This snappy little set combines some funky klezmer jazz with an intelligent electronic/hip-hop perspective. Does that sentence get your blood racing? It should, because there are a hell of a lot of amazing things being done in klezmer music these days, from traditional stuff to the avant-est of the avant-garde. Here, clarinetist David Krakauer and his amazing Klezmer Madness! band go nuts in a collaboration with Jewish rapper/producer Socalled to yield one of the nicest, tightest, weirdest things of the year.
Even on a purely technical level, the way Klezmer Madness! does its thang is lovable. Drummer Michael Sarin thumps like Krupa on the slamming "Moskovitz and Loops of It," Sheryl Bailey reveals herself to be a new star on guitar on virtually every track, and Will Holshouser does some things with an accordion that I thought didn't happen any more, at least not since Buckwheat Zydeco stopped being a rock band. And props also for the two bass players, Nicki Parrott and Trevor Dunn.
Krakauer is already an almost-legend on clarinet; the dude can blow, whether ringing jazz changes on "MS N.C.," or delivering some more traditional work on "The Electric Sher." He's also pretty impressive when he gets out there; he achieves great results on "Bus Number 9999," even though this collaboration with ranty slam-poet rocker 99Hooker features way too many words and sounds and effects flying all over the place. (That's not necessarily a criticism, by the waythe track is annoying as hell the first time through, and then it's just lovable.)
But the master stroke here is the introduction of Socalled. I haven't really been in love with anything I've heard from him before now, but here he proves his usefulness all over the place. He sculpts a tricky schaffel beat on "B Flat a la Socalled," lays some doo-wop harmonies in here and there, then gets the hell out of the way so Krakauer can glide over the top beautifully. When Bailey comes in with screamy wah-wah sounds straight out of Pete Cosey, it sounds natural and beautiful.
I'm not sure about the rapping on the title track, dopeness-wise, but the lyrics are funny (they describe how his grandmother just pulled her "folk wisdom" out of her hat), so he gets a pass. And I'd have to genuflect to Socalled to even to discuss the sound of the eight-minute folk song "Rumania, Rumania," which goes from Yiddish dancey fun to a heavy metal stomp at the 1:27 markand gets weirder from there.
It turns out that these crazies getting together is entirely fortuitous and awesome. It's jazz, but it's not; it's klezmer, but it's not; it's avant-garde, but it's not. What is it? A really fun album with some cool sounds. Can you dig that?
Personnel: David Krakauer: clarinet, bass clarinet, vocals; Sheryl Bailey: electric guitar; Will Holshouser:
accordion; Nicki Parrott: acoustic bass, fretless electric bass; Trevor Dunn: electric bass;
Michael Sarin: drums; Socalled: sampler, sequencer, vocals, accordion, organ; 99 Hooker:
speaker; Phillip Shaw Bova: echoplex.