Thursday, March 10, 2016

Big Galut(e)

Klezmer music is not uni-dimensional, as continued exploration of the tradition attests and the renewed performance of the music continues and evolves. We hear a healthy growth in the album/group Big Galut(e) (self-released), who irreverently and heartily take on anything from traditional Yiddish folk to spirituals, Mahler, Bizet, Argentinian tangos and Kurt Weill. Big Galut(e) comprises a group that consists of clarinet, violin, accordion and bass, yes, but also mandolin, theorbo, baroque guitar and even tabla for one tune.

Yet in all that the klezmer sound and feel prevails nicely and authentically. Robin Seletsky helps insure that with her clarinet virtuosity--which encompasses the klezmer greats and takes things at times a step further. Violinist Sasha Margolis also has the knack of klezmerizing everything they do--with a pronounced classical as well as a folk sense. The band as a whole is so thoroughly steeped in the tradition that they are able to infuse virtually anything with its spirit, yet also carry the essence of the source (listen for example to the Rossi "Sonata Settima" for baroque klezmer!). They can do the completely unexpected, like get into a swinging thing after a cafe style on their version of "La Yiddishe Mama" (but of course we musn't forget the Bagelmen Sisters and their swinging days). And after all klezmer was never "pure" in some monolithic sense, but infused a generally Jewish-Yiddish inflection with the music that surrounded their diasporic existence in Eastern Europe and then New York, absorbing jazz, folk and popular elements in ways that made klezmer what it was and is, after all.

And so we get a rather madcap romp through all kinds of repertoire with zeal and panache. The vocals are appropriate, as sung by violinist Sasha Margolis, and all in all we get an extension of the music in ways that intrigue and please.

It may be a little left-field if you seek some kind of holy grail of authenticity, but the message is a healthy one: that klezmer has always been about encompassing outside musics into its stylistic orbit. They do it well and put a big smile on your face if you get some/all of the "jokes"--and even if you don't! Bravo!

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