Gig Review:
Budapest Klezmer Band
Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Upper Street, Islington, London N1 (Nr Highbury Corner),
Saturday, 29th November 2003, 8pm
Photo of Budapest Klezmer Band
Budapest Klezmer Band
(L to R: Anna Nagy, Eszter Biro, Istvan Kohan, Bence Gazda)
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The Jewish Music Institute Presents

supported by the Hungarian Cultural Centre, the Budapest Jewish Summer Festival and The Jewish Chronicle. Part of the year-long Festival: Magyar Magic - Hungary in Focus 2003-4


Budapest Klezmer Band (Hungary)
Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Upper Street, Islington, London N1 (Nr Highbury Corner)
Sunday, 9th November 2003, 8pm

Feat.

Ferenc Javori - piano, vocal, composer, arranger, bandleader
Istvan Kohan - clarinet
Bence Gazda - violin, vocal
Anna Nagy - accordion
Gabor Tamas - trombone, vocal
Gabor Kiss - contrabass
Balazs Vegh - drums, percussion
Eszter Biro - vocal



Date of Review: 2003/12/01

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Photo of Geraldine Auerbach MBE of London's Jewish Music Institute introduces the night's concert
Geraldine Auerbach MBE of London's Jewish Music Institute introduces the night's concert
Photo of Budapest Klezmer Band - L to R: Ferenc Javori, Anna Nagy, Istvan Kohan, Balazs Vegh, Bence Gazda
Budapest Klezmer Band - L to R: Ferenc Javori, Anna Nagy, Istvan Kohan, Balazs Vegh, Bence Gazda


Budapest Klezmer Theatrics
Photo of Istvan Kohan, Eszter Biro, and Balazs Vegh of The Budapest Klezmer Band
Istvan Kohan, Eszter Biro, and Balazs Vegh of The Budapest Klezmer Band

The eight-piece Budapest Klezmer Band has long held quite a formidable reputation throughout Europe and North America, and having heard several of their albums in the past this visit to UK shores was a splendid chance to hear them live and see them in action that I'd been looking particularly forward to. Led by its pianist, vocalist and composer/arranger Ferenc Javori, the Budapest Klezmer Band is made up of Istvan Kohan, clarinet, Bence Gazda, violin and vocals, Anna Nagy, accordion, Gabor Tamas, trombone and vocals, Gabor Kiss, double bass (electric stick bass on this occasion), Balazs Vegh, drums and percussion, and Eszter Biro, vocals.

Photo of Anna Nagy, accordion, and Bence Gazda, violin
Anna Nagy, accordion, and Bence Gazda, violin

The approximately 650-seater Union Chapel auditorium started filling up remarkably early this still mild end of November Shabbat evening, and kept on filling up almost alarmingly to very near capacity. A Hungarian television crew was also in attendance to record the event. A substantial Hungarian expatriate element seemed evident in the generally fairly boisterous crowd. A couple of an age where they really ought to have known better, seated in front of me, proved a rather distasteful distraction throughout the evening by thinking themselves in the back row of their local cinema and engaging in almost constant displays of not so much affection as lust. Such disrespectful behaviour in a concert hall is really most deplorable and unfortunate.

At last, the crowd settled down and Geraldine Auerbach MBE of London's Jewish Music Institute, the energetic and devoted driving force behind the Jewish music renaissance in the UK of the last twenty-odd years, introduced the night's performance.

Photo of Budapest Klezmer Band - Anna Nagy, Istvan Kohan, Bence Gazda, Gabor Tamas
Budapest Klezmer Band - Anna Nagy, Istvan Kohan, Bence Gazda, Gabor Tamas

Photo of Budapest Klezmer Band leader Ferenc Javori on piano
Budapest Klezmer Band leader Ferenc Javori on piano

Photo of Istvan Kohan, clarinet Istvan Kohan, clarinet

Photo of Gabor Kiss, bass
Gabor Kiss, bass
Photo of "Yiddishe Blues" - The Budapest Klezmer Band - musical theatre?
"Yiddishe Blues" - The Budapest Klezmer Band - musical theatre?
(L to R: Istvan Kohan, Eszter Biro, Ferenc Javori, Bence Gazda, Gabor Kiss (in background), Gabor Tamas

