CelebrationsCelebrations: Eugene Marlow’s Heritage Ensemble Interprets Festive Melodies from the Hebraic Songbook

A fun and uplifting album of melodies primarily from the Jewish festivals of Chanukah and Purim.  “Celebrations,” like its predecessor “Making the Music Our Own,” continues The Heritage Ensemble’s  exploration of the performance possibilities of Hebraic melodies in various jazz, Afro-Caribbean, Brazilian, and neo-classical styles. (MEII Enterprises © 2010)


  1. Chanukah, O Chanukah (Chanukah) Play Sample
  2. Moaz Tsur (Chanukah) Play Sample
  3. Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel (Chanukah) Play Sample
  4. Halleluyah (Liturgy) Play Sample
  5. Layehudim Haitah Orah Ve-Simechah, Ve-Sasson, Ve-Yakar (Purim) Play Sample
  6. Yotvata (Original) Play Sample
  7. Sevivon (Chanukah) Play Sample
  8. Mishenichnas Adar Marbim Be-Simecha (Purim) Play Sample
  9. The Heritage Ensemble: Its History, Repertoire, and Philosophy

About the Album

The Heritage Ensemble is a quintet devoted to the concert performance of Hebraic melodies in various jazz, Afro-Caribbean, and Brazilian styles, with a touch of classicism for good measure.

Since its first performances, both the personnel and the repertoire have evolved. Among the group’s newest members is multi-Grammy nominee drummer Bobby Sanabria (also co-producer on this album) whose broad performance and recording experience adds immeasurably to the current album.

Fellow Nuyorican, percussionist Cristian Rivera complements Sanabria’s rhythmic forays with his own virtuosity.

Saxophonist Michael Hashim’s Lebanese background and extensive performance experience (he is an NEA performance grantee) adds just the right blend of jazz and Middle-Eastern sensibilities.

Bassist Frank Wagner provides that strong bass line underpinning to the quintet’s arrangements, an element crucial to the group’s frequent, spontaneous musical departures.

The Heritage Ensemble’s first album “Making the Music Our Own” (MEII Enterprises) was released in 2006. In the last couple of years, especially with Sanabria’s and Hashim’s fresh contributions to the quintet’s concert performances, The Heritage Ensemble’s arrangements have not only grown in number, but they have also evolved. The need to record another album was obvious. The result: “Celebrations: Festive Melodies from the Hebraic Songbook.”

All the melodies on this album are in celebration of a triumph by the Jewish peoples of one kind or another. Most of the tracks are melodies from the Chanukah and Purim festivals. Although the focus is on Jewish triumphs, the contemporary world music style of The Heritage Ensemble reminds us that people of all cultures have also endured adversity and triumphed.

Over a hundred years after Alexander the Great annexed Palestine as part of his empire, the Jews succeeded in overcoming oppression by the so-called Seleucid Greek government. In celebration, the Second Temple in Jerusalem was rededicated. Oil that was supposed to have lasted one night miraculously lasted eight nights, hence Chanukah is also known as the “Festival of Lights.” There are four melodies associated with Chanukah on this album.

Purim is a festival that celebrates the deliverance of the Jewish people living throughout the ancient Persian Empire from a plot by Haman the Agagite to annihilate them. According to the Book of Esther, Haman, the royal vizier to King Ahasuerus, planned to kill the Jews, but his plans were foiled by Esther, Ahasuerus’s queen. Two melodies associated with the Purim service appear on this album.

Track six, however, is an original composition written after my visit to Kibbutz Yotvata in southern Israel in the early 1980s. “Yotvata” is about the triumph of kibbutz pioneers who turned a piece of the desert into a highly successful “dairy” kibbutz in all of Israel.

The piece started out as a classical composition for solo piano. On this album the classical pianist Lebanese virtuoso Nada Loutfi performs the opening and closing portions of the “Yotvata” track. She originally recorded “Yotvata” and 19 other solo piano pieces I composed for an album entitled “Les Sentiments D’Amour” (MEII Enterprises, 2006). The balance of the track is an improvisation on the melody’s chords in a moderate swing tempo by myself on piano and Michael Hashim on saxophone.

