Reviews for The Hidden One

TIKKUN Magazine Review by Rabbi Jonathan Seidel Phd

"Richard Kaplan’s latest CD
The Hidden One (Hane’elam): Jewish Mystical Songs presents a powerfully evocative musical dance between the “hidden” and the “revealed,” as heard in poignant, immediately haunting silences and in the sparse, understated nigunim (melodies without words), found in subtle doses throughout the album. Vocalist and cantor Kaplan, accompanied by an ensemble of stellar musicians and singers, has created a prayerful gem of a CD that I believe (as one who deeply resonates with Sephardic and Hasidic music) will become a classic. It’s as if he’s channeling the primordial music of a barely known, esoteric kabbalistic sect, situated somewhere in the spaces between Haim ben Attar (the famous Sephardic mystic who influenced the birth of Hasidism) and the Ba’al Shem Tov. I felt I had somehow heard this music before, perhaps  in a previous gilgul (incarnation), when we were engaged with a paradigm-shifting  Sufi/Sephardic/Hasidic/Proto-Jazz community.

To devotees of Jewish music, this CD is a love song, sung with and without words, sung in Hebrew and Aramaic from the classic liturgy and Zohar, or sung to the words of traditional and newly composed
piyutim (para-liturgical sacred poetry). It is a love song addressed to “You,” the very immanent and personal Divinity which so often remains hidden when we create rigid and imaginary boundaries which rob us of the mystical encounter. The Hasidic/Sufi trajectory present in these recordings beautifully expresses this intimacy with the Divine, which as the Qur'an has it, is “as close as our jugular veins” or as accessible as the memory of a beloved departed bubbe or nona (Yiddish and Ladino for “grandmother”). Kaplan is remarkably in touch with this most subtle of proximities.

Those who know Kaplan’s previous CDs (
Tuning The Soul and Life of the Worlds) are familiar with his uncanny ability—shared with musical and poetic luminaries such as Israel Najara of the 16th century—to marry melodies from non-Jewish locales (even Mongolia, in this recording!) with Jewish mystical poetry. He also creates new Latvian/Lithuanian-influenced tunes for pouring out the heart, and performs a stunning Eastern European wordless song meant to accompany the dying process. The CD reconnects me to my ancient Ashkenazic roots while expanding upon them with several exquisite “neo-Hasidic” musical creations composed by Kaplan.
And be prepared for a few tracks that reflect the mournful pathos and longing of the Diaspora experience (perhaps ultimately best understood as a universal state of profound spiritual disconnection). You might cry a little - OK! I however actually find this “melancholy” (or better yet, “deep soulfulness”) very appealing.

From a little known
nigun of Reb Nachman of Breslov, to melodies preserved by the modern musical adept Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, to Turkish, Moroccan, and Spanish chants, Cantor Kaplan has produced an array of quietly ecstatic songs and original compositions that give life to the term “Jewish Renewal”. Kaplan’s jazzy riffs, supported by ney (cane flute), ‘ud (lute), tar (frame drum), cimbalom (hammer dulcimer) and other seemingly incongruous instrumentation, are set to revelatory and inspiring verses that send this writer right into the lap—or before the throne, as it were—of the Mystery of Mysteries. It is a very cool album with a great aural warmth, clearly derived from the embers of the Kabbalah’s overriding intention of tikkun. If you are searching for a collection of songs with which to focus your meditation and Jewish contemplative life, this is truly it!"


“Kabbalah has become the latest celebrity fad, but for centuries the authentic Kabbalah
has been a source of philosophy, prayer, and song for Jews. West Coast cantor Richard Kaplan adheres to the 'old school' of Kabbalah, presenting 18 (of course) songs from the Kabbalistic tradition. They come from across generations and around the Jewish world, but all are sublimated by Kaplan’s yearning baritone and elegant piano playing. The arrangements are meditative and minimal, adding only the percussion, strings, or winds of the country of the song’s origin, leaving room for the listeners to fill in the spaces themselves. Full lyrics and notes are provided, and Kaplan even sings some of the songs in English. Kaplan’s third release solidifies his reputation as the best American interpreter of Jewish spiritual and world music."

Professor Karen Barad Phd, Department of Physics, UC Santa Cruz

"The music on
THE HIDDEN ONE is deeply awe-inspiring and elevating in a way that goes far beyond even the deep touch music can provide.
Words cannot express my gratitude for this amazing gift you've given and 'brought down' to us."

Reviews for
Life of the Worlds

Khei Ha’olamim—Life of the Worlds—Journeys in Jewish Sacred Music (PDF)
by Cantor Richard Kaplan
Ira Bigeleisen, Journal of Synagogue Music, Cantor’s Assembly 2010

Reviews for
Tuning the Soul

"I love this recording! Kaplan and Ziegler have drawn on numerous sacred and folk music traditions, Jewish and otherwise, to find new or neglected settings for Jewish liturgical texts. The result is an album of haunting, moving music performed by both men and a cast of superb guest musicians. Especially recommended to those who love the sounds of Middle Eastern music, the dominant flavor in this mix." Rating: 5 stars *****
George Robinson, New York Jewish Week

"It's a moving piece of work. It deals with states of mind that I'll enjoy visiting for years to come."
Stuart Brotman, Brave Old World
"Tuning the Soul is one of the most transcendent works you'll hear. The music itself reaches both inward and upward."
JUF News Chicago

"Richard Kaplan and Michael Ziegler have produced that rare recording which makes the new holy and renews the old. Tuning the Soul provides a superb antidote to the mediocrity of syrupy or campy American Jewish music and a great way to get back into the sheer power of our traditional music. We are both a European and Middle Eastern people and we can truly feel it here!" Jonathan Seidel, Tikkun
"Richard Kaplan and Michael Ziegler have the Arabic maqamat (tonal organizations) down cold. They convey a clear sense of that Mizrachi inner world... it's enough to get this album and tune your own soul toward the sacred."
Aaron Howard, Jewish Herald-Voice