Lerner Moguilevsky Dúo / Sobreviviente (Survival)

nifty brush caricatures of the artists Lerner Moguilevsky Dúo
Sobreviviente (Survival)br /> Los Años Luz, LAL 019, 2003

Los Años Luz

The duo now known as "Lerner Mogilevsky" (also frequently billed, almost anonymously, as "Klezmer from Buenos Aires") has been wowing audiences around the world for close to a decade. They play klezmer-inflected jazz, or perhaps, South American jazz-inflected klezmer. The two of them play with an intensity and originality the makes believers of everyone who hears them. Their albums are great, but the live performances are something even better. I first saw them in Toronto in 1997. A couple of years later they were returning to the UK and we caught them there. The teenagers were very impressed that I knew the band.

All of this by way of introducing this very special live performance, "Sobriviente" (survival). Recorded about a year ago in "Templo de Libertad" in Buenos Aires, they finally put that energy on CD in a way that echoes past performances, and introduces a lot of new material. The opening "Freilaj en Re menor," for instance, featuring Marcelo (Moguilevsky) on amazing clarinet, with C&sar (Lerner) on piano, in perfect harmony with each other, swinging back and forth between klezmer and jazz, is the perfect introduction. But it is only the appetizer. There is lots more.

The duo grab onto a melody and then improvise backwards and forwards. Listen to Lerner keeping time on "Dance, Dance, Yidelakh" while Moguilevsky goes crazy on picolo (fife?) and you get some idea of the technique. Here's the truth. Lots of full-scale bands get far less sound and intensity than this duo get by themselves. In their ability to switch instruments back and forth with virtuosity, they resemble the Incredible String Band of the '60s. But this is klezmer, mixed not with American Jazz, or other European folk traditions, but rather, with hints of tango and other Latin American rhythms mixed in. Indeed, "Baym Rebbe in Palestine" with a bit of tango does quite nicely.

Although Lerner and Moguilevsky play many familiar tunes, often they simply dig deep into tradition and find themselves not inventing a name, but simply recording the dance and the key: "Frelach in D minor" or Sirba en F major". If you are watching them onstage, Lerner will get up from behind the piano and pick up the accordion to work with Moguilevsky's frenetic clarinet fingerings. Or, perhaps he'll lean into the piano and eschew the keyboard in favor of going straight for the strings, going from there to dumbek. Moguilevsky switches back and forth between clarinet and a tiny flute, eventually giving up and whistling or doing scat. It is as though there is too much music to get out by conventional means, they want more more more.

Just when you think that this is getting too intense, Lerner sits back down on the piano and quietly introduces "Sapozkelekh". Moguilevsky comes in with flute, quietly, sadly. What turns to shmaltz in many hands, here finds the mournful sadness of the song without gloss. Moguilevsky's cantorial-inflected Ashkenazic scat manages to link nign and hazanus and yiddish folk song in an eternal, haunting, powerful way. The song is no longer a simple folk song about shoes, rather it is the essence of Jewish existence, all that is good, yet sad, in Jewish Ashkenazic life throughout the ages. When he switches back to the shrill metal flute, it is perfect.

In short, starting, including all of Eastern European music traditions, adding nign and cantorial pleadings, mixing in their native Argentinian sounds, Lerner and Moguilevsky create a special Jewish mix that is at the same time simply fascinating - a pleasure to hear simply because the music is so good - and a statement about Argentinian Judaism and its continuity, despite the generals in the Seventies and Eighties, and despite the economic collapse a few years ago. This album is an excellent introduction to their magic. You won't stop here. Soon you'll join me demanding that music promoters bring them to the States and elsewhere. (Indeed, they will be touring Europe with a reformed Klezmorim, and Di Naye Kapelye this spring.) But do start here - get a copy of this CD and start listening immediately.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow 11/30/03

Personnel this recording:
Marcelo Moguilevsky: clarinet, flutes, harmonica, voice, whistling
César Lerner: piano, accordion, percussion


  1. Freilaj en Re menor 8:05
  2. Tanz tanz Idelej 3:39
  3. Freilaj Rumani 2:44
  4. Baym Rebin en Palestina 6:30
  5. Potpourri 4:46
  6. Husidl en Re menor 2:28
  7. Nign de Sapozhkelekh 7:18
  8. Tati und Mami tanz 2:30
  9. Klezmer tango 2:53
  10. Sirba en Fa mayor 3:18
  11. Firn di mejutoinim aheim 7:03
  12. Polka 3:31
  13. Freilaj en Do menor 3:39

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