Check out Jeff Kasowitz's interview with Upstart!
What inspired you to make the album?
The Arba’im Shanah (40 Years) project began two years ago around my 40th birthday. My family had just moved back to California and I was coming off a year as a stay at home dad and working on the launch of the Jewish Studio Project. Adina, my partner and JSP Co-Founder, gave me this amazing birthday book in which she collected references to the number 40 in Jewish texts and commentaries. One of the texts talked about forty being both a completion and a new beginning and that really resonated with me and the life transitions I was experiencing.
Leading up to that time, a bunch of melodies had come to me while I was spending time with my first son, Remy, during the early months of his life. During our drive across country, these melodies started to live with me and in some ways become the soundtrack to shifts that were taking place around my 40th birthday. Adina was really into the melodies and saw, well before me, that perhaps they should be part of a larger project that could be shared. So she and some other family members bought me some recording studio time to begin the process.
What was the process?
This project was really a giant leap into the unknown for me and one that took me way out of my comfort zone. I really didn’t know where it was all going until maybe a year in. The project evolved organically and I just trusted the creative winds to take it where it was meant to go. This was probably the greatest learning.
One thing that became clear pretty early on was that the project was essentially about interpretation through melody and arrangement – spending time with Jewish texts and themes (some well known and others less so), asking questions about them, and exploring them through music to find relevance and new meaning. Sometimes the melodies came first, others it was the text. Then the work in the studio creating the arrangements really solidified the interpretations of the prayers and passages...