Levyosn / Levyosn's Lullaby
Levyosn / Levyosn's Lullaby, 2023
I may as well start out with superlatives. This is my favorite album of new Yiddish music in years. I loved the voices. I love the harmonies. I love the playing. I love the new compositions, and the settings of older poems in music that fits a new time and place.
The trio displays its klezmer roots on a few songs, such as the "Fun der Khupe" medley (which also showcases their treatment of traditional Hebrew), but the real attraction is those harmonies and the new/old Yiddish songs. Starting with their re-imagining of a 1906 Zalmen Schneour (author of the beloved "Vilna," among others) song, or the Lysander Jaffe setting of the a capella lullaby, "Hayda-Liu-Liu," and continuing with the traditional "Indroysn iz fintster," I find myself transported. "It's dark outside so late at night. There's not even a pitter-pat or the rustle of birds in the street. Oh, where have you been?"
My favorites, though, are the new pieces. They make this recording contemporary and wonderful. Hetko's piece written for a friend's wedding, "Fayerdike Menthshn" (Two Passionate People) makes me smile and remember my own wedding each time I hear it. Similarly, delight in Hetko's setting of "Vi a nes" (Like a miracle), a love song of sorts, a defiance by Zusman Segalovitch, written in the Warsaw Ghetto, which also features her exquisite translation, leading, again, to marvellous harmonies.
Unlike most contemporary Yiddish recordings, this one acknowledges not only the Hebrew (see the delicious "Moh Rabu" set to music by Kaia Berman-Peters in the klezmer medley), but also an elegant, spare, beautiful setting of the Ladino "Hamavdil", part of Havdallah ceremony. And then, like a miracle, the recording ends with my favorite recording of the late Adrienne Cooper's arrangement of "A gute vokh," since Cooper's own. (The recording is dedicated to the memory of the late song-leader Larry Gordon)
This is my absolute favorite recording in years. It's also the sort of recording that I feel comfortable sharing with everyone I meet, whether or not they speak Yiddish, love klezmer, or even have no connection whatsoever to Jewish or Yiddish culture. It's just one of those special recordings that brings joy and a smile each time it is heard. I should also mention an amazing physical CD cover for those who still capture their music on physical artifacts. I've been purchasing them by the dozen. You can get your starter copy at bandcamp. (Makes a perfect Khanike gift, as well!)
Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 18 Nov, 2023.
Personnel this recording:
Lysander Jaffe: violin, viola, voice (lead vocals, tracks 1, 9)
Kaia (Chaia) Berman-Peters: accordion, voice (lead vocals, tracks 2, 7; solo track 3)
Adah Hetko: voice, guitar (lead vocals, tracks 3, 4, 5, 6, 8)
Raphael Boden: cello, woodblock
- Royte Epl, Grine Shotns&mdashRed apples, Green Shadows (Text: Zalmen Schneour; music: Samuel Bugatch; Arr: Levyosn) 2:44
- Indroysn Iz Fintster&mdashIt's dark outside (trad; arr: Hetko) 4:41
- Fun der Khupe / Moh Rabu / Kleyne Printsesin (trad; Moh Rabu text: from Psalm 104; music: Kaia Berman-Peters) 6:54
- Hayda-liu-liu (trad; arr: Lysander Jaffe) 2:17
- Fisher Lid—Fisher's song (Aliza Greenblatt; arr: Lysander Jaffe) 3:44
- Fayerdike Mentshn—Two Passionate People (Adah Hetko) 6:27
- Hamavdil (trad; arr: Kaia Berman-Peters in memory of Dreisel Blima) 3:21
- Vi a Nes—Like a miracle (Yiddish text: Zusman Segalovitch; music, Eng trans: Adah Hetko) 3:48
- A Gute Vokh—A good week (trad; arr. Lysander Jaffe) 3:14