Metropolitan Klezmer / Traveling Show

Review by Keith Wolzinger

album cover

Metropolitan Klezmer / Traveling Show, 2007
Rhythm Media Records RMR 005

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An exciting facet of today’s Klezmer scene for is the mix of genre-bending sounds that are being created by an increasing number of very talented groups. This is a welcome trend and shows a worldwide acceptance of Jewish musical traditions. One of the most important discoveries I’ve made is Metropolitan Klezmer and their latest release, Traveling Show, a live recording that encompasses a wide range of musical tastes that truly has something for everybody. The band’s energy and interaction with a very appreciative audience put this at the top of my list of live Klezmer recordings.

Traveling Show really has two meanings: The band as it is heard "on the road" while touring, as well as the global roots of the repertoire, North American, Eastern European, Balkan, Latin, and Soviet Yiddish Theater. All are represented with truth, originality, and musicality.

Metropolitan Klezmer does a marvelous job of taking medleys of well-known Klezmer songs and piecing together the best parts in stylistically creative ways, making mini-suites of these musical treasures.

My favorite track on the album is "Baltic Blue," an original composition by reed player Debra Kreisberg. It is a Jazz-influenced Terkisher that opens up for solos from Accordion, Sax, Muted Trumpet, and Trombone, and backed by delicate Percussion, Accordion, and some very tasty Acoustic Bass. Kreisberg is a versatile performer, with a great Clarinet sound on the Klezmer tunes and some free flowing Sax on the Swing/Jazz tunes.

The focal point for the group is Vocalist Deborah Karpel, who leads the musical journey with great style. From Yiddish swing favorites like "Ot Azoy Neyt a Shnayder" and "Abi Gezunt" to the Balkan-backed "Pick A Pocket Or Two" to the traditional "A Yid, A Kaptsn," the melancholy "Mayn Rue Platz," and the distinctive 'Musikalisher Tango," she gives a nuanced performance that is among the best of today’s interpreters of Yiddish song.

More fun breaks out on "Klezmerengue," a latin-flavored rendition of "Yosl, Yosl;" a "klezmographied" rendition of "Guys & Dolls & Bagels," and the Dixieland-flavored version of "Ikh Bin A Kleyner Dreydl."

Pam Fleming gives us a soulful Flugelhorn on "Kalarash Khupe & Frolic," "Mayn Rue Plats," and "An Alter Nign." The rest of the time she leads the horns with some very spirited trumpet playing, and fills in nicely on the jazz numbers.

Ismail Butera plays the role of the energetic Accordionist with masterful solos on "Mostly Rumanian Finale" and "Encore," some short solos on other tracks, and restrained accompaniment throughout the album (as there is no keyboard). I think Accordionists are generally under-appreciated, but Butera makes you take notice of his inspired performance.

Michael Hess is a great violoinist, but really makes his mark here with his Ney Flutes on "S’vivon," "Terk In Amerike," "Ney Taxim," and "Striver’s Sher."

Reut Regev is teriffic at pumping out the Trombone accompaniment throughout the album, but gets limited exposure. She has some great solo work, however, on "Baltic Blue," "Grandma’s Dance," and "Abi Gezunt."

Dave Hofstra is a very talentd Bass player, laying a perfect foundation for the band across all the musical styles on the album, especially on "Baltic Blue," and a beautiful solo on "Abi Gezunt." But the surprise comes from his doubling on Tuba on "C Minor Bulgar" and "Ken O’Hara Freylekhs," "Pick A Pocket Or Two," "Striver’s Sher," and "Kalarash Khupe and Freylekh."

Finally, we meet the unsung heroine of the group, Drummer Eve Sicular, who lays a perfect groove, whether Klezmer, Balkan, or Swing. She is among the best on the scene today. But let’s not stop there. She also had a hand in arranging all but one of the nineteen songs on the album, and was involved in mixing and editing, plus serving as the Producer, and writing the liner notes and Yiddish translations. It’s a daunting task to take on so much of the behind-the-scenes work on a project like this, and she has pulled it off with a very clean, crisp recording that will sound great on anything you play it on. Live recordings are difficult to get right, but this is one of the best-engineered live albums I’ve heard.

