Klezmania (Australia) / Shmoozin'

Lovely watercolor

Klezmania / Shmoozin'
Klezmania Records, OZKLEZ 608, 2008
US distribution via cdbaby.com

Oh, man. A new disk from Australia's answer to the Klezmer Conservatory Band crossed with digideroo arrived today, and this one doesn't even feature didgideroo (although ears better than mine will catch it's use on a couple of cuts). I should wait and listen to Klezmania's new "Shmoozin'" a few times before writing anything, but I can't wait. The disk is a perfect blend of klezmer and jazz, but damned if I can easily separate one from the other, and all held together by the sensuous voice of Freydi Mrocki.

Here's how good this CD is. I have spent much of my life generally avoiding anything tainted by Leonard Cohen's alleged poetry. I broke the rule only once. I honeymooned to a stupendous version of "Dance me to the end of love," by a different, cherished klezmer band. I now have a new favorite version of the song. If Mrocki's vocals didn't do it, the extra Yiddish verses, which change the tone of the song, entirely, would do it. Add a rather splendid "New Orleans Khasene," a renewal of the old chestnut, "Ikh hob dikh tsu fil lib" and a host of additional jazz and klezmer ("Intersection Waltz," from a 1960s Russian comedy, anyone?), tied together by plucked instruments (mostly David Krycer's guitar?), David Breytman's lovely accordion (okay, to be exact, bayan)--less speed this time around, but deeper, and Lionel Mrocki's clarinet.

All of the patented Klezmania moves are here: The Yiddish and English melded together, but the word is a trifle different than might have been written here in the United States, reflecting a different country and a different, also positive immigrant experience. Listen to the words of Molly Picon's "Oy s'iz git" languidly jazzy, melding slowly into Michael Alpert's anthemic, folky "Klaybt zikh tsunoyf" (Let's gather together). As much as I have enjoyed Alpert's singing of this song over the years, once again, the band has made it their own and irresistable.

I'm not sure how to describe the sound on the CD. Spare. Sensual (I already said that about Freydi's voice, but the same could be said about Lionel's clarinet). Clear. It's klezmer for people my age who dance, but who also listen; for whom the machismo isn't as important as the soul. In sending the CD to me, Lionel tried to warn me that the CD was less "klezmer-styled than previous efforts, by which he meant less of the "speed klez" featured on some earlier recordings. He also noted that it was his favorite so far. I agree—it's my favorite disk by the band, as well.

This is a must-have CD. Accept no substitutes.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 23 Jun 2008.

Personnel this recording:
Freydi Mrocki: vocals & percussion
David Breytman: bayan
David Krycer: double bass, guitars
Lionel Mrocki: clarinet, saxophone, guitar, percussion, didgeridoo, vocals


  1. Dance me to the end of love (Leonard Cohen) 4:39
  2. Intersection Waltz (Andrei Petrov) 1:59
  3. A frayntlekhe hant—A friendly hand (Myer Zable/David Krycer) 2:25
  4. New Orleans Khasene (trad.) 4:00
  5. Mazl/The Blue Ballon (Benzion Witler/trad.) 2:38
  6. Beredans—Dance of the bear (trad.) 2:39
  7. Oyfn veg shteyt a boym—near the path stands a tree (Itsik Manger) 4:27
  8. Ikh hob dikh tsu fil lib—I love you too much (Chaim Tauber; Alexander Olshanetsky) 4:30
  9. Fun kosev—from Kosev (trad.) 4:00
  10. Firn di mekhetonim aheym—Accompanying the in-laws home (trad.) 4:39
  11. Oy s'iz git—Oh, it's good (Jacob Jacobs; Abe Ellstein) 3:13
  12. Klaybt zikh tsunoyf—Let's gather together (Michael Alpert) 4:35

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