Introducing/World Music Network, IO3CD, 2004
It is sometimes easy to forget that America is not home to all younger-generation klezmorim. In Europe, especially the klezmer revival has had a different (and not necessarily Jewish) history. Klezmer in Germany, for instance, is seen more as a folk tradition. It is especially popular among non-Jews, for whom this seems to speak more as a folk tradition, and less as a tradition tied to religion. In Berlin, the little I know suggests that one is likelier to encounter klezmer at a club, than at a simkha. A few years ago, three of the veterans: Merlin Shepherd from England, along with Heiko Lehmann from Germany and Sanne Möricke from the Netherlands, got together as veterans of the klezmer scene. This album, indeed, reflects not only years of playing and skill, but of thinking in klezmer. There are abundant new compositions here (something that one encounters less often in America where klezmer is treated more as a static heritage, rather than as a folk tradition which can be allowed to change and grow and to receive other folk influences (not necessarily rock or jazz).
It should come as no surprise that this is an excellent album. From the opening accordion on "Beygele", through a variety of traditional and new fare, the musicians are great. Shepherd, of course, is well-known from Budowitz albums and from teaching the UK and at KlezKamp. Lehmann, among other claims to fame, has frequently worked with Yiddish hipster Michael Wex, who brings a few, sometimes suggestive, always satiric new tunes to this matchup ("In Frankraykh," "Santa Klog", et al). Möricke's work was reviewed just a few months ago on these pages in an album of duets with partner Christian Dawid (Khupe / Heymisher).
Indeed, I can only say good things about this album. For all that it contains new compositions (imagine apologizing about new compositions on a traditional bluegrass album!) it is very much a traditional klezmer album of the better sort - the one where the rhythms are perfect, the playing soulful, and the occasional vocals extraordinary fun. Indeed, among the many ironies created by the existence of such excellent klezmer in Europe lies the fact that Canadian Wex has to go to Berlin to find an audience for his new Yiddish compositions. Sheesh. He had to go to Berlin to find someone to record his new English composition, "A Meydl like a tsimmes." I am grateful that there is an audience there, and a band this good to record them.
What this means is that Sukke achieves something that most American bands haven't yet thought to aspire to: they are a great klezmer dance band, but also a band with great, juicy new Yiddish and English songs. I hesitate to say it, but this is klezmer as though it were a living tradition. Long may it continue to live!
Reviewed by Ari Davidow 11/23/03
Personnel this recording:
Sanne Möricke: accordion, backup vocals
Merlin Shepherd: clarinet, mandola, backup vocals
Heiko Lehmann: upright bass, guitar, vocals
- Beygele (trad.) 2:26
- Santa klog (words: Michael Wex; lyrics: Heiko Lehmann) 2:53
- Shtibl nign (trad.) 2:32
- In frankraykh (words: Michael Wex; lyrics: Heiko Lehmann/trad.) 3:57
- Mikhl fait s'assoir la mariée (Merlin Shepherd) 4:27
- Boibriker suite (trad.) 7:13
- Der khusid in pariz (Heiko Lehmann) 3:58
- Yikhes--Roots (trad.) 4:22
- Khsidisher nigunim, 2ter Teyl (trad.) 3:34
- Nokh der havdoleh (trad.) 3:09
- Reyzl's lid (Heiko Lehmann) 1:54
- Freylekh2 (trad.) 4:33
- Dobranoc (trad.) 3:40
- Tsurik aheym (words: Michael Wex; lyrics: Heiko Lehmann) 3:11
- A meydl like a tsimmes (words: Michael Wex; lyrics: Heiko Lehmann) 3:14