Metropolitan Klezmer / Yiddish for Travelers

Album cover: Montage of music and luggage and maps. A pleasure!

Metropolitan Klezmer
Yiddish for Travelers
, 1997

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Since moving to the East Coast last year, there has been one "neighborhood" klezmer band that regularly draws me down from the pleasures of New England into the messiness that is Manhattan. With their first full-length CD, Metropolitan Klezmer are poised to prove to the world that this pleasure has not been misplaced.

band live, leftside stage"Yiddish for Travelers" is a beautifully-produced, exquisitely-packaged CD. I especially love the collage of Yiddish materials and excerpts from "Say it in Yiddish: Phrasebook for Travelers," a lovely book that is still, to the best of my knowledge, somehow in print. As you travel through the lands where you might expect to find these Yiddish folks, you will hear a variety of music. But only sometimes would such a musical tour in real life will yield the breadth and depth and pleasure of the CD that I am reviewing.

howie leess and steve elson, harris wulfson in bckgrndThis should come as no surprise. Band leader Eve Sicular's tight, rolling drumbeats have accompanied a wide variety of bands and rhythms, and she also regularly speaks/performs about Yiddish theatre and Yiddish theatre music. The other musicians in the band are well-known and appreciated in jazz and balkan music circles. For them to be coming together this tightly is no surprise. Songs are also frequently paired or set in a larger group, as with the "Mainly Romanian" section) to better give a feel for the band live at a simkha or in concert. This band has traditional klezmer down better than just about anyone I can think of. They have captured that American klezmer sound of pre-war New York wonderfully, and then they turn around, as on the "Mangiko," and in '90s "awareness of roots" style show off the Greek roots of "Yoshke for avek."

In addition to Eve's drumming, I have to mention that live standouts Ismail Butera (accordion) and Steve Elson (reeds) shine here, too. Deborah Karpel's vocals, and especially her choice of material (I can live with yet another "Rozhinkes mit mandlen" for new recordings of "Sheyn vi di levone," or "Farlangen", at least, this once, and I do enjoy the jazzed up version of "Rozhinkes," here, and live) are also nice.

band live, rightside stageI've said it before, and I'll certainly say it again. Metropolitan Klezmer is a band worth driving from Boston to New York for, and this CD supports that claim very nicely, thank you. Even if they are "NIT TSOO NAW-ent" (not too near) you can use the handy phrases on the back to say "dee moo-ZIK iz OYS-geh-TSAY-kh'nt." The music is excellent.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 1/24/98

Personnel this recording:
Ismail Butera: accordion, bendir
Steve Elson: clarinets, saxophones, flute
Michael Hess: violin, viola, kanun, ney flutes
Dave Hofstra: upright bass, tuba
Deborah Karpel: vocals
Eve Sicular: drums

Pam Fleming
: trumpet, flugelhorn
Harris Wulfson: violin


  1. Nokh a gleyzl vayn--Another glass of wine (trad.) 2:12
  2. C Minor Bulgar (Dave Tarras, arr. Metropolitan Klezmer) 2:52
  3. Fifth Floor Khosidl (trad., arr. Butera & Sicular w/Metropolitan Klezmer) 3:17
  4. Mangiko/Yoshke for avek (Greek & Yiddish versions) (trad., arr. Butera, Hess & Sicular) 3:58
  5. Der Feter Max's Bulgar--Uncle Max's Bulgar (Max Shopnick & Sam Musiker; arr. Metropolitan Klezmer) 2:16
  6. Libes Shmertsn--The Pain of Love (Joseph M. Rumshinsky, arr. Sicular w/Metropolitan Klezmer) 3:21
  7. Sheyn vi di levone--Beautiful as the moon (Music: Joseph M. Rumshinsky; Lyrics: Chaim Tauber, arr. Metropolitan Klezmer) 2:09
  8. Yosl, Yosl (Nellie Casmen; arr. Metropolitan Klezmer) 0:56
  9. Farlangen--Longing (Henokh Kon, arr. Metropolitan Klezmer w/Darrell Rosenbluth) 1:18
  10. Der Gasn Nigun--The street tune (trad., arr. Metropolitan Klezmer) 2:26
  11. Ken O'Hara Freylkekh (trad., arr. Metropolitan Klezmer) 2:46
  12. Russian Sher--Scissors dance (trad., arr. Metropolitan Klezmer) 2:55
  13. Fiselekh--Happy feet (trad., arr. Metropolitan Klezmer) 1:50
  14. Der Yidisher soldat in di trenches--Jewish soldier in the trenches (Naftule Brandwein, arr. Metropolitan Klezmer) 3:18
  15. Rozhinkes mit mandeln--Raisins and almonds (Abraham Goldfaden, arr. Sicular w/Metropolitan Klezmer) 2:26
  16. Metropolitan Raisins (jazz version) (adapted from Goldfaden, arr. Elson, Hofstra, Sicular) 2:19
  17. Oy tate--Oh father (trad., arr. Butera, Hess, Hofstra) 2:32
  18. Zhok à la Dave (Dave Tarras) 1:15
  19. Steve's Bar Mitzve (trad.) 1:49
  20. Mainly Rumanian: (trad., arr. Butera w/Metroplitan Klezmer)

  21. Ismail's Doyna (2:26)
  22. Bessarabian Hora (2:15)
  23. Kostakowsky Sirba (3:49)
  24. Volokh (1:58)
  25. Der Miropoler Rebe's Nigun--Chant of the Miropoler Rebbe, & Dybbuk March (Henokh Kon, arr. Sicular w/Metropolitan Klezmer) 3:55

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