Marcia Ball with her small fan at Jazz Fest Shabbat
Every year, typically the fourth Friday of April, Touro Synagogue has held a Jazz Fest Shabbat, an opportunity to put Jewish liturgical music and worship and counterpoise it with the music associated with the Jazz Fest, whether that be contemporary, New Orleans rhythm and blues, klezmer or more traditional jazz. Last year Kermit Ruffins held sway in the huge sanctuary and, because of the dates for Passover conflicting with the first weekend, it took place on the second weekend of the festival, closer to the first week in May. Ruffins did a fantastic job getting the entire audience to move up towards the front and dance up and down the aisles prior to the worship services portion of the program. I didn't think anyone else could do as great a job until last night. And I am thankful to reveal to you all that I was wrong! Marcia Ball, the best female pianist to play New Orleans style music took command of the bimah where her band joined her as she tickled the electric ivories. She made the audience feel so happy to be there and to really get into the spirit of the services in a meaningful way. Now for my observant Jewish friends, I am sure there is little I could do to convince them that playing music on Shabbat or using electricity to amplify it could be justified. But for those of us who are a bit more liberal in our approach to tefilah (prayer), it was a revelation. After all, it is Jazz Fest and things are just a bit different during these days. The Jazz Fest Shabbat is in its 16th year, having been formed originally by the late Cantor Stephen Dubov, an amazing man, singer and religious leader who left us way too early. Cantor Dubov was a personal friend of mine and consoled my son and I on the evening of my wife's passing, a mitzvah that I will never forget. After Dubov left New Orleans other cantors have come and gone, but it seems to me that none have taken on the post of coordinating Jazz Fest Shabbat any better than Touro's present cantor Billy Tiep. Billy gets it and he pours himself into each concert. I offer him my heartfelt thanks for a truly moving experience that most everyone agreed was the best we'd ever seen. I can't wait to see how he tops this one next year.