There’s a new take on an old Chanukah song from David Garfield, Sam Glaser, Lee Oskar and others.
A version of the song “Chanukah, Oh Chanukah” offers a unique sound this year — reggae and soul. It is heard on a recording made in the California music studio of David Garfield, producer, arranger and keyboardist.
The number retains the familiar words sung in Hebrew and English by Sam Glaser, a performer who specializes in Jewish songs and has appeared many times at religious celebrations in Michigan.
Lee Oskar, who worked with the band War, plays the harmonica, and Larry Klimas, who has worked with the band Chicago and Neil Diamond, is on saxophone. Other musicians are Israeli Oz Noy, Tim Pierce and Andy Bassford (guitars); Freddie Washington (bass); Steve Ferrone (drums); and Kevin Ricard (percussions).
The Chanukah song is the one Jewish track on the album “Holidays Outside the Box,” which gives some new sounds to familiar religious and seasonal ballads, including “Let It Snow” in contemporary jazz and “Sleigh Ride” in calypso.
Five languages are represented — English, Hebrew, Italian, Spanish and Polish.
“I was approaching 60 when I got the idea to record and collaborate with legacy musicians and artists,” said Garfield, who has been performing professionally since his teen years. He has worked with a range of famous musicians, such as Motown-raised singer-songwriter Smokey Robinson.
“I had three Christmas songs out in the same year, and the big question for me was whether to do a Christmas album or a holiday album. Because of my Jewish background, I decided on holidays. It became a challenge because we don’t have a lot of Chanukah songs. Maybe I’ll write a Chanukah song.”
Because of the pandemic, Glaser, based in California, sang in his own studio.
“I’ve done Chanukah concerts, and I like taking ‘Chanukah, Oh Chanukah’ to a new level with the reggae sounds,” said Glaser, 57, a colleague and friend of Garfield and a recording artist since he was 11. He counts some 25 albums to his credit.
Glaser performances have gone beyond Jewish settings with programs at venues that have reached from Staples Center in California to the White House.
“A great melody is eternal, and this Chanukah song has that quality,” said Glaser, whose personal religious observances increased with his appearances at increasing numbers of synagogues and Jewish day schools.
“I’m sure the author never intended ‘Chanukah, Oh Chanukah’ to be a reggae song, but I think this melody will help it reach a new audience. There’s something beautiful, inspiring and heartfelt about exploring heritage.”
Independent of this project, Glaser has released the recording “Sam Glaser’s Rockin’ Chanukah Revue.” Locally, he appeared at Adat Shalom Synagogue for a Lots of Latkes party.
Garfield, who collaborated with Smokey Robinson in writing the songs “One Like You” and “I Lied,” looked for an international group of musicians to perform for “Holidays Outside the Box.” This recent album is among a series of “Outside the Box” recordings that focus on a range of music and feature “Jazz Outside the Box” and “Jammin Outside the Box,” which highlights R&B pop.
Legendary musicians featured through the recording add their talents to “O Holy Night” with vocalists Jacob Scheff, who worked with the band Chicago, and Robbie Wyckoff, who worked with Pablo Cruise. Nick Lane, strings arranger for “Ave Maria,” has been associated with Chicago and Rod Stewart.
Besides producing his own recordings, Garfield works freelance. During the pandemic, he is performing on Zoom from his own studio, and his work can be accessed at davidgarfield.com, where the holiday recording also can be accessed.
Although Garfield has not worked in Michigan, he visits the state to see his brother Stanley, who lives in Northville.