The birth of the Chassidic Jazz Project occurred in conjunction with the celebration of Israel's 50th anniversary at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, Florida in 1998. This performance featured guitarist Tom Lippincott and Reuben Hoch.
In the years prior to this performance, Reuben Hoch, the group leader and drummer, was urged by Dizzy Gillespie's manager, Charles Fishman, and bassist Jeff Andrews to unfold his heritage by applying his jazz abilities to his religious background.
After relocating to South Florida in 1996, Reuben was commissioned by the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood in 1998 to hold a performance in celebration of Israel's 50th anniversary. Reuben chose to perform Chassidic melodies set to jazz arrangements, as these melodies are close to his heart and part of his Jewish Orthodox upbringing. The liturgical origin of the group's material is clearly different from klezmer music.
In 2001, the Chassidic Jazz Project was invited to perform during the tenth anniversary season of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. The show was produced with support from the Broward Center's prestigious Arts Access Program. The crowd was mesmerized by the stunning performance, which featured local and internationally renowned musicians. To quote a listener, "It's here! This is a group that celebrates the music of the Jews as has never been done before."
Reuben teamed up with the world-renowned percussionist, Robert Thomas Jr. who also resides in South Florida. The excitement created by these two masterful drummers places the Chassidic Jazz Project amongst the greatest jazz acts on the scene. Reuben speaks with enormous excitement regarding Bobby's contribution to the band; "Bobby has been one of my favorite musicians since his Weather Report days. As a member of the Chassidic Jazz Project, we're able to take the band to new heights."
Reuben also recognizes the contribution of guitarist Tom Lippincott. Tom has been with the group since the very beginning. His unique sound and creative arrangements have provided a framework for original expression. In Reuben's opinion, Tom Lippincott is one of the most creative musicians out there.
The group's interesting instrumentation of viola, cello, saxophone, guitar, bass, drums and percussion, creates a gorgeous chamber music effect. In his approach to the Chassidic Jazz Project, Reuben draws on the influence of musicians that include Charles Mingus, Joe Zawinul and Charlie Haden.