A Taste of Paradise opens with one of those freewheeling, madcap klezmer tunes, full of whimsey and near-daft musical energy, a swirling break-neck mix of rollicking piano and and loose-jointed horns. "Sarba Miracinae" is The Klezmer Conservatory Band's version – learned from a 1938 recording – of Alexander Olshanetsky's New York based orchestra's take on the tune.
This is klezmer, the Jewish music rooted in Eastern Europe and transplanted, in the last part of the 19th and early part of the 20th centuries, to the U.S., where it soaked up influences of American jazz. And the Klezmer Conservatory Band has persisted, with A Taste of Paradise the latest of ten CDs, in keeping that tradition alive.
The group covers the entire tradition here, it seems. "A Fischele," a Zionist song (a cappella here, Judy Bressler, voice) that's nearly a century old rubs shoulders with a strange modern mix of Klezmer and hip hop in "Bessrabian Breakdown," with the funkiest bass groove you'll come across on a klezmer recording. "Rejoicing" begins with a plaintive violin solo that leads into – a song within a song – "Yesterday's Gone," featuring lyrics in Yiddish and Belarussian; then we attend a Jewish wedding, with the violin (Deborah Strauss) getting quite lively, reminscent of some late-night-in-the-pub Irish fiddling as the song evolves toward its frenzied ending.
There's a lot more. Seventeen songs, a dozen or so instruments, an ear-opening array of klezmer sounds and styles, an entrancing and lively introduction to the this traditional Jewish music.
Track Listing: Sarba Miracinae, Sholem Tants, A Glezele Yash, Dovidl Bazetst Di Kale, Mayn Ershte Vals, O Mortis, A Fishele, Oyfn Oyvn, Tayere Malkele, Khaye Sho, Bessarabian Breakdown, Rejoicing, Tif Vi Di Nakht, Dem Zeydns Tants/Tants Istanbul, Sabbath Prayer, Az Der Rebe Elimeylekh, Nakhes Bulgar
Personnel: Hankus Netsky--director; Judy Bressler--vocals; Ilene Stahl--clarinet; Deborah Strauss--violin; Robin Miller--flute and piccolo; Mark Berney--cornet and trumpet; Mark Hamilton--trombone; Hankus Netsky--alto sax, accordion, piano; Art Bailey--piano, accordion; Jeff Warschauer--mandolin, guitar, tenor banjo, vocals; James Guttmann--bass; Grant Smith--drums and percussion