Monday, September 7, 2009

Little Princess: Tim Sparks Plays Naftule Brandwein

Tim Sparks
Little Princess: Tim Sparks Plays Naftule Brandwein

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

Naftule Brandwein, who came to America in 1908 and became known as the “King of the Klezmer Clarinet,” was, arguably, the greatest of the first generation klezmer musicians in the New World. His 78 RPM recordings, now reissued on CD, have provided inspiration and tunes to countless klezmer revival bands in recent years.

This set of 10 Brandwein pieces is the fourth excursion into Jewish music by Tim Sparks, a highly innovative guitarist from Minnesota best known for his recordings of folk, jazz and blues. Working with bassist Greg Cohen –- known for his work with Tom Waits –- and Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista, Sparks has done a superb job of reimagining music composed for the clarinet as finger-style guitar pieces.

Owing to the origin of the music, and certainly to the contributions of the percussionist, there’s an Eastern Europe-meets-South America groove to many of these tunes. These are not traditional klezmer interpretations, but it is a fine album of Jewish music that will have great appeal to lovers of sublime acoustic guitar playing.

--Mike Regenstreif

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