @ 10:25 pm

  17. I appreciate your frank comments.

    Obviously this blog only cites my opinions, so when I say freilach should be a certain way, it by default means that I feel that freilach should be a certain way.

    What makes a great keyboard player musician-wise is his ability to be mindful of what everybody in the band is playing and not to overstep his role, like you say. What makes a great Jewish keyboard player (in my opinion), is to do all that, plus add a certain extra degree of energy that can only be communicated from the keyboard because of its percussive nature.

    The midis on my website are ancient – I made them years and years ago before I really knew anything about music. I may put up some newer midis espousing what I feel freilach should sound like.

    One of my greatest influences is Yaron Gershovsky. He really demonstrates his freilach prowess on the old Project X albums, so I would recommend listening to those to get a sense of what I’m talking about.

    Comment by keyboardguy — October 31, 2005 @ 4:19 pm

  18. Daniel-

    Could you e-mail me your e-mail address at keyboardguy@yahoo.com; I’d to continue our discussion through e-mail, and I have a particular question I’d like to ask you.–>

    Comment by keyboardguy — October 31, 2005 @ 7:51 pm


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