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TIM SPARKS

Marc, Tim, Erik, Cyro, Greg

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At the Rebbe's Table

At the Rebbe's Table: Reviews


Berkshires Week
November 2002

Tim Sparks is a guitarist whose work garners raves in many fields; among his biggest fans are Bill Frisell and Leo Kottke, no slouches themselves with an axe. But Sparks has been slowly building a tremendous body of Jewish guitar music, and his third album on Tzadik, "At the Rebbe's Table," is his best yet, partly due to the terrific song selection, which includes old klezmer tunes, Sephardic and Mizrakhi numbers, and "Mahshav," one of John Zorn's Masada compositions, and partly due to the terrific ensemble of musicians who help out on this all-acoustic effort, including guitarist Marc Ribot, cellist Erik Friedlander and bassist Greg Cohen. One thing is clear: in Sparks's hands, these Jewish melodies have a natural affinity for the six-stringed instrument.


Jewish Music WebCenter

Before I say all the wonderful things about the music on this new release on the Tzadik label, let me first say how great it is to have around sound engineer Jim Anderson and digital mastermind Scott Hull, who actually have ears and make things work beautifully. It's a rare day that I'm struck with how nicely something is recorded in that you can hear every note totally distinctly and at exactly the right mix. Nothing is blurred, muffled or otherwise muted improperly. Great sound with unusual clarity. Now to the content of the album.
    Tim Sparks, steel-string acoustic guitar, Mark Ribot, nylon-string acoustic guitar, Erik Friedlander, cello, Greg Cohen, bass, and Cyro Baptista, percussion. If you need some music as you cuddle with that favorite book, here's something to enjoy that's Jewish, very modern with enough intellectual base, yet very contemporary and pleasant. There's nothing banal, but only refreshing intricate arrangements of some traditional songs, including Nafule Brandwein's "fun tashlach" (Returning from the River) and "firn di mekhutonim aheym" (Walking the In-Laws Home) and two arrangements of songs by Flory Jagoda, "the Keys from Spain" and "Todos Si Hueron". Combining and turning is part of the essence of this album, such as the Ashkenzai klezmer with Sephardic tunes and more modern compositions keep this album very fresh. One of the striking pieces is "Mahashav" by John Zorn. "Mashav", is a song that continually morphs from one place to another, including sounds echoing Bach, traditional Spanish guitar repetoire, klezmer, Jewish, jazz and modern and back again, but seemlessly and never jarring. Two of the klezmer tunes will be familiar to fans of Abe Schwartz, "Baym Rebn's Sude" (from which the album takes it's name loosely) and "Sadagora Chasidl." In "Beatufiul City",(Kirya Yefefiya) Sparks and Ribot's guitars intertwine in a most graceful way, building on the traditional song but making it truly a totally new hearing. Similar impressive ensemble playing is displayed thoughout, characterized by intimacy, warmth and closeness. Honestly, great for that dinner party, too, from suburbia to your NYC apartment.


Dossier French website

Il existe un proverbe yiddish particulièrement juste. En six mots, un bipède particulièrement allumé a décliné la vérité d'entre les vérités : «L'homme pense et Dieu rigole» ! Cette petite merveille, on l'a découverte dans un disque. Plus exactement, dans le texte qui accompagne la publication du nouvel album du guitariste Tim Sparks. Le titre ? At the Rebbe's Table.
    Toujours est-il que ce proverbe a été le prétexte d'une composition suave de John Zorn qui, soit dit en passant, a produit l'album en question. Le morceau a été baptisé Mashav qui, en yiddish, signifie «pensée». Pendant trois minutes et quarante huit secondes, Sparks déroule par guitare classique interposée les atermoiements du bonhomme et les rires de Dieu.
    Ce morceau ajouté à tous les autres fait de cette production un... un... régal ! De bout en bout. Entre les guitares acoustiques de Sparks, la contrebasse de Greg Cohen, le violoncelle d'Eric Friedlander et les percussions de Cyro Baptista, pas une seule note ne tombe en désuétude. Ce n'est jamais à plat. Surtout, surtout, c'est un fantastique voyage dans le temps. Ici, on nous propose une pièce yéménite, là une pièce écrite en Pologne, ou en Espagne, ou en Grèce. Cette précision géographique a ceci d'important qu'elle nous révèle que parfois les musiques sont ashkénazes, parfois sépharades. Si vous aimez les musiques du monde, ce disque vous ravira. C'est garanti.

