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Review: Margot Leverett and the Klezmer Mountain Boys live at "Hardly Strictly Bluegrass" Oct 1-3

San Francisco's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, held a few weeks ago from Oct 1-3, was also notable this year from including some well-known klezmer stars. I'm not surprised. In addition to Leverett's wonderful work (have I mentioned in the last few days that Leverett's most recent CD features Jorma Kaukonnen and Hazel Dickinson?), I should remind Bay Area folks of Sacramento's Freilachmakers who have their own new Celtic-Klezmer fusion CD out. This post, however, belongs to Julie Egger of the Red Hot Chachkas who writes about Margot Leverett and the Klezmer Mountain Boys earlier this month at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass:

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is a music festival that is one of the biggest in the Bay Area. I went yesterday, once again, expecting some bluegrass, some rock and roll, Emmylou Harris and Earl Scruggs, but what I got, was Margot Leverett and the Klezmer Mountain Boys. As another Klezmer musician with The Red Hot Chachkas, I have known Margot for many years, Klez Camp, classes, etc. but to get a hit of Klezmer at Hardly Strictly was an amazing surprise. I left my husband and friends, who I had come with, at the Rooster Stage and weaved my way through the throngs down to the Porch Stage.

Margo outdid herself. Her music was amazing, and yes, it is a combination of Klezmer and Bluegrass, and that may be her in in this festival, but it was definitely Klezmer, or what we are struggling to call it these days.

My band, The Red Hot Chachkas, just got back from playing the Ashkenaz Festival in Toronto and networking with the most amazing Jewish musicians of our time, Adrienne Cooper, Michael Alpert, Alan Bern, Frank London, to name a few. It was an amazing festival and the music that is being created is, as we are struggling with calling it, New Klezmer, or Klezmer fusion, or New Jewish Music, is the next generation of Jewish music. This is not your Bubbe’s Klezmer

With access to music from all over the world, Klezmer and Jewish music is being fused with world music of all genres. This is where we are headed. We are the next generation of Jewish musicians playing New Jewish music. I feel honored to be part of this revolution.

But to see Margot at Hardly Strictly was even more amaz\ing because she is taking her music to the mainstream. I know Ashkenaz is an incredible festival , but to be part of a mainstream festival will get our music out to those who have never heard it before. There are so many times I tell people what kind of music I play and they have never heard of it. Think of the thousands now, (and there were at Hardly Strictly) that now have a new knowledge of klezmer, and with Margot’s amazing chops via Sid Beckerman she plays like the true Klezmer player she is, with a twist.

At one point, I got about 20 people to dance around the lawn, Yiddish style. I wanted to get the whole crowd up on their feet but as I went around I looked at faces, and it may be a projection on my part, but it looked like a great deal of them had never heard this type of music before. It was amazing, and they clapped and loved it. In fact, at one point, Margot got the audience to sing along with Yiddish syllables (di, di, di). They all did it.

I don’t know if others around the country or around the world have seen Klezmer in the mainstream such as this, \ but in my little neck of the woods, this is revolutionary, and will open doors for the rest of us Klezmer players. We need to get out of the ghetto.

Thank you to Margot for pursuing this and moving the revolution forward. We will all benefit, especially since her playing is of excellent caliber, so the impression to those who do not know, will get the right idea.

Mazoltov to Margot and Warren Hellman for featuring her at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass