With their exuberance, musicianship and ability to have any audience get up and dance, The Klez Dispensers have become the house band for klezmer's newest wave. New Jersey Freylekhs draws inspiration from the experimental jazz/Jewish interchanges of the late '50s where bop added to klezmer's established relationship with swing.
It is obvious throughout that the Dispensers are filled with "players"; clarinetist/saxophonist Alex Kontorovich, trumpeter Ben Holmes and saxophonist Audrey Betsy Wright use the genre to highlight their technical ability while maintaining the requisite melodic respect. Amy Zakar's heartfelt violin alternates between Jewish and swing to impart warmth that touches the soul. While the band's take on traditional tunes, like their arrangement of "Dave's Freylekhs," where Kontorovich's clarinet brings back clarinetist Dave Tarras; and "Abi Gezunt," which has Amy's swing violin conjuring up Stephane Grappelli, do delight, it is the newly composed music and arrangements that most impress such as the Ben Holmes compositions "Doina," "Karnofsky Tanz" and the title cut.
"Doina" draws its effectiveness from Holmes' restraint as he holds each note while delicately rolling it around until it subtly changes as he spits it out. His "Karnofsky Tanz" serves as the perfect up-tempo release with each instrumentalist taking a turn on the dance floor. The title cut begins with a traditional sound, as the piano of Adrian Banner pumps along the rhythm with drummer Gregg Mervine leading violin, clarinet, trumpet and sax to find interesting changes. Banner likewise proves to be a strong composer and arranger as he blends the classical piano/violin duet of "Freymilekh" into an introductory doina, followed by some hot avant klez freylekhing. Banner's version of "Der Heyser Bulgar" takes things further out as Kontorovich switches to baritone sax, and with Ed Browne's electric bass, turns what begins as a stately violin/trumpet duet into a modern downtown NYC klez blow out.
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone. Feet in the dirt, or barefoot on a stage with sequins--it's soul beats in my chest.
I was first exposed to jazz while others listened to surf music in the '50s and '60s, it was Monk, Miles, Satchmo and Ella, Rosemary Clooney and Julie London followed. Margaret Whiting, Les McCann, Willie Bobo, Andy Simpkins, Snooky Young, Bill Basie and Helen Humes. The first time I heard Topsy, Take 2, I about passed out at the age of ten.
I've hung with Les McCann who more than 30 years after our first meeting became my duet partner on my CD, Don't Go To Strangers. Karen Hernandez from the start, Jack Le Compte on drums, Lou Shoch on bass, Steve Rawlins as my arranger and pianist, Grant Geissman - guitar genius, Nolan Shaheed, Richard Simon, and more. The big boys. My Red Hot Papas. The best show I ever attended was...
I met Helen Humes first back in 1981 and helped turn one Playboy Jazz Festival night into her tribute, bring the Basie Band to stage, her joy boys. Before she took the stage for the last time to sing, If I could Be With You One Hour Tonight thousands of copies of the newspaper I wrote for carried her story. It was kismet, her being held by Joe Williams backstage. Soon in my life were the great Linda Hopkins who told me I sang the song she wrote better than her, which floored me of course, the energizing Barbara Morrison and the stellar Marilyn Maye who guided me professionally.
My advice to new listeners... let your backbone slip and feel your body stripping back the barriers that prevent us from being one with the music.
Remember none of us are strangers, we just haven't met yet.