Moving between Arabic, Hebrew and English lyrics presents no problem when you can convey the meaning and depth Maryem Tollar does on Book Of Life. She could record an hour of James Brown-type grunts and it'd still fill you with an overpowering sensation that you should have paid more attention in history class. The album's title, for example, comes from the song Rachel, a tribute to an American activist who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer as she tried to protect a Palestinian home in Gaza. Wow. Tollar's partner, Ernie, acts as musical director, leading a full cast of more than capable musicians through a journey of Arabic-based jazz that perfectly complements Maryem's voice and message for an introspective tour de force.
Tollar plays Glenn Gould Studio Saturday (December 18).