The Klezmer Conservatory Band,
Dance Me to the End of Love
(Rounder, 2000)

The Klezmer Conservatory Band is one of the first contemporary klezmer bands at the heart of the klezmer revival and renaissance, and Dance Me to the End of Love contains all the silk, sass, swing and style you expect from one of their recordings.

Directed by Hankus Netsky, the Klezmer Conservatory Band is Judy Bressler (vocals and tambourine), Ilene Stahl (clarinet), Deborah Strauss (violin), Robin Miller (flute and piccolo), Mark Berney (cornet), Mark Hamilton (trombone), Hankus Netsky (also saxophone, accordion and piano), Art Bailey (piano), Jeff Warschauer (mandolin, guitar, tenor banjo and background vocals), James Guttman (bass) and Grant Smith (drums and percussion). Together, the whole band is definitely more than the sum of its parts. The musicians' range and versatility are always amazing.

Klezmer music is traditionally music for celebration, and Dance Me to the End of Love has plenty of just that. The CD opens with the rousing "Buhkarester Bulgar (Bulgar from Bucharest)," sure to get your blood going as several of the band members get to strut their stuff. "Skolshne #60 al la Merlin" is a tad mellower but is still lively, featuring a strong percussion beat and the singing clarinet and violin carrying the melody. "Beresh Katz Bulgar" has an urgent contemporary edge while "Bis in Vaysn Tag Arayn (Until Dawn)" takes off into a wild whirling frenzy guaranteed to make you dance until you drop.

Not all of the 19 tracks are fast-paced dance music however; The Klezmer Conservatory Band demonstrates its versatility in track such as "Dem Rebn's Nign (The Rabbi's Melody)" with its cantor-like violin, the jazzy-bluesy "Bublitchki (Bulkie Rolls)," the exotic "Der Turk in America (The Turk in America)" or the lovely, graceful "Dobranotsch (Good Night Waltz)" which brings the CD to a shimmering close.

One of my favorite instrumental tracks is "Hora/Moscowitz Medley" which begins with a haunting and dramatic melody on the mandolin then segues into a meticulously plucked dance melody of astounding clarity.

But wait, there's more! Other tracks feature Judy Bressler's powerful vocals. Bressler's range of expression is remarkable, from the sensual, lush title track to the playful, bubbling and giddy sound of "Freylakh Zayn (Be Happy)" and the comic brassiness of "Di Mekhutonim Geyen (The In-Laws are Coming)." Bressler also provides sweet and clear vocals for more tender tracks such as "Zol Nokh Zayn Shabbes (Let it Still be Shabbes)" or the lullaby "Shlof in Zisn Ru (Sleep in Sweet Repose)."

Overall, the musicianship is excellent, featuring tight arrangements and clean well-blended performances that allow each band member to shine. Best of all, it sounds as if they're having a blast playing together.

If you enjoy klezmer, then Dance Me to the End of Love is a "must have" for your collection, and if you're not familiar with klezmer but are curious, this offering from the Klezmer Conservatory Band is a good place to start.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

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