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Shirim: Pincus and the Pig (2004)

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Shirim: Pincus and the Pig How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Complete with sticker sheet and illustrated story book, Pincus and the Pig is a joyfully Jewish take on every child's introduction to the symphony orchestra and its instruments. It also serves here as an apt family entrée to the wonderful catalogue of the Boston based klezmer ensemble Shirim. At the forefront of the musical evolution that would become Radical Jewish Culture with their 1993 release Naftule's Dream, the band has subsequently assumed two distinct personalities. Taking their name from the CD title, the more "out Naftule's Dream (named for traditional klezmer's wildest king of the clarinet, Naftule Brandwein) continues to forge new ground in the world of "radical Jewish music. Shirim has maintained a quasi-traditional persona, releasing well-played klezmer along with interesting klezmerized classical works, such as their 1998 version of the Tchaikovsky classic, Klezmer Nutcracker.

Continuing in that vein, their klezmerification of Sergei Profiev's 1936 Peter and the Wolf through clever and traditionally grounded arrangements is a resounding success. In many ways more Russian sounding than the original, with narration by grandfatherly Maurice Sendak, the misadventures of the boyish Pincus are musically represented by Glen Dickson's artfully chirping clarinet. Pincus enlists a cast of engaging musical characters as he does battle with David Harris and Jim Gray, whose trombone and tuba menacingly depict the villainous pig "Chozzer." Appearances by drummer Eric Rosenthal's "Cossacks and Brandon Seabrook's cat-like banjo along with Grandfather tuba musically re-weave the familiar plot. Unceremoniously dragged off to the non-kosher butcher, thanks to Pincus and Michael McLaughlin's brave bird-like piano, Chozzer meets his predetermined demise. Klezified arrangements of Brahms, Mahler, and Rimsky-Korsakov are added to the main tale for a classically-inspired family charmer.

Track Listing: Introduction; Did You Hear of Boychick Pincus?; The Duck and the Birdie; Suddenly Pincus Spied a Cat; Zeyde Comes Out; No Sooner had They Disappeared Inside; So Now, This is How Things Stood; Fly Down and Tease the Pig; Suddenly Cossacks Sprang Out of the Woods; Now, Imagine the Triumphant Procession; And If You Listen Very Carefully...; Scheherezade (Rimsky-Korsakov); Waltz (Brahms); Gnoissienne No. 4 (Satie); Mazzesinsel Strut (Mahler)

Personnel: Maurice Sendak (narration), Glenn Dickson (clarinet), David Harris (trombone), Brandon Seabrook (banjo, mandolin), Michael McLaughlin (piano, accordion), Jim Gray (tuba), Eric Rosenthal (drums)

Record Label: Tzadik

Style: Beyond Jazz


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