Clarinetist Michael Winograd, at age 24, is clearly fond of the klezmer music of his heritage, and pays due respect and diligence in assuring that the klezmer influence remains intact in his modernized music. This collection of originals and two traditional pieces generally falls in the klezmer "fusion" bag, but with an intermittent Russian, Balkan, or Arabian-flavored twist. A somewhat haughty, self-assured air sneaks into this large ensemble, but not to a grandiose effect. In fact, there's a reverence bonded into these sounds that belies the animated drive this music usually displays. The band sports an out of the ordinary instrumentation of clarinet, trombone, accordion, and mandolin, with the tsimbl (aka the cimbalom or hammered dulcimer) supported by bass and percussion. There's no violin, as usually heard in this style. The more passive pieces include the funereal "Arrivals/Departures"; the slower, languid "Morning Song"; and the reserved, delicate Yiddish "Zhok" dances in G and D minor. At their most vigorous, Winograd and trombonist Daniel Blacksberg play opposing melody and harmony lines on the traditional dance/poem "Sher 199"; play a third-gear Bulgarian motif in 6/8 on the other traditional tune, "Svatben Jok"; and march -- klezmer style -- on a Kurt Weill circus-like "Patriot Bulgars." Joey Weisenberg's mandolin and the tsimbl playing of Pete Rushefsky take the lead on the long intro of "Nayer Khusid Tanz" -- a design the band should explore further -- before demarcating a deliberate second line. "Freylekh for Gwen Stefani," a Chanukah dance piece, is a bit pretentious. Winograd has fabricated an unusual but intriguing ethnic amalgam, one that he will hopefully expand upon from both contemporary and historical sources.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos