Ancient Hebrew erotica doesn’t exactly seem like an obvious theme for an album, but that’s precisely the territory covered on Ayelet Rose Gottlieb’s Mayim Rabim, the follow-up to her 2004 debut Internal-External and her second release on John Zorn’s Tzadik label. The vocalist, composer and arranger, born in Jerusalem, studied both jazz and classical music through high school, and began performing with saxophonist Arnie Lawrence at age 17 in the small but dynamic Jerusalem scene. “At 18 I moved to Ramat Hasharon to study at Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary music. There I studied with Yair Dalal and began developing a deeper interest in Arabic and Middle Eastern music,” she recalls.
But it wasn’t until completing her musical education at the New England Conservatory in Boston, studying with Dominique Eade, Ran Blake, George Russell and Hankus Netsky, that she galvanized her musical style. “Hankus Netsky made me see the beauty within traditional Jewish music, which up to that point never really resonated with me.”
Mayim Rabim is a 10-track song cycle whose Hebrew lyrics Gottlieb adapted from the erotic Songs of Solomon. “I was amazed to find a book within the Bible that not once mentions God,” Gottlieb says. “Then to discover that so much of the Song of Songs is written from a female perspective. I never read such incredible love poetry that truly portrayed for me the full spectrum of what love is, from flirting to sex, from blindness to harsh awakenings and realizations, from ecstasy to deep pain.”Ayelet Rose Gottlieb’s popularity has yet to resonate to biblical proportions, but Mayim Rabim is a promising second album from an artist on her way.