Jason Rosenblatt & Shtreiml / Harmonica Galitzianer
Jason Rosenblatt & Shtreiml
Dist. by: Jason Rosenblatt
Harmonica doesn't usually get much respect, especially in klezmer circles where it is almost unknown. This new album by Shtreiml may change that. Featuring the harmonica-playing of KlezKanada staffer Jason Rosenblatt, it is one of the most delightful and refreshingly traditional (to the extent that a klezmer album featuring harmonica can be called "traditional") albums to come along in a while. The opening "Parah Adumah" (by Andy Statman) grabs the ears as Rosenblatt demonstrates that his chosen instrument can sound as heimish, and as forceful, as the more common solo instruments. His work on the slower, more thoughtful "Yedid Nefesh Nigun" shows that harmonica can reach into a Jewish soul without playing the blues. And even when he strays from klezmer into gypsy music, on the "Cacurica Dances," the music still winds up sounding like it belongs, and sounding wonderful. The play back and forth between harmonica and accordion on pieces such as "Mazeltov Dances" further emphasizes the degree to which this instrument "belongs" when played this well. When the harmonic breaks loose in the "Kazatzke" section, the effect is sheer bliss - it's that feeling of awe you get when watching Vassar Clements dive into "Orange Blossom Special". The duet with Pete Rushefsky on tsimbl ("Romanian Sirba") does have a bit of a lonely prairie sound to it. Rushefsky, it should be noted, also recorded with Rosenblatt's brother, Elie.
One of the notable aspects of this album is the very tight, forceful drumming. Usually such insistence on an obvious beat makes me think of bad bar mitzvah bands. Here, there is a military band feeling in the insistence of percussion. But it seems to help the rest of the band swing. Much to my surprise, as I reach to type in my usual standard paragraph 237b about how klezmer needs to have a more varied beat and fewer taradiddles, I have to hold my fingers. This, I like. I like it a lot.
On another note, many bands are betrayed by vocalists who don't have the range or the ear to sing the songs that the band has chosen to record. On this recording, however, Rosenblatt's mother, Abby Rosenblatt, is superb. Her a capella "Fishelach in Vasser" (Fish in the water) is perfect. On "Mechutenesteh Meine" she turns an old chestnut into something that really did want to be recorded again.
Sometimes my ears need to be shaken up. This CD is just such a shake-up. It's a marvellous breath of fresh air and rhythm. I hope that it is merely the first in a long line of CDs by Rosenblatt and the talented Shtreiml. I just really like this. I think that you will, too.
Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 5/24/03
Personnel this recording:
Jason Rosenblatt: harmonic
Josh Dolgin: accordion
Thierry Arsenault: drums, percussion
Ariel Harrod: bass
Abby "Mom" Rosenblatt: vocals (tracks 5, 9)
Pete Rushefskyr: tsimbl (track 12)
- Para Aduma--"Red Heifer" (Andy Statman) 2:37
- Alte Sher--Old Sher (trad., arr. Jason Rosenblatt) 3:05
- Novi Sacz Sirba (trad., after arr. Wolf Kostakowsky) 2:11
- Yedid Nefesh Nigun (Andy Statman) 4:04
- Mechutenesteh Meine--Dear In-Law (trad., pub. by M. Beregovski & I. Feffer) 2:58
- Cacurica Dances (trad., after Taraf de Haidouks) 4:01
- Mazeltov Dances (trad., arr. Katz-Farber) 3:51
- Meine Teire Odessa--My Dear Odessa (trad., arr. Dave Tarras) 3:43
- Fishelach in Vasser--Fish in the Water (Isaac Reimer) 3:18
- Galitzianer Tanz--A Galician Dance (Shloimke Beckerman) 6:51
- German's Moldavian Bulgar (trad., arr. German Goldenshtayn-Josh Dolgin) 1:44
- Romanian Sirba (trad., after Wolf Kostakowsky) 2:22
- Bulgar Popular (trad.) 1:54