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World Music CD Reviews Europe

Klezmic Zirkus

By Robert Kaye
Published February 19, 2008

Vitamine K
Home Records

Belgium-based Home Records continues to amass a fine roster of talented and eclectic artists, most of them—as the label’s name implies— homegrown. Klezmic Zirkus is a gifted quintet (woodwinds, diatonic accordion, trombone/tuba, double bass/guitar and drums/percussion) of musicians who are intimately familiar with the standard klezmer repertoire—freilachs, bulgars, shers, polkas, horas and the like. But the band really cuts loose when it incorporates elements of rock, jazz, avant-garde, reggae, classical, and Balkan music into its own progressive arrangements. “Kaléïdoscope” begins darkly, in the all-pervasive Ahava Raba mode (think of the Hebrew folk song “Hava Nagila”), and evolves into a heady melodic/ rhythmic vamp. Suddenly, with the trombone emulating a didgeridoo, the mood switches to a more ebullient major scale, with a sultry clarinet leading the way. A bass solo in 6/8 with wood-block percussion comes in at the break, followed by more contrapuntal chaos—and that’s just one song! Much like the imaginative U.S.-based trio Davka, Klezmic Zirkus honor this venerated genre with derring-do and impressive chops. Mazel tov!