Kaila Flexer /
Compass Records, 1999, CD 7 4259 2
117 30th Ave., South,
Nashville, TN 37212
I've been listening, often along with Kaila, to world music for a lot of decades. When I met her in the early 1980s, she was in a band called "Hotzeplotz" (also where Ben Goldberg and Dan Seamans of the New Klezmer Trio began playing klezmer together) in Santa Cruz. Since moving to Berkeley in the mid-1980s she has founded and continued to hold an annual klezmer extravaganza, "Klezmer Mania" each Chanuka. Part of the festival has always been her own collection of festival-only klezmer bands, such as the San Francisco Marimba Klezmer Ensemble, and various other interesting fusions of klezmer and other music. When I last heard her concert band five years ago, I still felt that when they were on, nothing fused better, but when they didn't quite click, ....
It's now a couple of albums later. The name of the band has changed to "Next Village" to accomodate a British band that had already grabbed the band's former name. And somehow, in the process of moving around, this CD never got the listens I now hear that it wants. A couple of months ago, anxious to start giving the accumulated library a fair listen, I started working through the review pile of those years. This is the CD that I couldn't put away. After years of working at fusing all of that classical and world folk music together, the band really has fused!
Check out the swinging "Preconceived notions" with which the album opens right into "Extrapolate Backwards" and you'll find yourself discarding your own preconceived notions. Later on, listen to "André de Sapato Novo" for a different take on world dance. It isn't klezmer. It isn't gamelan or classical. It just swings. It's its own new world music. Of course, that does mean that one listens hard for a bit of klezmer and there is a bit, but not much left. The "Eastern European Medley" riffs on traditional Ukrainian and Rumanian melodies, including a nign often used by Khasidim who borrowed it from the same source, and recently recorded by Metropolitan Klezmer as "Szól a Kakas Már". Even the closing "Mazel Tov" is exploration of Jewish themes, but not klezmer, per se. I say this only to describe, and by way of explaining that, while you may be reading this review on the "KlezmerShack," this particular album is derived from klezmer music, among many other derivations, but is not klezmer, or Ukrainian, or South American music.
The band's quieter, more contemplative moments, are also quite interesting. "Squirrel Sits In" plays with a familiar theme and works it around a few times until everyone is happy. "Mrs. Van Loon's Afternoon Tea" is gently loony tunes. "Shepherd's Dream" takes a familiar nign and, again, transforms it into something that fits an ensemble structure, while "Feijoada" does the same with a faintly South American theme. In one critical sense, this music is conceptually removed from dancing. Rather than consisting of rhythmic themes, or of verses, songs are themes and their explorations. In this, the music follows more of a classical or avant gardeish bent (to the limited extent that I understand either). Thus, after the aforementioned "Mrs. Van Loon" presents the theme, the musicians then move to create a tone poem out of sometimes apparently random sounds and explorations. Similar explorations in "Trapeze Secrets" make this a perfect album to work to, or to listen to. Something is always changing; there is always something to listen to, but nothing is distracting, and the individual explorations can be stunning.
The net result of these explorations is an album that is both innovative and inventive, on the one hand, but is also supremely listenable. As I said, we haven't let it disappear from the CD changer for months. I think you'll enjoy it, too.
Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 25 Mar 2001
Personnel this recording:
Cindy Browne: double bass
Joel Davel: marimba, percussion
Kaila Flexer: violin
Nikolai Prisakar: accordion
Mike Marshall: mandolin
Andy Narell: steel pan
Jovino Santos Neto: piano
Andy Connell: clarinet
Aaron Johnston: drums and percussion
Tom Miller: percussion
Brian Rice: drums and percussion
- Preconceived notions (K. Flexer) :47
- Extrapolate Backwards (K. Flexer/Mike Marshall) 3:56
- Squirrel Sits In (K. Flexer) 4:18
- Shepherd's Dream (K. Flexer) 4:16
- Feijoada (K. Flexer/Mike Marshall) 4:09
- Eastern European Medley (trad. Ukrainian/Rumanian; arr. Nikolai Prisakar) 2:29
- André de Sapato Novo (André Victor Correia) 3:33
- Mrs. Van Loon's Afternoon Tea (K. Flexer) 5:54
- January 27 (K. Flexer) 6:05
- Grab the Gutter (K. Flexer/Mike Marshall) 3:26
- Trapeze Secrets (K. Flexer/Jovino Santos Neto) 5:52
- Mazel Tov (trad., arr. by the group) 3:46