Celebrate Klezmer

one of my favorite recent covers

Celebrate Klezmer
Sweet Louise Music, 2004

Craig n Co.
PO Box 601-115
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
To order, visit www.celebrateseries.com or call (US/Canada) 1-800-6-craig-8.

There haven't been many klezmer anthologies in recent years. Into this void steps Craig Taubman, whose "Celebrate" is already known for a wide variety of excellent children's and holiday CDs. On this release, Frank London and Lorin Sklamberg have assembled a very tasty collection of (mostly) current (mostly) North American klezmer bands, the sort of collection that any klezmer aficionado will immediately rush to the CD changer, but provides the perfect gift for Uncle Lou and Aunt Betty who don't normally listen to that loud klezmer stuff but are just a bit curious as to why everyone they know seems enamored of the music.

The album presents from the best of the (mostly) current North American klezmer bands, at their best. in a few cases, as with the "Beregovski Suite" by Dobe Ressler (whose first CD should be out in time for KlezKamp this year) and Pete Rushefsky, these are the first recordings by musicians to watch. In others, as with the opening "Russiche Tzigane" by the young, talented Klez Dispensers, or the "Skotshne #60 a la Merlin" from the Klezmer Conservatory Band—a band whose roots go back to the beginning of the Klezmer Revival—this recording being from my favorite of their most recent recordings, we are listening to that which is both familiar and noteworthy. There is even a long unheard Dave Tarras track released from the YIVO archives, available nowhere but on this collection.

As a CD of "traditional" klezmer, the emphasis is on tunefulness, not on pushing the edges. That leaves a lot of open territory. I don't know if the casual fan is aware of how many styles and varieties of klezmer there are, or of how new bands are playing the genre: Thus, we have the Chicago Klezmer Ensemble playing a near-classical-music klezmer "Doyna" from their earliest recordings, the Klezmatics sticking to relatively traditional territory in "Davenen", and "old-timey" wilder, Eastern-European roots of "Veretski Pass" represented in fine dance form with their "Veretskier Kolomeyke" while Frank London's Klezmer Brass Allstars capture perfectly the brassy chaos of an American wedding party. At the same time, we have the very new extensions/renewals of klezmer from musicians such as Steven Greenman's new Stempenyu's Dream ("Terkisher Freylekhs"), the improvisations of the German klezmer duo, Khupe, here performing the appropriately-titled "Yikhes", or Montreal's young Shtreiml with their delightfully new harmonica-driven klezmer on "Sam Shpielt".

Most of these cuts are available on other recordings. The liner notes carefully document the recordings and relevant websites. Thus, this CD is not only a sampler of excellent, listenable klezmer, but provides a means to purchase CDs from each band or musician to delve more deeply. I should have expected no less from London and Sklamberg, but among the many incredible, representative slices of klezmer, this CD absolutely represents the idea of "Celebrate Klezmer!". It also comes in time to be an excellent Chanukah present. Make yourself, and a few friends very happy this holiday season.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 11/28/04


  1. Russiche Tzigane, by The Klez Dispensers, from New Jersey Freylekhs, 2003 (Alex Kontorovich) 3:32
  2. Doyna, by Chicago Klezmer Ensemble, from Early Recordings, 1987 - 1989, 1989; CD release 2001 (trad., arr. CKE) 5:16
  3. Davenen, by The Klezmatics, from Rise Up, 2003 (Frank London) 4:00
  4. Tsu der Khupe Geyn, by the Joel Rubin Jewish Music Ensemble, from Beregovski's Khasene, 1997 (trad.) 7:07
  5. Veretskier Kolomeyke by Veretski Pass, from Veretski Pass, 2004 (trad., arr. VP) 2:42
  6. Wedding in Crown Heights, by Frank London's Klezmer Brass Allstars, from Brotherhood of Brass, 2002 (trad., arr. London) 3:55
  7. Yikhes, by Khupe, from Heymisher, 2003 (trad.) 4:17
  8. Terkisher Freylekhs, by Steven Greenman, from Stempenyu's Dream 2004 (Steven Greenman) 4:00
  9. Beregovski Suite, by Dobe Ressler and Pete Rushefsky, from "nakhes fun klezmer", 2004 (Dobe Ressler, Pete Rushefsky) 6:54
  10. Erinerungen, by the Harry Lubin Quintet featuring Dave Tarras, clarinet, courtesy YIVO sound archives, www.yivo.cjh.org (Harry Lubin) 3:10
  11. Sam Shpielt, by Shtreiml, from Spicy Paprikash, 2003 (Sam Musiker) 3:01
  12. Skotshne #60, a la Merlin, by Klezmer Conservatory Band, from Dance me to the end of love (trad.) 2:59

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