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Photo of Gabor Tamas, trombone
Gabor Tamas, trombone

Photo of Bence Gazda, violin Bence Gazda, violin

Photo of Anna Nagy, accordion
Anna Nagy, accordion

Photo of Eszter Biro, vocal
Eszter Biro, vocal

Photo of Balazs Vegh, drums
Balazs Vegh, drums



The Budapest Klezmer Band started their varied programme, which consisted of a good mix of familiar klezmer tunes, Yiddish songs and originals, with great gusto, which rarely let up throughout the evening. On the decidedly manic side of lively, this music could have had the crowd dancing in the aisles. Superb musicianship distinguished all members of the Budapest Klezmer Band, with both close ensemble playing and excellent soloing, with Gabor Tamas' fine trombone being particularly outstanding. Their style is in a decidedly modern European idiom. This is contemporary Euro klez, rather than a traditionalist approach seeking to recreate the sound of the pre-war shtetls. This often lent the more traditional material something of an edge, though I must confess some of the originals, in particular Yiddishe Blues, came across as somewhat cheesy and less than sophisticated perhaps. But this may well be at least partly due to non-Central European attuned ears. All in all, the music was near irresistible, great fun and hugely enjoyable. However, one couldn't help feeling that much of the lighting would have been more at home at a pop concert - the almost constant changing of this felt somewhat distracting. Also, the almost permanently fixed inane grin in particular of accordionist Anna Nagy proved irritating in the extreme. The well rehearsed theatrical antics of most of the band, I felt, were likewise more of a distraction than enhancing the musical experience and could certainly do with some serious curtailing and toning down. While undoubtedly an excellent violinist, Bence Gazda's clowning antics in particular were so ham as to be decidedly un-kosher and for me distracted from the excellence of the music in general and his own superb playing in particular.

Photo of Budapest Klezmer Band
Mo' Yiddishe Blues - Budapest Klezmer Band
(L to R: Eszter Biro, Istvan Kohan, Balazs Vegh, Gabor Tamas, Gabor Kiss)

Overall, the Budapest Klezmer Band gave an outstanding performance though and received a well-deserved, if somewhat rumbustious ovation, which the inevitable encore only fuelled even further. It is indeed to be fervently hoped that we'll see a lot more of them in the UK in the future, though perhaps, one hopes, with something of a reduction in gimmicks so as to let the music shine on its own a little more.

Photo of ...and still mo' Yiddishe Blues from Budapest Klezmer Band
...and still mo' Yiddishe Blues from Budapest Klezmer Band
(L to R: Anna Nagy, Eszter Biro, Istvan Kohan, Bence Gazda, Gabor Tamas, Gabor Kiss)

The Budapest Klezmer Band concert was the closing event of the Klezmer Beats on Upper Street series. In this short series of only four concerts, the Jewish Music Institute presented an incredible range of different flavours of klezmer and related music, both contemporary and more traditional. With its Central/Eastern European roots and contemporary style, the Budapest Klezmer Band provided a very fitting and satisfying finale to this brief overview of the breadth of the spectrum of klezmer and klezmer related music today. While it would have been impossible to cover the entire spectrum in such a short series, the selections presented a good cross-section and an excellent taster that surely ought to inspire the curious listener not so familiar with this music perhaps, to delve deeper into its many different contemporary as well as traditional aspects. The Jewish Music Institute and Geraldine Auerbach and her hard-working team therefore are to be congratulated on having created this wonderful success that was Klezmer Beats on Upper Street, and indeed are to be thanked sincerely for their superb efforts in respect of this as well as all the other splendid musical events presented this season without which this country's musical culture would have been considerably the poorer this autumn. A groysn, hartsigen dank!*

(* For non-Yiddish speakers, "A big thank-you from the heart")

 

© 2003 Rainlore's World of Music/Rainlore. All rights reserved.

Photo of Anna Nagy, Istvan Kohan, Eszter Biro, Balazs Vegh, Bence Gazda
Anna Nagy, Istvan Kohan, Eszter Biro, Balazs Vegh, Bence Gazda

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Photo of Eszter Biro, Bence Gazda
Eszter Biro, Bence Gazda

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