The Alexandria Kleztet - Y2Klezmer
The Alexandria Kleztet's debut album Y2Klezmer was released in 1998 in HDCD format but should play on all but the oldest CD players. Based in the Washington, DC/Baltimore area of the United States, The Alexandria Kleztet have won a very respectable number of local/regional awards since the band's inception in 1998, and Y2Klezmer certainly is impressive in itself and gives you a good idea how they made such a huge impression.
This first incarnation of the Kleztet consists of Seth Kibel on clarinet, alto and tenor saxophones, flute, electric and acoustic guitars, piano and harmonica as well as as composer, arranger and producer, Claire Cardon on violin and viola, John Roberts III on basses, and John Sausser 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 and jazz here.
Five of the sixteen tracks on The Alexandria Kleztet's Y2Klezmer are Kibel originals. The other eleven tracks are drawn from the traditional klezmer repertoire, the Yiddish theatre, Jewish religious music and a classic Ellington/Strayhorn composition from The Duke's Far East Suite and given the Kleztet's very own treatment, often foreshadowing the still more adventurous style of their second album, Delusions of Klezmer, reviewed elsewhere on this site. Seth Kibel already shows his inclination to make extensive (and very effective) use of his clarinet's chalumeau register, a comparative rarity in klezmer where the emphasis is more usually on the higher registers. His originals on Y2Klezmer are strong compositions all, revealing at once strong klezmer, jazz, and classical roots. The traditional material, particularly the Bulgars/Freylakhs, is often given spicy arrangements and is just irresistible.
Of the latter, Der Heyser Bulgar springs to mind particularly. A great favourite and one of the best known and loved Bulgars, this is given a real break-neck speed treatment that is even more exhilarating than usual. This is flanked on either side by particularly fine Kibel originals, Willard's Freylekh which pretty much sets the pace for Der Heyser, and A Polite Tango, more a gentle, elegant habañera than a tango actually with an incredibly Yiddishe feel to it - easily the most memorable of the originals. The religious material strongly pulls on the heart strings and is treated with all the respect due.
The Alexandria Kleztet's Y2Klezmer is one of the most accomplished and polished debut albums it has been my pleasure to come across. It is a thoroughly consistent album, too. Innovation abounds on Y2Klezmer.
The Alexandria Kleztet's Y2Klezmer ought to be 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, alto and tenor saxophones, flute, electric and acoustic guitars, piano, harmonica
Claire Cardon - violin, viola
John Roberts III - contrabajo, double bass, string bass, upright bass, kontrabass, gut bucket, ??? (Cyrillic
script), bass violone, bull fiddle
John Sausser - drums, djembe, doumbek, tabla, congas, rainsticks, talking drum, cowbell, triangles,
tambourine, chimes, goat hooves
Joel Cardon - cello on tracks 3, 4 & 10
Kathy Van Horne - trombone on tracks 7 & 12
A. Scott Wood - trumpet on tracks 7 & 12
The Cardon Family Orchestra - strings on track 4
All arrangements by Seth Kibel & The Alexandria Kleztet