Klezmania (Australia) / The Black Kat

Nicely stylized drawing of jazzy cat.

Klezmania / The Black Kat
Klezmania Records, OZKLEZ 303, 2005

I have no sense of Australia beyond knowing that they speak English and according to the Kinks, they have surfing, "just like in the USA". Oh, and there is this really amazing band playing klezmer and lots of Yiddish and some really interesting songs about being Jewish in Australia. If you liked Klezmania's debut album (and you must), you will find this more of the same, but in all of the best ways: more klezmer, more jazz, more clever songs about Australia and being Jewish, and enough very special moments that the rest doesn't matter.

In this latest edition, Australia's cross between Maxwell St. Klezmer or the Mazeltones starts off with some perfect, jazzy freylekhs and then introduces us to Jewish life in Australia:

give me a sukkah under gum trees
Blossoms from plum tress, a roast or two or a BBQ
The Southern Cross shines bright upon this chilly night,
And get rained on in your chair....

As the band sings, "Some things are just the same." One gets the impression of an immigrant community, still very traditionally Ashkenazic and very traditionally Jewish. How true this is, I cannot say, but the community one enters with this CD, is a welcoming one. On the other hand, neither do they present only nostalgia. In true klemzer revival context, the band presents not only the community as it is, but stories of immigrants, as in the folky "Away," nor does it shy away from a very modern sounding lament, "a year since my wedding." This album is one of those rare pleasures that excels not only on the listening level, but also goes deeper. There is stuff to sing along with here, music to dance with, and times to ponder--even street philosophy--the very yiddish "Mazl", as in "you've got to have a little!" (albeit here sung in English as well as the mame loshn, to a very swinging jazz beat reminiscent of the band's reprise of "Dunkin' Bagels" on Oystralia), and finally closing the album with the philosophical "Mayn hob un guts" (My inheritance) with the seriousness of the lyrics "...But nothing breaks my spirit / I will not relent" sung mixed in with insouciant "chiri bim boms."

Perhaps because they are in Australia, the band is also more apparently open to new tunes from a broad range of recent sources. While about half the material on the album is traditional klezmer or Yiddish folk, and another quarter new klezmer or Australian Jewish folk, there are also covers here of some of the best tunes from the last decade: A wonderful rendition of Finjan's "Crossing Selkirk Avenue", one of a handful of new klezmer tunes worth reprising (another being Andy Statman's "Flatbush Waltz," if anyone out there is listening!), and the more recent, deeply moving "My Sister Chaye" from last year's wonderful Chava Alberstein/Klezmatics collaboration, "The Well."

Every so often I pick up a jazz album that claims to be "klezmerized." None of them have the sense of klezmer that one encounters on the jazzier numbers here. And yet, as one years on "Der Yidisher Soldat in Di Trentshes" or "Moldavian Fantasia," that doesn't get in the way of very traditional, leybedik klezmer in its own right. The truth is that I am very partial to this band. And if I was partial before, with the release of Di Shvartze Kats," I am even more partial. Move over Klezmer Conservatory Band! There's some folks down under you've got to hear!

Reviewed by Ari Davidow 6/12/00

Personnel this recording:
Freydi Mrocki: vocals, percussion
David Breytman: bayan
David Krycer: double bass, vocals, guitar, harmonica
Lionel Mrocki: clarinet, guitar, backing vocals


  1. Freylekhs in blue (David Krycer) 2:48
  2. A yor ersht nokh der khasene—A year since my wedding (Isaac Reingold / trad.) 4:12
  3. Some things are just the same (orig. words, music: B. Brown & W. Johnson; new words: Freydi Mrocki) 3:12
  4. Di Shvartse Kats—the black cat (Mikhail Tanich, Moyshe Sakhar, Yuri Saulsky) 2:39
  5. Crossing Selkirk Avenue (Myron Schulz) 5:00
  6. Handl—the peddler (trad.) 3:38
  7. Naftule's Waltz and Freylekhs (trad.) 3:11
  8. Away (words & music: David Krycer) 3:00
  9. Mayn Shvester Khaye—My sister chaye (words: Binem Heller; music: Chava Alberstein) 3:56
  10. Der Yidisher Soldat in Di Trentshes—the yiddish soldier in the trenches (trad.) 4:21
  11. Mazl—Good luck (Beekman, Leo Fuld) 2:44
  12. Moldavian Fantasia (trad.) 5:31
  13. Mayn hob un guts—My inheritance (Wolf Younin, Etl Kovensky) 2:06

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