Klezamir / Der Bloyfoygl of Happiness (The Bluebird of fun freydl)

decent typography for a klezmer band featuring oud

Der Bloyfoygl of Happiness (The Bluebird of fun freydl)

KL103, 2001

CD/MP3s available from the band website.

The last time I got a chance to hear new Klezamir material was just after Balkan night a few years ago. Well, here we are again! And the new album is very much worth the wait. This is the sort of music for which I moved to Boston--a diversity of incredible Jewish music spread throughout the beauty of New England. Oh, and I (maybe Klezamir, too) am possibly also influenced by the rare popularity of world folk musics from all over, throughout the region.

The band takes its initial inspiration from neo-traditional klezmer bands such as Boston's Klezmer Conservatory Band, performing a mix of traditional Jewish wedding music, Yiddish folk and theatre standards. With the addition of new vocalist, Felicia Shpall, the band extends its repertoire into the more spiritual side of Yiddish songwriter Shalom Secunda, with a soulful, very theatrical "Got fun Avrom" (God of Abraham), set in part by the occasional Jethro Tull trill by flautist Rose, or the perfect country rock guitar lick by Armenti. Of course, the rest of the song is pure klezmer. By extending the song to showcase its many talents, the band is also transforming the song to this time and place.

Of course, if the vocals sound like fun, the instrumentals, going back and forth between the more traditional Jewish theatre sound and a sparer "country klezmer rock" reminiscent of the Freilachmakers, are pure heaven. Similar "rock" breaks occur in the Jewish/Balkan dance duo (Rumenisher Hora/Nishki Cochek). What fascinates me most is that not only are these breaks from eastern European melody perfectly done, but one can imagine today's wedding party, perhaps less familiar with the chochek than with country rock, suddenly feeling reassured that dance music is, after all, dance music and familiar. Similarly, Amy Rose's many new instrumentals, starting with "Mayn Bashertes Tants" (My Beloved's Dance) which pulls together the more formal waltz and a very eastern european feel, lifted by her gentle, skillful flute-playing, provide contemporary reasons to celebrate. Balanced by Jim Armenti's fusion music, such as "Der Memfiskider tsimes" (Memphis Stew), the band is also an instrumental delight.

If I have any complaints, it is "Mayn Yidishe Meydele," (My Jewish Meydele). It is the 'NSync hit of its day. I would have gone a long way never to hear it again, even when the band vamps with it to the extent that they do here. The same holds, a bit, for "Oy mame, bin ikh farlibt," and "Di Sapozhkelekh" (Yiddish music's contribution to the "beat me, hit me, I'll still follow you anywhere" school of bad blues, albeit usually sung these days playing to the poetry of extreme self-effacing desire. Ahem.). Does the world really need the 15000th recording of these, however well done? But the band is right. Everyone else loves the song. What's a reviewer to do? Klezamir has always gone for superb vocalists in the New York Second Avenue tradition. Newcomer Shpall may be the best yet. When she starts singing new material as well as she sings the old, the way Rose and Armanti fuse klezmer with newer American music, this band could well be the ultimate American klezmer band.

The album ends with one of the hoariest chestnuts of all, from the grand tradition in which a mother fears that the new mother in-law may not appreciate her daughter's finer qualities. Oh, yes, "mazel tov and be damn good to my kid or she'll knock you into the next state. Not that she would ever be anything but a lady!" Which provides the band a chance to remind us of why each new Klezamir album is so welcome: impeccable, wonderful new instrumentals, and a wonderfully theatrical presentation of Yiddish music, old and new. Klezamir is a perfect example of how American klezmer music should sound in this time and place. If you're not lucky to live nearby, send away for a copy of this new album and hear what you're missing.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow 3/25/01

Personnel this recording:
Jim Armenti: clarinet, electric and acoustic guitars, tenor sax, mandolin, vocals
Joe Blumenthal: acoustic bass, vocals, tenor banjo
Amy Rose: flute, piano, accordion, vocals
Keith Levreault: drums and percussion
Felicia Shpall: lead vocals


  1. Jubilee (Jim Armenti) 2:35
  2. Got fun Avrom--God of Abraham (music: Sholom Secunda; text: H. Roisenblatt) 7:52
  3. Shpilt mir klezmorimlekh--Play for me dear musicians (trad., arr. Klezamir) 2:38
  4. Freylekh (trad., arr. Klezamir) 2:17
  5. Oy Mame bin ikh farlibt--Oh Mama, am I in love (Abraham S. Ellstein) 4:15
  6. Rumenisher Hora (trad., arr. Klezamir) 2:21
  7. Nishki Cochek (trad., arr. Klezamir) 4:41
  8. Mayn Yidishe Meydele--My Jewish meydele (lyrics: Anshel Schorr; music: Sholom Secunda) 2:42
  9. Mayn Bashertes Tants (Amy Rose) 2:27
  10. Der Memfisdiker tsimes/Der Bloyfoygl--Memphis stew/The bluebird (Jim Armenti) 5:59
  11. Di Sapozhkelekh--The boots (trad., arr. Klezamir) 3:35
  12. Salonica (Amy Rose) 3:47
  13. Vayter, Vayter--Further, further (Amy Rose) 3:42
  14. Mekhuteneste mayne--My dear in-law (trad., arr. Klezamir) 5:24

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