There is a very particular charm about klezmer music that cannot be found in other styles of music. It's a kind of melancholic exuberance; at once happy and sad, klezmer sounds simultaneously like laughing and weeping. Klezmer is a musical genre in a constant state of evolution. Perhaps its history lends itself to this- the original klezmorim were itinerant musicians who would travel around the shtetls of Eastern Europe performing at weddings and other occasions, until displacement of the Jewish population in the late 19th and early 20th centuries saw klezmer make its way to America where it met with jazz and other western music. These qualities make it difficult to pinpoint exactly what klezmer is today. To quote Gustavo Bulgach, whose band Klezmer Juice is featured on this collection, 'klezmer is like a soapy pig. Everybody's trying to catch it, but every time someone gets ahold of it, it slips away from them.'
In his introductory note to this CD, Itzhak Perlman informs us that, more than anything else he has recorded, this is truly his own music–"what you might hear if you came to my house and I decided to jam with some friends." And jam he does–with some very talented friends indeed. Klezmer music, which combines the folk and religious music of Yiddish-speaking cultures with various musical traditions of countries such as Russia, Turkey, and Greece, is unusual territory for a major label and a superstar artist, but here the combination works perfectly.
Klezmer, traditional Eastern European Jewish music, is said to have originated in the city of Odessa (Ukraine). The klezmorim were professional (and usually poor) musicians, who would travel through villages entertaining at festive occasions such as weddings and social events. The group Odessa specializes in klezmer music enriched by non-Jewish influences: Greek, Ottoman, Gypsy, and Macedonian.
This long-awaited third CD by the legendary New Klezmer Trio is pure pleasure. Their first two CDs, released in 1990 and 1995 respectively have long been Tzadik favorites, combining elements of jazz and improvisation with the Jewish tradition in ways both thoughtful and surprising. This is a masterful new recording by one of the classic bands in the New Jewish Renaissance. Naftule Brandwein via Jimmy Giuffre.