This was a fantastic concert and an excellent music forum.  We will find a
way to work together again!

Anne Lefter                                        Baltimore Community College


You guys were awesome! Everything about the night - the musicianship, 
song selections, originality, spontaneity, etc. - was perfect.

--anonymous mildly pleased audience member, Baltimore , 3.09


What a fabulous concert last night at TBI!!

I'm a music teacher and mom of a Bel Canto Prep Chorister. I had a wonderful time watching your group perform, and I loved it even more when your group was working with the choirs. There were so many different levels to appreciate: the musicianship and comaradarie of your group, your desire to share your music, your wonderful rapport with the kids. I think one of the things I enjoyed the best was how you and your group were able to make a "different" music so accessible; as a fairly white, square mom, it was an awful lot of fun to see these white, square kids being pulled out of their box. and enveloped by the music.

Thanks very much for your work with Bel Canto, and I wish you all the best of luck!

Tracy Calvaresi


Atzilut / Souls on Fire: Music for the Kabbala, 1996, ArcMusic Long before more recent bands such as Davka or Pharaoh's Daughter began working with Middle Eastern rhythms and Jewish spiritual music, Atzilut was exploring what they call "Music for the Kabbala." On this outing, the band even pulled in Arab classical master musician Simon Shaheen, with from texts from the zohar, Isaac Luria, and other sources in the Jewish mystical tradition. Cantor Jack Kessler's deep, resonant voice, playing against Shaheen's violin, and the entire ensemble, is amazing! The result is music that gets deeper the longer that you listen, but that is also a relaxing pleasure the first time through. The music, although primarily Middle Eastern in feel, also explicitly draws from klezmer, balkan, and Jewish folk traditions, as in a "Hallelu-Yah" that is, ecstatically, praise unto the Lord; as well as from Arabic music, as in the case of the Luria text welcoming the Sabbath and its mystic possibilities set to a melody by Sheikh Abd Al Rahim Al Masloub. [GRADE: A]


Philadelphia cantor Jack Kessler is involved in music that ranges from nusakh to Yiddish folk music to the Middle Eastern modes of Atzilut. On this latest group project, he has enlisted Maurice Chedid on Arabic vocals and oud, taking a fusion of Jewish and Arabic music that dates back over 1000 years and updating it in a modern American context.

Chedid's warm voice starts things off very well with the CD opener, "Fo Rusnic". Although the ensemble is perhaps more percussion-heavy and lacks the massed violins of classic Arabic music, the result is still interesting and well-done. Kessler's powerful sonorities provide an interesting, more trance-ish counter to Chedid's warmth. It is especially interesting is that this is not traditional North African Jewish nusakh, but rather (to my inexpert ears) very Indian subcontinent-influenced melody. So we have the fascinating and very pleasant (if anachronistic?) listening of traditional Arabic music fused with Jewish Indian chant. Thus, "Shira" starts off with a gentle, Arabic sounding melody, and then as Kessler's voice gains strength, moves into a more repetitive, strongly sung meditation mode, punctuated by deliciously gentle oud solo. The joining together of both men's voices on the final "Hinei Mah Tov/Ma Achla'a" is so ood that I only wish they did it more often on the CD. Atzilut might best be thought of as a Jewish spiritual jam band. The fusion with more traditional Arabic singing is quite invigorating and (of course!) fits perfectly and sends a message very worth pondering at a time when we are once again more hopeful about the prospect for peace in the Middle East. As we listen to Kessler's deep baritone intone "G-d is in this place and I did not know" (Yesh Adonai ba-makom ha-zeh/v'anokhi lo ya-dati) that seems especially poignant. As the instrumentals take their breaks jamming with his voice, both peace and G-d's presence seems especially credible and beautiful a notion.


It was a fantastic concert, we loved the band!

--happy fan after monster concert at Carl Orff Saale at Munich Gasteig


I wanted to take a moment to express my appreciation for the wonderful performance of Atzilut at Chautauqua. The musical talent of the players is on a very high level, and certainly added to the richness of the presentation. The sharing of Arab and Jewish musical traditions enhanced our theme of the greater Middle East. It was fun, quality, and entertaining. You definitely earned that standing ovation!

--Marty Merkley, Chautauqua Institution


“How wonderful it was to witness the building of such powerful mutual feelings between yourselves and your audience. As one audience member put it, “it was like a gulf one thousand years wide had been bridged.”

--Melody Reeves, Jubilee Community Arts, Knoxville, Tennessee


This was the best concert we ever had at the United Nations.

--Jacob Enoch, Israeli Mission to the United Nations


It was one of our best concerts ever...the group and the performance were highly professional. The audience was delighted and exhilarated by the high-voltage performance.

--Susan Heckler, New York Open Center


I was enthralled by their virtuosity, energy and brilliance as musicians, and as ambassadors of the true meaning of brotherhood and sisterhood of all people throughout the power of their performance. Their range and versatility and extraordinary musicianship put then in a class of their own.

--David Amram


Your performances were magical and very well received by Festival audiences.

--Rebecca Leary Safon, Atlanta Arts Festival


You won’t be able to keep your feet still. The improvisations will wow you, and the sweet singing of Cantor Jack Kessler will move you.

--Cindy Ornstein, Mayfair Festival


I had to get in touch with you after the performance.... I was moved to tears as I witnessed your interaction with each other .It is great to see your cohesion in the music and the way you worked together. Thank you for sharing your talent and message!

- Chris Taylor, Aliquippa Embraces


ArtFrom a workshop engagement: Thank you for bringing your expertise to the table today!!! We all had a great time, and the kids all learned so much!!! What a terrific day! Thank you for being a part of it - yes, a lot of organization, but so worth it! Yes, please let me know if there's another collaboration in our future -

-Joy Hirokawa, Bel Canto Chorus