Also reviewed on the KlezmerShack featuring Adrianne Greenbaum

Adrianne Greenbaum website

The Klezical Tradition / Family Portrait

Album cover: grainy b/w photo with unimpressive type

The Klezical Tradition Family Portrait

TKT Productions, 1998

Periodically, I decide that I don't want to deal with any more traditional klezmer albums. The interesting material is on the fringes, I opine. And then I hear something as deep and grounded as this particular platter and I change my mind. This is the best traditional American Klezmer album that I have heard since I don't remember when. It is alive. It is exciting. The musicians are amazingly good. And it doesn't invent overtly new stuff. It is solid klezmer and Yiddish song.

The album is much more than that, though. At a few critical points, this amazing music is interrupted by a few seconds of reminisces. In these memories, it is clear that not only the music still lives, but how deep and inviting the roots. I am especially excited to hear Anna Rosenzweig Povodator talk about her excitement at being invited, as a little girl, to dance the sher with her mother and her mother's friends. At a time when we are just now beginning to rediscover Jewish dance traditions from eastern Europe, here is someone for whom these dances were a special part of life. And hearing Esther Krakowski in Yiddish, rather than English, helps remind us that reports of the death of Yiddish have been greatly exaggerated. Rather than interrupt the flow of the music, the still-engaged voices of these women give us context and bring the music alive. So, when, after two intro instrumentals sandwiching a few words by Libe Lebovics Segelstein, Katz' "Shulem Aleykhem" is right on cue--we've come in, we're ready to sit down and be entertained and we do, indeed, feel welcome.

It is worth noting in this context that, like other revival bands, The Klezical Tradition does ham up some older songs, such as "Shulem Aleykhem," where acting up is appropriate. But, unlike most other bands, this is even understated, and the more fun for it. But the whole band is understated. Although there are many friends contributing to the album (Brian Bender's trombone is an entire horn section, when needed, by himself), the core band is just fiddle, flute (klezmer flute? yes!), and clarinet. The primary interplay is between fiddle and flute. No bar mitzvah beat. When percussion does appear, as in the effervescent "A Heymish Freylekhs", it remains in the background, supporting the melodic instruments. I have long maintained that, excepting the amazing--Julie Epstein or David Licht, for example--klezmer drumming is largely unnecessary and has little to do with getting the toes tapping and the legs dancing. Here's proof. This is the sort of classically-informed klez that Yitzhak Perlman will play when he learns klezmer. And the audience will dance.

The interplay ranges from the whole panoply of Yiddish song, to the poignant doina, to the march-like "Prinz Carol Sirba," (in this arrangement, sounding almost as though by John Philip Klezmaphone). As is traditional among klezmer revival bands, the material includes a wide range of Yiddish song, some familiar, some less well known. This, too, adds to the pleasure. Each time I try to write a review, I find myself suddenly lost, moving to the music, and must then listen to the album again, to regain my place and try to take notes all over again. At times, and on some songs, "Di Boyberike Khasene Hora", for instance, the sheer beauty takes me elsewhere. And then the band follows up with a jaunty "Goldene Khasene" and I find myself dancing around the room.

Although the cover is somewhat plain, a slightly fuzzy photo of three generations taken, perhaps three generations ago, the music inside is fresh, exciting, and reminds us how alive and sexy Jewish music, when played well, really is.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow 7/18/99

Personnel, this recording

Adrianne Greenbaum: music director, piano, flute, piccolo, vocals (8, 24)
Fraidy Katz: vocals
Walter Mamlok: clarinet
Cookie Segelstein: violin, viola, vocals (track 24)

Jim Andrews: stringed bass (3, 12-14, 19)
Brian Bender: trombone
Rick Boyar: percussion (5, 10, 18, 20, 22)
Lynn Lovell: stringed bass (3-5, 7, 10, 16, 18, 20-24)
Gary Ribchinsky: percussion (7, 14, 23)


  1. Araynfir --Introduction 1:15
  2. Libe Lebovics Segelstein (reminisce) 0:25
  3. Naftule Shpilt Far dem Rebn (Naftule Brandwein) 3:16
  4. Shulem Aleykhem—Peace be with you (Benzion Witler) 3:35
  5. Prinz Carol Sirba (Joseph Moskowitz) 2:50
  6. Esther Bluma Russak Krakowski (reminisce) 0:29
  7. Hulyet, Hulyet, Kinderlekh—Have a good time, children (Mordkhe Gebirtig) 2:18
  8. Unter Beymer--Under trees (Alexander Olshanetsky) 3:03
  9. Rumanian Fantasy #3 (Josef Solinski) 1:55
  10. Sirba Hasapiko (Dave Tarras; arr. TKT) 1:42
  11. Margaritkelekh—Daisies (Zalman Schneour) 4:00
  12. Greenbaum's Doyna (Adrianne Greenbaum) 2:12
  13. Chazin's Sirba (Israel Chazin) 0:47
  14. A Heymish Freylekhs (Max Leibowitz; arr. TKT) 1:18
  15. Anna Rosenzweig Povodator (reminisce) 0:26
  16. Russian Sher / 'kh Vil Nisht Aza Khosn (Abe Schwartz/Mordkhe Gebirtig) 6:05
  17. Di Boyberike Khasene (after Di Boyberike Kapelye) 2:31
  18. Di Goldene Khasene (after Harry Kandel's Orchestra) 1:30
  19. Oy Tate, S'iz Gut! (Naftule Brandwein) 3:05
  20. Di Rayze Nokh Amerike/Eyder Ikh Leyg Zikh Shlofn—The journey to American/No sooner do I lie down (after Abe Schwartz Orchestra/Y. L. Cahan) 4:54
  21. Yidish Redt Zikh Azoy Sheyn—Yiddish is so beautiful (Benzion Witler) 3:32
  22. Der Shtiler Bulgar—the quiet bulgar (trad.) 1:48
  23. Yosl, Yosl (Nellie Casman & Samuel Steinberg) 3:14
  24. Aye Di Day (Aaron Lebedeff) 3:05

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