Sholem Aleichman’s smash hit musical, “Fiddler On the Roof” was one of the longest running musicals on Broadway, if not the longest! Here, the Knitting Factory as part of their ongoingJewish Alternative Movementseries present, Knitting On The Roof. With this project, The Knit’s well-known roster of talent along with other artists such as “The Residents” who perform an eerie, daunting version of “Matchmaker” exhibit various slants on compositions from the original musical. On “Matchmaker”, “The Residents” render electronically altered and somewhat childlike vocals along with midi-electronic treatments, dark keyboard textures and kaleidoscopic passages. Theater purists or advocates of the original production might turn their heads in disgust; however, offbeat humor prevails as this and many of the other performances on this recording tend to be somewhat eccentric, humorous and a bit twisted.
The prominent pianist Uri Caine along with vocalist Lorin Sklamberg perform a duet version of “Sabbath Prayer” as Ms Sklamberg recites the lyrics in Hebrew. Dr. Eugene Chadbourne is his zany and abstract self with his performance of “Miracle of Miracles”. Here, the good doctor sings, performs on banjo and guitar and gets some additional help from Rik Rue who provides sound effects with his recordings of the “Red Sea”. Honestly, this piece is a gas for all its lighthearted whimsy. The fine band, “Naftule’s Dream” tear it up on “To Life” as they implement complex time signatures and difficult unison lines while offering a hard edged and thoroughly entertaining concoction of Klezmer, rock and jazz; hence, one of the highlights of the project. Singer songwriter Jill Sobule contributes a rather innocent, yet slightly morose version of the classic, “Sunrise, Sunset” as modern jazz saxophonist David S. Ware enlivens the proceedings with a hearty and inspiring tenor sax solo recital of “Far From The House I Love”. Perhaps the most interesting track on the album is Elliot Sharp’s electronically induced take on “Chava Ballet Sequence”. Here, Mr. Sharp performs all instruments consisting of electric guitars and synths as he impressively weaves poignant and multi-tonal fabrics of sound to insinuate the main theme. Other performances include the Paradox Trio performing, “Anatevka”, a low-key and fairly nondescript vocalization of “If I Were A Rich Man” by “Magnetic Fields”, a sprightly interpretation of “Tradition” by the “New Orleans Klezmer All Stars” and zealous offerings from other artists........
To some extent a lack of soul or warmth hovers around this CD as though there were a tinge of decadence shrouding the overall spirit of the project, especially when considering the earnest nature or context of the original compositions. Yet, there is quite a bit of worthwhile and cleverly executed material here as the overall conceptual approach and inventiveness warrants considerable merit and praise.... * * *
Personnel/Track List as they appear: 1) Tradition; New Orleans Klezmer All Stars 2) Matchmaker; The Residents 3) If I Were A Richman; Magnetic Fields 4) Sabbath Prayer; Uri Caine 5) To Life; Naftule’s Dream 6) Miracle of Miracles; Dr. Eugene Chadbourne 7) Tevye’s Dream; Negativland 8) Sunrise, Sunset; Jill Sobule 9) Wedding Celebration; Hasidic New Wave 10) Do You Love Me?; Come 11) Far From The Home I Love; David S. Ware 12) Chava Ballet Sequence; Elliot Sharp 13) Anatevka; Paradox Trio
Knitting Factory Records website; www.knittingfactory.com