From: (Ari Davidow)
Subject: Recent Klezmer albums
Date: 25 Dec 91 19:55:13 GMT

Okay, there are a few new Klezmer CDs out for the holidays. There are too many for me to review extensively. You can get most of these at bob & bob or Afikomen in the Bay Area, or at Jewish book stores elsewhere. You can also look in the Israeli music or Klezmer sections of the large chains (such as Tower Records) and find many of these:

Yiddishe RenaissanceKlezmer Conservatory Band / Old World Beat. This is the only one of the crop that I'm not excited about. Another KCB album. Ho hum. Same old stuff, although I do love the Yinglish "Watch your step." Judy Bressler's vocals sound increasingly affected. The dynamite clarinet player has been replaced. Good music, but exciting? Nah. **

Klezmer Plus/featuring Sid Beckerman and Howie Leess. I don't know who these guys are, although the ubiquitous Henry Sapoznik appears in the band, but this is probably the best "traditional" klez release so far this year. Very nice. Good dance music. ****

Zei Gesunt coverMazeltones / Zei Gezunt. The Mazeltones have always been fun--previous recordings have included a remake of "Romania, Romania" entitled "Seattle, Seattle" and "Borscht Rider in the Sky." But until this album I wasn't particularly impressed by the range or musicianship of the group. This recording consists largely of live recordings and it shows the range of the group doing every form of modern Jewish, Israeli, and traditional klez music. With humor, of course! ****

Album cover: Interesting.New Klezmer Trio / Masks and Faces. Years ago, when he was clarinet player with Hotzeplotz, Ben would talk about fusing klez with avant garde jazz. Years later, after a stint with the Klezmorim, Ben, along with other Hotzeplotz and Klezmorim alumni, has done it. I'm not always convinced that the two elements fuse well, but at worst this CD is interesting. At its best, the music is something else entirely. Great cover art, too. The CD even got a mention in the East Bay Express annual music issue. If you can't find it at a local shop, send $15 ($10 plus p&h) to: PO Box 3095, Berkeley, CA 94703. ***-1/2. As of 1997, the album is also available from John Zorn's Radical Jewish Culture.

Shirim Klezmer Orchestra/ of angels and horseradish. Whew!! I haven't listened to a new Klez CD so much since the Maxwell St. Band. This band covers the gamut of modern Jewish music, including dynamite klez. Musicianship and vocals are outstanding, but the album would be worth it if only for the haunting "Sarah's Lullaby and Hagar's Lament" from the recent hit Yiddish musical, "Songs of Paradise." *****

Honorable mentions: The band, "Boiled in Oil," starts off its latest CD, "ORB," with a klez blowout. Recommended for those interested in Celtic folk with world overtones. And, of course, the new 3 Mustaphas 3 album has nothing klezlike at all, but how can one complain when the band "takes it to the fridge." Turkish/Balkan world folk fusion, I guess, tongue firmly in cheek.

Notes by Ari Davidow

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