Monday, September 7, 2009

Frank London & Lorin Sklamberg -- Tsuker-zis


Frank London & Lorin Sklamberg

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

Frank London – who plays trumpet, alto horn, flugelhorn and harmonium – and singer-accordionist Lorin Sklamberg have been mainstays of the Klezmatics, one of the most essential bands of the klezmer revival, since the group’s inception more than two decades ago.

London and Sklamberg are both musically active in groups and collaborations beyond the Klezmatics and this is the third in a series of the pair’s collaborations on religious songs they’ve adapted from various Chassidic traditions. The first, Nigunim, focused on wordless melodies, while the second, The Zmiros Project, with keyboardist Rob Schwimmer, was Sabbath songs. Tsuker-zis adapts songs and prayers associated with specific holidays and festivals including Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Passover and Chanukah.

London and Sklamberg use a remarkably diverse musical palette in these adaptations. You can hear the influence of jazz trumpeter Miles Davis in London’s playing on their deeply contemplative version of “Our Parent, Our Sovereign (Ovinu Malkeynu),” from the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur liturgies. A joyous Passover song with an impossibly long title, “Mighty, Blessed, Great, Prominent, Glorious, Ancient, Meritorious, Righteous, Pure, Unique, Powerful, Learned, King, Enlightened, Exalted, Brave, Redeemer, Just, Holy, Merciful, Almighty, Omnipotent is Our God,” has a klezmer-meets-ska arrangement with noisy, but somehow suitable, electronic effects.

In the best folk music tradition, these songs combine something that seems very familiar with something that is somehow wonderfully weird.

Special credit also needs to be given to the superb musicians -– guitarist Knox Chandler, Armenian oud virtuoso Ara Dinkjian and Indian percussionist Deep Singh –- who join London and Sklamberg on this recording.

--Mike Regenstreif

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