Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band / Agada

Album cover: beautiful lettering and the band smiles. Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band
Flying Bulgar Recordings, 1993, FBR CD 002

Distributed by Traditional Crossroads
PO Box 20320 Greeley Square Station
New York, NY 10001-9992, USA

I'm getting ready to fly off to Toronto to try to wangle a ticket to the live recording concert for the Bulgar's third album. The band, except for bandleader David Buchbinder, looks entirely different from the crew who recorded this album. How different is it from the crew that blew my socks off at Klezmermania here in San Francisco in December 1994? Looking through my notes I suddenly realize that I never posted a review of this album. Impossible! And how do I review it now after it's been on the CD player for years, after I've used it as a reference in another dozen reviews?

The strangest thing, is that here I am, now, as I said, it's three years later and a lot has happened since I first fell in love with this album--the Klezmatics came out with "Jews with Horns." I listened to more John Zorn. I met the gang at "Shirim" and watched them play their hearts out into previously unexplored klezland, at a small club in Cambridge (they long since, along with the Bulgars and Klezmatics, and maybe the New Orleans Klezmer AllStars, my favorite exponents of this new klezmer music. All of which goes to point out that three years have passed, and the definition of "new" klezmer music has changed.

Why was I worried. It's true that I haven't listened to the CD in a few months. My palette is cleansed. And this music is so sweet! Yes, I can hear places where the band moves into non-traditional territory, from the obvious on "Bulgar Blues" where they play sweetness in another idiom before returning to the mama loschen. There are the South American notes that creep into the opening "Cooking Bulgars," but, for the most part, this is very sweet, wonderfully played, very live klez. Just as I noticed on the first Flying Bulgars album, this band manages to record life along with the notes. The music sings, even on the weepy, wonderful yiddish ballads. (There are some very interesting choices for the yiddish ballads, songs that feature poetry that reads beautifully and evokes a way of life that is gone, but still tugs at our reflections, today. Suddenly Yiddish is not nostalgia but something in which people write very relevant poetry.)

Which--referring back to that parenthetical statement about Yiddish not being nostalgia, but something in which people write very relevant poetry--exactly defines the music of the Flying Bulgars as well. It's music that reaches back very far into the soul and reaches us exactly as the music that speaks best to us today. And then, well, and then the shards are shattered with the most electrifying version (okay, the only other one I've heard was Frank London's recorded for The Shvitz) of "Vos Vet Zeyn" I have ever heard. There is no adequate way to describe this song on paper. A dark Yiddish haunt set to a haunting dumbek, percussion, and voices. A view of the past, present, and future "From paper / We will build a bridge / And we'll roll along / Back to our land. ... When Mr. Ed ret Yiddish ... When the messiah finally comes ... And even though he tarries, I will wait everyday for his coming." This is a song from elsewhere, a touchstone; you would have to purchase this album just to hear this song alone. But you get so much more--you get an entire album of wonderful, alive, sweet klez.

By mir, this is an album what for to be excited. Listen. You'll listen for years. The only thing better is to see them live.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow 5/11/96

Personnel this recording:
David Buchbinder trumpet, E-flat alto horn, fluegelhorn
Laura Cesar acoustic bass
Allen Cole piano, accordion
John Lennard drums, percussion
Allan Merovitz lead vocals
Martin van de Ven B-flat and C clarinets, bass clarinet, baritone saxophone, taragato


  1. Cooking bulgar(s) (arranged by D. Buchbinder) 4:27
  2. Naftule shpilt far dem rebn / Naftule plays fo rthe Rebbe (Naftule Brandwein) 2:35
  3. Aleyn in veg / Alone on the road (music: E. Shashina / lyrics: M. Lermontoff / Yiddish trans: A. Raisen / English trans: M. Wex/arranged: M. Van de Ven) 4:22
  4. Bulgar blues (adapted and arranged: D. Buchbinder, FBKB) 4:44
  5. Agadot (David Buchbinder) 5:24
  6. Feter Elye / My Uncle Elye (arranged: D. Buchbinder, A. Cole) 3:53
  7. High noon in Volgograd (M. Van de Ven) 4:45
  8. Spirits (A. Cole) 3:57
  9. Wiggle Town (J. Leonard / arr.: J. Leonard, FBKB) 3:24
  10. Yam Lid / Sea Song (arr.: A. Cole, A. Merovitz) 4:15
  11. Sumkinda Hora (arr: D. Buchbinder, L. Cesar, M. Van de Ven) 3:50
  12. Bukoviner Freylekhs (adapted, arr.: Laura Cesar) 5:37
  13. Vus vet zayn / What happens now (conceived, adapted, arr.: D. Buchbinder / Spoken text: M. Wex) 6:16

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