Surprising Finds - Metropolitan Klezmer
The latest album from Eve Sicular's fabulous Metropolitan Klezmer, titled Surprising Finds, is finally here! Released in May on the Rhythm Media label in the US, it is at last also available in the UK, distributed by Stern's Music.
On Surprising Finds, Metropolitan Klezmer yet again present an extraordinarily polished performance, surpassing even their previous efforts. The sophisticated, elegant arrangements are as tight as the ensemble itself, as indeed one has come to expect from this band. Needless to say, Metropolitan Klezmer's trademark cosmopolitan blend of sounds, styles and genres graces this album too, with a mix of traditional klezmer, Middle Eastern, swing, Balkan, Mediterranean, even the odd echo of Dixie and other influences and inspirations. All this is presented with the usual high energy and sophistication.
At just over 62 1/2 minutes, Surprising Finds is not only generous, but every second is filled with delight and charm. Of the twenty tracks presented, five were recorded live, which blend seamlessly with the studio tracks.
Uncle Moses' Wedding Dance, an Eastern European old-style freylekh, opens the album with archival clips of a live band from the soundtrack of a 1930s Yiddish film drama, Uncle Moses. The transition from clip to studio recording is handled very subtly and smoothly, and this lively dance gets straight to your feet. Michael Hess' wonderful kanun opens Terkisher Navratilova with a taksim (a traditional improvisation common to all Middle Eastern classical traditions and widespread in klezmer until the late 19th century C.E.), transitioning smoothly into the stately Terkisher dance based on Naftule Brandwein's 1920s recording of Terkisher Yale V'yovye Tantz, here given a much more elegant and relaxed treatment. The title of the first is a tribute to one of the band's favourite female athletes. Ot Azoy Neyt A Shnayder, a folk song documented in Moshe Beregovski's Soviet Yiddish song collection and once sung with English lyrics by Cab Calloway, is given an irresistible swing treatment. Lionel Bart's Pick A Pocket Or Two from his 1960 musical Oliver!, a tribute to its composer, receives a driven Balkanised treatment, in keeping with the influences of Jewish melodies that Bart refers to in this song. Shpil Du Fidl, Shpil, aka Lonely Hearts Tango, from the 1936 Polish/Yiddish co-production film Yidl mitn fidl, is a well-known Molly Picon - Abe Ellstein song. Metropolitan Klezmer add a unison instrumental chorus by Debra Kreisberg reflecting some retro inspirations which works very successfully. Harei At is an excerpt from a mid-1960s reel-to-reel home recording featuring Phillip Karpel and, in the background, his grandchildren including future Metropolitan Klezmer singer Deborah Karpel. The excerpt is from a multi-stanza'd ballad narrating a young man's journey through life as leading up to the taking of his wedding vows. Of great charm and intimacy, it adds a great touch of nostalgia. The following three tracks make up a little Soviet Yiddish Theater Suite, the first of which is Soothsayer Taxim, featuring a superb taksim played on ney, a Middle Eastern flute, by Michael Hess. This leads into Tailor's Sher, by Lev Pulver, one of the most esteemed musical directors of the Soviet Yiddish theatre of the early decades of the Soviet Union. A jolly, moderate tempo dance, it also features Hess' magical ney again. Closing this mini-suite is Striver's Sher, also credited to Pulver, originally scored for a 27-piece orchestra, a livelier affair with overtones of humour and even irony. Another excerpt from a home recording of Phillip Karpel provides the next track, Der Dish-Washer, the title tune from a depression era Yiddish theatre production. Szol a Kakas Mar, perhaps already familiar from Metropolitan Klezmer's previous Mosaic Persuasion album and Isle of Klezbos' Greetings From The Isle Of Klezbos, comes from both the Hungarian folk and the Hassidic tradition and is the first of the five live tracks featured on Surprising Finds. A contemplative extended rhapsodic opening on Ismail Butera's accordion, taken up by Debra Kreisberg's alto leads into the ever livelier dance. A charming, lively khosidl-like tune, Dreaming Wizard is a Pam Fleming original. Dray Shvester by Lithuanian-born, London-based Hebrew and Yiddish poet and political activist Morris Winchevsky (1856-1932) is a touching tale of three sisters, set in the Victorian London Jewish underworld. Another brief excerpt of Phillip Karpel's vocals, Kinder Yorn, follows. Howie's Doyna & Hora / No. 2 Freylekh is the second of the live tracks. The first part consists of a 1994 demo recording by the then Greater Metropolitan Klezmer Band, which then featured clarinetist Howie Leess. From the opening note you instantly recognise you're in for something a little extra special. This segues seamlessly into a brief freylekh performed live at The Knitting Factory in late 2002 by the present Metropolitan Klezmer line-up. A live medley of Northern Doyna, featuring accordionist Ismail Butera, An Alter Nigun, and the Molly Picon signature song Abi Gezunt, follows. The latter is as fine an example of restrained, laid-back Yiddish swing as you're likely to find anywhere. Rick Faulkner's trombone stands out by virtue of its subtlety and of being ample testimony to how well he fits into this line-up. Der Milner's Trern is a final brief excerpt from a recording of Phillip Karpel, followed by Blue Doyna Reprise, a live accordion improv that served as an intro to Ot Azoy Neyt A Shnayder. Shadkhn Tango was adapted from the soundtrack of a 1940 Yiddish movie, Americaner Shadkhn (American Matchmaker) and segues into Rumanian Medley, both recorded live. The medley starts off with another Ismail Butera doyna leading into a series of dances, from a stately hora to a more lively sher and finally an almost manic dance tune. The closer, Moses' Morning After, like the opener presents a short clip from the soundtrack of the movie Uncle Moses and thus brings things full circle, and very nicely too.
