Klez-Edge: Ancestors, Mindreles, NaGila Monsters (2008)
John Zorn once remarked to that in the '60s, "we didn't want to hear Jewish music at our Bar Mitzvahs, we wanted to hear Hendrix." Funny how a few decades and some intermarriage with post-bop jazz can change all that. However, if back then some very hip parents convinced the best free jazzers to do a Bar Mitzvah party set, the result could very likely have been something akin to this album.
The amazing thing about this release from Klez-Edge, the latest offshoot of pianist Burton Greene's two-decade excursion into Jewish music, is that it combines his essence of '60s fun, freedom and irreverence so perfectly with the beautiful pathos of Jewish music. Both in their 70s, Greene and clarinetist Perry Robinson, who joins him here, are as cheeky and masterful as ever. The wild card on this session however, as if it needed one, is Polish vocalist Marek Balata who does for Hasidic nigunim what Greene, Robinson and their cohorts on ESP did for jazzfree it up and explore its outermost fringes. He adds a quirky cantorial feel to these songs as he scats his improvised vocals and syllables, adding a third instrumental voice. Completing this mix are tubaist Larry Fishkind and drummer Roberto Haliffi, who provide a jazz-cum-klezmer rhythm section that gels things beautifully.
Despite all this freedom there is a variety of styles here that klezmerphiles will relate to: "Mindrele," a Romanian hora or zhok; a super version of the traditional "Fun Tashlikh," appropriately re-titled "Funk Tashlikh"; and "Oy Joy," Greene's homage to the one that gets you lifted up in the chair and carried around the room. The closer, "Have Another Gila Monster," pillories, in a way only these guys can, this hackneyed tune so that by the time they are done, it comes to represent the entire musical industrial complex. This is not your grandfather's klezmer, but then again it is not your father's free jazz either.
Track Listing: Mindrele; Odessa on the Hudson; Ancestral Folk Song; Funk Tashlikh; Prelude in D Minor for Andrzej; Oy Joy; Bagdad; Moldavian Blues; Have Another NaGila Monster.
Personnel: Burton Greene: piano; Perry Robinson: clarinet; Marek Balata: vocals; Larry Fishkind: tuba; Roberto Haliffi: drums, percussion.