Yasmin Levy
4QRecords FQT-CD-1821

Israeli singer Yasmin Levy has been performing since 2002 and for her latest release, “Sentir,” has somewhat cast herself in the role of musicologist. Taking up the mantle of her father, who was a cantor and Ladino preservationist who died when she was just a baby, Levy has collected and reinterpreted a handful of folk songs from that ancient culture. Ladino is a Judeo-Spanish language dating back to the 1492 diaspora that has been gradually dying out but is enjoying a bit of a renaissance as young musicians, such as the respected Israeli jazz bassist, Avishai Cohen, and local singer Aviva Chernick integrate these songs into their modern repertoire. Historical stuff aside, this is an album that can be enjoyed purely from a musical standpoint. And since the liner notes have the lyrics translated into English and French, we even get to understand what the songs are about, which, for the most part, is love and loss. The album has a pan-Latino/Middle Eastern feel to it as Levy and producer Javier Limon have fused many of the songs with flamenco attributes. Also there's a lilt to much of the music that reminds me of Argentinean tango and the more passionate moments veer into Portuguese fado territory. There’s even a Canadian component on “Sentir” as Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah gets reworked with Spanish lyrics and flamenco-esque touches, which, rather than adding fire, render it bland and easy-listening. In general, the instrumental work on the album is precise and pretty, so what gutsiness there is comes from Levy as her warm, emotive voice alternates between a purr and a plea.

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Author: Cathy Riches
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