“Funkbrengen” sounds great, even better as a song than as a verbally discordant portmanteau.
“Funkbrengen” is a snappy, jitterbug-inducing instrumental, and it’s the final tune on Chillent’s debut album, “Jewish Soul Stew.” With a blend of original music and covers, the record, which was released on June 8, encapsulates the band’s prior two years of play in approximately 48 minutes.
“I think we all kind of agree that it’s the best preservation of who we think we are and who we are trying to be,” said harmonica player Sruli Brooker.
Formed in 2015, the funky Jewish jazz crew has routinely played local gigs and nearby festivals, including live shows at Club Cafe, James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy and the Park House. Aided by such performances, Chillent’s online presence has boomed while its sound has settled.
As the band members, who are both Lubavitch and non-Lubavitch Jewish musicians, explained, the group has grown more familiar with each other’s styles over time. Before heading to Tonic Recording Studios in McKeesport to record, Chillent coalesced even further by playing live “at least once a week for a couple of months,” said saxophonist Shua Hoexter.
Those engagements caused the band to be “really in sync, so we were really tight,” entering the daylong session, he added.
In the studio, said guitarist Gedaliah Aronson, “we wanted to basically capture as best we could our live experience.”
“We knew that we were going to play it like a live show,” agreed bassist Ryan Kantner. So even though the singing was overdubbed later, “the performance on the album was exactly how we played it.”
Though Brooker and Hoexter were placed in separate booths in the recording studio, the group members were able to see each other throughout.
“We were all right there in the room responding to each other as opposed to layering it in,” said Brooker. “We had talked about trying to track everything, and we thought it would lose the spontaneity and the on-the-spot improvisation that we like to do.”
Making room for innovation gave rise to musical magic, the artists agreed.
“My favorite moments on the album are when one of us is playing something and [another of us] responds or does something complementary to that,” said Hoexter.
And “Jewish Soul Stew” has many such moments, Kantner said.
“The end of ‘Al Tira’ is completely improvised. We had no plan whatsoever for what we were going to play or how it was going to end,” Kantner said. “Also, all of the solos were improvised. Every single solo on every single song; I don’t think there was one solo that was worked out in advance. We knew from the beginning that our strength was in our live show and interplay, and the only way to capture that in a studio was to be playing like that.”
As for the album as a whole, “I think it’s one of the things that I am most proud of creating,” said Hoexter. “I think it’s a great contribution to music in general and to Jewish culture.”
“Personally, I don’t like too much talking about music or telling people what to think,” said Kantner, “but I would tell people who like funky music or jazz music to check it out.”
Added Hoexter, “It’s really a special creation. I’m really proud of myself and the whole band. We went, and we gave it our all.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.