The Klezmer Conservatory Band / Dancing in the Aisles

Album cover: The audience in motion.

Klezmer Conservatory Band
Dancing in the Aisles

Rounder CD 3155, 1997

The Klezmer Conservatory Band is the archetype of the big klezmer/Yiddish Theatre big band. The band's first album, Yiddishe Rennaissance album coverYiddish Rennaissance back in the late Seventies jolted my sense of what klezmer was or could be in the nicest, most powerful way. (A subset of the band even played at the wedding of my friends Elissa and Jonathan.) Between Judy Bresler's translations of the Yiddish and cabaret sense (for all my admiration of the band, I have never quite liked her voice, although it does get better all the time), and the amazing Don Byron on clarinet, and a horn section that wouldn't, couldn't quit, the band seemed the motherlode of Yiddishkeit. And when the band finally came to perform in San Francisco at the largest local synagogue and people got up, myself included, and were dancing wildly in the aisles, I remained hooked. I've since had the pleasure of seeing the band in other venues, and it is always an amazing show.

Since that time, they have performed and recorded actively. They haven't actually broken new ground, but they are so good that this, too, is a good thing. And there is so much old repertoire awaiting revival that, really, what is there to innovate. And no one, not even Chicago's wonderful Maxwell Street Klezmer Band does it quite as well.

There are an incredible number of standouts on this album, starting with the opening "Freylekh Jamboree." The band moves into new territory with Bresler's moving rendition of "Kol Rina," and the obligatory chance to let mandolinist Jeff Warschauer strut his amazing fingers, this time through the more Middle-Eastern "Meron Nign." (One of the really amazing things about the "Yiddishe Rennaissance" is the way that, in recent years, it has come to pull in Mizrahi and Sephardic musical threads as well, turning into a full-fledged movement to celebrate world music in all of the ways that Jewish communities around the world have used the musics around them to celebrate. Which isn't to ask how a Bobover tune becomes mangled Mizrahi, but it's close enough for mainstream purposes, and that's what matters here.) Oh, yeah, and then there is Miriam Rabson's "Freylekh Fantastique," turning a freylekh into a tour of "Classics 101" (or proving that everything, sooner or later, is material for a freylekh), a klez-ish version of material chomped by her side band, Excelsior, and finally, more seriously, a closing, most moving tribute to slain Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin.

The thing about the Klezmer Conservatory Band isn't just that they were the first to assemble a modern Jewish big band and blow everyone else off the stage. Somehow, twenty years later, they can still find new material worth exploring and still get up on stage and still blow the competition away. In that spirit, this recording is an excellent introduction to the band, and to the spirit of a Yiddish Rennaissance in all of its best meanings.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 7/20/97

Personnel this recording:
Hankus Netsky: director, alto saxophone, accordion
Judy Bressler: vocals, tambourine, poyk
Ilene Stahl: clarinet
Miriam Rabson: violin
Robin Miller: flute, piccolo
Gary Bohan: cornet
Mark Hamilton: trombone
Javier Perez Saco: piano
Jeff Warschauer: mandolin, guitar, tenor banjo, background vocls
James Guttmann: bass
Grant Smith: drums, percussion


  1. Freylekh Jamboree (trad., arr. Mickey Katz & Nat Farber) 2:55
  2. Oy, Siz Gut (Oh, It's Good) (music: Abe Ellstein; lyrics: Jacob Jacobs) 2:50
  3. Farges Mikh Nit (Don't Forget Me) (music: Abe Ellstein; lyrics: Jacob Jacobs) 3:06
  4. Doyne/Freylekhs (trad., arr. KCB/trad., arr. Hankus Netsky) 4:33
  5. Kol Rina (the Voice of Joy) (trad. Bobover; arr. Judy Bressler & Hankus Netsky) 3:20
  6. Gimpel the Fool (Hankus Netsky) 3:03
  7. Mayn Freylekh Lid (My Joyful Song) (music: Alexander Olshanetsky; lyrics: Jacob Jacobs) 4:24
  8. Miserlou (music: trad.; lyrics: Miriam Kressyn) 4:19
  9. Meron Nign (Tune from Meron) (trad., arr. Jeff Warschauer) 4:33
  10. Slow Hora/Freylekhs (trad., arr. KCB) 5:21
  11. Mayn Yiddishe Meydele (Don't Forget Me) (music: Abe Ellstein; lyrics: Jacob Jacobs) 3:06
  12. Freylekh Fantastique (excerpts from compositoins by Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Grieg, Rossini, Mendelsohn, adapted &. arr. Miriam Rabson) 4:39
  13. Hopkele/Dancing in the Aisles (music: Alexander Olshanetsky; lyrics: Jacob Jacobs/Gary Bohan) 5:26
  14. In Memoriam: Yitzhak Rabin (Hankus Netsky) 2:10

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