Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Klezwoods, a New Klezmer Band and First Release "Oy Yeah"

I am a huge appreciator of Klezmer. By now after a number of years of listening, I find that there is no one "authentic" style today and perhaps that's the point of a new band. If you go back to the 78s era you'll find various substyles that were dubbed Klezmer at the time. They have a repertoire more or less in common but otherwise the sound can vary from a kind of typical wind band used by companies like Victor to record just about everything circa 1905-1920, from Klez to Italian opera. Strings might be added. Then there are the smaller, folkish ensembles. Finally there are the working Klezmer bands, probably closest to what you could hear on the Lower East Side of NYC. They had the makeup of a mid-sized wedding band and they were notable for one thing in their greater attention to the rhythms of the dances that might be performed by patrons on a gig. In many cases there was an ornamental style floating over the principal melody line, usually played by the lead clarinetist, Dave Tarras being perhaps the most famous exponent.

Klezwoods is a modern aggregate led by violinist Joe Kessler. Oy Yeah! (Accurate 5060) presents them for the first time. It's a band that has much fun with the music. They cover traditional Klezmer repertoire along with Bulgarian, Turkish, Greek, Baltic and even Arabic music, which of course all have in common a kind of treatment of the minor mode. Klezmer groups could Klezmerize any sort of folk-dance tune from those areas and make it their own. Klezwoods is continuing that tradition. They even do a number based on Coltrane's "Giant Steps," which they humorously dub "Giant Jew."

The jazz element is present here, as it should be in any respectable Klezmer outfit. There is nobody doing a full Tarras-style ornamental obbligato part, but there are decent solo vignettes from the guitar, alto and etc.

This is 30 minutes or so of good music. Anybody who digs Klezmer will find this a solid slab of sound. Klezwoods play with joy and boundless energy. Is it authentic? There is no true "authentic," so best not to ask. It's good. It's a good example of a still living tradition. That's what counts.

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