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You gotta have soul

Soulfarm's Noah Solomon Chase learned from his neighbor, Shlomo Carlebach

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Soulfarm’s C. Lanzbom and Noah Solomon Chase

Noah Solomon Chase, whose Carlebach-influenced band Soulfarm will perform a benefit in Passaic on Sunday, doesn’t ever remember not being musical.

As a child in the mid 1970s, he sang on the first album of the diaspora Yeshiva Band – his father, Ben Zion Solomon, was the violist and a founder of what was the first Orthodox Jewish rock group. Born in northern California, Mr. Chase grew up in Moshav Modiin, the Israeli farming village founded by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach and his followers.

“I grew up in studios and with musicians playing in my house,” he said. In fact, Rabbi Carlebach was his next-door neighbor.

The community was known as the Carlebach moshav, but the rabbi didn’t really settle there. “He was traveling his whole life,” Mr. Chase said. “He died on an airplane, which tells you something.”

During the summer, Rabbi Carlebach would spend a month or two at the moshav, and he would come occasionally throughout the year, Mr. Chase said.

“It would be a Shlomo Shabbos when he came,” he said. “Hundreds of people would be there. The quiet moshav would turn into a festival.”

As a teen, Mr. Chase started taking his music seriously and took guitar lessons. When he was 16, Rabbi Carlebach saw him practicing outside and then called him up on stage to play with him. Then the rabbi took him along for a concert at an army base for female soldiers.

“It’s pretty cool to see 2000 girls dancing to your music,” he said. “It helped solidify my idea to become a musician.”

A few years later, he moved to New York.

“Shlomo called me and asked me to play with him. For the last two years” – before his death in 1994 – “I was his guitar player. I played with him all the time.”

The roots of Soulfarm, though, were born back in Israel, when he met C. Lanzbom – “he’s been going by C since he was a little kid” – at a Purim party.

(Mr. Lanzbom will be part of the Shlomo Carlebach tribute concert in Teaneck next Saturday night.)

“We started jamming there,” Mr. Chase said. “It kind of clicked very quickly. I was a little bit enamored of him. He was a kind of superstar guitar player in Israel. When he came and played on the moshav, that was a big deal. I was younger. When he heard me sing, he said, ‘You have a great voice.’

“We started getting together once a week and writing and recording.”

Roughly 20 years later, they’re still getting together once a week, although Mr. Chase lives in Riverdale, N.Y., and Mr. Lanzbom lives further upstate, in Pomona.

They put out their first album – as Inasense – in 1996. It featured a Chabad niggun alongside original numbers. There is a strong Grateful Dead vibe to their music; they’ve covered the Dead on their albums, as well as Joni Mitchell, the Beatles, and lots of Carlebach.

Soulfarm is Mr. Chase’s main project. For the last ten years he has been playing the bluegrass mandolin in bluegrass bands; a hint of the bluegrass “has definitely seeped in” to the Soul Farm concerts. “Irish music as well,” he said.

He promises “a fun night” in Passaic.

“We’re excited to play,” he said. “We haven’t played in New Jersey for a little bit of time. We have a bunch of new tunes we’re probably going to debut.”

Soul Farm will mark its tenth annual December 24th concert at the Highline Ballroom in Manhattan.

Looking back, Mr. Chase said that he learned a lot from Rabbi Carlebach.

“The way he delivered music,” he said. “It wasn’t about him; it was about the music going through him, about him becoming the music. Music was a meditation for him, a vehicle to achieve a higher level of consciousness, a more spiritual place.

“I definitely took a lot from that.”

Information
What: Benefit concert sponsored by the Jewish Family Service and Children’s Center of Clifton-Passaic

Who: Soulfarm

When: Sunday, November 9, 2 p.m.

Where: YBH-Hillel, 270 Passaic Ave, Passaic.

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