THE TOP 12 KLEZMER RECORDS
The 12 best klez CDs of 2012 jumped out of the pile and said, “Kiss me, I’m Jewish.”
These recordings (listed below) are the nonrequired klezmer albums for the year. These recordings are essential:
1. Orlando, 3 Days, 2 Nights. Frank London and his Klezmer Brass All-Stars lead us on a klez tour of Disney World. Talk about selling out – but a good selling out. The cut “Mickey’s Philharmonic” features London on electric toothbrush — pulse position. “Whistle While You Work” is all about short people — Jewish short people: Billy Crystal, Abe Beame and Menachem Begin, and that’s just the first 30 seconds.
2. I Believe in Cod. Andy Statman flips out. Sample lyrics: “May cod bless you and guide you . . . . Praise cod in the high heaven and in the deep sea . . . Teeming oceans, fire and hail, snow and mist, storm and wind, obey cod’s will.”
3. The Room Where I Was Born. Violinist Steven Greenman recreates the aural architecture of his childhood bedroom in Pittsburgh. Check out the Steelers pennants and Fiddler on the Roof LPs. Greenman does a cover version of the Klezmorim’s “Medyatsiner Waltz,” which itself was a cover. Sweaty and no A/C.
4. This Can’t Be Klezmer by Yiddishe Cup. This Ohio band goes outside the matzo box and constructs a toy jail, complete with corporal punishment. Perfect for the heartbroken, horny and dead. Yiddishe Cup mixes barely adequate musicianship with a touch of humor. On “Toot,” an earthy trombone solo morphs into a mimicry of flatulence. It doesn’t sound like klezmer, but what did you expect from This Can’t Be Klezmer?
5. Nonhierarchical Dynamics by tsimblist Pete Rushefsky. Nothing on the 1 and 3; it’s all off-beats. Drives you crazy, but in a provocative way. There is an after-party. You have to be in New York City to get full value. Beer by Brooklyn Brewing. Be there.
6. The Recluse by Merlin Shepherd. Shepherd, a British clarinetist and actor, reads Thomas Hardy poems while his wife, Polina, does consecutive Russian translation. The clarinet licks are sparse, but apropos to lyrics. Novel.
7. Correspondence by Michael Wex. Wexmaniacs, you’ll love this: 60 LOL minutes of Wex badinage from his KlezKanada emceeing. Can anybody top Wex’s Walter-Brennan-is-a-Jew riff? No. Almost as good: Wex’s riff about trash-talking Miami Heat Yiddish-spewers. All but LeBron, who remains the Hebraist.
8. Odorless and Colorless. Shtreiml. Bandleader Jason Rosenblatt spent years in the lab on this one. This record is rotten. It contains sulfur. Le jazz hot — and funky — from Montreal.
9. Without a Net. Acrobat-and-drummer Jack Stratton uses metal parts from surgeries gone bad — mostly hip replacements — to perform Meron-klez drum licks. Particularly good: “Blur Blind,” “Bodies Thrown Back” and “Clarity.” The rest of the album is pretty conventional.
10. I Want to Make You Edible by Yiddish Princess. Lead singer Sarah Gordon does freestyle rapping here about cereal (Kashi Autumn Wheat and Island Vanilla), which leads to kishke, which leads to ka-ka. Juvenile. And fun!
11. Red-Dirt Jewboys. Margot Leverett and the Klezmer Mountain Boys go down to Georgia on this one. How does Margot balance her terrific cross-cultural composing and heavy drinking? Margot is the klezmer mixologist for the 21st century. Her next album is, efsher, Klezmer Gamelan?
12. Blackout. Henry Sapoznik and the Original Klezmer Jazz Band give us a wake-up call: Pete Sokolow pounds stride-piano chords while Sapoznik plays electric banjo. On the last cut, Sapoznik smashes his banjo and picks up a clarinet. Tons of squeaks. Sapoznik whines like a fourth-grader at the end: “I quit! I quit!”