To round out the Klezmer Mountain Boys, NYC clarinetist Margot Leverett has assembled a diverse and talented group of klezmer and bluegrass veterans. The delightful outcome is not a fusion, but instead a forum for these musicians to meet, strut their own stuff, and try out each other's styles. Consisting of bluegrass/klezmer medleys and uniquely performed traditional pieces, the record offers listeners a chance to discover both these culturally rich genres.
The common denominator is of course Leverett, and this founding mother of klezmer's new wave is very much at home as mistress of ceremonies. Her clarinet laughs and sobs as she displays her prodigious klezmer chops on pieces like "Kolomeyke," "Klezmer Waltz," and assorted bulgars. While doing so, she introduces the bluegrass musicians – fiddler Kenny Kosek, mandolin player Barry Mitterhoff and guitarist Joe Selly – to her repertoire. These musicians fit right in, as Kosek's fiddle overflows with the requisite emotion, Mitterhoff effortlessly accesses a Russian balalaika feel and Selly's guitar rings like a bell.
What is no less remarkable is how Leverett returns the favor in kind as she discovers the heretofore unknown country in clarinet on tunes like "Cluck Ol' Hen" and "Lonesome Fiddle Blues." She also dives into several other bluegrass staples to expose their roots, lending a Celtic aire to "Leather Britches" and "Growling Old Man, Growling Old Woman." On the latter, she acquaints some of Jewish music's leading players, in the persons of trumpeter Frank London and his Klezmer Brass All Stars, with the world of bluegrass.
Leverett also gets together with jazz pianist Ruslin Agabayev for intriguing improvisational renderings of the traditional "Git Morgn" and "F major Bulgar." "Leibes Tanz," a wonderful celebration of NYC klezmer courtesy of accordionist/vocalist Michael Alpert and a beautiful Yiddish folk medley with pianist Zalmen Mlotek round things out. Bassist Marty Confurius holds all this together, providing the perfect klezmer pulse or picking out a peerless country beat.
This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz-New York .
Personnel: Margot Leverett - clarinet;
Kenny Kosek - fiddle;
Barry Mitterhoff - mandolin;
Marty Confurius - bass;
Joe Selly - guitar;
Frank London - trumpet;
Aaron Alexander - drums;
Curtis Hasselbring - trombone;
Mark Rubin - tuba;
Susan Hoffman Watts - trumpet;
Michael Alpert - accordion, vocals;
Ruslan Agababayev- piano;
Zalmen Mlotek - piano.