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
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
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
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.