on 6 December 2003
The vibrant world of klezmer music is a joyous, inventive form of musical expression that has its roots in Eastern Europe, and in the last three decades has had a vigorous rebirth with many brilliant musicians bringing their creativity to revitalize it.
A few of the artists on this compilation could be heard in the marvelous "In the Fiddler's House" documentary with Itzhak Perlman shown on public television in the U.S.
The Klezmatics: From New York's East Village come one of the most renown of klezmer bands, and many of the musicians on this CD are either presently in, or have at some time in the past been in this terrific group.
Naftule Brandwein's recording career was between 1922 and 1941; he was known as the "King of the Klezmer Clarinet", and it is fitting that he should have 2 tracks in this collection.
Budowitz also has 2 tracks, and they use 19th century instruments, re-creating as much as possible the sound of those old world weddings. The founder of the group, Joshua Horowitz, plays a Budowitz accordion, and to quote from the excellent booklet insert, it has a "dark, woody sound".
The Klezmer Conservatory Band, which hails from Boston, has been going strong since the early '80s, and they are jazzy, theatrical, and wonderful.
Kroke, which is a translation of Cracow, where these three men were born, perform the soulful, lyrical "The Secrets of the Life Tree", one of the best tracks on this compilation.
Brave New World is an international group based in New York, where one can hear modern classical threads woven through the Yiddish cloth of their music.
Harry Kandel's Orchestra is from the 1920s, and do the same tune "Der Gassen Nigen" as the track that follows them, by Klezmokum, a US/Dutch group who have an interesting, contemporary take on the song.
The David Krakauer Trio boasts the clarinet virtuosity of David, who was a former member of the Klezmatics.
Alicia Svigals, who is a member of the Klezmatics, shines playing an excerpt from her solo album "Fidl: Klezmer Violin".
Trumpeter Frank London (who leads the Klezmatics) here performs a marvelous up-tempo piece with a number of top musicians in the klezmer field.
Canada's Flying Bulgur Klezmer Band re-interpret Branwein's "Der Heisser" with their "Sumkinda Hora".
Di Naye Kapelye, a Hungarian-based group led by American Bob Cohen give us my favorite track on the CD, a spirited and spunky piece, and the only track on this compilation that has vocals.
American Joel Rubin, once a member of Brave Old World, and now Berlin-based, gives us a sweet and melodic song with his ensemble.
Margot Leverett, once with the Klezmatics, is a wizard with the clarinet, with a very smooth, fluid sound, here with her take on Brandwein's "Oy Tate", and is followed by the same song interpreted by Naftule's Dream, an avant-garde group from Boston, which is my least liked track on this CD, as I tend to be a traditionalist when it comes to klezmer.
Though I thoroughly enjoy this album, I do not consider it an overview of klezmer music, as it is somewhat one-sided. The absence of vocals except for track # 15 (not counting the "ahs" on track # 1) alone is limiting; nevertheless, it has much to offer, and is an excellent addition to a klezmer collection, but should not necessarily be the start of one.
overall sound is good, and total time is 71'21. Page 11 of the booklet insert explains how to use the enhanced feature of this CD which contains more information on klezmer music.