-- Serge Truffaut



Guitar and Bass Magazine
Germany

Beim selben Label ist auch ,At The Rebbe's Table' (tzadik) erschienen. Akustik-Gitarrist TIM SPARKS ist hier mir Marc Ribot (a-g), Erik Friedlander (cello), Greg Cohen (b) und Cyro Baptista (perc) zu hören. Auch hier spielt die traditionelle Musik der europäischen Juden eine wesentliche Rolle, sogar eine tragende: Denn Sparks reibt sie eigentlich kaum an Jazz oder Folk, sondern spielt sie auf seine eigene Art: kammermusikalisch, instrumental, intuitiv. Eine interessante Kultur, die man entdecken sollte gerade hier & heute, wo sogar angeblich freidemokratische Rechtsrücker ihre Resentiments gegen einzelne Persönlichkeiten des öffentlichen Lebens wieder an deren Herkunft, Religion oder Weltanschauung festmachen und damit auf Stimmenfang gehen. Musik gegen Diskrimierung. lt



The Jewish Week
Friday, September 13, 2002

This is a sweetly melodic set of acoustic jazz versions of Jewish tunes from a wide range of traditions, niggunim, Sephardic songs by Flory Jagoda, a couple of Naftule Brandwein klezmer standards and a John Zorn original. Sparks plays a beautifully liquid steel-string guitar and is nicely accompanied by an unexpectedly mellow Marc Ribot on nylon-string acoustic and Erik Friedlander, who is his usual sturdy self on cello. Underneath it all is Sparks' own handsomely understated rhythm section of Greg Cohen on bass and Cyro Baptista on percussion. A deceptively placid set with some deep currents running through it. Often pretty but never saccharine. AAAAA


Jazz Times Magazine
November 2002

The Jewish music agenda of John Zorn's Tzadik label takes a gentle left turn with the albums of acoustic fingerstyle guitarist Tim Sparks. As heard on his pleasing new collection, At The Rebbe's Table (Tzadik), the familiar twang of the steel-string instrument gives an unexpected musical spin to material from the klezmer songbook (including the title song), tunes by guitarist Flory Jagoda and other corners of the Jewish musical universe. On a tune like "Todos Si Hueron," Cyro Baptista's undulant percussion and Greg Cohen's coolly seductive bass put us in mind mainly of Brazil. As noted in Sparks notes about the project, one historical link is to the Judeo-Arabic culture in Spain, the guitar's ancestral homeland. When Sparks and Marc Ribot (on both steel-string and classical guitar) delicately interweave and swap licks, the Spanish interpretation rings true. On Zorn's own tender tune "Mahshav," from the Radical's soft side, Sparks' sensitive solo reading begs a more universal appreciation. Whatever the heritage or cultural pedigree, it's simply touching music. - Josef Woodard


ONGAKU
Tim Sparks - At the Rebbe's Table

Radical Jewish Culture, ein Sublabel von John Zorns Tzadik-Label, präsentiert eine neue CD des amerikanischen Gitarristen Tim Sparks, worauf dieser sich - mittlerweile bereits zum dritten Mal - gemäss der Idee der R.J.C.-Reihe mit jüdischer Musik verschiedenster Prägung und Herkunft und insbesondere auch mit deren Adaption für Gitarre auseinandersetzt. So findet sich auf "At the Rebbe's Table" Klezmermusik neben chassidischen und sephardischen Traditionals und neueren Stücken ausschliesslich jüdischer Komponisten (darunter auch eines aus der Feder von Meister Zorn himself) - allesamt neu arrangiert für eine oder zwei Gitarren und in verschiedenen Kombinationen mit Bass, Perkussion und Cello. Neben Tim Sparks an der steel-string sind mit von der Partie der bestens bekannte Marc Ribot an der nylon-string (sein Spiel nach "saints" hier wieder deutlich konkreter) und am Bass Greg Cohen - dieser ebenfalls kein unbeschriebenes Blatt, der Perkussionist Cyro Baptista, sowie auf zwei Stücken der Cellist Erik Friedlander. Das ganze kommt sehr stimmungsvoll, vielseitig, teilweise etwas verschroben und immer auf sehr hohem musikalischen Niveau daher, und ist dank der klanglich ausgewogenen, eher in den Vordergrund gemischten rhythmischen Grundlage von Bass und Perkussion (bemerkenswert das sehr präzise und markante, trotzdem aber unaufdringliche Spiel von Cyro Baptista) von der die meisten Stücke geprägt sind, auch für Menschen ohne ausgesprochene Affinität zu Gitarrenmusik sehr hörenswert.



Folk Roots Magazine
Great Britain
Tim Sparks At the Rebbe's Table

Sublime take on Klezmer and Sephardic standards with a stellar Tzadik lineup. Beautiful understated percussion and cello, and Sparks and Ribot on steel and nylon string guitars veering between bluesy, flamenco-inflected finger-picking and Jao Gilberto. Gorgeous.



Sing Out! Magazine
September, 2002

Tim Sparks is a brilliant fingerstyle guitarist -- he won the 1993 National Fingerstyle Guitar Championship -- who has turned much of his attention to traditional Jewish music. At the Rebbe's Table is Sparks's third album of Jewish music and whether he's adapting melodies from the Ashkenazic/klezmer tradition, or from the Judeo-Spanish Sephardic tradition, it is a joy to hear these beautiful interpretations.

Sparks opens with "Returning From The River," an arrangement of a tune by Naftule Brandwein, the clarinetist who was one of klezmer music's first recording stars. With support from the hypnotic rhythms of bassist Greg Cohen and percussionist Cyro Baptista, Sparks mixes Old World traditions with New World creativity. And it's like that throughout the ten selections that follow. In addition to Cohen and Baptista, other musicians that join Sparks on various selections include guitarist Marc Ribot, playing on nylon strings to complement Sparks's steel-stringed Martin, and cellist Erik Friedlander. ---Mike Regenstreif

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