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The Klez Dispensers: New Jersey Freylekhs

Elliott Simon By

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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 1950s where bop added to klezmer's established relationship with swing. A potpourri of interesting interpretations and newly composed music, NJ Freylekhs features tension filled improvisational doinas that find release through up-tempo freylekhs.

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," where Amy's swing violin conjures up Stephane Grappelli, do delight; it is the newly composed music and arrangements that most impress, such as the three 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. "NJ Freylekhs" 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.


Track Listing: 1. Russische Tzigane (A. Kontorovich) 2. Dave's Freylekh (D. Tarras, arr. Banner/Kontorovich/Holmes) 3. Doina (B. Holmes) 4. Karnofsky Tanz (B. Holmes) 5. Yismekhu Khosid'l (Trad., arr. Zakar/Klez Dispensers) 6. Tanz Istanbul (Trad., arr. A. Banner) 7. Freylekh Nushiele (D. Tarras, arr. B. Holmes) 8. Hora (A. Banner) 9. Abi Gezunt (Picon/Ellstein, arr. A. Banner) 10. New Jersey Freylekhs (B. Holmes) 11-12. Freymilekh (A. Banner) 13. Zefki (D. Tarras, arr. Banner/Holmes) 14. Goldenshteyn Freylekh (Trad.) 15-16. Der Heyser Bulgar (Trad., arr. A. Banner)

Personnel: Alex Kontorovich (clarinet, alto and baritone sax),Ben Holmes (trumpet),Adrian Banner (piano),Amy Zakar (violin, mandolin),Audrey Betsy Wright (alto and tenor sax, clarinet),Julian Rosse (bass),Gregg Mervine (drums),Inna Barmash (vocals)

Title: New Jersey Freylekhs | Year Released: 2004

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