Finjan / Crossing Selkirk Avenue
Crossing Selkirk Avenue
Fat Uncle Records, 1992
Now available in CD and cassette from Red House Records
Gosh, I like these guys a lot a lot, even if they are midwestern Canadian and don't have rock influences. Maybe there just isn't anything else to do in Winnipeg during the igloo season as the blizzards roll across the frozen Canadian tundra, except to play and play until you're hot enough to cook dinner with a simple bluegrassy honga. I first noticed them when an early LP (remember LPs?) called "Ship to shore" made its way to El Cerrito's famous Down Home Records. Over the years I kept pulling it out, always wondering who they were or what the klezmer scene was like in Winnipeg, and then I'd keep it out a few weeks--possibly my favorite "never heard of these folks, but this is a great album" album. Then they released a CD, and now, for the second time, they are about to show up at Kaila Flexer's Chanuka-time battle of the klezmer bands, "Klezmer Mania." Life is good.
I like the way other world folk influences pop into Finjan's music. The predominant flavor is best exemplified by the (mostly) bluegrass fun of the Greenhorn blues, but they have no trouble with a perfect big band feel on those transitional Yiddish theatre pieces such as Abi Gezunt, or on to the vaguely Balkan feel imparted to the Bosphourous Freilach by the addition of Bouzouki. And then, again, if it's tradition you want, listen to the wailing clarinet that opens the title track--quite an antidote to listening to Dave Tarras on banjo or the solid humor of "I wanna fellow" that precede it, or for that matter, consider a very solid Freilach fun der Chupa (complete with wailing sax on one of the last choruses) or the closing Odessa Bulgar.
The only band that comes to mind that sounds even a bit like Finjan, and is as much fun in this way, might be Chicago's Maxwell St. Klezmer band--but I could also be projecting just because they're both tight, midwestern, North American klez bands. What the heck. Enjoy 'em all, I say. Any band that can do a credible "Brivele der Mama" that doesn't have you harumphing about Molly Picon is worth a listen anytime, anywhere, anyhow. You know, you know what really might be an incredible double bill? Can you imagine this band with the more cerebral, but also intensely solid and fun musicians of Brave Old World (also Klezmer Mania alums). Hmm.
Reviewed by Ari Davidow 11/23/95
Finjan, a klezmer band out of Winnipeg, MB, CA, made a big splash at the Mission Folk Festival here in BC. I heard some of their music on CBC Radio, though haven't picked up their CD yet.
Their claim to fame was to offer, to anyone who wanted to get married at the folk festival, the music to accompany it, to demonstrate how klezmer music fits into Jewish culture. The lucky couple: an aboriginal woman married a man from a Mennonite family (German?) -- and every time my aboriginal friend hears klezmer music, it touches her heart!
At any rate, Finjan's music rates up there with Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band, one of my favourites along with Seattle's Mazeltones and Freylakh.
E-mail from Wendy Putman, October 30, 1995
... I first heard Finjan on a CBC concert on the radio one evening. They were playing at the fancy Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg and the concert was one-half klezmer, one-half serious classical music. It was wonderful and I have never forgotten my first introduction to klezmer.
Since then, I managed to borrow a copy of "Ship to Shore," and know all the words to "Sonia, the Queen of Vladivostok." There seems to be another album between this and "Selkirk Avenue," but I have not found it yet. Perhaps I will write to Winnipeg (which we call part of Western Canada, and not the "mid-West", by the way!).
Finjan's music is played quite often on CBC's DiskDrive program, along with other groups such as Brave Old World and the Flying Bulgars. The host of the program, Jurgen Goth, listed "Crossing Selkirk Avenue" among his top picks last year. DiskDrive is very eclectic, including classical and unusual popular music.
E-mail from Leslie Reissner, Sun, 10 Dec 1995
Personnel this recording:
Shayla Fink: accordion, piano, vocals
Eli Herscovitch: clarinet, soprano and tenor sax, guitar, harmonica
Daniel Koulack: guitar, banjo, mandolin, bouzouki, violin
Kinzey Posen: accoustic bass, vocals
Myron Schultz: clarinet, alto sax, percussion, background vocal
Victor Schultz: violin, mandolin, background vocal
- Oy Tate, S'is Gut (trad.) 3:11
- Abi Gezunt (lyrics: Molly Picon / music: Abraham Ellstein) 3:22
- Bosphourous Blues (trad.) 4:28
- Greenhorn Blues (medley: Finjan) 5:16
- I Wanna Fellow (Ich vill a chusin) (Betty Reilly, Joe Leib, Jos Tanzman / Add'tl lyrics: Shayla Fink, Laurane Schultz) 4:19
- Second Avenue Freilach (Dave Tarras) 3:24
- Crossing Selkirk Avenue (Myron Schultz) 6:30
- A Brivele der Mama (Solomon Shmulowitz) 4:41
- Shpiel Klezmer, Shpiel (Play musician, play) (lyrics: Jacob Jacobs, Isidore Lillian / music: Abraham Ellstein) 3:20
- Freilach fun der Chupa (trad.) 4:00
- Odessa Bulgar (trad.) 2:25