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From rip-roaring klezmer and dynamic tango to their self-penned gypsy jazz, Klezmer-ish bring a trademark twist to whatever genre takes their fancy. Drawing inspiration from the music of bygone travellers, Dusty Road is a seamless musical journey, always on the move.
Meet Klezmer-ish, four incredibly outward- looking classically trained musicians who met whilst playing with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Their fittingly titled new album Dusty Road sees the band freeing themselves from the “shackles” of the rigid hierarchy of the orchestra as they explore the music of immigrants from various cultural backgrounds who left their homelands in pursuit of a different life.
As their name implies, Klezmer-ish cannot simply be pigeonholed as a straight-ahead klezmer act, but rather a band with an incredibly diverse and forever expanding repertoire. Bound together in the true spirit of intercultural exchange, their music is always on the move, like the travelling peoples that it reflects. As Connie, the band’s accordionist and violinist, points out, “These people took their musical traditions with them, and as much as they influenced the music scene wherever they settled, so was their music influenced by the cultures they encountered in their new-found homes. Klezmer music of Jewish immigrants, tangos by Piazzolla (who grew up in Argentina as a son of Italian immigrants) or the gypsy jazz of Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt (the fantastic collaboration of a classically trained French/Italian violinist with a self-taught gypsy guitarist) are all examples of amazing musical fusions.”
Like their music, the band’s approach is incredibly flexible and democratic, as guitarist and vocalist Rob acknowledges, “We all play equal parts in the quartet. No one is purely accompaniment or the main voice, but we constantly swap roles. Even Marcel on the bass very often takes the leading part and plays the melody rather than just sticking to the bass line as you would expect. This certainly helps create our unusual sound world.” It’s an approach very much in evidence on the classic album opener ‘The Klezmer’s Freilach’ where the band bring in and out of focus each instrumental element to the music. This gives the music a fluidity and constantly changing dynamism unto its own, as the album takes you on a wide-ranging journey of musical styles, from klezmer to tango, gypsy jazz and beyond.
What makes Klezmer-ish so special is their passion for exploring exciting new areas whilst retaining the grounded excellence of their rigorous training as classical musicians. The band play with a palpable sense of freedom and are not aiming for perfect renditions of the originals or trying to play in an “authentic” style, but rather to tailor these pieces to their own personal taste and give them their own unique twist. As clarinettist Tom explains, “In Klezmer-ish we draw on different repertoires from around the world for our raw ingredients and mix these with our own individual musical interests and influences, to create something new which strikes a chord with us personally and with our audience.” This approach is clear in the band’s playful take on traditional tune ‘Herschel’, which makes a nod to influences from Renaissance-inspired viol music to punk and plenty in between.
Whether it be a tribute to tango’s most famous sons Carlos Gardel and Astor Piazzolla in ‘Volver’ and ‘Kicho’, letting loose on multi- instrumentalist Rob’s two self-penned gypsy jazz-inspired compositions ‘September Sun’ and ‘Dusty Road’, or the deeply moving Hebrew song by Shem Tov Levi ‘Amud Ha’Esh’, this collection of a dozen pieces demonstrates the band’s outward-looking approach and desire to challenge themselves outside of the strict rules of the symphony orchestra. In the words of the band, “There is no such thing with Klezmer-ish. No boss! All equals. No rules or regulations. It is all led by the music, and by the mutual respect we have for each other’s talent.”