Hank Sapoznik and The Youngers of Zion / The Protocols
Hank Sapoznik and The Youngers of Zion / The Protocols, YOZ 002, 2004
A tongue-in-cheek fusion somewhere between a modern American klezmer band and alt.country, this wonderful trio features the fiery violin of Cookie Segelstein, supported by Hank Sapoznik's excellent guitar and Mark Rubin's wonderful country klezmer swing tuba bass lines. Sound improbable? Well, this is certainly not a genre that has been overdone. When performed this way, perhaps it should be done more often.
There aren't too many recordings, klezmer or otherwise, that place the theme from the "Swee Touch Nee Tea Time Radio Hour" between "Shers" and an incredible "Doina Medley". For some reason, Henry Sapoznik appears to be trying to sing in an unnaturally refined style. This does not work as well on pieces such as "Dem Milner's Trern" or (to my surprise, because this is exactly the sort of song in which one expects to hear the familiar, folksy voice he perfected years ago with, say, "Chicken" on the KlezKamp "Memories" CD) "Ikh bin a border bay mayn vayb". Happily, he ditches the professor on the Chasidic "Kotsk" and reminds us how much fun he can have with his voice.
Violinist Cookie Segelstein is incendiary. If you were somehow able to set aside Mark Rubin's alt.country tuba, or Henry's excellent guitar, her playing would still be reason to purchase this CD. Listen to the way she mixes klezmer and classical themes on the "Doina Medley" and don't forget to notice perfect way that Rubin's tuba tracks it all. Then, listen to her stay about two inches from "Turkey in the Straw" and other American dance favorites on the "Horas/Serbas" medley. This isn't just a delightful exploration of the gamut of Jewish dance music (none of this "stuck in a bulgar" rut that typifies much American klezmer recording). This is klezmer and yiddish folk done in a style that emphasizes not the jazziness of American klezmer, but, instead, the old-timeyness of traditional klezmer and makes a new bridge to old-timey music of the American kind. For that matter, as Hank sings "Kotsk", think of Ralph Stanley singing "O, Death" and hear the common roots in style. If the Kotsker Rebbe had been from West Virginia, this is how we'd all sing it.
What I really want to know is how the band got Mark Rubin to pose as such a squeaky clean person on the cover. It's an entirely different Rubin from the more familiar visage present in the liner notes or my memory. In fact, the cover is a perfect example of a country album cover genre that would do equally well for "The Younger Family sings Gospel favorites from the Protocols of Zion" (but for the fact that the band members, squeaky clean or not, look like they are having too much fun for gospel). Musically, however, the effect is somewhat different: as pretty a selection of klezmer and Yiddish folk, done in a way that fits down home Texas in very fun ways, as one could think to ask. Try it. There are some very good things that come out of Texas.
Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 9 Jan 2005
Personnel this recording:
Henry "Hank" Sapoznik: vocals, tenor guitar
Marlene "Cookie" Segelstein: fiddle
Mark "Doctor" Rubin: bass, BBb Helicon
- Kolomeykes (trad.) 3:13
- Khusidls (trad.) 8:13
- Dem Milner's Trern (Mark Warshawsky) 5:37
- Shers (trad.) 5:00
- Theme from "Swee Touch Nee Tea Time Radio Hour" 3:18
- Doina Medley (trad.) 7:31
- Ikh bin a border bay mayn vayb (Rubin Doctor; eng. Henry Sapoznik) 3:21
- Dobridens/Freylekhs (trad.) 7:47
- Hinei Mah Tov/Ma Achala'a (Arabic and Hebrew)