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David Krakauer's Klezmer Madness - The Twelve Tribes*
reviewed by Elliott Simon,

mundane type, mundane coverThe packaging of the new Klezmer Madness CD, "The Twelve Tribes," combines the ancient symbols for each of the twelve tribes with a World Trade Center intact view of downtown New York City. The CD itself is also a juxtaposition of Jewish themes, klezmer influence and NYC downtown jazz with rock, blues, Latin and even techno. The result is an album that is a delight to listen to while at times challenging the listener to redefine their views of both klezmer and jazz.

The title piece kicks the album off with a solid bass and drum line that would do any blues/rock band proud over which Krakauer plays a catchy jazz melody and alternates solos with some hot electric guitar. It is this genre that Klezmer Madness excels at, that mixture of musical styles that breathes new life into traditional klezmer infusing it with guitar, drum and bass and in the process speaks to a new generation. There is plenty of traditional klez here to satisfy anyone, but all of it has a jazz/blues almost rock edge provided by Kevin O'Neil's guitar playing.

Certain cuts such as "Kozatske/Der Ziser", the latter a Brandwein tune, fall somewhat short, and the electric guitar/clarinet mix doesn't quite come together as it should. Other standards such as "The Gypsy Bulgar",' best known as a tsimble tune played by Moscowitz, is brilliant in its ability to keep the feel of the original while using the guitar to update the music and make it a Klezmer Madness piece. On all the tracks David Krakauer's playing is, well, David Krakauer. It is distinctive, it is his sound, and from the first note you know whom you are listening to. The tone has a clarity and the sound a feel that is unparalleled in the world of klez/jazz bands. "Queen of the Midnight Fax" is a doina over a Latin sounding rhythm that has the seductiveness of Ravel's "Bolero". "Table Pounding" is similar, with a repetitive escalating beat that mirrors a group of people around a table singing and pounding louder and louder.

This is new music that mixes styles at will. You come away with the feeling that the band has a huge spice rack of all possible musical styles at its disposal. They add a dash of Latin, a few teaspoons of rock and even a tablespoon of '60s television schmaltz to their basic klez/jazz feel to come up with a sound that breaks new ground. Is that the theme from the Munsters in "Television Frailachs"? "Chusen Kale Mazel Tov "and the "Dave Tarras Bulgar" are familiar sounds and fans of the band will feel very at home when they listen to them. "As If", the closing piece on the CD mixes techno beat with Krakauer clarinet playing. Always mixing always trying new combinations while at the same time staying true to the roots. "Der Gasn Nign", appears again on this CD, as it did on Klezmer NY. This version is more soulful and slow, funeral dirgelike with the clarinet crying out for the lost souls in the streets of NY. As the familiar melody is mutated and escalated to the end of the piece, the band joins into a tension building crescendo that is released by a final simple repetition of the clarinet line in traditional style. "The New Year After" is a testimony to the events of 911. The song was inspired during the Rosh Hashanah service one week to the day after September 11th. The shofar sound and cantor chant distressing David Krakauer and inspiring this complicated and powerful piece. By using the Teki'a/Shevarim/Teru'ah/Teki'a chant structure of a long full note followed by 2 short staccato note measures followed again by the long full note the clarinet and electric guitar present the idea that what was once whole and is now broken will become whole again.

This album presents a band that is extending its boundaries further than the three previous CDs. One hopes that they will never run out of new musical combinations, will continue to take risks and to break new ground in their redefining of both jazz and klezmer.

Review by Elliott Simon,, 29 Mar 2002

*As of this writing, the CD has only been released in France. It is expected to be released in the States later this year. In the meantime, it can be purchased via, for instance,

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Contents copyright © 2002 by Peter Lippman. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Page last revised 11 June, 2007.