Massel Klezmorim

Jewish Travels: A Historical Voyage in Music & Song

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Jewish Travels is the only recording of the Massel Klezmorim, a small impromptu outfit of musicians collected together by German cabaret performer Lutz Cassell (aka Lutz Elias) and guitarist Peter Wolfgang Fischer for a concert in the Hamburg Music Hall for a Hanukkah festival in 1986. The basic attempt is to collect music from throughout the history of the Jews and across all international borders to follow their movements. The album opens up with an old Israeli dance, and then jumps to a joyous klezmer bit from Poland before a pair of Sephardic songs. Jumping back to 19th century Poland, a nice chassidic song is presented, followed by an Eastern European work from the early 20th century. An ancient Yemenite melody makes an awkward segue to a Russian song, and then the album moves back to Poland and the Ashkenazi arm of the Diaspora. A second Russian song ends the first of the two discs of the album. The second album moves into the nearer arm of Jewish history, beginning with a rousing piece from the beginning of the 20th century in New York, and an old Polish chassidic prayer updated somewhat. After a Moldavian lullaby, the focus moves back to New York, with a song about the slums of the turn of the century followed by a reconstructed work from Yiddish music theater. The music moves into somewhat darker territory with works from a Polish poet and orphanage master killed by German police and a poet working with the partisans of Vilna. To finish off the concert (and the album), a more joyous tone is taken back as a trio of works sing of the glory of Jerusalem, a desert caravanserai, and a melody with lyrics from the Song of Songs. The music is consistently well performed, with the instrumentation adapting to the different styles surprisingly well. Throughout, it's Cassell's vocals that form the focus of the music, but the band sets a perfect backdrop for his work. There are countless albums of Jewish music out there to listen to with somewhat interchangeable vocalists and songs. This one is similar to many such albums, but the breadth and ability of Cassell makes it worth a listen as a beginner's album of sorts. Dig deeper into the various traditions using this as a starting point for exploration.

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