Almost anything one writes about klezmer music sounds a bit serious. Originating from Eastern Europe, klezmer, or Jewish folk music, features clarinet and fiddle, but can also include tuba, trumpet, saxophone, flute, piano, percussion, and vocals. This information, however, fails to convey how much fun a group like the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band can be. Eclectic and occasionally outrageous, the 17-member band is bursting at the buttons with intensity. With bouncy instrumentals like "A Lively Honga" and happy vocals like "Play, Fiddle, Play/Yidl With the Fiddle," Old Roots New World reminds one of a cross between John Philip Sousa and cabaret. Kimber Leigh Nussbaum handles most of the vocals and her theatrical style on pieces like "Congratulations, Bride and Groom" captures the joyful spirit of a wedding celebration. Violinist Alex Koffman has done a fine job of providing lively arrangements for many of these songs and instrumentals, which must have been quite a task with all the musicians involved. The band does have a serious side, though it's easy to overlook it amidst so much excitement. A quiet, reflective "Leah's Saraband" crosses folk and classical traditions, while the lyric of "Springtime" recalls the Holocaust and how one woman attempts to continue with her life after the murder of her husband. The album ends with the ambitious "Klezmer Rhapsody for Violin," a 17-minute instrumental with multiple phases ranging from ecstatic to thoughtful. With Old Roots New World, the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band deliver an album that captures the band's abundant energy and versatility.
AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.