KlezFactor / Klezmachine
Review by Keith Wolzinger
CD available from CD Baby
One of the most interesting groups on the scene today is Klezfactor, the Neo-Klezmer band led by composer/Reed player/Producer Mike Anklewicz. Their new release, Klezmachine, continues the klez/jazz/funk sound that first grabbed my attention when I heard their first album, The Golem Of Bathurst Manor. The music is smooth, rich in harmonies and textures, and is unforgettable. All but one of these tracks was penned by Anklewicz, and he has certainly made his mark on the World Music community. The performances are outstanding, giving free reign to the band members to bring their own personalities and experiences to the table with ample time given for improvisation. I loved all the songs on the album, each one making its own statement and contributing to the project as a whole.
The title track, "Klezmachine," shows us right from the beginning that Anklewicz' contemporary vision is rooted in the Klezmer tradition. By starting the song as a thin, scratchy 78 RPM recording sound, we see the beginnings of recorded Klezmer music. Then, they gracefully transition to a clean contemporary-sounding entrance of the rhythm section, followed by the band joining in on the main theme. It's a gimmick to be sure, but it is not overdone, and I think is a great way of paying homage to the early recordings that we all love while pushing the envelope of today's music. Well done Klezfactor!
A favorite is "Bulgarian Dance (Kopanitsa)," a great tune that is lively and has a fabulous bass line that drives the whole way through. The band comes in with the Bulgarian melody, then opens up for solos from Clarinet and Violin. The Piano soon joins in on the bass line, and by the end everyone plays it in unison. The song has a nice additional touch. The band claps the bass line at the beginning and end of the song. It lends a different element to the song, and gets us into the Bulgarian rhythm that keeps looping through our mind long after the song ends.
There are a pair of Waltzes that add some nice colors to the album. "Golden Medine" is a fast waltz the has a nice flowing melody, with some great harmonies, and nice solos from Guitar and Clarinet. "Waltz For Ronit" is a slow waltz and is an extended solo vehicle for Anklewicz' beautiful Alto Sax. I liked the lovely accompaniment from the rhythm section and some nice touches from the Violin and Cello.
"Rumanian Rhythm" is a jazzy Latin-influenced Rumanian tune that is a nice blend of sounds and textures, and features a Piano solo by Ali Berkok.
Klezfactor has always done well with the Jazz/Funk side of their personality, and again they do not disappoint. The band really cranks it up a notch with The "Jewce (Manischewitz)" and "Gonif." I really like the heavier rhythm section combined with a light Piano and the great Clarinet/Sax/Violin work.
A nod to Sephardic/Yemenite tradition comes from "Dundah Meditation" and "Dror Yikra," starting out with Dumbek and layers of long tone rich harmonies from the band as Anklewicz soars above with a beautiful sax solo that serves as a prelude to Limore Twena's distinctive vocal, accompanied so well by Oud, Strings, and Sax.
Those of you who like mainstream jazz will certainly go for "Greenhouse Effect" with a nice 5/4 swing feel, Electric Bass, and some outstanding solo Piano again from Berkok. The ending is cool, as the band drops out leaving only the Sax and Violin. Wonderful!
New Age fans will want to check out "Chalom" and the triplet background that moves around the rhythm section in this interesting waltz. Then we are treated to a nice Bass solo from Michael Smith, as well as a Violin solo from Ben Plotnick.
The last track, "Shepping Nakhes," brings us ful circle back to the more traditional Klezmer melodies (but keeping the Electric Bass and Electric Guitar). Anklewicz on Clarinet and Plotnick on Violin make a great duo and show that they have a firm grasp of Klezmer.
The album sounds terrific. The engineering and mixing by Jim Morgan are great. The instruments are nicely balanced and even the smallest cymbal hits can be heard clearly.
My preview copy had no liner notes to speak of, only a two-page CD insert that lists the tracks and credits. I am told that the full release will have more complete liner notes and artwork.
A very exciting extra from the Klezfactor website is the Making of Klezmachine Podcast. What a great idea! Anklewicz and Ali Berkok take us behind the scenes of the recording, mixing, and editing that was used to make the album. I especially enjoyed the way that they deconstructed Dror Yikra to show how a song is built up from the basic tracks with overdubs and alternate takes. This is fascinating listening. Nice job Mike!
Anklewicz pours his soul into this music and the album. He has surrounded himself with sidemen who share his vision and passion. It is a great gift to us, the listeners. I highly recommend Klezmachine. I'll be keeping it in my music rotation for a long time.
Reviewed by Keith Wolzinger, June 10, 2008
Personnel this album
Mike Anklewicz: soprano/alto/tenor saxophones, clarinet, percussion
Ali Berkok: piano, melodica
Jaro Dabrowski: guitars, percussion
Dave MacDougall: drums, percussion
Ben Plotnick: violin, viola
Michael Smith: bass
Limore Twena: vocals
Erika Nelson: cello
Follow links to listen to songs, courtesy of CD Baby
- Klezmachine 8:10
- Goldene Medine 3:24
- Bulgarian Dance (Kopanitsa) 4:10
- Waltz for Ronit 7:00
- The Jewce (Manischewitz) 5:38
- Dunash Meditation 1:37
- Dror Yikra 3:52
- Chalom 5:50
- Greenhouse Effect 4:14
- Rumanian Rhythm 3:52
- Gonif 6:09
- Shepping Nakhes 4:22
All songs by Mike Anklewicz except (7) Music: trad. Yemenite; lyrics: Dunash Halvey ben Lebrat