Russian Bard Music, Klezmer, the Passover Seder, Little Odessa in Brighton Beach and Other Jewish Elements/Imagery Infuse Debut CD of Singer- Songwriter Robins
A ‘Jewish Kid From the Bronx’ Now Lives in Moscow.
Jewish imagery and musical reference points infuse the debut of singer- songwriter Gregg Robins. Instrumentation ranging from klezmer/clarinet to strings, lyrical references to the Passover Seder, a direct and indirect connection to Little Odessa in Brighton Beach, an affinity for Russian Bard Music and more come to life on Robins’ critically-acclaimed ‘Everything That Matters.’
Robins, a Bronx native now living in Moscow, mines his Russian Jewish roots on two songs in particular, the beautiful track ‘Pages of My Life’ (presented in both English and Russian-language versions on the new CD,) and the lush standout ‘If I Could Be There’. Many have said the music is reminiscent of early Shlomo Carlebach.
On ‘Pages of My Life’, Robins pays homage to his grandfather (who was from Odessa in Ukraine,) and makes lyrical reference to the Passover Seder in a song that has a distinctly Eastern European Jewish texture (highlighted by its string section). Robins notes that ‘Pages’ was “written when I became very aware of the extent to which loved ones were leaving my life and that generations were changing. The structure of the song derives from Russian “Bard“ music and oscillates between reality and fantasy.” As mentioned above, there is a Russian-language version of the song on the album, and its flavor and feel are distinct from the original English version. Robins, who considers musician Alexander Rozenbaum to be one of his Russian Bard influences, feels the Odessa lineage extends from recollections of his grandfather to his current life in Moscow to New York’s Russian Jewish community in Little Odessa/Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. On ‘If I Could Be There,’ clarinets and violins evoke klezmer music, as Robins delivers a winning track about being half a world away from a loved one.
Robins, who is fluent in Russian, Spanish, and French, and also speaks a bit of German, was Bar Mitzvah in the Bronx (and even played clarinet with the band at his celebration party). Prior to his move to Moscow, Robins recalls, “I was a Trustee on the board of the Pleasantville Community Synagogue for several years. I was initially drawn to the synagogue by its rich and warm musical atmosphere. Sometimes I would play my clarinet with Rabbi Mark Sameth on the piano and others during certain services, like during Simchah Torah when we would play klezmer music as congregants joyfully danced through the aisles with the torah. The Rabbi is a former professional songwriter and a fine musician.”