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Frank London: Frank London's A Night in the Old Marketplace

C. Michael Bailey By

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"There's an angel who lies at the bottom of the well. Can you still hear her sighs from the bottom of the well? She fled from a man who she never could love. Now her bed's in the sand at the bottom of the well."

How can any red-blooded poetry lover resist such bleak lyrics? If this is not enough, these words are splashed against a decadent-rich Klezmer-Cabaret backdrop that sounds like Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht deep in the bottle after an opium binge. And if that is not enough, these very words, with Hebraic dread clinging, are sung by the wee Irish lass, Susan McKeown.

A Night in the Old Marketplace is a 1907 Yiddish play by I.L. Peretz (1852-1915), a well known Yiddish language author and playwright, born in Warsaw, Poland. New York City trumpeter and Klezmer specialist (and Klezmatics member) Frank London, scores the play with the book provided by Glen Berger for Alexandra Aron's theatrical adaptation. The result is Frank London's A Night in the Old Marketplace which can best be described as pre-war Berlin condensed, placed in a time machine and blasted into the 21st Century. London takes the cabaret of Kurt Weill, adds an electric guitar to the basic Klezmer format (sans the clarinet but with a banjo) and produces show music tailor-made for this very minute.

London employs an army of talent for his endeavor (a good many from his own Klezmatics), artists as different as the Celtic Susan McKeown and Lorin Sklamberg. Glen Berger's book is wicked funny, full of religious allusion and disillusion, both Judaic and Christian. Gleefully, London and Berger entertain every religious taboo with relish in this dark and darkly delicious collection. The music wanders from Klezmer to Latin...jazz to popular...earth to outer space, all the while committing every heresy possible. Here's to that old time religion.

"Make your way, make your way

Purgatory is open today

No need to solicit God's grace

To come to the old marketplace"

Man, it doesn't get any better than this.


Track Listing: The Bottom Of The Well; What Is Man's Worth?; Nosn

Personnel: Ron Caswell: tuba, bass; Brandon Seabrook: guitar, banjo, mandolin; Art Bailey: keyboards, accordion; Aaron Alexander: drums; Susan McKeown: vocals (1, 20); Lorin Sklamberg: vocals (7, 15, 20) ; Craig Wedren: vocals (3, 20); Karen Goldfeder: vocals (2, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20); Steve Hrycelak : vocals (2, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20); Manu Narayan vocals (4, 6, 7, 8, 17, 19, 20); Silvie Jensen: vocals (2, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20); Jane Kelly Williams: vocals (15, 20); Martha Cluver: vocals (2, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20); Matt Hensrud: vocals (2, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20); Joanne Borts: vocals (5, 20); Latanya Hall: vocals (9, 20); They Might Be Giants: vocals (21).

Title: Frank London's A Night in the Old Marketplace | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Soundbrush Records

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