Crash Mansion – Heavenly Jams Band
In this overly saturated era of blues rock it almost takes a miracle to keep "I've heard this before" syndrome in check. For this, there's Yosi Piamenta's Heavenly Jams Band and their latest release, Crash Mansion. Recorded live last June on just a few hours of rehearsal at the venue of the same name in New York City, the album demonstrates that things old are not necessarily past — even if you’ve heard them before.
Joined in this effort by double pluck master bassist Oteil Burbridge and drummer Asaf Shor, Piamenta is able to pull the pieces together, making this disc a listenable patchwork quilt. Given that Piamenta is a Hasidic Jew and his compositions sport names such as "Birkat Hamazon" and "Od Yishama," the quilt's warmth may be judged dependent on relatable swatches. However, this should not stop even the most secular person of any religious or non-religious belief from enjoying the Heavenly Jam's worldly take on rock and roll.
One can almost smell the falafel during Piamenta's 12-minute "Mitzvah." His guitar work, particularly during the intro, displays an innate and intimate knowledge of the spirit of musical Jerusalem. When the lyrics begin, the song goes from wafting headily through the realm of exotic (yet common) understanding to well, Hebrew. This is the turning point. For some without knowledge of Hebrew, this will pique interest — at least with the understanding that as soon as the vocals are passed, the more universal world of skilled instrumentation will return. For the not-so-patient sect of listeners unfamiliar with the ancient syntax, the experience will be akin to resenting a foreign movie's subtitles afraid of not understanding and too lazy to either figure out or accept it. Then there are we English speakers who may know a little Hebrew here or there. At first, it's almost a novelty but eventually the flashbacks to Hebrew school may make it a little hard not to hurriedly fast forward to where the music made can be appreciated in the now. And it is easy to appreciate.
Piamenta and Burbridge are a natural match, men capable of amazement following their fingers. Be it through modern classics like "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" or "Manic Depression," or through "Agadelcha," credited to 11th century Rabbi Ibin Ezra, it is almost easy to accept that the "Heavenly Jams" name is not a complete exaggeration. Granted, the title most likely is derived from the overt spirituality of the band mates, the music is likely at times to suggest that it's something more. During some of the more relaxed melodies of "Liz Reed" and "Agadelcha," Piamenta doesn't so much play the lines as he rolls them out as smooth as a spool of silk. These moments alone make Crash Mansion a worthy listen and Heavenly Jams Band a name worth looking out for when it’s time to get out and experience the world of rock and roll.