Moshe Berlin & Roman Kunsman / Sulam

An awesomely ugly cover w/reasonable pix of Roman and Moussa

Moshe Berlin & Roman Kunsman / Sulam
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The first recording of Moshe Berlin's of which I am aware was of his ensemble, "Sulam" which featured, among other people, the great late Russian-Israeli jazz flautist Roman Kunsman (1941 - 2002). Kunsman had founded Israel's first major jazz band, "Platina" in the early 1970s. By the 1980s, however, he was playing klezmer with Moussa Berlin and the two of them were making incredible music. That 1992 live CD (recorded in 1990) is one of my most treasured klezmer albums. What is even more interesting is that note at the bottom of the bottom of the liner notes that this concert was recorded at a Tel Aviv workshop that included Brave Old World and the Klezmatics.

Since Kunsman's death, there have been several tributes, include the belated release of the Platina's third album, a jazzed up Debussy set titled "the girl with the flaxen hair. But the best tribute of all may be this re-release of the Sulam album, with some new tracks featuring Kunsman added. As on the original album, they are playing primarily music from the Meron repertoire (hasidic tunes brought over in the 18th century by the great pre-Zionist, post-Chielmenicki Hasidic migration to Tsfat and remembered/built-on since then, occasionally dipping into Israeli folk music (V'ulai) or the faux hasidic repertoire of Giora Feidman ("The Lord will bless his people with peace/Sammy's freilach).

Berlin's clarinet is, as always, stunning. But the real revelation is Kunsman's jazz-influenced flute and his interplay with Berlin and with the rest of the band (none of whom are slouches, either). Many of the songs have the added edge of being played live.

Israeli klezmer is much more sweetly arranged than American klezmer, and usually, much less jazzy. The discordance that gives American klezmer so much of its soul is here replaced by a focus on tunefulness and harmony. The violin playing "Belz" and "Oyfn Pripechik" on the "Yiddish Nign and Dances" medley is simply as close to perfection as one can get. At the same time, the band turns the Israeli folk chestnut, "v'ulai" (and maybe these things never happened....) into an incredibly soulful, deep, klezmerized experience finally breaking out into a perfectly-paced dance led by Kunsman's flute entwined with Berlin's clarinet over and under back and forth as the band maintains a rhythm that simply moves without the American "oom pa pa" that drives me crazy.

Revisited by Ari Davidow, 10/4/04

Personnel this recording:
Alexander Reiss: percussion
Girish Lev: violin
Mika Markovitz: drums
Moshe (Moussa) Berlin: clarinet
Raphael (Roman) Kunsman z"l: flute


  1. The Lord will bless his people with Peace/Sammy's Freilakh (Giora Feidman) 6:36
  2. Dobranoc and Skocna (trad.) 5:58
  3. Yiddish Nign and Dances 7:16
  4. My Father's Nign (trad., in the style of Modzhitz) 8:58
  5. Ve'ulai—And Maybe (Rachel/Yehuda Sharet) 6:59
  6. Freilakh Number 19 (trad. Balkan) 5:38
  7. *The Flute (David Zahavi) 2:43
  8. *Two Lights (Mordechai Ze'eera) 2:15
  9. *Chasidic Dance (Roman Kunsman) 3:23
  10. Three Modzhitzer Niggunim (trad. Modzhitz, arr. Kunsman) 6:03
  11. Meron Spirit (trad.) 4:50

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