The second volume in Trikont's history of 20th century klezmer music picks up 40 years after the previous volume left off. The reasons for this are various, but the two most prominent ones were WWII and Stalinism, in which many of the music's greatest practitioners in Eastern Europe were murdered or maimed. American Jews, by and large, were not even in interested in the form of wedding music played and celebrated by Yiddish-speaking Eastern European Jews. That is, until the mid 1970s, when the Klezmorim in Berkley, CA, and Zev Feldman and Andy Statman in New York began examining it via recorded 78s. Thankfully, one of the music's great practitioners was still alive at this time in the person of Dave Tarras, who played throughout the decades wherever he could get work. What this volume documents is the passing of the music from one generation to another, and the development of the klezmer revival which is alive and well in the 21st century, both in its traditional state and the new musics which have been born directly from its roots. The disc opens with a fairly traditional approach to the old music by the Klezmorim. "Bucharest" features the clarinets in full throttle and the violin in the support position with a drummer keeping an odd 12/16-meter. Next are Zev Feldman and Andy Statman moving through the revivalist approach inserting the gypsy violins into the clarinets lines and turning them into sort of a klezmer fugue. The great touch then comes with Dave Tarras playing hard on a traditional number with his clarinet wailing some furiously paced yet mournful melody that is breathless in its pace. Here is the old music, lock, stock, and barrel, performed by one of its greatest practitioners. By the time Statman's Klezmer Orchestra enters the mix with "Another Glass of Wine, a Tarras tune that Statman arranged, all bets are off and the music changes while remaining klezmer: an section plays through the melody and then soloists enter and leave each in a modal harmony that sounds as much like the Gil Evans Orchestra as it does a klezmer big band. But tradition doesn't give way yet, there is still Joel Rubin and the Epstein brothers to contend with, and their frighteningly quick take on the traditional wedding song "Ot Azoy!" And this set goes back and forth this way, weaving the new with the old, all the while concentrating on keeping the form intact. It's not like the late '90s experiments of Frank London or the New Klezmer Quintet yet. The music here is firmly in the trad camp while quietly undergoing a transition, adding more instruments and different time signatures, and even extrapolating on the format for melody and harmony, but not enough to alter it radically. The purpose in such innovation was to evolve the music in ways that would appeal to the various musical interests of some of the new practitioners who were also interested in everything from jazz to bluegrass. The restraint the producers show on this volume, and the inclusion of some obscurities such as the Chicago Klezmer Ensemble's "Oy, Di Kinderlakh!," the Ukrainian Brass Band From Vinnista, and Musa Berlin are noteworthy, as are the contributions by the better known ensembles such as the Klezmer Conservatory Band, Rubin & Horowitz, Muzikas, and the New York Klezmer Ensemble round this out and make it a truly representative sample of the roots of the klezmer revival.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek