Album cover: Couple under the khuppah. Shteygers (Ways)
New Klezmer Music 1991 - 1994

Trikont, US-0207, 1995

Shteygers / (Ways) New Klezmer Music 1991 - 1994

In the early part of this century, klezmer musicians from Europe arrived and changed, and were changed, by the incredible melting pot of music that was America. In the last decade of the century, a new generation of American musicians is changing, and is changed by klezmer. In this welcome survey of new klezmer music, compilers Rita Ottens and Joel Rubin explore the ways in which some bands have taken klezmer and other traditional Jewish melodies into jazz, rock and beyond.

Although I enjoy this album a lot, it strikes me just how quickly klezmer has begun to rollercoaster in all directions. Two years ago, this was a reasonable survey of the cutting edge. I might, perhaps, have tried to pull in a John Zorn number (although I would be hard-pressed to explain the connection to klez), or chosen the Flying Bulgar's "Vus vet zeyn" which moved off the scale (not that "Agadot" is anything but a new music delight!), and certainly I'd have found something from "Klezmer 1993--NYC" (although, admitedly, the recordings were poor, and most of the bands some variant of the Klezmatics and friends). But that leaves fifteen fascinating recordings that do take klezmer into new places, and that's a nice place to be.

I also need to note that several recordings come from the rare 1992 Geduldig and Thimann album, "A Haymish Groove," a most wonderful collection in its own right. Back to Shteygers, Frank London's twists from "The Shvitz" soundtrack, and the always appealing Klezmatics chant version of "Fun Tashlikh" ensure that this collection is by no means staying away from the edge. Unfamiliar (to me) artists such as Berlin band, Ahava Raba, and the KCB's Jeff Warschauer, are a surprise both in their phrasing and in their intensity, while the New Klezmer Trio had to be, and is, well-represented.

It's just that, as most recent recordings by these bands demonstrate, the edge is moving so quickly (it's like trying to keep up with the Internet)! I am also mindful of an exchange that occurred to me years ago. I was wearing my "Question Authority" t-shirt when someone remarked that I was wearing it wrong--it should be inside out or backwards or something. I replied that questioning the authority wasn't the same as davka, doing the opposite. In just the same way, pushing the edge of klez doesn't, and mustn't always mean pushing the edge of tonality--it means the entire diversity of klezmer as waves of this tradition spread into so many others. It's important to notice that virtually all of these pieces are based directly on traditional melodies, only the arrangement has changed. This isn't klez-derived music, but klezmer, itself, in a new setting. And, once again, Ottens and Rubin prove their ability to pull together a plethora of diverse pieces to create a representative, and fun-to-listen-to whole. The album ends with Branford Marsalis playing his version of "L'Chaim." Could I say more?

  1. Original Klezmer Jazz Band: "Easy & Breezy" (trad; arr. Peter Sokolow) 3:56
  2. Klezmokum: "Der gasn nign" (trad; arr. Klezmokum) 4:24
  3. The Klezmorim: "Oriental Melodies" (trad; arr. The Klezmorim) 3:15
  4. Klezmer Conservatory Band: "Foolish Freylekhs" (comp. and arr. Hankus Netsky) 2:04
  5. Frank London: "Full Moon, Ancient Waters" (comp. and arr. London) 3:29
  6. The Klezmatics: "Fun Tashlikh" (trad; arr. London with the Klezmatics) 5:45
  7. Ahava Raba: "In the footsteps of Bratslav/nign" (trad; arr. Ahava Raba) 6:15
  8. Jeff Warschauer: "Slow hora for those who wait for freedom" (comp. and arr. Warschauer) 2:31
  9. Salomon Klezmorim: "Sher" (trad; arr. Salomon Klezmorim) 4:42
  10. Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band: "Agadot" (comp. and arr. David Buchbinder) 5:23
  11. New Klezmer Trio: "Feedback Doina" (trad; arr. Kenny Wollesen) 5:07
  12. Shirim Klezmer Ensemble: "Seams" (comp. and arr. Glenn Dickson) 6:05
  13. Don Byron: "Voliner" (comp. and arr. Byron) 4:07
  14. Elliott Sharp: "Shtetl Metl" (comp. and arr. Sharp) 4:55
  15. Branford Marsalis: "L'Chaim" (Branford Marsalis) 2:23

Reviewed by Ari Davidow 5/11/96. Editing changes 3/15/97.

Other albums in this series

Yikhes / (Inheritance) (Klezmer Recordings 1909 - 1939)

Doyres / Generations (Traditional Klezmer 1979 - 1994)

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