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Okay, you have your clarinet and your accordion. A relative predominance of minor Jewish folk melodies. More than ample foot-stomping beats. But does that make it klezmer? Yes and no. Naftule's Dream has crafted a postmodern deconstruction of klezmer which sneaks in such dominant instruments as the electric guitar and the tuba (!). That makes their sound but a distant cousin of the music most people outside the Faith don't tend to listen to very often. And for those (like me) with klezmer allergies, have faith! This will heal you!
You can learn who started the thing and who composes for it and all that from the liner notes. Concentrating on the music that results, it's basically a version of modern jazz's in-out combination. Parts of the music feature tunes you can sing along with, and other parts travel to heretofore unknown regions of outer jazzspace. When things get hot and heavy, it's interesting to see how Naftule's Dream combusts. (The accordion can scream just as piercingly as the clarinet, in case you were wondering.) These musicians obviously have spent some time together, because they are tight when it comes to playing in their ever-shifting pastiche of moods and colors. When things get quiet, you get to hear the lonesome cries of the tuba and the ethereal echoes of the guitar. All in context, all nakedly real. Often quite fun. Who can argue with the heavy funk groove on "Dirge Sirba," for example, whatever the icing on top?
Parts of this music sound arranged (the heads, mostly) but the rest has a very spontaneous feel. It's most definitely a live performance, have no doubt. Like any group of this size (a sextet), the combinations that emerge between different players and instruments are what make the music work. Funk here, a stomp there, a stark cry, quiet conversation, and whispers about silence. You can invent a category. Whatever it is, it's certainly only part klezmer.
(And for Naftule-philes, this fine live performance most definitely sits atop the heap, and we're not on Tzadik any more.)
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.