In 1996, violinist Daniel Hoffman, cellist Moses Sedler, and doumbeck and zarb player Adam Levenson (with special guest Norbert Stachel playing flute on one track) released the album Lavy's Dream on an obscure San Francisco label. Few people heard it, even fewer bought it, and it disappeared into the realm of the obscure. Enter John Zorn, one of the few to be sure in more ways than one. In the spring of 2000, the band reassembles, cut five more tracks, and then issues the whole bunch on this CD. No wonder Zorn was so keen to reissue in his Radical Jewish Culture series. There is simply nothing like it. Davka is aa chamber ensemble who uses Jewish folk melodies, classical music both Eastern and Western, jazz improvisation, and elements of klezmer to produce a music that is somber and moody yet full of spark and wonder. Their musical sophistication combines mixed harmonic and interval strategies on a plane where scales from Indian classical music intersect with those of gypsy klezmer and are governed by jazz's modal constructs and triggered improvisation. The mystical "The Dream of Rabbi Lavy" is a fine example of the old-world folk melodies encountering rhythmic invention as a violin chants repetitively a broken phrase echoed harmonically by the cello. In the "Yizkor for Rabin," Debussy's string quartet is transformed intro an elegiac hymn and as Django Reinhardt's Hot Club theme is slowed to the point of stillness and inserted as a melody line. Meanwhile, Indian raga percussion keeps the slow-moving strings from becoming static as they approach each other in a microtonal embrace. Of the later material, "A Bisl Tag," a traditional klezmer tune, is given a treatment so spare and elegant all the fury of the violin is unleashed in the melody. The cello holds a rhythm line, playing two chords repeatedly as Hoffman suddenly changes the tune into Beethoven's tenth string quartet. Ultimately, Davka is a record to come to grips with, and does have, for all of its originality, the potential for wide appeal. Now if only those geeks at NPR would pick up on something like this for a change. Phenomenal.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek