Frank London

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Tsuker-Zis Review

by Thom Jurek

Klezmatics founders Frank London and Lorin Sklamberg continue their collaborative efforts on Tsuker-Zis ("sugarsweet") in the third installment of their "Nigunim" projects -- Hasidic melodies traditionally composed by Jewish spiritual leaders for Sabbath and holidays -- on Tzadik. Centering strictly on holiday songs this time out, the pair has also enlisted the assistance of guitarist Knox Chandler, Armenian legend Ara Dinkjian on oud, saz, and cümbüs, and Indian percussionist Deep Singh. Sklamberg's beautiful tenor voice and accordion and London's brass and harmonium are a familiar sound to many by this time. That said, with their partners in sound here, they've never been heard quite like this. Despite the fact that these are holiday songs, they nonetheless carry within them the origins of the diaspora, the traces of dislocation, movement, and deep reverence. This is 21st century folk music, where songs from the Nigunim have been opened at the seams and aired, letting the sounds of other ancient traditions inside them dance, creating a new folk tradition in the process. The melodies remain, the words remain, and Sklamberg remains one of the best modern interpretive singers of the Nigunim songs. But it's in the musical presentation, its dignified construction, careful execution, and deeply emotive expression that these songs reach outside their Jewish heritage and encounter the rest of the world as themselves, and as part and parcel of the music of other traditions that have themselves been dispersed across the globe in antiquity -- in the case of Armenia -- and in modernity, as India has. Stand-out tracks include " Increase Our Joy," "A Sukkah of Branches," and "Heed Not the Accuser." The result is stirring, rousing, and utterly beautiful throughout; it is the most endearing and moving of the these projects thus far.

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