Isle of Klezbos,
Greetings from the Isle of Klezbos
(Rhythm Media, 2003)

Rambles is building up a good cross-section of reviews of today's klezmer music. Performers covered range from the traditional to modern revivalists such as the genre-extending Klezmatics. But there's a ton more to be heard. It's gone way beyond a revival. Hunt around a bit and you can find klezmer combined with just about everything from soft jazz to rap. Would you believe there's even some new-age klezmer? Sounds as hilarious to me as anything Mickey Katz ever recorded, and that includes "Borscht Riders in the Sky."

Isle of Klezbos understands and respects the traditional in repertoire, instrumentation and style. Many of the melodies and arrangements will be familiar to klezmer enthusiasts. Others are authentic-sounding originals. Tempos alternate between slow and fast. The group is at its best in some of the slower arrangements featuring exotic-sounding Arabic harmonies. I especially like the sinuous "Revery in Hijaz" based, liner notes tell us, on a theme from a tune recorded by cymbalist Joseph Moskowitz in 1916. These ladies know their antecedents. Revery is played twice, the second time in a "reprise" that is one of three live-audience tracks.

Not that the faster cuts are chopped liver, if you'll pardon the expression, but they do sound just a touch controlled, as if the group would be more at home in concert than at a wine-spilling wedding celebration.

These are in any event talented and well-trained musicians. Professional experience runs the gamut from rock to classical. Clarinetist Debra Kreisberg has the klezmer style down pat, making appropriate use of bent notes, trills and ornaments. She also has a lovely sound on alto sax on which she sometimes slips out of klezmer into a surprisingly tasty mainstream jazz groove. Pam Fleming has a beautiful tone on both trumpet and the softer fluglehorn. She too knows klezmer well but occasionally shifts to jazz. Eve Sicular is a fine drummer and the founder of both Isle of Klezbos and the better known Metropolitan Klezmer. In-the-style bass and accordion round out the instrumentation. Deborah Karpel adds Yiddish vocals on two of the release's 14 tracks.

Klezmer fans won't be disappointed and I also recommend the album to newcomers looking for something different. Jazz lovers may be especially susceptible.

I'll conclude by not commenting on the sort of triple-pun group name. Hope you appreciate my restraint.

- Rambles
written by Ron Bierman
published 6 December 2003

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