Nedudim Fifth House Ensemble & Baladino Cedille Records
Cross-cultural music collaborations can be hitor-miss affairs. Those that succeed tend to meld what’s unique about each with common denominators, thus eliminating the band-aid joints that impair so many fusion ventures. That’s palpably true with Nedudim, an album that brings together an acclaimed US chamber group and an Israeli folk band in what can be prosaically described as contemporary classical meets world music. The core focus is Ladino, a centuries-old Sephardic/Judeo-Spanish tradition that is Baladino’s speciality. True to its title (Hebrew for wanderings), this exploratory enterprise takes inspiration from classical Indian music and American and Middle Eastern folk, while mixing and matching Western orchestral and exotic Asian and Arabic instrumentation. New works, written for the collaboration by Fifth House Ensemble’s resident composer, are based on both collectives’ shared memories.
One of the set’s bluesy rides combines written and improvised solos played over Dan Visconti’s original score. Another employs ancient Hellenic scales, with oboe, clarinet, bassoon and flutes generating melody, harmony and rhythm. Visconti’s most avant-garde arrangement places didgeridoo-underpinned instrumental passages between haunting Ladino lullaby verses. The pristine voice of Baladino’s Yael Badash plays a more central role in striking opening and closing interpretations of Ladino ballads, while her vocal agility is salient in the album’s two traditional Sephardic cornerstone tracks.