Diatonic Harmonica CDs are certainly not on many jazz fans “Best of” lists. As designed, it is not a jazz instrument and is more at home with straight blues or country. Players like Toots Thielemans use a chromatic harp in order to go beyond second position and get that jazzy feel. Recently, Howard Levy and John Popper have redefined the diatonic instrument and through full bends, overblows and breath control have opened up the instrument to jazz, Caribbean and mid-eastern influenced world music. The new CD Harmonica Galitzianer by Levy pupil and burgeoning Canadian harmonica wizard, Jason Rosenblatt, extends the simple diatonic even further into the world of klezmer and klez-jazz.
This is no mere novelty record. The playing is focused and reflects the band’s commitment to their music. Backed on accordion by the inimitable “So-Called”, Josh Dolgin, who has fused klez-jazz with hip-hop and techno, a repertoire of klez standards and some novel arrangements of more obscure material delight the listener. Thierry Arsenault and Ariel Harrod, on drum and bass respectively, provide just the right amount of punch to allow Jason to slip effortlessly between genres without allowing the CD to become a parody of styles. With a nod to klez revival father Andy Statman and homage to klez grandfathers Dave Tarras, Mickey Katz and Shloimke Beckerman, Jason and his band Shtreiml break new ground while keeping true to the music’s roots and “soul”.
The bluesy aspects of the harp are still in evidence and at times Jason fuses disparate styles into a true “klez-jazz/blues”. On tunes like the re-workings of “Para Adumah” and “Galitzianer Tantz”, Little Walter meets Shloimke Beckerman and the harmonica melds the two traditions. Bulgar Popular is taken at breakneck speed and showcases some awesome breath control as Popper’s style is klezified while Alte Sher is Mid-Eastern with rock overtones. The lovely duet “Romanian Sirba”, with guest tsimbalist Pete Rushefsky, has an Appalachian dulcimer/country feel to it while “German’s Moldavian Bulgar” is an up-tempo treatment of a selection from the repertoire of German Goldenshteyn.
This is a premier effort from young cutting edge musicians who are not afraid to push limits and redefine genres. Although the two vocal selections would be more at home on a Yiddish theatre CD, this is mostly fresh new music that stretches boundaries for traditionalists and opens up new musical experiences for jazz and blues fans.
Track Listing: 1. Parah Adumah
2. Alte Sher
3. Novi Sacz Sirba
4. Yedid Nefesh Nigun
5. Mechutenesteh Meine
6. Cacurica Dances
7. Mazeltov Dances
8. Meine Teire Odessa
9. Fishelach in Vasser
10. Galitzianer Tantz
11. German's Moldavian Bulgar
12. Romanian Sirba
13. Bulgar Popular
Personnel: Jason Rosenblatt-harmonica, Josh Dolgin-accordion,Thierry
Arsenault-drums, percussion, Ariel Harrod-bass, Abby "Mom"
Rosenblatt-vocals (tracks 5,9), Pete Rushefsky-Tsimble (track 12)
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid. For some reason I remember an arrangement of Hey Jude they did. My first real exposure was Stan Kenton in the Smithville, MO high school gym. Kenton and the band director there were old friends, so he would play there from time to time. My dad took me without telling me where we were going and it was the only show he ever took me to. I remember that Bobby Shew played Send In Clowns and I damn near levitated I was so excited. The huge sound and amazing chords floored me. I believe I was 13 at the time. I immediately started practicing and taking lessons. Music became a passion and nearly a career. I also listened to Dick Wright's Jazz Show on KANU every night. I can't even start to explain what I learned lying in bed listening to Dick talk about jazz. I met him once when I was struggling to put together a solo for Joy Spring playing in a combo at KU. Stopped by his office and asked for recommendations. He showed up at my jazz ensemble rehearsal the next day with a tape with example solos. What a kind man Dick Wright was.
My advice to new listeners is to stop worrying about what music is important and focus on music you like. I spent quite a bit of my music life listening to important music I didn't necessarily like. Must say I have quite a bit more fun now listening to music that I deeply enjoy. Some of it is even important.
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