At first, I didn’t know how to listen to “The Pirkei Avot Project, Vol. 1.”
Taking eight short excerpts from Pirkei Avot, a compendium of rabbinical aphorisms, jazz guitarist Amanda Monaco creates a wise and playful interpretation of some serious material. She uses popular passages, such as Hillel’s saying, “If I am not for me, who will be? If I am for myself alone, what am I? And if not now, when?” as well as lesser-known teachings such as, “There is nothing more becoming a person than silence” and “Be a tail to lions rather than a head to foxes.”
As I listened, I wondered how the music conveyed the ideas behind the text. Even though I had translations of the Hebrew and Aramaic words, to me they registered mostly as sound. And because this is a jazz album, it’s the sound that matters most.