Margot Leverett / The Art of Klezmer Clarinet

nice lettering, nice clarinet

Margot Leverett
The Art of Klezmer Clarinet

Traditional Crossroads CD4296, 2000

Traditional Crossroads
PO Box 20320
Greeley Square Station,
New York, NY 10001-9992 USA

Since it arrived at the house a couple of days ago, we've been listening to almost nothing else but Margot Leverett's "The Art of Klezmer Clarinet" (Traditional Crossroads, CD 4296). It follows us throughout the house, from bedroom to living room, to downstairs in the office. Leverett is one of the founding members of the Klezmatics, current member of the seldom-seen klezmer music supergroup, "Mikveh," and a regular teacher at KlezKamp. Here, the currently New York-based clarinetist steps out with friends from the Boston Klezmer scene to pay tribute to greats of the American Klezmer clarinet: Dave Tarras, Naftule Brandwein, Shloimke Beckerman. The album could also be titled, "The Joy of Klezmer Clarinet," for the soul that infects Leverett's playing. It's also rather neat that this album be released on the label that is home to Klezmatics violinist Alicia Svigals' tribute to older European klezmer fiddlers, Fidl. In addition to the clarinetists mentioned above, I also want to mention the pleasure I got out of recognizing some Max Epstein in the "Bulgar Medley." In her liner notes, she describes first hearing an early LP by the self-styled "Dukes of Freilachland," aka, The Epstein Brothers. "... for a while they were the only tunes I wanted to play." The liner notes are also a nice shorthand of the klezmer revival, from the perspective of a veteran explaining how she discovered the music and the effect it had on her as she heard and learned more.

A few klezmer revival musicians have a special place as carriers on of tradition: Andy Statman will forever be linked to Dave Tarras. Michael Alpert's ties to a variety of musicians, singers, and badkhanim, ranging from Ben Bayzler, Bronya Sakina, and Leon Schwartz are part of how we see him as a musician, today. In Leverett's case, her long apprenticeship with Shloimke Beckerman's son, Sid, himself one of the prime sources of older American klezmer repertoire, both informs her playing and depth of knowledge, and perhaps also the "menshlikh-keit" and joy of playing that one hears on this CD.

It is also worth calling attention to the fact that, despite the popularity of the clarinet as a lead klezmer instrument, there really aren't many good recordings that would let a neophyte dive into the music and soul of the instrument. Thinking on one leg, this is the first album since Joel Rubin's groundbreaking first album (since renamed "Hungry Hearts") in 1984. As good as Joel was then, this is yet another tremendous leap in skill and soulfulness. And as good as Rubin's backup was then (it's the band that became Brave Old World), Margot and friends shine together. This is the album to understanding what traditional klezmer clarinet can be, today.

Oh, one other thing. We tend to dance when we experience this CD. We trust that klezmer aficionados will find that an acceptable imperative.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow 1/1/00

Personnel this recording:
Margot Leverett: clarinet and alto saxophone
Jim Guttmann: bass
Evan Harlan: accordion
David Harris: trombone
Mimi Rabson: violin
Grant Smith: percussion
Bob Weiner: percussion


  1. Doina (Margot Leverett) 1:19
  2. Gasn Nigun (trad.) 2:34
  3. Bulgar Medley (trad.) 5:35
  4. Firen di Mekhutonim Aheym (trad.) 3:17
  5. Oy Tate S'iz Gut (trad.) 2:32
  6. Skocne (trad.) 2:22
  7. Freilicher Yontov (trad.) 2:28
  8. Sam & Dave (trad.) 2:23
  9. Heymisher Bulgar (trad.) 2:43
  10. Lustige Hasidim (trad.) 4:50
  11. Epstein Hora (trad.) 2:47
  12. Sid Medley (trad.) 8:41
  13. Shvesterel (Margot Leverett) 1:39
  14. Ben's Tune (trad.) 2:12/li>
  15. Yiddisher Soldat (trad.) 3:41
  16. Ruchelle's Bulgar (trad.) 2:41
  17. Fifteen Years away from Home (trad.) 3:09

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