The informative liner notes by Eve Sicular include the lyrics for songs in Yiddish, romanised Yiddish, as well as English translation, also by Ms. Sicular.
Eve Sicular and Metropolitan Klezmer were taking some huge chances with this album, but are entirely vindicated by just how well these "findings" form a nicely cohesive whole on Surprising Finds. The best thing you can do is put your CD player on continuous play and listen to this hugely enjoyable album all over again straight away. Discover how much fun discovering findings can be, and the wonderful things you can do with them with a little imagination.
© 2003 Rainlore's World of Music/Rainlore. All rights reserved.
1. Uncle Moses' Wedding Dance (Traditional, arr. Metropolitan
Klezmer) - 2:12
2. Terkisher Navratilova (Traditional, arr. Michael Hess & Metropolitan Klezmer) - 4:52
3. Ot Azoy Neyt A Shnayder [That's The Way A Taylor Sews] (Traditional, arr. Ismail Butera [doyna],
Eve Sicular, Rick Faulkner & Metropolitan Klezmer) - 4:07
4. Pick A Pocket Or Two (Lionel Bart, arr. Eve Sicular & Metropolitan Klezmer) - 2:35
5. Shpil Du Fidl, Shpil [Play, You Fiddle, aka "Lonely Hearts Tango"] (Molly Picon/Abe Ellstein,
arr. Eve Sicular, Debra Kreisberg & Metropolitan Klezmer) - 3:20
6. Harei At [The Wedding Vow] - 1:16
Soviet Yiddish Theater Suite:
7. Soothsayer Taxim (Michael Hess) - 5:27
8. Taylor's Sher (Lev Pulver, transc. & arr. Debra Kreisberg with Rick Faulkner and Eve Sicular) - 3:09
9. Striver's Sher (Lev Pulver, transc. & arr. Debra Kreisberg with Rick Faulkner and Eve Sicular) - 1:32
10. Der Dish-Washer [The Dish-Washer] (Herman Yablokoff) - 1:08
11. Szol a Kakas Mar [The Rooster Crows] (Traditional, arr. Metropolitan Klezmer/Isle of Klezbos)
(live) - 3:59
12. Dreaming Wizard (Pam Fleming) - 2:55
13. Dray Shvester (M. Winchevsky, arr. Metropolitan Klezmer) - 3:21
14. Kinder Yorn [Childhood Years] (Mordecai Gebirtig) - 0:32
15. Howie's Doyna & Hora / No.2 Freylekh - Greater Metropolitan Klezmer Band feat.
Howie Leess/Metropolitan Klezmer Band (live) - 4:35
16. Northern Doyna/An Alter Nigun [An Old Tune]/Abi Gezunt [As Long As You're Healthy (Doyna:
Ismail Butera; An Alter Nigun: trad., arr. Metropolitan Klezmer; Abi Gezunt: Picon/Ellstein,
arr. Metropolitan Klezmer) (live) - 7:58
17. Der Milner's Trern [The Miller's Tears] (M.M. Warshavsky) - 0:54
18. Blue Doyna Reprise (Ismail Butera) (live) - 1:07
19. Shadkhn Tango/Rumanian Medley (live) - 11:34
20. Moses' Morning After( Maurice Schwartz) - 0:19