Finjan / Dancing on Water

a Russian-style stylized drawing of the band playing. Type is quite nice for Zapf Chancery.

Dancing on Water

Rounder Records 11661-3160-2, 2000

Rounder Records
One Camp Street
Cambridge, MA 02140 USA

One of the first bands reviewed on these pages was Finjan. I first saw them at a klezmer festival in San Francisco in the mid-90s, and loved their music and diversity, but I'd already encountered an early LP ("Ship to Shore") and loved that already. Best damn version of "Vladivostok" of the klezmer revival, I say. Like the Klezmer Conservatory Band, or Australia's Klezmania, they combine an infectious blend of well-played klezmer, with a smattering of Yiddish folk and theatre tunes to leaven the mix. In the case of Finjan, what is unique is the fun, and the sly hint of bluegrass that they must practice all throughout the frozen winter, staying warm in Winnipeg :-).

Since that time, I've run into Finjan members in a profusion of other settings, jazz, yiddish, klezmer. Most notable, perhaps, is the "From both ends of the earth" ensemble comprised of members of Finjan, Toronto's Flying Bulgars, and jazz pianist Marilyn Lerner. But, after a very, very long wait, here is new recording Finjan material. It is worth the wait. From the opening two clarinet attack on a new dance tune, followed by the most amazing clarinet/soprano sax trilling on "Bukovinska Polka," leading almost immediately into the violin wizardry of "Hora Staccato," credited to gypsy violinist Grigoras Dinicu and recorded by Jascha Heifetz, the band proves that it is still a traditional klezmer band, but one that has also, in traditional klezmer style, absorbed the best of the music around them. They also capture a perfect "Haneros Halalu," with the now-familiar Romanian violin doina taking the place of the cantor's voice on this once-traditional Hanukkah piece, which then flows into the title tune, a wonderful slow dance based on the concluding theme.

Dazzled as I was by the instrumental virtuosity of the band, I didn't notice how few vocals appear on this album until "Harbstlid," a song by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, which also appears on the recently released Yiddishland recording of her music (to the best of my memory). But I do very much enjoy Shayla Fink's voice, and am glad to hear Beyla's music performed, and performed so well. Beyond that, of course, what more can I say except that this is the first klezmer band with the good sense to latch on to Israeli pop star Yehuda Poliker's excellent instrumentals, in this case, "Stories of Times Past." I was not familiar with this particular melody, but Poliker's roots are in the Salonika sounds that represent both Sephardic Jewish folk instrumentals and bridge to klezmer on the other side. It's a good way to close the circle.

As I said, this is well-worth the wait. In fact, it would have been well-worth the wait if the band hadn't felt the need to wait eight years since their last record. Perhaps, now that they are being distributed by Rounder, we'll have less to wait before they blow our socks off again. In the meantime, for now, I'm a happy camper. And, of course, if you don't have any of the band's previous albums, don't forget to stock up!

Reviewed by Ari Davidow 5/28/00

Personnel this recording:
Sasha Boychouk: clarinet, soprano and tenor saxophones, sopilka, percussion, whistling
Shayla Fink: accordion, piano, vocals
Daniel Koulack: guitar, banjo, mandolin
Kinzey Posen: accoustic bass, vocal, whistling
Myron Schultz: clarinet, percussion, whistling
Victor Schultz: violin, mandolin


  1. Sharon's Dance (trad., arr. Finjan) 3:45
  2. Bukovinska Polka (trad., arr. Myron Schultz, Sasha Boychouk and Finjan) 4:16
  3. Rumeynisher Kretshmeh/Hora Staccato (Morris Rund and Yosef Rumshinsky/Grigoras Dinicu, arr. Myron Schultz, Victor Schultz, Finjan) 4:10
  4. Sirba Batuta (trad., arr. Finjan) 2:07
  5. Haneros Haluli (trad., arr. Victor Schultz) 3:34
  6. Dancing on Water (Myron schultz/trad., arr. Finjan & Ben Mink) 2:36
  7. Father's Nigun (Myron Schultz) 5:30
  8. A Heimischer Sher (trad./Sasha Boychouk, arr. Finjan) 3:54
  9. A Fish Out of Water (Sardines on Rye) (Myron Schultz, arr. Ben Mink, Myron Schultz, Victor Schultz) 2:51
  10. Harbstlid--Autumn Song (Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, arr. Finjan, Ben Mink) 4:00
  11. Azoi Tantzt Men Odessa--This is how we dance in Odessa (trad., arr. Finjan) 4:44
  12. Stories of Times Past (Yehuda Poliker, arr. Finjan and Ben Mink) 4:55

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