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ELI GERSTNER And his debut album "HINEI":
Country Yossi Magazine February 1999
A STAR IS BORN!

Yochi Briskman. Yisroel Lamm. These are the big names in the music business. We all know who they are. The elite, the cream of the crop, the top of the heap. They take their music seriously. And they are very discriminating about whom they choose to work with.

So if all of these big names in the Jewish music industry

 

would collaborate together on the debut album of a virtual unknown, most of us would certainly sit up and take notice. And if we discovered that this very same performer is also a composer, a musician, and a very adept arranger, that would certainly shake us out of our musical slumber. So now that everyone's paying attention, it's time to introduce the most refreshing, youthful and energetic new talent to hit the recording studio in a long time - Eli Gerstner and his debut album "Hinei!"

He's not quite nineteen yet, but when you consider the fact that Eli has been performing since he's ten and composing since he's thirteen, you can safely state that he's had years of experience. There's really only one word that can describe Eli and that's "prodigy." There's no other way, really, to explain how a young man barely out of his teens can teach himself to play the piano and drums and several other musical instruments, compose over a hundred songs over a span of five years, and can entertain at concerts with flair. Don't bother asking Eli to explain his awesome musical talent to you. He'll probably just shrug his shoulders in his characteristic way, smile, and then say, "I don't' know. I guess it just comes to me naturally."

Everything about Eli Gerstner's rise to stardom is natural and effortless. Ever since he was a little kid, he's been pulled onstage to accompany some major stars like Shlomo Carlebach, Shlomo Simcha, Shloime Dachs, Mendy Wlad, the Piamentas, and others. He has a magnetic musical presence that's obvious to those who take their music seriously. Eli never had to chase stars. They all seemed to be pursuing him instead.

Last year was a turning point for Eli. He was learning in Yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel. It was there that several big names in Israeli Chassidic music discovered his talent and were relentless in trying to persuade him to perform. "it was really tempting," Eli says. " They were making some really good offers. But I knew my main purpose in Eretz Yisroel was to learn in Yeshiva, so I passed." Meanwhile, he was honing his talents, fraternizing with some of the local Israeli talent, and waiting for his big break.

It came soon enough. After making a demo tape, Eli began receiving overseas telephone calls from some of the best producers in New York. They promised to wait until he returns to begin seriously negotiating with them. But they insisted that they would stay in touch. It was now clear to Eli that all roads pointed towards making his own album.

And then came Yochi. "To me, Yochi Briskman is a legend," Eli explains. "I didn't just listen to Project X, I studied it. Yochie represented excellence to me as a drummer ever since I was a young boy." Apparently, Yochi is similarly impressed with Eli. "I see a bright future in him," he comments. "He has a refreshing enthusiasm and all the qualities to make it in the music business."

Yochi decided to produce Eli's debut album, and ever since the two have started working together, they've become close friends. "Yochi is a real mentsch," Eli says. "He treats me with respect, and he's involved in every phase of the production, from A to Z. He's also a true perfectionist who will do anything to ensure that everything comes out just right."

The album is called "Hinei," and it's just been released. It's an inevitable success. You don't have to go further than the title cut on this album to know that you've struck gold. There's so much pure joy in that title song that you know you've discovered something special.

Gideon Levine of G.Y.L. Studios in Brooklyn has a unique perspective. Having seen virtually every significant performer in the industry pass over his threshold, he knows the real thing when he sees it. "I'm really impressed with Eli," Gideon confides. "He's got great enthusiasm, and his compositions have a freshness to them that really stand out. Eli's not going to turn into a carbon copy of every other performer. He's got his own style, and it seems to me like it's going to be a very popular one."

Gideon is also deeply impressed by Eli's commitment to his learning. "Even though we were in a hurry to finish recording, he wouldn't give up his shiur," Gideon says. "We had to schedule all of our sessions around his Yeshiva life."

Aside from his shiurim, Eli has taken on some other worthwhile activities. He calls them his mitzvah performances. For example, he occasionally entertains senior citizens in a nursing home. Eli says, "It's had a tremendous effect on my life. More than anything else, it's taught me how profoundly music can touch a person's soul. When I walk in, the elderly Yidden all seem depressed and upset. But a few minutes later, they're smiling and clapping along. The music gives them true 'menuchas hanefesh.' It gives them youth. I feel so incredibly good when I walk out of there because I've helped create such happiness."

No effort was spared in creating "Hinei." Musicians were flown in from as far away as Russia and Israel in order to maintain the highest quality on this album. Musical arranger Yisroel Lamm has allowed Eli's vitality and energy to really shine forth. He's preserved the unique flavor of the music throughout. The results are quite unique, and at times delightfully surprising. And Eli proves his extraordinary musical skills in yet another way. For the first time ever in Jewish music history, this vocalist/composer has also written the lovely choir arrangements. He also wrote the lyrics to "HaShem's Children," a dramatic English song which promotes achdus by examining our personal reactions when Moshiach comes.

Hinei," written by Yitzy Waldner, is not the only song that will leave you spellbound. Consider "Ashrei," an irresistible simcha medley, and "Eishes Chayil," a truly poignant and moving composition written by Yossi Newman in honor of his kallah at his own wedding. Says Eli, "this song is so beautiful, it gives me the chills." Eli composed half the album himself. His own compositions include "Ko'even", "V'nizekeh", the hartzige "Al Tashlichenu", and the thoroughly enjoyable "Ashira". In fact, if you ask Eli Gerstner which of the songs are his favorites, he starts listing so many that you quickly realize he's talking about every single song on the album. Bu that shouldn't come as a surprise. Someone who obviously has put his whole heart and soul into every aspect of this production will inevitably be endeared to every song therein.

So will you. It's easy to fall for a musical production that's so invigorating, it hits you like a splash of cool water on a hot summer's day. Eli's not just going through the motions. His commitment to music is real. And considering his passion and enthusiasm, that's the way it's going to stay for a long time to come.

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