Words by Simon Broughton
Jewish and Polish tunes, klezmer-style, by the very best
Although there’s been a great revival of klezmer and Jewish music in the former Eastern Bloc, it’s still American musicians who’ve been in the forefront of the most interesting research and revival. Names such as Michael Alpert, Alan Bern, Bob Cohen and the musicians on this album – Joshua Horowitz and Joel Rubin – are leaders in the field, all American. With his bands Budowitz and Veretski Pass, button accordion and tsimbl (cimbalom) player Joshua Horowitz has explored the grassroots traditions of old-time klezmer music in Eastern Europe.
The title of this album translates as ‘Poland: A Metamorphosis’. Before the Holocaust, Poland had a Jewish population of over three million. Klezmer musicians in Poland played both Jewish and Polish tunes for weddings, parties – and for whoever needed music. On this disc, Veretski Pass bring together traditional tunes from the Jewish and Polish repertoire, sometimes wistful, sometimes exuberant, but always expertly played by Joel Rubin on C clarinet (the high, cheeky klezmer one), Cookie Segelstein on violin, Joshua Horowitz on accordions and tsimbl, and Stuart Brotman on Polish-style cello-bass. One of the most beautiful tunes is ‘Gedankn’ (Thanks), a tune by Jewish cantor Majer Bogdanski (1912-2005) with whom Budowitz worked on their Wedding Without a Bride album. It’s played by Rubin on the clarinet with subtle flourishes, but drawing out the emotion with every note. This is a memorable and important album from true masters of the klezmer repertoire.