Naftule's Dream / Search for the Golden Dreydl

Album cover: Another pointless tzadik cover.

Naftule's Dream
Search for the Golden Dreydl
tzadik, 1997 TZ 7118

This is the long-overdue next installment in one of the most interesting musical evolutions in the klezmer (post-klezmer, at this point) world. With the possible exception of the New Orleans Klezmer AllStars, Naftule's Dream is easily the most exciting attempt to push the bounds of klezmer, incorporating jazz, progressive rock, and world melodies to the point where, in their case, the result is so compelling (if no longer klez) that they actually had to rename the band, so that the original incarnation could still play the amazing straight-ahead klezmer for which they were originally known.

I was, in fact, at a concert (the concert?) about a year and a half ago, on a trip to Boston, having actually extended my stay just to take advantage of the opportunity to see them, when they announced the name change. At the time it made no sense, and yet, here was a band clearly grounded in klezmer, performing not only bounds-pushing music, but at that point, actually setting Yiddish texts to new music. The idea of a band for which the past and future were so alive that they were actually writing avant garde music to Yiddish blew my mind. Even today, when they have, once again, metamorphosed, I find myself trying to hear them at least once a month. (Okay, yeah, it's yet another reason why I'm very happy I moved to Boston.)

And yet, I also have to warn listeners that this is not klezmer. It's not jazz, either, although "Oy Tate" at times resembles John Coltrane from his Seattle period if 'Trane had been sufficiently hip at the time to incorporate '90s klez. And, at the same time, band members have mentioned influences as formally experimental as the Seventies version of King Crimson. And yet, I don't think that Naftule's Dream would be nearly this much fun, and certainly many songs would either not exist or be totally different, but for the klez background. But that could be my own prejudice.

Another key part of what defines the sound of Naftule's Dream, is instrumentation. With an amazingly fluid tuba and trombone, in addition to more traditional American klez clarinet and accordion/piano/drums, the band is at times so deliciously horn-heavy that it can, at times, resemble circus music run amok. (This is especially true despite the occasional wonderfully driven guitar. As much as I love it, the electric guitar seems more like the prize at the bottom of the box--fun, but not integral to the sound of this band.)

The album begins with a clarinet exploration by Glenn Dickson, clearly expressing continuity with both klezmer and the music to come. At the far end we have a twisted-klezmer (I am tempted to say "post-klezmer") version of "Nakhes fun kinder" (Joy from children). In the middle, we have pieces with repeating themes around which the band improvises, as if riffing on a moving target, such as "Unseen, or "The Farshtunkene Hobo," which seems more fixed, more a mood to be played out, than something tangible ... almost more theater than music. Then there is the brisk insouciance of "So nu," complete with Betty Silberman's scat (mixed too far back--the one regret I have about the split between the band's "Shirim" aspect and its "Naftule's Dream" aspects is that Silberman has chosen not to continue with the "Naftule's Dream" side of the band). If there is a down side to the album, then it is the occasional "speed klez" frenzy, such as that which drives the title song. (I refer here to the concept, not to the Dave Harris piece of that name in the band's current repertoire.) This can be fun, yet but for the tuba and drums keeping things on track, dancing around trombone and clarinet, it would also be wearing.

What I can tell you in a nutshell is that this is an essential album. It's vital. And, for that matter, if you don't have the two Shirim albums, get them, as well, and then shuffle play the three, listening to klezmer influence our culture and move on. It's not just a Jewish thing, any more, nor is it necessarily it's own pure strain. Klezmer. It's everywhere now. As should be this disk.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 11/17/97

Personnel this recording:
Glenn Dickson: B-flat and C clarinets
David Harris: trombone
Michael McLaughlin: piano
Pete Fitzpatrick: electric guitar
James Grey: tuba
Eric Rosenthal: drums

Betty Silberman: vocals (So Nu)


  1. Black Prelude (Glenn Dickson) 1:47
  2. Oy Tate--Oh, Father (trad., arr. David Harris) 5:35
  3. The Unseen (Glenn Dickson) 6:33
  4. The Farshtunkene Hobo--The Stinky Hobo (Michael McLaughlin) 6:13
  5. Search for the Golden Dreydl (Michael McLaughlin) 4:07
  6. So Nu (David Harris) 5:07
  7. The Spinoza of Market Street (Glenn Dickson) 8:17
  8. The Crooked Walk (David Harris) 5:06
  9. Nakhes fun kinder--Joy from Children (trad., arr. Naftule's Dream, from the repertoire of Naftule Brandwein) 9:24

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