Speaking of liner notes, the cleverly-packaged insert is an 8-page foldout booklet that gives a good introduction to the album, as well as notes about each of the songs and some of the English/Yiddish lyrics.

One last thing to mention is the bonus track, "Comes Love," a beautiful studio recording made by Sicular’s smaller group, Isle Of Klezbos. It’s flowing lyric is set to a Tango/Yiddish Waltz and leaves some room for some more solos from the band members.

Traveling Show is at the top of my list for albums to recommend. It has every Jewish style and would be a great first album to buy if you are just starting to get into Klezmer/Jewish music. It’s got a home on my playlist for a long time to come. And who knows, maybe Traveling Show might be coming to your town.


Reviewed by Keith Wolzinger, April 3, 2008

Personnel this recording:
Ismail Butera: accordion
Pam Fleming: trumpet & flugelhorn
Michael Hess: violin & ney flutes
Dave Hofstra: acoustic bass & tube
Deborah Karpel: vocals
Debra Kreisberg: clarinet & alto sax
Reut Regev: trombone
Eve Sicular: drums


  1. Uncle Moses’ Wedding (trad., arr. Metropolitan Klezmer) 1:53
  2. Ot Azoy Neyt a Shnayder (trad., arr. Ismail Butera, Eve Sicular, Rick Faulkner & Metropolitan Klezmer) 4:05
  3. Miracle Melody: Hasidic Nign/Poor Man’s Tune (trad., arr. Eve Sicular/The poor Man's Tune words: L. Magister; music: Lazar Weiner; arr. Metropolitan Klezmer) 5:59
  4. Shpil du Fidl, Shpil—Play you fiddle, play (words: Molly Picon; music: Abraham Ellstein; arr. Eve Sicular, Debra Kreisberg & Metropolitan Klezmer) 3:28
  5. Guys & Dolls & Bagels ("Adelaide’s Lament" and "Luck Be a Lady Tonight" music & words: Frank Loesser/"Bublichki" trad., arr. Eve Sicular) 3:07
  6. Traveling Dreydls ("S’vivon" & trad;/"Ikh bin a kleyner dreydl music & Yiddish words: Mikhl Gelbart; English: S. S. Grossman; arr. Eve Sicular) 3:56
  7. C Minor Bulgar & Ken O’Hara Freylekhs (trad., arr. Metropolitan Klezmer) 3:05
  8. Mayn Rue Plats—My Resting Place (Morris Rosenfeld; arr. Eve Sicular) 3:31
  9. Pick a Pocket or Two (Lionel [Begleiter] Bart; arr. Eve Sicular & Metropolitan Klezmer) 2:44
  10. Baltic Blue (Debra Kreisberg) 5:26
  11. Kalarash Khupe & Frolic—Dancing with chairs (trad; arr. Eve Sicular/Metropolitan Klezmer) 3:09
  12. Üsküdar Taxim & Terk in Amerike (trad., arr. Ismail Butera with Metropolitan Klezmer) 3:20
  13. Soviet Yiddish Theater (GOSET) medley (Lev Pulver, based on trad. folk; transcribed & arr. Debra Kreisberg w/Rick Faulkner & Eve Sicular):

  14. Ney Taxim & Tailor’s Sher (Soviet Yiddish Theater Medley) 4:49
  15. Striver’s Sher (Soviet Yiddish Theater Medley) 1:39
  16. Grandma’s Dance/Lebedik un Freylekh (trad., arr. Eve Sicular) 3:49
  17. Muzikalisher Tango (words: William (Wolf) Mercur; music: Sam Morgenstern; arr. Eve Sicular & Metropolitan Klezmer) 3:46
  18. Mainly Rumanian Finale (trad., arr. Ismail Butera) 7:16
  19. Encore: Northern Doyna/An Alter Nign/Abi Gezunt & Klezmerengue (Ismail Butera/trad; arr. Even Sicular/Isel of Klezbos/words: Molly Picon; music: Abraham Ellstein; arr. Metropolitan Klezmer/Isle of Klezbos) 8:37
  20. Comes Love* (English words & music: Lew Brown, Sammy H. Stept, & Charles Tobias; arr. Eve Sicular) 4:37

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