From big band to jazz, Hanukkah music is rockin’

The LeeVees (www.theleevees.com, www.jdubrecords.org)

Alternative rock heavies Adam Gardner, of the Warner Brothers band Guster, and Dave Schneider, of the Zambonis, formed their garage-style Jewish rock band, The LeeVees, because they had a niche to fill. If adored comic actor and one-hit wonder Adam Sandler can earn a cult following with his hysterically funny Hanukkah Song, then imagine what two nice Jewish boys with acoustic guitars, critically admired songwriting skills, and raw music talent can do when they collaborate. In fact, it took Gardner and Schneider only one hour to compose their first two Hanukkah songs, Latke Clan and Applesauce vs. Sour Cream, while riding together in the back of a tour bus. The result is their first Jewish album, Hanukkah Rocks, which is a bunch of rockin’ tunes with catchy, witty lyrics that appeal mostly to adolescents and set the precedent for a good time. Basically, this New England band pokes fun at their Jewish heritage and gets away with it in likable numbers such as, How do you Spell Channukkahh? and Jewish Girls (at the Matzah Ball). By the way, if your child has a cell phone, Hanukkah ringtones and ringbacks (ask your pre-teen to explain) are available as well.

Dan Nichols (www.jewishrock.com)

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On a more serious note, Dan Nichols and his band Eighteen crank out modern Jewish rock that sets the standard in the Reform Jewish movement. His last two albums have garnered critical acclaim and a growing legion of young and old fans, with songs like L’takein (The Na Na Song), B’tzelem Elohim, and My Heart is in the East. Although Nichols doesn’t have a holiday CD, you can visit his website and download his single Chanukah for free. As one of the most popular and influential Jewish voices in North America, Nichols will join many prominent Jewish artists in the first-ever radio satellite program dedicated exclusively to Jewish culture. Radio Hanukkah – XM 108 airs through Dec. 23, and features the best in Jewish music, comedy, Broadway, talk and kids programming.

Craig Taubman (www.craignco.com)

Craig Taubman’s instrumental “Jew Age” music comes to life in his two Hanukkah CDs, The Hanukkah Lounge and Celebrate Hanukkah. No wonder his dynamic music and moving performance style has been an inspiration to the Jewish community for more than 22 years. The magical and enchanting sounds soothe your soul like a Swedish massage.

Celebrate Hanukkah is the first release in Craig ‘n Co’s award-winning Celebrate Series, and includes a collection of traditional and contemporary recordings from some of the most well-known and beloved names in Jewish music, including Debbie Friedman’s Not By Might–Not By Power, and Peter Yarrow’s Light One Candle. Each song is as distinct as the performers, but they all bring to life the joy and spirit of the season.

The Hanukkah Lounge is another eclectic mix of a dozen smooth-mood-inducing holiday classics by world-renowned producers and Grammy award-winning artists. Taubman lends his signature alluring vocals to these well-chilled tracks, all of which encourage hope and healing, not to mention make you want to sip a martini. Combine edgy grooves with traditional Hanukkah melodies of Chanutronikah and Mi Yimalel, and you get why they call it “Jew Age” music.

Kenny Ellis (www.kennyellis.com)

This multi-faceted musical performer is also a cantor and knows how to belt out a tune like Harry Connick Jr. himself. His debut album Hanukkah Swings! is an eclectic mix of jazz, big band and small ensemble pieces that blend tradition with wit, wisdom and a Jewish spirit. Ellis’ lead vocals add a lively twist on favorite classics in English and Hebrew, such as the vibrant, bold and brassy opening number, Swingin’ Dreidel. Other Swing Era songs include the Yiddish parody, Twas the Night Before Hanukkah, the lush orchestral ballad Hanukkah Candles, and the fun-filled tropical flavored Hanu-calypso.

Rick Recht (www.rickrecht.com)

All right, so Rick Recht doesn’t have a Hanukkah CD, at least not yet, but he should. Maybe he hasn’t worked his magic on Sevivon, but his unique blend of pop, radio-friendly music combined with Hebrew, Jewish text, and message of social responsibility makes him my favorite in contemporary Jewish music. Plus, he is a St. Louis original. I’ve never danced the Hora to the contagiously melodic compositions on Shabbat Alive, which also features Craig Taubman and Dan Nichols, but I can always give it a whirl.

“The Mishegas of Motherhood” is the creation of Ellie S. Grossman, a St. Louis freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom who never stays home. Her stories are inspired by the real life of her family, including her two children, toy poodle named Luci, and her husband, but not necessarily in that order. Feel free to send any comments, prayers or recipes to [email protected]