Monday, September 7, 2009

Beyond the Pale -- Postcards

Beyond the Pale

(This review was published in the September 7, 2009 issue of the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin.)

Postcards is the third CD by Beyond the Pale, the Toronto-based klezmer band led by mandolinist Eric Stein, the artistic director of Ashkenaz, Toronto’s biennial festival of Yiddish
and Jewish culture.

In addition to Stein, Beyond the Pale also features two violinists, Bogdan Djukic and Aleksander Gajic, both of whom were established classical musicians in their native Yugoslavia; accordionist Milos Popovic, who also began his career in Yugoslavia; clarinetist Martin van de Ven, a former member of the Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band; and bassist Bret Higgins.

While most of the album is instrumental, Israeli vocalist Vira Lozinsky joins them for three songs including “An Old Legend,” which combines a traditional Romanian tune with new Yiddish lyrics in a swinging arrangement that features Stein on cimbalom, a type of hammered dulcimer.

Whether playing up tempo toe-tappers like “Magura,” or slower, contemplative pieces like “Meditation,” a Chassidic nign, Beyond the Pale’s creative arrangements never fail to

Half of the tunes were written by members of the band and they reflect the various musical backgrounds of the composers. Stein’s “Split Decision” has a throbbing Eastern European, almost classical, groove that variously brings each of the various musicians to the fore for riveting solos. “Back to the Beginning” is in an intense piece characterized by shifting moods that was written by Gajic during the NATO bombing campaign in Belgrade in 1999.

--Mike Regenstreif

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