This album, inspired by the old synagogue that was once home to Mishkan Israel congregation and is now occupied by a Seventh-Day Adventist congregation, reflects on “the inevitability of change, evolution, transformation,” as Mirkin puts it. The seven tunes on the album traverse cultures with various grooves and styles that often switch within a tune.
The title tune “Madison Avenue Shul” aptly invokes the history of the edifice. It opens with a mesmerizing klezmer feel, introduced by a steady, rhythmic bass line on 1, 5, and 1 and then morphs into a sweet swing groove, with the piano tinkling and dancing on high notes, and then sax joining in over the steady repeated riff. Finally the saxophone brings us back to the minor key and Jewish folk feel of the beginning.
“Canarsie Blues” takes us from Baltimore to Brooklyn, in a lively swing groove that leads to a saucy, funky solo by Taylor using a Rhodes organ setting. Again, more switching grooves from a Latin-y feel and back to swing.
“One for Wayne” opens with the guitar and flows along with that same easy Latin-y groove in a major key until the bridge, when the harmony takes on more complexity and darker flecks. Then Taylor introduces more quirks and strange turns of phrase on electric keyboard before the guitar brings back the smooth and flowing feel.
Mirkin’s favorite tune, “Don’t Keep Me in Suspense,” charms with its flowing melody and subtle harmonies, with brief but expressive solos on all instruments, particularly the saxophone.
Apart from his day job as acting director of communications for the Office of Research and Development of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Mirkin devotes himself to his love of jazz, both as a player and a composer. Overall, Mirkin’s compositions, brought to life by the impressive talents of the band, provide a satisfying listening experience.
The album was recorded at the Music Workshop in Baltimore in November 2019. It can be heard on Spotify or purchased digitally on Amazon. You can watch and hear the band perform the title tune on YouTube. The album is currently available only online for digital distribution. Anyone interested in ordering a physical CD is invited to contact Mitch Mirkin at email@example.com. A third album is in the works.
Liz Fixsen is a jazz enthusiast, pianist, and vocalist, as well as writer and editor for the Baltimore Jazz Alliance newsletter. She also has a background in teaching writing and teaching English language learners.