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New Klezmer Trio Innovative and Surprising

by René van Peer

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This article was originally published in Eindhovens Dagblad, September 7, 1992.

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Concert New Klezmer Trio. Het Apollohuis, Eindhoven, Saturday, September 5th, 1992.

When pogroms got unleashed against Jewish communities in Eastern Europe around the start of this century, large groups fled to the USA. Often the only wealth they could take with them was their culture. Thus they imported Klezmer-music: songs and dances played by wandering musicians, influenced by the traditional music from areas where Jews lived. They mixed Greek, Turkish and Slavic elements with their own scales creating a style in which they could move about freely in variations and improvisations.

In the '70s their descendants rediscovered this style and brought it to life again. This revival (set in motion by 'The Klezmorim') seems still in full bloom, judging from the number of bands specializing in the genre. However, just like tea drawn persistently from the same bag, the result is an extract losing potency every time around -- belying the tang of the original: as a rule old melodies get rehashed and are presented with an emphatic jocularity, that never fails to strike me as insipid. To this the 'New Klezmer Trio', playing Het Apollohuis last Saturday, is a welcome exception.

They are excellent musicians displaying full mastery of their instruments. Starting from the melodies, the improvised embellishments and the rhythms that are characteristic of klezmer, this trio not only takes the first (logical) step into jazz. They go one step beyond -- into a totally free style, propelled by the skill of listening and the ability to enter this terra incognita as an undaunted unit.

Particularly gratifying to me was the experience of them shifting to and fro between these styles. An evergreen such as Rebbe's Meal was cut to snippets by clarinetist Ben Goldberg, embedded in a jazzy accompaniment of Dan Seamans' double-bass, and afterwards soared off on the wings of drummer Kenny Wollesen into this exciting and wondrous twilight zone, that defies naming -- even though the ties with the 'mother country' were audible all along.

By the way, Wollesen's drum kit was a real knock-out with its extensive set of metals. He did his utmost to draw whatever sound he could from it. I would definitely want to hear this man going about this business in a solo performance.

Reviewed by René van Peer, originally in published in Eindhovens Dagblad, September 7, 1992.

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Contents copyright © 1992 by René van Peer. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Page last revised 08 November, 2014.