Produced by Eve Sicular and Debra Kreisberg
Engineered and Mixed by John Lehrer
Mastered by John Battaglia at TJ Valentino, Inc. Elmsford NY
. . . best klezmer band to drive from Boston to New York
I have long contended that the Metropolitan Klezmer Band is just about the best klezmer band to drive from Boston to New York to hear. This album will further cement that reputation, and help explain why this album was placed on the "Best of 2000" great recordings list.
The band, smoking, jazzy, under incredibly tight, precise control, sets off with a couple of dances done not too fast, not too slow, but so right that your feet begin moving around the room. "Brandwein in the Lotus Groove," melds some perfect jazz rhythm with some classic Brandwein. But just as the instrumentalists have gotten tighter, vocalist Deborah Karpel, demonstrates a new assurance on the Picon hit, "Abi Gezunt." Although her vocals are a bit too coy on "Lomir zikh iberbetn" (a song that will forever remind me of the Bonzo Dog Band cover, "Let's make up and be friendly"), she makes up for it with an excellent reading of Itzik Manger's "Unter di Khurves fun Poyln" (Under the ruins of Poland), and the rest of the band, are impeccable. And that's the tone for the album: pounding traditional klezmer, or even rollicking untraditional klezmer as on the "Humphrey Bulgar", perfectly set Yiddish Broadway (well, New York Second Ave.), and the occasional Balkan digression, as on Butera's arrangement of "Üsküdar Taxim" merging into another Brandwein tune, "Terk in Amerike" and reminding us of the Brandwein tune's roots.
The thing is, while this band plays jazz quite well, they also manage to strike a far eastern, very traditional tune on numbers such as the concluding "Szól a Kakas Már" and "Araber Tants". With Metropolitan Klezmer, one gets to have one's cake--modern, bouncy, jazzy music--and eat it to--to dance to traditional, impeccably timed and performed instrumental klezmer music.
It is worth noting that this recording, like many performances, also features bandleader Sicular's all-woman ensemble, "Isle of Klezbos." The resulting super-ensemble is proof that two great bands can add up to even more. It also provides an excuse to present goodies such as Pam Fleming's thoughtfully danceful, Epstein-Brothers hinted, "Rifka's Dream".
- Ari Davidow
/ KlezmerShack - 25
wonderful cosmopolitan blend of traditional klezmer tunes . . .
"Mosaic Persuasion" by Metropolitan Klezmer featuring The Isle Of Klezbos was released in 2000 on the Rhythm Media label.
This is Metropolitan Klezmer's second album, this time also featuring members of another Eve Sicular led band, the all female Isle of Klezbos. Again, there is that wonderful cosmopolitan blend of traditional klezmer tunes, Chassidic nigunim and khosidls, Yiddish song, Balkan and Greek and Sephardic elements, as well as jazz that so distinguished Metropolitan Klezmer's debut album, "Yiddish For Travelers".
The title "Mosaic Persuasion" is a very apt "double entendre", "mosaic" here being intended both in the meaning of referring to the laws of Moses (in other words, 'Mosaic means never having to say you're Jewish') and in that of a multi-faceted image, where a large number of individual elements combine to form a larger image. This metaphor could hardly be more appropriate to describe the eclectic music of Metropolitan Klezmer.
With "Mosaic Persuasion", Metropolitan Klezmer again present a strong, thoroughly consistent album. The arrangements are flawless and even elegant, the musicianship and virtuosity impeccable. Throw in superb ensemble playing and a great deal of exuberance and flair, as well as a truly cosmopolitan instrumental palette with excellent "doubling" by all members, and you've got an outstandingly versatile band. The presence of members of The Isle of Klezbos complements Metropolitan Klezmer seamlessly, and their contributions certainly make one wish to hear more of this all female band. Since their debut album, Metroplitan Klezmer's founder/leader/drummer Eve Sicular has fine-tuned the delicate balance between her masterful and inventive, stylish drumming and the need to hold back so as not to dominate the music, even further, to the point of perfection. An incredible feat, for which Ms. Sicular can't be given sufficient credit and kudos. Much kudos is also due for the fairly extensive and even prominent use of the bass clarinet on "Mosaic Persuasion" - and so wonderfully effective it is, too.
Some of the highlights of "Mosaic Persuasion" include "Brandwein in the Lotus Groove", based on a classic recording by the legendary Naftule Brandwein and given a different and original, imaginative rhythmic treatment by Eve Sicular, here playing the dumbeq, set off by a jazzy bass line by Dave Hofstra. The swing treatment given Yiddish theatre star Molly Picon's on-air signature tune, "Abi Gezunt", as part of "Northern Doyna/An Alter Nigun/Abi Gezunt" is simply outstanding. Deborah Karpel amply demonstrates that she has overcome the shackles of her classical operatic training and grown tremendously as a singer of Yiddish song on "Mayn Rueplatz", "Muzikalisher Tango", and "Lomir Zikh Iberbetn" especially. "In Laws' Taxim/Mekhutonim Tants" has Michael Hess shining on a kanun taksim (a traditional form of improvisation common to all classical traditions of the Middle East that was equally common to the Ashkenazic tradition until the late 19th century when it started being supplanted by the 'doina'), which leads seamlessly into the Mekhutonim Tantz. This features Steve Elson's superb bass clarinet, contrasting beautifully with Debra Kreisberg's excellent alto, all melded together with fine ensemble playing including Michael Hess now on a very effective ney. "Humphrey Bulgar" is a wonderfully manic piece of Mickey Katz-esque slapstick also featuring a brief vaudeville excursion to Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King" from Peer Gynt. Michael Hess's ney can again be heard to beautiful effect on "East(ern) Village Hanuka", a lively, almost manic, Turkish-flavoured rendition in 7/8 meter of the holiday classic "Oy Hanukah!". "Uskudar Taxim/Terk in Amerike" starts with Ismael Butera playing an accordion taksim that's as Ottomanesque-sounding as you could possibly get with accordion - marvellous. This leads into the main piece, another 1920s Brandwein standard based on a popular Turkish song named for the town of Uskudar. On "Szol a Kakas Mar", one of the oldest and most enduring Hungarian Jewish folk tunes, the listener is treated to some wonderful pizzicato viola by Michael Hess. "Mosaic Persuasion" closes with another classic popularised by Brandwein, "Araber Tants". Here, it has been given a thoroughly Middle Eastern treatment, with a subtle, sensitive arrangement availing itself of Hess's gorgeous ney, Steve Elson's superlative chalumeau (mostly) of the bass clarinet played without even a hint of excessive vibrato, Pam Fleming's subtle Harmon-muted trumpet and a suitably restrained rhythm section made up of Ismael Butera on bendir, Dave Hofstra on bass and Eve Sicular on daire (large frame drum). The effect is extremely seductive, even hypnotic. Even on an album with consistently strong tracks such as "Mosaic Persuasion", "Araber Tants" cannot fail to stand out with its sheer haunting beauty.
The informative liner notes by Eve Sicular again include the lyrics for songs in Yiddish, romanised Yiddish, as well as English translation, also by Eve Sicular. Full listing of personnel as well as instrumentation is also provided.
"Mosaic Persuasion" is an outstanding, varied album that Metropolitan Klezmer and members of The Isle of Klezbos can justly be proud of. The good news is that both bands have new albums on the way, and I for one can hardly wait! But don't wait that long, even if the new albums come out tomorrow, grab "Mosaic Persuasion" and make the acquaintance of these superb bands today!
- © 2003
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