BVHAAST, CD 9209, 1992
Several years ago, whilst browsing scenic downtown El Cerrito, CA (not scenic at all, but for being the home of both Arhoolie Records and the world's best real music store, Down Home Music.") I ran across a curious klezmer album from Holland by a group called "Klezmokum." I snapped it up, took it home, and listened to it with pleasure. A few years later, I am still listening to this release with pleasure, so it is time to write about it.
In those days, I was having a hard time with the idea of klezmer fusing with jazz, a medium that I often enjoy, but which has never been a large part of my environment. This band was different, though. From the opening chords of "Baym Rabin in Palestina," with the authoritatively good traditional playing, seguing into straight jazz chords, and then, somehow, continuing to play jazz, but not klezmer with jazz influences, but rather, jazz turned thoroughly klezmer. As we say, "nes gadol haya sham!" A similar "miracle" occurs in the bands transformation of "Oy tate!" that foreshadows that monster changes and fun that Naftule's Dream has had with the song since.
In addition to making jazz sound like klez, the band was also unusual for its time in the breadth of the music it assimilated. The band moves from Middle Eastern and Sephardic rhythms, to Chasidic chants (the long "Devotedly Buoyant at Abos" contains a Russian folksong, "nyet nyet" become popular as a dance among Chasidim and since popularized by Giora Feidman), to the pleasant, dreamy Transylvanian pastorale, "U Naseho Barty". It is that breadth, as well as the sheer pleasure of good klezmer and good jazz infusing each other, that makes this album sound as fresh today as it did back in 1992.
The band was co-founded by Burton Greene and Marcel Salomon, who later left to pursue more traditional klezmer in "Salomon Klezmorim". The name comes from "Klezmer" and "Mokum," Dutch for place--the former Jewish name for Amsterdam. The name is also descriptive of the way the band has pulled in so many sources of Jewish and world music and created it's own "Klezmer Place. Klezmokum has subsequently released a second recording, "Jewazzic Park", and is currently in the studio working on a new release. They appear periodically at the wonderful Knitting Factory in New York. One hopes that other American venues will become available as word of the band gets out.
Reviewed by Ari Davidow 5/30/98
Personnel this recording:
Michael Moore: clarinet
Larry Fishkind: tuba
Roberto Haliffi: drums, African percussion
Burton Greene: piano, percussion
- Baym Rebin in Palestina (trad.) 3:38
- Oy Tate S'iz Gut (trad.) 3:13
- U Naseho Barty (trad. Hungarian/arr. B. Greene) 7:51
- Ay Nshomah (B. Greene) 8:03
- Galitzyamer Tantz (trad. Polish) 3:12
- El Ha'ayin Variations (J. Hadar/B. Greene) 8:08
- El Khalil (B. Greene) 14:39
- Nokh A Glezl Vayn (trad.) 6:30
- Der Gasn Nigun (trad.) 4:25
- Devotedly Buoyant at Abos (trad./arr. Marcel Salomon) 11:49