Over the past few months, I’ve been slowly discovering klezmer and jewish music. Not being jewish, I had never really been exposed to it until I heard some Masada during my jazz explorations about 5-6 years ago. The music and instrumentation was still jazz, but the scales and melodies were unlike anything else I knew and I just loved it.
I ended up buying Live at the Tonic 2001 and later The Circle Maker (chamber music arrangements of songs from the Masada song book). Loved them both, but stopped my exploration there. For some reason, I never thought about exploring jewish music in a non-jazz context.
It profoundly touched me in two ways: It made me want to get up and dance (something I never do with other music), but it also had a very cerebral quality with excellent musicianship, complex arrangements and harmonies, interesting song structures and tempo changes. For weeks I had melodies from these two albums stuck in my head — I knew I had to explore the genre more.
The KlezmerShack writes:
Unlike rock, or African-influenced music, klez is made for dancing while holding hands, or dancing with a partner. It doesn’t bounce, it flows. It swings, it cries.
I think this is what makes it different to me, what makes me want to move. It doesn’t hit me in the same way that 4/4-based music does.
There’s also a very organic quality to a lot of the soloing, with clarinets and violins sometimes appearing to laugh or wail. Close to jazz in some ways, especially since a lot of modern klezmer has direct jazz influences, but even the Eastern European/Gypsy-influenced branch has those “human” sounds.
I’m far from being an expert on jewish music, but I’m learning. Here are the albums that I have recently ordered:
- The Lithuanian Empire – Self-titled
- Budowitz – Live (2cd)
- Itzhak Perlman – Live In the Fiddler’s House
- Itzhak Perlman – In the Fiddler’s House
- Frank London – Brotherhood of Brass
- Frank London – Carnival Conspiracy
- Frank London – The ZMIROS Project
- Frank London – Nigunim
- Frank London – Hazonos
- David Krakauer – Klezmer Madness!
- Veretski Pass – Self-titled
- Naftule’s Dream – Search for the Golden Dreydl
- Alicia Svigals – Fidl: Klezmer Violin
- Brave Old World – Bless the Fire
Can’t wait to get them!