Monsieur Camembert / Absynthe

period poster Monsieur Camembert
Absynthe, CAM003, 2003

I have such mixed feelings about this band, exemplified by the first two cuts on this new album. On the one hand, we have a lovely '30s jazz band - a sort of Jewish "Squirrel Nut Zippers". And on the other hand, I have trouble with sacred music sung for entertainment, even when the vocalist is using, and adapting "Adon Olam" perfectly, and in a tradition that those of who have sung the song (albeit in synagogue or Hebrew school or Jewish summer camp) to everything from "Yellow Submarine" on down can greatly admire.

In the end, I think that I am captured by the energy and good humor of the recording. The band is tight and brings these old songs to life in ways that would please their originators, I think. At the same time, there is a slight distance from the material, a wink and a nod to knowing that they are camping it up. That means that their recreations of "Kiss of Fire" of Brahms' "Hungarian Dance #5" come more from hearing them backing cartoons, than from recreating the here and now of the music. This can be great fun, and here, it is. But, as I said, I am sometimes torn.

But, here's the thing. Monsieur Camembert is doing for tango and that thirties pop sound what the Brave Combo has done for polkas and other dance music - it's playing it with skill and passion and having great fun doing it. The guitar is so fluid, and the accordion and sax right on. The band plays as thought it is on fire. The music may be no better for you than the CD's namesake, absynthe, but put aside the boxes and "what should be's" and you end up with a lively and rewarding "dance me to the end of love". That's mighty good, and it should be enough.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 5/22/04

Personnel this recording:
Yaron Hallis: lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Edouard Bronson: saxes, clarinet, flute, lead Russian vocals
Yuri Terietski: lead & rhythm guitars
Svetlana Bunic: accordion, backing vocals
Mark Szeto: double bass, backing vocals


  1. Caravan (Ellington/Mills/Tizol) 5:28
  2. Adon Olam (trad.) 4:38
  3. Kiss of Fire (Allen/Hill) 5:43
  4. Hungarian Dance #5 (J. Brahms) 2:59
  5. Can I have you, please? (Erin Devenish) 4:13
  6. Michto Pelo (B. Ferre) 5:51
  7. Fuli Tschei (trad.) 2:44
  8. Caminos Crusados (E. Lecuona) 5:24
  9. A good time was had by all (Franklin) 4:59
  10. Dance me to the end of love (L. Cohen) 7:07

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