If you want to upset a Jewish musician who makes Jewish music, just call him a Jewish musician who makes Jewish music. Like it or not, the term “Jewish music” is not flattering to Jewish musicians. It’s got connotations of old-time schmaltz, of Zionist choirs singing “Heveinu Shalom Aleichem,” of fringe music written for a very specific — and very small — audience.
Musicians have fragile egos — the last thing they want to hear is that their music is of no interest to 99 percent of the listening public.
Well, I’m happy to say that I hung out the other day with a Jewish musician who’ll tell you flat out that he makes Jewish music. That he writes specifically for a Jewish audience. That he doesn’t dream of being in the Billboard Top 40 or performing at the Grammys. And that he’s happiest when his work inspires that miniscule slice of the buying public called the Jews.
His name is Sam Glaser.
For the past couple of decades, Glaser has been Mr. Jewish Music. Each year, he performs in Reform, Conservative and Orthodox communities in about 50 different cities. When he’s not performing or leading Shabbatons, he’s in his recording studio, where he recently completed his 20th album. His music is known for its spiritual ballads and solid rock beats, but there’s nothing wild and crazy about Glaser — the man or the musician.
Nothing, that is, except for his attachment to his neighborhood. If Springsteen had New Jersey and Dylan had Greenwich Village, Glaser has Pico-Robertson.