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Aaron Alexander: Midrash Mish Mosh

Dan McClenaghan By

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The klezmer base is there, unmistakeable, on drummer Aaron Alexander's Midrash Mish Mosh, but a bunch of other influences wail into the sound, too. For example, guitarist Brad Shepik lends a punk rock feeling to the opener, "Kleyzmish Moshpit." The title alone gives a big hint of what to expect. A mosh pit with Jewish leanings? I can't say, never having experienced a mosh pit in any form; but to these ears it sounds like Jimi Hendrix in a yarmulke, cutting loose.

Then there's the textures: two drummers—Alexander and Michael Sarin—driving the rhythm, weaving a tighter web than you encounter with most klezmer sounds; reed player Greg Wall; clarinetist Merlin Shepard; trumpeter Frank London; trombonist and guitarist Curtis Hasselbring; and bassist Fima Ephron.

"Radical Jewish Culture" is a phrase coined to tag the music on John Zorn's Tzadik label, and the collection has offered some excellent stuff, including Steven Bernstein's Diaspora Hollywood; Charming Hostess' Sarajevo Blues; Greg Wall's Later Prophets; and Septeto Rodriguez's marvelous Baila! Gitano Baila!, to name just a few. Midrash Mish Mosh has old roots—Eastern European folk music, to be specific—to which it adds the bright new branchings of punk rock and Ornette Coleman's Prime Time-like free jazz esthetic.

In its pure form, klezmer has a very free-wheeling, often madcap quality, sinuous clarinet and violin lines snaking around each other with frenetic energy. On Midrash Mish Mosh Alexander has created a beefier sound with denser rhythms and a feeling of forward-moving modernity. All compositions are from Alexander's pen, idiosyncratic and quirky sounds, a Hasidic 21st Century Dixieland of sorts. Original, energetic, and different from pretty much anything you'll hear out there.

Visit Aaron Alexander on the web.

Track Listing: Kleyzmish Moshpit; Kaddish For Carmen; Peep Nok A Mol; Balagan Balaban; Debkavanah; Yiddishe Kop; Khosidl For The Mixed Marriage; Der Rumsisker Maggid/Shema; Khosn Kalleh Haskalah

Personnel: Merlin Shepherd--clarinet; Greg Wall--tenor sax, clarinet, soprano sax; Frank London--trumpet; Curtis Hasselbring--trombone, guitar; Brad Shepik--guitar; Fima Ephron--bass; Michael Sarin--drums; Aaron Alexander--drums; Randy Crafton--rik (track 5)

Title: Midrash Mish Mosh | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Tzadik

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