The Heritage Ensemble is a quintet that records and performs original compositions and arrangements of Hebraic melodies in various jazz, Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, and neo-classical styles. It is a reflection of the mixing of cultures that has increasingly evolved in the world of music in recent decades.
Since its first public performance in the mid-1990s at New York’s Symphony Space, the personnel and repertoire have also evolved. Among the group’s newest members is four-time Grammy nominee drummer Bobby Sanabria whose broad performance and recording experience adds immeasurably to the current album. Fellow Nuyorican, percussionist Cristian Rivera complements Sanabria’s rhythmic forays with his own virtuosity.
Saxophonist Michael Hashim’s Lebanese heritage and extensive performance experience (he is an NEA performance grantee) adds just the right blend of jazz and Middle-Eastern sensibilities. Phi Beta Kappa bassist Frank Wagner provides that strong bass line underpinning to the quintet’s arrangements, an element crucial to the group’s frequent, spontaneous musical departures.
The Heritage Ensemble’s first album “Making the Music Our Own” (MEII Enterprises) was released in 2006. The recording was an agglomeration of tracks recorded years earlier by other players. In the last few years, however, The Heritage Ensemble’s arrangements have not only grown in number, they have also evolved. The need to record another album was obvious. The first result was: “Celebrations: Festive Melodies from the Hebraic Songbook” (MEII Enterprises 2010). Most of the tracks on this album are melodies from the Chanukah and Purim festivals.
The second result is the current album, “A Fresh Take.” (Please see early reviews below). This CD is a complete re-record of all the tracks on “Making the Music Our Own,” plus an addition to the quintet’s repertoire, “Adon Olam.” This track is the most highly improvised of all the arrangements. What you hear are completely unstructured, improvised lines once the group gets past the original thematic material. We also added the wonderful strong voice of classically trained Rachel Kara Perez.
“A Fresh Take” (2011) and “Celebrations” (2010), like their predecessor “Making the Music Our Own” (2006), continue the group’s exploration of the “performance” possibilities of Hebraic melodies in terms of chords, rhythmic patterns, meter, and melodic structure.
We hope you enjoy hearing the arrangements on the current album as much as we took pleasure in recording them. Thanks for listening.
Eugene Marlow, Ph.D.
The Heritage Ensemble
Early reviews for “A Fresh Take”:
“. . . its mix of tradition and a more contemporary and freely-improvised approach points to a very interesting future, indeed. Marlow's Heritage Ensemble continues on its intriguing, groove-laden and inspiring musical journey.”
“Marlow enlists [four-time Grammy-nominee] Bobby Sanabria and his new pals to take a new Afro-Cuban jazz look at traditional Jewish melodies. . . .The players are all first call cats and the result is a dandy fresh take, just like the title says.”
“Eugene Marlow and his Heritage Ensemble pull the rabbit out the hat again with their latest album, A Fresh Take, blending jazz and Jewish music themes with great flair and musicianship."
Author of Jazz Jews, host of the Kosher Jam
Internet radio show on UK Jazz Radio
“Eugene Marlow’s Heritage Ensemble’s "A Fresh Take" is indeed a renewed version of the group’s  debut album, complete with innovative song stylings and modern takes on songs of worship that listeners may hold dear to their hearts and souls.”
“It swings like mad, is uniformly well-played and brightens at every instant.”