Ezekiel's Wheels / די פאָדעם The Thread

Album cover: nice graphic, blah type, again

Ezekiel's Wheels
די פאָדעם The Thread
, 2019

CD and MP3s available from Bandcamp and other streaming vendors/services

Ezekiel's Wheels remains one of the most exciting klezmer ensembles of the last decade. This new recording showcases how much they have grown and changed in that time, starting with the revelation that their already-innovative bass player, Kirsten Lamb, who I have seen play bass in diverse settings from modern Classical to a John Zorn tribute, is also a gifted singer of Yiddish. Whereas in live concerts they will sometimes stretch out—the closest thing to a Klezmer jam/jazz-band since Shtreiml, here they are at their tuneful tightest. The recording opens with two Yiddish classics, the upbeat "A khosn on a kale," and "Fisher lid," popularized by the Klezmatics. In the EW version, the song is less bluesy, more in keeping with the band's overall upbeat, driving dancing sensibility. Lamb continues with a delicious rendition of "Sheyn vi di levone" (Beautiful as the moon) and later in the album, one of my favorite renditions of Morris Rosenfeld's tribute to sweat shop workers, "Mayn rue platz" (My resting place), and the nign vocals on "Mayer's Nign."

Instrumentally, the band has only grown tighter. Trombonist Pete Fanelli is a treasure, anchoring that jazzy, American Klezmer "simkhe" sound, and frequently dropping in for tasty solos. Clarinetist Nat Seelen and fiddlers Abigale Reisman and Jonathan Cannon round out the band and contribute to traditional tunes, as well as band originals such as the "Suzuki Freylekhs". And, despite what I said about this being less improvisational than the band in concert, on numbers such as "Der Dreyendiker Khosidl" they manage to stretch out in ways that let everyone have fun, while keeping the dance beats strong. Also notable are very traditional compositions by Cannon: "Shem Tov" and "Mayer's Nign," even an english-language new wedding song, "Dance;" as well as Seelen's clarinet doina/dance, "Suite 1973."

The passion we hear on this recording is no less than what we hear live. I should note that Reisman and Seelen arealso frequent contributors at Yiddish New York and KlezKanada, while Cannon is responsible for keeping up my awareness of the local New England Folk Festival. What I think I like best about this recording is that sense of renewal and continuity. The band plays many traditional tunes, and has composed many new melodies that maintain that continuity. They also include brand-new traditional tunes from the recently-made-available Beregovski Archives, such as "Suzuki Freylachs." With this recording, the band confirms how much it has grown, but also how rooted they are in traditional klezmer. Enjoy! And get copies for all of your friends!

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 1 Jan 2022

Personnel this recording:
Abigale Reisman: Violin, Harmony Vocals
Jonathan Cannon: Violin
Kirsten Lamb: Double Bass, Lead Vocals
Nathaniel Seelen: Clarinet
Pete Fanelli: Trombone

Song Titles

  1. A Khosn on a Kale—A groom without a bride (words: Leyb Kvitko; music: Emil Gorovets; english adapted by Lamb, Cannon) 4:05
  2. Fisher Lid—Fisherman song (Aliza Greenblatt; add't'l music from Job Chabes via "Di Naie Chuppe"; english from Eleanore Gordon Mlotek and Joseph Mlotek) 5:08
  3. Shem Tov (Jonathan Cannon) 3:25
  4. Sheyn Vi Di Levone—How beautiful the moon (words: Chaim Tauber, Jonathan Cannon; eng after Norman Warembud, adapted Kirsten Lamb, Jonathan Cannon; music: Joseph Rumshinsky, Joey Weisenberg) 3:58
  5. Suzuki Freylekhs (trad, from Beregovski) 4:15
  6. Der Dreyendiker Khosidl—The spinning khosidl (Kirsten Lamb) 3:51
  7. Shlof, Mayn Kind—Sleep, my child (words: Leah Rudnicki, trad.; set by Kirsten Lamb; music: Nat Seelen; eng lyrics adapted Kirsten Lamb, Jonathan Cannon) 4:55
  8. Mayn Rue Plats—My resting place (Morris Rosenfeld) 3:43
  9. Mayer’s Nign (Jonathan Cannon) 3:43
  10. Suite 1973 (Nathaniel Seelen) 4:10
  11. Dance (Jonathan Cannon) 3:15

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