Metropolitan Klezmer is an octet led by drummer Eve Sicular that has been delighting audiences in NYC and beyond for over a decade. Their brand of hard-hitting traditional American klezmer is captured here live in front of an enthusiastic audience on their latest release Traveling Show. Deborah Karpel's expressive Yiddish theater-style vocals, a powerful horn section with the wonderful trombonist Reut Regev and the standout musicianship of violinist Michael Hess and clarinetist Debra Kreisberg result in a great party performance.
The program is indeed a traveling show, with a smorgasbord of influences that go way beyond the traditional and include reworked versions of songs from Broadway musicals, the occasional original and more than a few hints of swing and Latin. Their "Traveling Dreydls medley uniquely re-energizes two Chanukah classics, "I Had a Little Dreydl and "S'vivon .
Spice it Up! showcases the Red Hot Chachkas and their singular brand of klezmer fusion. This California band is chameleon-like in its ability to play styles from early Eastern European string-based klezmer to all-out modern jam band with stops along the way in Turkey, Jamaica and Appalachia. Violinist Julie Egger and multireedist/flutist Barbara Speed each possess an exceptionally clean sound that blends extremely well on the more traditional fare such as bandleader Harry Kandel's "Kostakowsky's Sher No. 4 and their elegantly-put- together "Tantz Medley . Mandolinist Tony Phillips is equally comfortable and adept at adding a Russian balalaika sense or an old-timey feel as the tunes and moments require.
The hot up-tempo freilachs that have come to characterize this music are here of course but are played in such a way as not to become cartoonish. This is in large part due to a superb rhythm section that includes Rob Reich on accordion, bassist Breck Diebel and drummer Michael Arrow. For a very memorable finale, Speed switches to sax and the band becomes electric for a brilliantly bluesy "Rocky Hora .
For pure Chanukah joy and Eastern European authenticity, vocalist/folklorist Lori Cahan-Simon's Chanukah is Freylekh! can't be beat. Assembling a band of world-class musicians to revitalize Chanukah songs that had largely been forgotten, this release is as educational as it is musical. Adrianne Greenbaum's expressive flute melds beautifully with the string-based ensemble to evince a gorgeously textured patina. Cahan-Simon's rich alto vocals are powerful enough to belt out the freilachs yet exquisitely controlled on the more cantorial pieces.
But this release is really about fun and copious liner notes include instructions for the dance steps that should accompany these pieces. This makes the music come alive by reviving and highlighting an historically important dimension of these heretofore-overlooked melodies. Much of this music is celebratory in nature and its original intent was for dancing; Chanukah is Freylekh! enables a wonderfully participatory Chanukah experience for the whole family unlike any other.
With originality, expert musicianship and a keen world music sensibility these three releases are representative of a Jewish music that should delight even the most discerning jazzer on your Chanukah gift list.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Uncle Moses' Wedding; Ot Azoy Neyt a Shnayder; Miracle Melody: Hasidic Nign/ Poor Man's Tune; Shpil du Fidl, Shpil; Guys & Dolls & Bagels; Traveling Dreydls; C Minor Bulgar & Ken O'Hara Freylekhs; Mayn Rue Plats; Pick a Pocket or Two; Baltic Blue; Kalarash Khupe and Frolic; Uskudar Taxim/Terk in Amerike; Ney Taxim & Tailor's Sher; Striver's Sher; Grandma's Dance/Lebedik un Freylekh; Muzikalisher Tango; Mainly Rumanian Finale; Encore: Abi Gezunt Medley/Klezmerengue; Comes Love.
Personnel:Ismail Butera: accordion; Pam Fleming: trumpet, flugelhorn; Michael Hess: ney flutes, violin; Dave Hofstra: acoustic bass, tuba; Deborah Karpel: vocals; Debra Kreisberg: clarinet, alto sax; Reut Regev: trombone; Eve Sicular: drums, bandleader.
Spice It Up!
Tracks: Kostakowsky's Sher No. 4; Isaac in Kolomej; Elena's Waltz; Chosidl Diddle; Stomp It Up; Suite Matthew; Der Rabbi in der Arbes Gortn; Tanz Medley ; Sha!; Little Gouda; Der Cholem Fun Yid; Cholent; Sholom; Little Rabbi; Son Kuslar; Shofar; Rocky Hora.
Personnel: Julie Egger: violin, viola, electric violin; Barbara Speed: Bb clarinet, tenor & soprano saxophones, C & alto flutes; Tony Phillips: mandolin, octave mandolin, electric mandolin; Rob Reich: accordion, guitar; Breck Diebel: bass; Michael Arrow: drums, dumbek.
Chanukah is Freylekh!
Tracks: Khanike iz freylekh; Tsindt on Likhtlekh /Khanike-marsh; Kinder Haynt iz Khanike / Mir zenen khanike Likhtlekh; Borekh Ate; Di khanike likht; Drey Zikh, Dreydele; Ver ken dertseyln (Mi Yimalel)/ Katshkes Khanike Freylekhs; O, Ir Kleyne Likhtelekh; A Lid fun Khanike; Ven kh'tsindt di Likhtlekh on, di Akht; Zogt nor, zogt / Ikh bin a latke / Ikh hob a Kleyn Dreydl; Sheoso Nisim; Ikh bin a Kleyner Dreydl/ Sirba in C; Akht Likhtlekh; Di khanike Teg Akht; Al Hanisim; Oy Khanike, Oy Khanike.
Personnel: Lori Cahan-Simon: Vocals, all tracks, handclaps (9); Walt Mahovlich: accordion (all but 12, 14, 15), vocal (1); Adrianne Greenbaum: flute (all but 1, 4, 5, 10, 12), piccolo (1, 2), viola (5, 17), piano (12), vocal (1); David Chernyavsky: violin (all but 4, 12, 14), bass (14), vocal (1); Henry Shapiro: bass (all but 4, 10, 12, 14), guitar (10, 14,), handclaps (9), vocals (1, 3); Alex Fedoriouk: cimbalom (3, 7, 13, 15, 17), poyk - bass drum and cymbal (2, 9,), snare (1); I.L. Peretz school chorus: Matthew Greminger, Jeanne Greminger, Cameron Godfrey, Zoe Herzenstein.