|I finally got hold of a copy of the review of our new album by Seth Rogovoy from Sing Out!, Vol. 46, No, 4. Thanks from the bottom of our (17) hearts, Seth! (Text below)|
Maxwell Street Klezmer Band
Old Roots, New World
Since 1983, the Chicago-based Maxwell Street Klezmer Band has been one of the premiere regional ensemble of the klezmer revival. They play old Yiddish swing and theater tunes and instrumental classics from the early-20th Century repertoire with a big-band flair. The group's current lineup, as reflected on its latest CD, Old Roots New World, numbers seventeen--including three vocalists--providing a rich palette from which bandleader Lori Lippitz and arranger Alex Koffman can draw.
The group's mainstream stock in trade is still widely in evidence--remakes of jazzy instrumentals from the 1920s ("Lebedike Honga" from Kandel's Orchestra, "Zol Zayn Gelebt" from Dave Tarras) and Mollie Picon vocal classics from Yiddish theater and film ("Yidl Mitn Fidl," "Abi Gezunt"). But the group's personality continues to evolve, most notably on several ambitious, newly-written classically-oriented compositions.
Koffman contributes "Leah's Saraband," a musical portrait of Lippitz that is sinuous and dignified. The 18-minute "Klezmer Rhapsody," written by Ilya Levinson, will undoubtedly remind listeners of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," not only because of its similar dramatic, concerto format, but because on its way toward putting the blues on the concert stage Gershwin's work already nodded to Yiddish modalities. The raw material that makes up klezmer's three- and four-minute dance numbers is rich enough to be mined at greater length and depth, and Levinson's fine experiment, which brings to mind Duke Ellington as much as Gershwin in the manner in which it paints a particular landscape through shifting perspectives, will undoubtedly point the way to more efforts like it.
The group also stretches out on a haunting chamber version of "Friling (Springtime)," a "ghetto tango" number of anguished longing sung by Bibi Marcell, and on an arty, theatrical arrangement of the old Yiddish folk song, "Oy, Abram," sung with acrobatic finesse by Lippitz. In sum, a diverse, well-programmed effort.