Although an ensemble of classical instruments playing pieces from folk traditions would have been commonplace in a Viennese café of the late 19th century, boundary lines between musical spheres have hardened, and this release by the Fifth House Ensemble and the Mediterranean folk group Baladino is something of a novelty. Such fusions have occasionally happened in genres such as klezmer, but the wide-ranging nature of the program on Nedudim (Hebrew for "wanderings") is unique. On the first couple of pieces Baladino predominates, with the written-out contributions of the Fifth House Ensemble playing an ornamental role, but the balance shifts as the music goes along. The performances are clean and lively, and the lead vocals of Yael Badash are attractive, but there's more to Nedudim than this. The less prominently named partners to both groups are composer Dan Visconti, a recent Prix de Rome recipient (did you know that was still being given out?), and Baladino member Thomas Moked Blum, who wrote arrangements. These are often ingenious. Sample the pair of originals Black Bend and Greek Blues, which take off from the blues in entirely different ways. The range of source styles runs from blues to Sephardic music to the lightly Indian Raga Etude to contemporary classical music, and the players bring it all within their flexible purview. Only the Anglo folk Mountain Songs: He's Gone Away makes you ask why these musicians should be performing this particular piece, but it does not break the mood. Like the music of that Viennese café, these pieces can work as background, but they also repay close attention to how musicians of different kinds can learn to understand each other and work together.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim