Channe Nussbaum & Spielniks / Copenhagen Klezmer

Album cover: Channe.

Channe Nussbaum & Spielniks
Copenhagen Klezmer

Danica Records, 1996, DCD 8183

Although the title is a misnomer--this is not klezmer in the traditional sense--the music is delightful. Nussbaum is a well-known Danish pop and jazz singer, and Spielniks are a tight jazz-klez band in the same league as more familiar favorites such as Saloman Klezmorim or Klezmokum (both of which I hope to cover in these pages soon). From the energetic "Rebbe" ("wen der rebbe...") through favorites such as "Borsht" (based on an arrangement by Brave Old World--I still prefer Adrienne Cooper's rendition, but have no complaints here) to a lovely "Hava Nagila" the album sparkles. Even on sadder songs, such as "Wie nemt men" or "Kinderjurn", Nussbaum and the band manage to add a note of nascent optimism that beautifully complements the melancholy.

So, while traditional klezmer allows no vocals, and while one occasionally notices that Yiddish and Hebrew are not languages with which the singer is entirely familiar, the result is familiar and most pleasurable. Nor are these folks to be limited by traditional Ashkenazic musical genres: witness the middle-eastern-tinged "Full azan" with its pleasurable scat/band interplay, moving right back into the klez-pop riffs of "Jinger man" to the tropical-Polish "Ivona, Ilona, Aldona".

This combination of joy, musicianship, and voice even manage to transcend the pop, as in the arrangement of "hinei ma tov," a song that really doesn't want to be recorded in a "nice" version--it's a song for singing together with friends. Yet, once the band shouts (literally at a couple of points) in pleasure and digs in, answering Nussbaum's rich, husky voice, one realizes that this can, in fact, be put on record and that this is the way to do it. Likewise, when the band steps out on its own, as in clarinetists Peter Jessen's "Sklep tanz" it exudes a tight klezmer-influenced jazz that is, again, pure pleasure. And then, just to confound, Nussbaum illustrates her understanding of this genre with her own, "Liderle." And, then, later, the band demonstrates a perfect understanding of mid-Sixties Israeli bar mitzvah beat, with a perfectly backed "Machar" (with some interesting, and appropriate editings and excisions to the lyrics, as discussed in the liner notes).

Don't pick this album up because you are looking for purist klezmer. Pick it up because traditional and new Jewish songs this well-arranged and joyfully-sung, with musicianship of this calibre, are a rare and deep pleasure.

Liner notes are in English and Danish.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 5/24/97

Personnel this recording:
Channe Nussbaum: lead and background vocals
Peter Jessen: clarinet, bass clarinet
Jens Tolsgaard: accordion, mandola, piano, background vocals
Torben Steno: guitar
Peter Nielsen: bass
Morten Krøgholt: drums, percussion, background vocals

  1. Rebbe (trad./arr. Nussbaum-Spielniks) 3:01
  2. Wie nemt men (trad./arr. Nussbaum-Spielniks) 5:12
  3. Hinei ma tov (trad./arr. Nussbaum-Spielniks) 3:30
  4. Kinderjurn (Gebirtig/arr. Nussbaum-Spielniks) 3:12
  5. Sklep tanz (Petter Jessen/arr. Spielniks) 3:00
  6. Liderle (Channe Nussbaum) 4:00
  7. Borsht (trad./arr. Alpert/Bern/Bjorling/Brotman) 3:54
  8. Hava nagila (Abrahamzvi Idelsohn/arr. Nussbaum-Spielniks) 5:01
  9. Machar (Naomi Shemer) 3:25
  10. Full azan (Nussbaum-Spielniks) 3:52
  11. Jinger man (Channe Nussbaum) 3:37
  12. Ivona, Ilona, Aldona (Channe Nussbaum) 4:17
  13. Lage (from "Rufn di kinder aheym"; trad./arr. Bjorling/Spielniks) 4:11
  14. Tov lehodot (trad.) 2:19

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