The Alexandria Kleztet - Delusions of Klezmer
Delusions of Klezmer is The Alexandria Kleztet's second album and was released in 2002. (Their 1998 debut album Y2Klezmer will be reviewed shortly as well.) Since the band's inception in 1998 they have won a very respectable number of local/regional awards and the band members come from impressive individual musical backgrounds and are mostly classically trained. The Alexandria Kleztet are based in the Washington, DC/Baltimore area of the United States.
The Kleztet includes Seth Kibel on clarinet, flute, soprano recorder and piano as well as as composer, arranger and producer, Scott Harlan on fretted and fretless basses, Claire Cardon on violin, and Tim Jarvis on drums and percussion. Kibel's strong jazz roots show in his inventive compositions. But what really strikes you about the music of The Alexandria Kleztet is its wonderful and very distinctive brand of fusion. Built on a solid klezmer foundation, there are influences from principally classical, jazz, world, and rock. They have been called the Flecktones of klezmer and likened also to the Klezmatics. However, what is perhaps most uncannily striking to me especially on Delusions of Klezmer is a certain stylistic resemblance on a number of tracks to the 1970s/80s "pop/rock baroque" music of ensembles such as Rondó Veneziano. This is by no means to say that The Alexandria Kleztet's music is derivative. Not at all, I am sure this is purely coincidental. The sound is absolutely awesome.
Of the eighteen tracks on The Alexandria Kleztet's Delusions of Klezmer, ten are originals, eight of which penned by Seth Kibel. The remaining eight tracks are drawn from the traditional klezmer repertoire and given the distinctive Kleztet treatment. Particularly notable also is Seth Kibel's often extensive and highly effective use of his clarinet's chalumeau register, a comparative rarity in klezmer where the emphasis is more usually on the higher registers. While the traditional material is given outstanding arrangements and a wonderful fresh feel with the Alexandria Kleztet's brand of fusion, it is the originals on Delusions of Klezmer that particularly shine, especially Kibel's. Strong compositions all, they reveal at once strong klezmer, jazz, and classical roots. The title track is the most obviously classically inspired track, and is essentially a fine rhapsody for clarinet and string quartet. Pepper's Dirge also shows strong classical leanings, with particularly strong melodic affinities to The Flower Duet from Delibes' opera Lakmé. The strongest "fusion" occurs on Cry of the Wild Lucy, with a thorough mix of jazz, classical, rock, and klezmer elements. This is also the track most obviously reminiscent of "baroque rock". Its driving rhythm is also utterly irresistible, and hints of the influence of Chassidic nigunim also abound. After a somewhat longer than strictly necessary intro, Miki Loves Mambo soon develops into a superb "Yiddishe Mambo" with an outstanding swing and fine percussion that reminds of the great salsa bands of the1950s/60s. Emma's Tune stands out with its combination of strong Celtic elements, especially in the fine flute, and a graceful lilting waltz. An absolutely haunting number this.
While with a whole eighteen, mostly generously extensive tracks, it would be rather laborious to detail them all, suffice it to say that The Alexandria Kleztet's Delusions of Klezmer is not only a thoroughly consistent album but also some of the finest and most innovative "new klezmer" that it has been my pleasure to hear. Delusions of Klezmer is positively inspired, as well as inspiring. It is surely unnecessary to point out that The Alexandria Kleztet are also some of the finest musicians on the klezmer scene, "alternative" or otherwise. Their various guest musicians are well chosen and fit in seamlessly.
The Alexandria Kleztet's Delusions of Klezmer is bound to be a firm and often played favourite in my collection for a very long time to come, and I would miss it sorely were it to go AWOL. It must be considered past essential in any serious collection of modern Jewish music, and it also makes a fine addition to any general world music collection.
© 2004 Rainlore's World of Music/Rainlore. All rights reserved.
Seth Kibel - clarinet, flute, soprano recorder, piano on tracks 6, 9 & 18
Claire Cardon - violin
Scott Harlan - fretted and fretless electric basses, keyboard on track 16
Tim Jarvis - drums, dumbek, cabasa, tar, tamtam, riq, Moroccan
clay drums, siren, temple blocks,
zils, bells, melodica
Joel Cardon - cello on tracks 6 & 10
Helen Hausmann - violin on track 10
Susan Jones - viola on track 10
Bruce Katsu - electric guitar on tracks 4, 7, 11, 13 & 17
Sean Lane - piano on track 17
Danny Morris - electric guitar on track 14
All arrangements by Seth Kibel except track 16 Scott Harlan