Shirim Klezmer Orchestra / Pincus and the Pig: A Klezmer Tale

Is this a chazzer, or what?

Shirim Klezmer Orchestra
Pincus and the Pig

Tzadik TZ7195, 2004


I no sooner finished kvelling over Shirim's most recent klezmer album, "Mayse", when what should arrive in my mailbox, but "Pincus and the Pig", a klezmer reworking of Prokofiev's familiar "Peter and the Wolf."

"You know," I wrote Glenn Dickson after a first listen. "The narrator is just about perfect." Glenn pointed out that the narrator was, in fact, the piece's author, Maurice Sendak. He is just about perfect, maybe all the way perfect. But, so is the band. As they did in their "Klezmer Nutcracker," they have taken a wonderful children's classical music piece and turned it into something beyond special and fun. After several listenings, I realize, too, that I find the album something of "comfort food" listening. I have simply fallen in love with Sendak's voice, his new story, and the new music, a klezmerized version of "Peter and the Wolf."

Once the story is told and played, there is more klezzified classical at the end, just as was the case with the Klezmer Nutcracker. Dickson puts a klezmer swagger into "Scheherezade" as David Harris gently adds some brass and klezmer feel to Brahms. Surprisingly, Eric Satie's "Gnoissienne No. 4" gets a different gravity with Michael McLaughlin's deliberate arrangement, contradicted nicely by a very uptempo Mahler, as McLaughlin reduces the 5th symphony to the "Mazzesinsel Strut."

As on the earlier "Klezmer Nutcracker," the arrangements by Glenn Dickson, Michael McLaughlin, and Dave Harris, and band's wonderful, brassy playing make this very special. In the case of the title suite, the result is more fun, in many ways, than the piece the way that Prokofiev wrote it. I attribute some of the change in Sendak's story. It isn't that it's now a Jewish story, but rather that it is also a story told the way one can imagine a modern zayde (grandfather) telling it. "Oy! Vay! The gate is open! Is Pincus looking to get killed again? Surely Chozzer, that devil pig, and his gang of shmutsik wild swine will pound poor Pincus into chopped liver." The old "Peter and the Wolf" was a lesson in what an orchestra sounds like, with a didactic, not-so-interestingly-told tale. The klezmer version is a real child's delight, imagination run amok from the "Night Kitchen" to a shtetl somewhere, sometime, long ago, where cossacks are lousy hunters compared to Peter, and all comes out well as the pig is led off to the non-kosher butcher.

Zeyde sadly shook his head: "And if that chozzer ate my Pincus? What then I ask you?" "So—don't ask," the Cat sneered under his breath...."

The CD comes complete with Yiddish glossary and stickers of all the characters, so kids will have a lot of fun while listening. What more could one ask for? This CD could become a new holiday favorite, and it should. And as for Shirim? Is there a tighter, more exciting, more fun klezmer band out there? I think not.

Personnel this recording:
Maurice Sendak: narration
Glenn Dickson: clarinet
David Harris: trombone
Brandon Seabrook: banjo, mandolin
Michael McLaughlin: piano, accordion
Jim Gray: tuba
Eric Rosenthal: drums


    Pincus and the Pig: A Klezmer Tale

  1. Welcome Russia 3:46
  2. Introductons 2:19
  3. Did you hear of boychik Pincus? 2:31
  4. The duck and birdie 3:10
  5. Suddenly, Pincus spied a cat 2:13
  6. Zeyde comes out 1:47
  7. No sooner had they disappeared inside... 2:59
  8. So now, this is how things stood 2:28
  9. Fly down and tease the pig... 3:20
  10. Suddenly, cossacks sprang out of the woods 2:00
  11. Now, imagine the triumphant procession 3:43
  12. And if you listen very carefully... 0:57
  13. Music by Serge Prokofiev, arr. Glenn Dickson, David Harris, Michael McLaughlin; story by Maurice Sendak.

  14. Scheherezade (N. Rimsky-Korsakov; arr. Glenn Dickson) 4:44
  15. Waltz (J. Brahms, based on Symphony No. 3, 3rd Mvmt; arr. David Harris) 3:00
  16. Gnoissienne No. 4 (Erik Satie, arr. Michael McLaughlin) 2:48
  17. Mazzesinsel Strut (Mahler, from Symphony No. 5, arr. Michael McLaughlin) 6:25

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