Klezmania: Klezmer for the New Millenium

Album cover: gloriously, fantastically cheesy sci fi dated ugly featuring a skyscaper-sized bagel and a hassid in a flying rocket and matzo and more!.

Klezmer for the New Millenium

Shanachie 67007, 1997

What an immensely fun compilation! I'll admit that I was expecting a mind-expanding collection of avant garde klez fused with jazz and whatever else. There is a fair sampling of that on this album. But the range of material that producer Henry Sapoznik managed to include ensures that this is a fun album, rather than just a collection of experimental music. As he notes in the liner notes, Henry was concerned with all of the multitude of ways in which klezmer sounds might be heard in New York's Lower East Side today. Thus, we have tracks ranging from the rock-tinged "Sher" from Boiled in Lead to the a capella stylings of Germany's Aufwind In between there is a marvellous remix of the Klezmatics' "Khsidim Tants" ("Ben Mandelson's Honga Onga Mix"), some (to me) over the edge samplings by Nathanson and Coleman, a perfect edge "Voliner" by Don Byron, excellent choices from the New Orleans Klez All-Stars and New Klezmer Trio, an intense integration of klez and soul in the Godchildren of Soul's apt "Crown Heights Affair", all ending up with a wonderfully cheesy surf rock version of "Tum Balalaika" by Twistin' the Freylakhs (Don't ask why, but the beginning reminds me a lot of the "Hawaii Five-Oh Theme." How about them surfin' klez Hawaiians?)

In other words, this is the range, from experimental, to rock, to cheese, of klezmer as it pulls in new influences, once again, just as it did in the old country, and just as it did in the first decades of this century in America. The result is a CD that pushes the ears in all directions, but always interestingly. It's easy to listen to over and over and over and over without getting bored. I'm doing that a lot.

If I had to get picky (which is rhetorical--I'm going to get picky) I'd probably have lived without the Kapelye cut, nice as it is, or Boiled in Lead (this is far from their best Irish rock klez), or even the Frank London piece (definitely been there and done that already) in favor of some Naftule's Dream, or perhaps some Kroke or Flying Bulgars, or even the Brave Combo. But, there's enough here that I really like, and there's enough here for anyone who is interested in klezmer and its permutations. If there are the occasional pieces that don't make it, no problem. And if there is that much more klezmer that is pushing the edge out there (and there is), Henry will just have to do another volume soon. (Actually, a lot of those artists are on the Ellipsis sampler, see sidebar.) My only other complaint is that credits are uncharacteristically sloppy, both for Shanachie and for Sapoznik. Some songs aren't credited at all. This is unusual, and it is most unfortunate for this type of album. So it goes.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow 3/15/97.

  1. Boiled in Lead "Sher" 2:30
  2. Ahava Raba "Nokh a Glezl Vayn" 4:17
  3. The Klezmatics "Khsidim Tants (Ben Mandelson's Honga Onga Mix)" 5:33
  4. Don Byron "Voliner" 4:09
  5. Aufwind "In Shtetl Nikolaev" 4:13
  6. the Paradox Trio "Alts far Gelt" 8:07
  7. Nathanson and Coleman "Sadegurer Khosid'l" 3:16
  8. Frank London "V'erastikh Li" 6:15
  9. Kapelye "Two Cents Plain" 2:51
  10. New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars "Mazl Tov Cocktail" 3:36
  11. New Klezmer Trio "Washing Machine" 3:02
  12. Godchildren of Soul "Crown Heights Affair" 7:44
  13. Twistin' the Freylakhs "Tum Balalaika" 2:45

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