The idea of "radical Jewish culture," conceived by groups such as John Zorn's Masada as a subset of the larger avant-garde music scene, has now blossomed into a "Jewish Alternative Movement" big enough to warrant its own label. The Knitting Factory's J.A.M. imprint has collected 15 acts representing the spectrum of modern Jewish music, from the psychedelic aura of the Klezmatics to the Yiddish drinking music of Hasidic New Wave.
This "guide" forgoes cohesion in the interest of maximum breadth, and lumps together a bebop "Hava Nagila," cantorial ambient, spoken-word, Middle Eastern jazz fusion and droning prayer adaptations into a post- modern melange of musical styles. You'd be right to brand the concept of Jewish alternative music as something of a gimmick, but thankfully the music itself rarely sounds forced.