The Alexandria Kleztet / Y2Klezmer
The Alexandria Kleztet
Kleztet CD 1, 1999
One of the most surprising "klezmer" CDs I have reviewed was an unusual disk put out by some musicians up in the Finger Lakes region of New York. The Cayuga Klezmer Revival disk managed to actively offend many friends who preferred their klezmer a bit less "genx"-sounding, and who objected to the heavier, rock-influenced sounds. These, of course, are the same people who eschew the early Boiled in Lead albums for taking Celtic music places their dainty ears feel it shouldn't attend.
One of the alumni of CKR finished school, got married, and wound up in Alexandria, Georgia, where he found himself in a new klemer band, one with a similarly irreverant, wild treatment of klezmer, and of Jewish music in general. The new band, in proclaiming its Y2K (5760/61) compliance, is a bit quieter than the band that originally attracted my attention. You wanna weep, listen to their superb "Rozhinkes Mit Mandlen" (Raisins with Almonds), in a version that will evoke the right nostalgia, but in its switch to bluesy harmonica lead won't make you feel that you've heard the song 20,000 times before (which you have). In numbers such as their "Fon der choope" or a sweet, only mildly dissonant "Erev Shel Shoshanim," show that they can play the gamut of traditional Jewish songs wonderfully well when the occasion demands.
But, then there are the opening chords to "Willard's Freylekh" with a southern jazzy feel and a train-invoking rhythm that makes one think more of Chatanooga Choochoos than of klezmer, or the "Polite Tango," that they explain in the liner notes is actually a habañera, and a wonderfully klezmerized and gentle rendition of Ellington's Mount Harissa. And when all is said and done, the band, presuming thinking ahead to Y2K, redoes three Chanuka classics. Well, one is relatively traditional. "I have a little dreydl" gets a much-needed jazz kick. As for "Ma O'Tzur", what can I say, but "Joy to the Klezmer!" You can be sure I'll have it featured on the klezmer shack next solstice season.
I also have to say that I value the regionalisms. When you listen to this CD, you aren't listening to another klezmer band done by good klezmer players in yet another town. You know that you're listening to a southern band, in a southern state along the eastern seaboard. Even more, though, you know you're listening to a special klezmer band. This is obviously a band that knows how to have fun. And face it. If you had your choice between a band that had mastered the Bar Mitzvah beat and maybe an Israeli folk dancing tune or two, or a band that has this much fun, which would you rather have at your simkha. By me, it'd be the Alexandria Kleztet any day.
Reviewed by Ari Davidow 6/12/00
Personnel this recording:
Seth Kibel: clarinet, alto and tenor saxophones, flute, electric and acoustic guitars, piano, harmonica
Claire Cardon: violin, viola
John Roberts III: contrabajo, double bass, string bass, upright bass, kontrabass, gut bucket, bass violone, bull fiddle
John Sausser: drums, djembe, doubek, tablas, congas, rainsticks, talking drum, cowbell, triangles, tambourine, chimes, goat hooves
Joel Cardon: cello on 3, 4, 10
Kathy van Horne: trombone on 7, 12
A. Scott Wood: trumpet on 7, 12
the Cardon Family Orchestra: strings on 4
- Willard's Freylech (Kibel) 4:35
- Der Heyser Bulgar (trad.) 2:34
- A Polite Tango (Kibel) 2:04
- Klezmerobics (Kibel) 3:56
- Scooter's Waltz (Kibel) 3:59
- Erev Shel Shoshanim (Hadar) 5:17
- Fon Der Choope (trad.) 3:26
- Rozhinkes Mit Mandlen (Goldfaden) 3:07
- Freylekh (traditional) 2:29
- Oif'n Pripetshik (Warshavsky) 2:57
- Mount Harissa (Ellington/Strayhorn) 4:32
- Odesser Bulgar (trad.) 4:18
- Somnambulism (trad.) 3:57
- Khanuke (trad.) 2:27
- Dreydl (trad.) 2:37
- Ma O'Tzur (trad.) 2:43