Wednesday, January 6, 1999

The Well

Posted By on Wed, Jan 6, 1999 at 12:00 AM

In the years following the Holocaust, it appeared as if Yiddish culture was nearly extinct. Those who emigrated to Israel rejected the culture and the language in favor of Hebrew. And in North America, too, Yiddish was shunned by the Jewish communities. All of that has changed in the past two decades as a new generation of Jews has embraced the music, language and culture of their grandparents. Today, the Klezmatics have led a huge cultural revival of Klezmer music that has launched music festivals and broadened the base of Klezmer music through their collaborations with Itzhak Perlman, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, Jane Siberry and even Ben Folds Five.

The Klezmatics' new album, The Well, like many of the group's recent projects, is an ambitious work. It's a collaboration with the Israeli diva Chava Alberstein taking a cycle of new songs based on the poetry of some of the 20th century's top Yiddish poets. Alberstain, known as the "First Lady of Israeli Song," based the music for the album on interviews with elderly writers for the documentary Too Early to be Quiet, Too Late to Sing, moving tales from some of the last writers from the once-flourishing community in Eastern Europe.

Musically, the album doesn't deviate much from the trademark Klezmatics sound, taking traditional Klezmer rhythms and adding bits of jazz and even a touch of vaudeville. Producer Ben Mink (k.d. lang, Roy Orbison, Barenaked Ladies) creates a beautiful tapestry mixing Alberstein's lush vocals with Alicia Svigal's haunting fiddle, Frank London's energetic and wild trumpet playing, and the emotionally tinged voice of singer-accordionist Lorin Sklamberg. Like earlier Klezmatic projects, The Well is sure to broaden Klezmer horizons well outside the Jewish community, while still managing to capture the hearts of its base. A huge accomplishment.

Dan Rosenberg writes about music for the Metro Times. E-Mail


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