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Yaeko Elmaleh Quintet shine in return to Club Passim, Cambridge, MA

Violinist Yaeko Miranda Elmaleh returned to Club Passim with her quintet last night and blew away a very crowded room. Her repertoire is relatively traditional: mostly klezmer, with outliers from elsewhere in Eastern Europe or the Middle East. In its more traditional moments, one felt the immense conflict of playing great dance music in a room far too crowded for dancing. But this is a quintet for whom tradition is a starting point, not a goal. Given that her fellow musicians included some of my favorite players from the Boston avantgarde (also seen in traditional bands Klezmer Conservatory Band, Shirim: mandolinist/guitarist Brandon Seabrook, accordionist Michael MicLaughlin, percussionist Grant Smith, and the exceptional, new-to-me bassist, but internationally renowed Israeli jazz bassist Ehud Ettun), it isn't surprising that the music often went in powerful and different directions. The result was hard to categorize. The couple sitting opposite me at my table, who had come hoping to hear traditional klezmer, were mezmerized. We were likewise captivated, despite having walked in with an attitude that an evening of traditional-ish music threatened. I was wrong, and look forward to seeing the band again during one of their Boston Jewish Music Festival appearances in March. But, you don't even need to wait that long. The ensemble will be performing in a free concert, February 23rd, as part of Tufts' Community Concert Series.

From the Boston Globe last week: Klezmer without borders for violinist Yaeko Miranda Elmaleh, by By Jeremy D. Goodwin, Jan 18.