AJMF Explores

AJMF is excited to introduce "AJMF Explores," a weekly Spotify playlist curated by the AJMF staff to showcase the unique contributions of Jewish performers, composers, producers and others who have impacted the music world. 


Harold Arlen

Born Hyman Arluck in Buffalo, New York in 1905, Harold Arlen, the son of a cantor, composed over 500 songs during his lifetime. His most famous song is undoubtedly "Over The Rainbow", which was named the #1 song of the 20th Century by National Endowment for the Arts and The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). However, as you will hear below, he wrote many equally powerful and beautiful songs. Speaking about Arlen, the great Alec Wilder once remarked, "I respect Gershwin. But I envy Arlen."

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Leonard Bernstein

AJMF Explores the legendary Leonard Bernstein. Bernstein, a prolific composer, conductor, pianist, lecturer, author and overall champion of the arts, is certainly responsible for, in addition to the music from "West Side Story," "Candide", "On the Waterfront", "Wonderful Town", his own "Mass" and others, bringing a larger audience and greater understanding to classical music in America via his refreshing and enlightening television lecture series. The son of Ukrainian Jewish parents, Bernstein is widely regarded as one of the most influential musicians in American history. In honor of Bernstein, who once asked, "Why do so many of us try to explain the beauty of music, thus depriving it of its mystery?", we will simply leave this playlist here with the hope that it brings you much joy over the weekend!

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Céline Peterson Presents Norman Granz

AJMF Explores the life and work of the deeply influential, yet often overlooked concert presenter, producer, record label founder and overall champion of both civil rights and musicians, Norman Granz, as told and selected by our very first special guest curator, Céline Peterson. Granz holds a special place in the hearts of both Céline and her father, legendary pianist and composer Oscar Peterson, and she was kind enough to share her sentiments about Granz, who was born to Jewish-Ukrainian immigrants in Los Angeles in 1918, with us. Below you will find Celine's comments about Granz as well as a playlist featuring some of her favorite Granz-produced music. We sincerely hope that you enjoy the music here and that both the music and Céline's words inspire you to delve deeper into the life of this great man.

"Norman Granz was, simply put, the most important visionary in jazz music in the 20th century. His vision was more than presenting live music – it was presenting music that brought people of every generation, every race and every religion together. He wanted to give musicians the recognition that they deserve in an environment where both the artists and patrons felt safe in their seats. He dedicated his entire life to music, those who create it, and the idea that we should not be divided because of our skin colour. Norman was an often-unacknowledged champion of the Civil Rights Movement who would not let burning crosses or a gun being shoved in his abdomen stop him from demanding that his audiences would not be segregated. We all owe this man a thank-you and the promise that we will not let discrimination win. It is our responsibility to finish what he started." - Céline Peterson

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David Grisman

AJMF Explores the music of David Grisman. Grisman, a mandolinist born in 1945 and raised in a conservative Jewish home in Hackensack, New Jersey, has combined all sorts of musics (folk, jazz, bluegrass, and bossa-nova included) into a truly unique genre of his own that he calls "Dawg music". In addition, Grisman has collaborated with numerous iconic figures spanning many different musical genres. These include Jerry Garcia (pictured below w/Grisman), Andy Statman, Doc Watson, Stephane Grappelli, John Sebastian and Sam Bush, among many others. Reflecting on his musical journey and collaborations, Grisman once remarked, “I love playing all kinds of music...and the way to learn that music is with the musicians who invented that style. It’s hard to write a style; you need to absorb it.” We sincerely hope you enjoy our selection of Grisman's beautiful, uniquely special music here!

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Burt Bacharach

AJMF Explores the music of Burt Bacharach. Bacharach, a legendary composer, producer, vocalist and pianist who was born into a Jewish family in New York City in 1928, has created some of America’s most timeless, generation and era-defining music. Alongside his songwriting partner, lyricist Hal David, Bacharach’s compositional output includes, among many others, “I Say A Little Prayer”, “The Look Of Love”, “Alfie”, “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” and “What The World Needs Now Is Love.” While most of the songs Bacharach and David composed together were written specifically for Dionne Warwick, Bacharach has composed material for Jerry Butler, Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones and The Carptenters, among many others. HIs material, filled with unusual harmony and chord progressions, is ripe for interpretation and, as you will hear below, has been performed by many legendary, wonderful artists. We hope you’ll enjoy this small taste of Bacharach’s output here!

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Sukkot (Guest Curator: Drew Cohen)

AJMF Explores the holiday of Sukkot, which begins on Sunday evening, as told and selected by our special guest curator, Drew Cohen. Drew, the Director of Music at The Weber School and URJ Camp Coleman, is also the Vice President of AJMF's board and a co-chair of our festival. He plays Jewish music around Atlanta, including at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta - MJCCA's monthly Acoustic Shabbat Cafe. We hope you enjoy listening to Drew's playlist and reading his beautiful, thoughtful words below.

"Sukkot is all about feeling joy in the face of the impermanence of existence and of our material circumstances. We emerge from all of the life-or-death liturgy of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur to sit in temporary dwellings and remind ourselves that the "stuff" with which we surround ourselves isn't the source of our security or our happiness - it's the community and guests we fill our sukkahs with, and our own ability to cultivate joy with whatever it is that we already have - Pirkei Avot asks "who is rich?" and answers "one who is content with their portion." These songs celebrate the joy in material impermanence (and echo Sukkot's implicit critique of consumer capitalism as a path to happiness)."

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Dorothy Fields

"Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again". This timeless lyric was penned by the brilliant and prolific Dorothy Fields, the subject of this week's "AJMF Explores". Fields, whose father was a Polish Jewish immigrant and a member of the famed Weber and Fields vaudeville team, composed lyrics to over 400 melodies (including "The Way You Look Tonight", "On The Sunny Side of the Street", "I'm In The Mood For Love" and, of course "Pick Yourself Up."), contributing to the creation of some of Broadway's greatest musicals, including "Annie Get Your Gun" (the idea for the play was hers too). It's fascinating to hear Fields' thoughts about the mysterious nature of songwriting: "A song doesn't just come on. I've always had to tease it out, squeeze it out...No thesaurus can give you those words, no rhyming dictionary. They must happen out of you.” She - a Grammy, Oscar and Tony award winner - also had words of advice for budding songwriters: “Keep in tune with the times, but don’t write with the specific purpose of trying to create a hit. If you’re doing it strictly for money, you’re crazy. There are easier ways to make money.”

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George Wein

George Wein, who was born in Boston in 1925 to Jewish parents, has been called the "father of the outdoor music festival" thanks to his founding of the Newport Jazz Festival, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Playboy Jazz Festival and co-founding (alongside Pete Seeger and Theodore Bikel) of the Newport Folk Festival. Despite being referred to as "the most important non-player in jazz history", Wein, also a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, is a wonderful pianist himself. Speaking about a 2014 performance at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Wein, who is pictured below alongside Louis Armstrong and Bobby Hackett, said, "An eighty-nine year old kid from Boston playing a blues in New Orleans takes a lot of chutzpah." We hope you enjoy this week's playlist featuring music from Wein-produced festivals (and some of his own music as well)!

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In honor of this weekend's Atlanta P.R.I.D.E Festival - Piedmont Park, this week AJMF Explores PRIDE, as told and selected by our special guest curator, Rabbi Malka Packer-Monroe. Packer-Monroe is a Reconstructionist Rabbi and life cycle officiant. She is the Founding Director of InterfaithFamily/Atlanta (InterfaithFamily.com), a Jewish non-profit organization that empowers and supports interfaith couples and families. Rabbi Malka helps individuals and families discover deeper meaning, joy and spirituality in their daily lives. Her passion is creating inspiring and relevant rituals and ceremonies and invigorating Jewish practices. As director of InterfaithFamily/Atlanta, Rabbi Malka provides guidance, resources and trainings for clergy, lay leaders and Jewish organizations to foster more welcoming and inclusive communities. Malka moved to Atlanta with her wife, Mercy, in 2015. We hope you enjoy reading Rabbi Malka's comments below and having a listen to her specially curated playlist. Hoping, too, to see you this weekend at the festival!

"The 48th annual Pride Festival is this weekend, October 12-14 in Piedmont Park commencing with a fabulous parade at noon on Sunday. This celebration of LGBTQ pride commemorates the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City. While we are thrilled about the growing rights afforded to the LGBTQ community including legalized marriage, we still have a long way to go. This year I created a PRIDE 2018 playlist for the Sojourn: Southern Jewish Resource Network for Gender and Sexual Diversity float that includes songs for and by artists in the LGBTQ community. Some are popular gay anthems, some are songs of hope, some are songs about love and others are just completely fun and full of joy. I’ve included 'Closer to Fine' by the local iconic duo, The Indigo Girls—two lesbian musicians who grew up in Decatur, GA and who have been creating classic tunes dedicated to social and environmental causes for 25 years. I was delighted to include songs by Janelle Monáe like 'Pynk,' both because her music is incredibly danceable and because she is a powerful embodiment of blackness and queerness. I added music by the infamous singer, songwriter, actress and filmmaker, Barbara Streisand—classic gay icon!! Check out the SOJOURN float to find out why!! I had to throw in some techno hava nagillah. Lastly, I couldn’t resist songs about the HOTlanta heat like 'Hot in Herre,' and 'Gonna Make You Sweat.'"

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AJMF Explores the legendary Paul Simon via his wonderful new album, “In The Blue Light". Simon, who was born to Hungarian-Jewish parents in Newark, New Jersey in 1941, released this album in September in conjunction with his now completed farewell tour. The album itself revisits - refreshingly - some of Simon's older repertoire, songs that, he says, "were almost right, or were odd enough to be overlooked the first time around." Did you happen to catch Simon on his farewell tour? Or ever? Hoping you'll share your Simon memories with us below, and find out more about "Paul Simon's Secret Jewish Life", here: https://forward.com/…/351876/paul-simons-secret-jewish-life/

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Paul Simon

While we're all aware of Carole King's greatness as both a performer and songwriter, many are often surprised to learn of the songs she composed before becoming a well-known performer herself, and those songs are the subject of this week's AJMF Explores. King, who was born into a Jewish family in 1942 Manhattan, wrote her first #1 hit at the age of 17 ("Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow", for the Shirelles). She spent much of this early period in her life working in New York's famed Brill Building (surrounded by many other now-legendary songwriters including Burt Bacharach/Hal David, Lieber/Stoller, Doc Pomus and Neil Diamond, among others), writing songs with her then-husband Gerry Goffin, creating some of the most timeless melodies to come out of the early '60s; songs you may be surprised to find include both "The Locomotion", "One Fine Day" and "Take Good Care Of My Baby". We hope you enjoy listening, and we're curious to hear which pieces most surprise you! 

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Music is a powerful force. It heals. It can bring people together. In the wake of the tragic events over the last few weeks, we reached out to the AJMF community seeking your "healing music”. We are humbled by the response received, from both Atlanta and around the world. While the idea for the playlist was a response to the tragedy in Pittsburgh, we hope that the music below will provide you healing and solace whenever you need it. Thank you so much to all who submitted music, and please feel free to keep your song suggestions coming, as healing music is always needed! In addition, be sure to stay tuned for particularly meaningful, inspiring responses we received from various individuals and, should you like your response to be highlighted, please reach out: info@atlantajmf.org

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