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 Sephardi 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, Metropolitan 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 - marvelous. 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!
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