This week and next I’ll be featuring performers from this year’s Boston Jewish Music Festival. This week I chatted with blues musician Saul Kaye, who will be joining Joey Weisenberg and Noah Aronson on Thursday, March 20, for an evening of folksy blues music at The Center for the Arts in Natick. During the weekend, Saul will also be a visiting artist in residence: He will be leading a blues Kabbalat Shabbat at Congregation Or Atid in Wayland on Friday, March 21, and on Saturday, March 22, he will participate in Shabbat services at Temple Israel in Natick. Saturday night he will also lead a special teen Havdalah service and coffee house sponsored by Prozdor.
You went from Montana to Israel. That sounds like quite the journey!
Funny you should ask. “Jewish Blues Volume Two” was written half at a yeshiva in Jerusalem and half at a ski resort in Montana. They were both high experiences in their own right. Montana was 11,000 feet and spoiled me for life; Jerusalem gave me a taste of total yeshiva immersion and living the “frum” life.
I’d never really thought about niggunim and the blues, but it makes so much sense. Who are your biggest influences in both blues and Jewish music?
It really depends on the day and month. I do love what Joey Weisenberg is bringing to the Jewish world, both niggunim and teaching. In terms of my own influences from within the Jewish world musically, I love that Shlomo Carlebach was able to get the Jewish world singing again and that his melodies cross all the different denominations. In terms of blues, I love me some Son House for raw spirit, Muddy Waters for being the man, Willie Dixon for his writing and Howlin’ Wolf for, well, being the Wolf. I try to channel these guys when I’m on stage. You’ll have to hear it to believe it!
I’m amazed by all the touring you do throughout the year. What’s your favorite place you’ve been?
Every place has its own magic. I was just touring in England for Limmud UK and really appreciated the overwhelming response to American blues fused with Jewish ideas. I also loved playing in Hawaii in December and Texas last month for Yom Limmud. Truth be told, I love everywhere I tour. It’s part of the blessing of this holy work. More than the places themselves, it’s the people and communities that I get to engage with.
Which of the other performers at this year’s festival are you looking forward to seeing?
Joey and Noah. I respect them both musically and Jewishly and know they are coming from a good place.
Four Questions is a weekly interview column featuring interesting people connected with the Greater Boston Jewish community. Find past columns here. Have an idea of someone we should interview? Email Molly!
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