|Another installment in John Zorn's Radical Jewish Culture series from his Tzadik label, Diaspora Hollywood is Steven Bernstein's third album for this series. Inspired by the plight of Jewish composers who fled Europe during the Second World War, Diaspora Hollywood mixes classic west coast cool jazz with traditional Yiddish melodies and subtle free form improvisation to create a style both familiar and unheard.
After discovering that west coast jazz stylists Shorty Rogers and Shelly Manne played together as teenagers in the Catskills around the same time as the first Jewish refugees were flooding in from a war torn Europe, Steven Bernstein realized the possible connection these musicians may have made. Many of the Jewish composers fleeing Europe eventually settled in Hollywood and became film composers and therefore had ostensible connections with west coast jazz musicians. A few Hassidic themed albums trickled out of the west coast jazz scene in the post-war years, but never to any renown. Bernstein's conception of this forgotten genre exists in a place where these two worlds collide in a post free-jazz environment. The results are hauntingly sublime and spellbindingly timeless.
Standard instrumentation for west coast jazz, trumpet, baritone saxophone/flute, vibes, bass and drums all weave a delicate but intriguing web of sound. Steven Bernstein's most relaxed album, Diaspora Hollywood is by no means a lesser release, and in fact is possibly one of his finest achievements. Tzadik has a tendency to put out an enormous amount of this sort of material, and after awhile, the discerning listener must draw the line and search out the best releases. This is one such album. Recommended.