Minimal Klezmer – Minimal Klezmer
(Self-released. CD Review by Andy Boeckstaens)
Minimal Klezmer is the trio – based in Venice and London – of Francesco Socal, Martin Teshome and Bob Durante. Since its formation in 2011, the band has been gaining an international reputation with enthusiastically-received concerts in Germany and Hungary as well as Italy and the UK. Frequently collaborating with others, Minimal Klezmer cut their first, eponymous recording last year in Treviso, Italy, with the accordionist Luca Piovesan on board.
Mitzve Tenzl features a fanfare of accordion and Socal’s bouncy clarinet, underpinned by the cello of Teshome and Durante’s spoon-clacking. Merging into Old Bulgar, the opening pieces set the tone for the disc and contain all the virtues (and some of the clichés) associated with klezmer: happy, rhythmic, Eastern European songs tinged with sadness; spirited musicianship, and moody passages leavened by Jewish humour.
You can see people laughing, arguing, clapping, crying, singing and celebrating. Much of the music sounds familiar and at times – during Orientalishe Motive, for example – it feels as though the quartet will burst into “Zorba’s Dance” or “Kalinka”. Carefully-crafted, classically-inclined compositions sit side-by-side with off-kilter jigs and unfettered oom-pah. It might be folk, it could be jazz. It doesn’t matter. Humanity is at its core.
The quirky, original arrangements are the real strength of this CD. The overall sound – variously dense and sparse – is often dominated by the reedy yearning of accordion and Durante’s melodica. Cello and clarinets provide depth and bite in addition to melody. Improvisation evidently plays an important role in the group’s approach, but it is used to embellish rather than transform. Dissonance sometimes interrupts the flow during Szászrégen and Old Time Sirba, yet it is brief and within context.
Doina in B is very beautiful, in which a repetitive, mesmerising backdrop is overlaid by cello to create a dark and wistful feeling. The interweaving lines of the short Tanz Tanz Yoshke sound surprisingly Elizabethan, and contrast sharply with the throwaway can-can verve of Der Shtiller Bulgar that follows.
The complex Unzer Toirele-Taxim seems to have everything: a chugging start that becomes a bittersweet polka, a clarinet-led period of reflection, and then an accelerating hoe-down. Hopkele is a rousing finale, a barn-dance with singing. It finishes oddly; and then, after a long pause, suddenly bursts into life again with one last manic salvo, eventually fizzling into nothing.
All four players work hard to deliver a set that’s packed with drama and variety. Minimal Klezmer won’t be to everyone’s taste, but there can be little doubt that their forthcoming live shows in London will be interesting and hugely entertaining.
Minimal Klezmer play on Wednesday 11 December at the Jamboree in Limehouse (566 Cable Street, London E1W 3HB), and on Thursday 19 December at the Green Note in Camden (106 Parkway, London NW1 7AN. TICKETS. WEBSITE)