It is already after Thanksgiving and I haven't had time to make any additional dents in the pile of CDs that you =should= be considering for holiday gifts. Okay, I'll try to give some brief reviews of some of the essential new (mostly new) recordings:
I used to think of Isle of Klezbos as the lesser cousin of Metroplitan Klezmer, both anchored by drummer Eve Sicular, and both featuring many of the same musicians. But Live from Brooklyn shows that Isle of Klezbos is one of the premiere purveyors of that American form of klezmer: jazzy, brash, full of yiddish theatre songs and great dance music. This one is for the dancer in the house. You can get your copy right on CDbaby.com. Bonus: Order this between now and 12/3/14 midnight, and shipping is free.
Folklorist, singer, dancer Michael Alpert has been sharing a stage with Julian Kytasty for many years. One sings in Yiddish. The other in Ukrainian. Together they weave together two folk cultures in a beautiful acoustic set, Night songs from a neighboring village. Appropriately timed, given Ukraine's prominence in recent news, this one will leave you feeling all sweet inside—except for "Homebrew," which will encourage you to eschew the store-bought stuff and drink local. I remember the tune as Irish, but what do I know. What a great way to celebrate 20 amazing years of music from Oriente records.
I first noticed Zisl Slepovitch because of his brilliant "Minsker Kapelye" CD. But, that was back in the old country. Arriving here in the US, he formed a new ensemble, Litvakus, and presented the unique repertoire of Belarusian Jews as a thing of beauty. This is a pre-American jazz form of klezmer, along with nign and folksong. Raysn is a recording of unadorned beauty. I am in awe. Available online from Bandcamp.
Although you are less likely to hear cantorial music, much less good cantorial music in the synagogue today than even when I was young, one compensation is the myriad of ways in which cantorial music is being recontextualized. Some stylings are more tuneful and gentle, as in Frank London's cantorial music albums. Other artists, like Jeremiah Lockwood of The Sway Machinery have been louder and more discordant. Here, Tzadik recording artist, guitarist Yoshie Fruchter (also the grandson of a cantor) has reimagined and recontextualized some cantorial gems. Some are rendered as instrumentals, with his searing guitar replacing the cantorial sobbing of a hundred years ago. I find myself, in particular, drawn to his reimagination of the "Rosh Hashanah"" plea.In a few cases, he mixed original recordings in with his new musical settings, or sings the music, himself. The result is a loud, discordant, and ultimately immensely spiritual CD. Check out Schizophonia / Cantorial recordings reimagined and get copies for the musical explorers on your gift list. Available from Bandcamp.
This last mention for tonight is from a recording that has been sitting on the review shelf for too long. I was reminded of it with a pang last night when I listened to Andy Statman play at a local club. Statman is famous for mixing klezmer and hassidic music and bluegrass so seamlessly that it isn't so much a melding of genres, but a fluency so natural, that all genres sound like facets of the same universal harmonies. That's what the Freilachmakers do with their blend of various Jewish music, starting with klezmer, and with Irish music. Intriguingly, this third recording, Klezmer at the confluence by the ensemble is all Jewish in source: klezmer, yiddish, ladino. But, I am happy to say that the Irish is also still present. Another very special recording from a very special band. This one goes to the persons on your list who don't yet know that klezmer is another way of speaking Irish. Get your copy(ies) from cdbaby.com.