“Halleluyah” has been included in this collection because it fits with the album’s overall theme. The text is based on Psalm 150–a celebration in praise of the Jewish God. The first line is about music itself: “Praise Him, praise him with trumpet and drum, with strings and winds and voice.” The melody is a folk melody.

Last, this album includes a track that describes The Heritage Ensemble’s history, repertoire, and philosophy. We hope this narrative provides a deeper understanding of the group’s purpose.

“Celebrations,” like its predecessor “Making the Music Our Own,” continues the group’s exploration of the “performance” possibilities of Hebraic melodies in terms of chords, rhythmic patterns, meter, and melodic structure. We hope you enjoy listening to our arrangements as much as we took pleasure in recording them.

Thanks for listening.

Eugene Marlow, Ph.D.
The Heritage Ensemble
September 2010


“Eugene Marlow, pianist/arranger leads imaginative interpretations of Hanukkah and Purim-related songs. The Jewish roots run deep in Jazz and Marlow has fun with the connections.
Kirk Silsbee, Los Angeles Times

“A really joyous album.”
Bruce Lindsay, All About Jazz

”This album has special merit.”
Lee Mergner, Jazz Times

“Marlow’s in-depth musical understanding of the jazz form and superb arranging skills, combined with the expert musicianship of this Heritage Ensemble, provide in-the-pocket grooves and reverent soulful performances.”
Elliott Simon, All About Jazz-New York

“. . . a fresh exploration of Jewish holiday repertoire.”
Hadassah Magazine

“Pianist Eugene Marlow’s Heritage Ensemble is an inventive quintet dedicated to interpreting Hebrew Melodies in various jazz styles. . . the uniquely inventive arrangements and improvisational flights of the Heritage Ensemble make them seem fresh and new.”
Michael Regenstreif, Ottawa Jewish Bulletin

“Who says ‘Chanukah, O Chanukah’ can’t be performed by Marlow’s quintet in a way that sounds like avant-Horace Silver with a sudden innocent interlude? Or that ‘Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel’ can’t have a Latin beat.  It’s fascinating.”
Jeff Simon The Buffalo News

“The band is obviously having great fun playing hide and seek with the melodies—all this is as fun as it is creative.”

“The Ensemble turns ‘Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel’ into a sort of Tito Puente-style cha-cha, with Lebanese American saxophonist Michael Hashim’s syncopated melody lines dancing with bandleader, Marlow’s accompanying piano chords, while the stellar rhythm section of Nuyorican drummer Bobby Sanabria and percussionist Cristian Rivera and bassist Frank Wagner keep the piece swinging along.”
Seth Rogovoy, Berkshire Jewish Voice

The Heritage Ensemble is a quintet blessed with superb technique and great heart. Celebrations should be a cause for rejoicing all year long.”
Jules Becker, The Jewish Advocate (Boston)

“Celebrations . .  . [has] taste and flair, with excellent improvisations.”
Leon Cohen, Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

“. . . a superb collection of some traditional Jewish folk songs performed in a stylish new way and original compositions that are sure to become essential at Jewish festivals and holiday celebrations to come.”
Sari N. Kent, www.TheCelebrityCafé.com

Celebrations reaches across geographical boundaries and incorporates rhythms from Africa and Latin America.”
Barry Bassis, Town & Village

“A real mitzvah.”
George W. Harris, www.jazzweekly.com

“. . . the uniquely inventive arrangements and improvisational flights of the Heritage Ensemble make them seem fresh and new.”
Michael Regenstreif, Ottawa Jewish Bulletin (Canada)

“The Maccabees never heard their stuff sound so funky.”
Chris Spector, Midwest Record

“The ancient traditions of the Jewish people done as modern jazz tracks works here and gives those who celebrate Chanukah something different for the holiday.”
Kyle O’Brien, Jazz Society of Oregon

Celebrations doesn’t even require one to like Hebraic music to enjoy this record, and it can even help those unfamiliar with that kind of music to embrace its ancient but often festive melodies.”
Pico, www.somethingelsereviews.com

“Celebrations . .  . [has] taste and flair, with excellent improvisations.”
Leon Cohen, Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

“Excellent music, swing, well-worked jazz, but respectful of the Hebraic folk songs.”
Serge Warin, Radio Canal Bleu (France)

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