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Lately klezmer has become all the rage. Whether this is due to the influence of John Zorn or the spirit of rediscovery that accompanied the swing revival remains unclear. But hey, why not celebrate with a various artists tribute to Fiddler on the Roof? That's what our friends at the Knitting Factory have done. Two remarkable things stand out on this record: there are a thousand ways to approach Jewish music; and a tribute doesn't have to be particularly serious. As for the humor on this record, here's an example: "At three I started Hebrew school. At ten I smoked some weed. I hear they picked a bride for me, I hope she puts out!" (from the New Orleans Klezmer Allstars).
There are only two or three jazz artists on the record; the rest represent the neo-klezmer movement or various fringes of art-rock. But while outright jazz might be a minority here, it's important to consider that whatever the format, Jewish music continues to have a tremendous impact on the genre. The jazzier components here: Naftule's Dream's fierce hard-driving jam on "To Life"; David S. Ware's dense solo on "Far From the Home I Love"; and the Paradox Trio's sensitive approach to "Anatevka." All highly recommended. But hey, who's counting? There's a little jazz in all this stuff.
Personnel: New Orleans Klezmer Allstars; The Residents; Magnetic Fields; Uri Caine; Naftule's Dream; Dr. Eugene Chadbourne; Negativland; Jill Sobule; Hasidic New Wave; Elliott Sharp; Paradox Trio.