With three albums to their credit, the Klezmatics have made themselves probably the best-known band in the new wave of klezmer music (sometimes referred to as "Jewish jazz"). Klezmer grew out of traditional Yiddish melodies but, like American jazz, came to reflect influences from classical dance pieces, military band music, and native (in this case European) folk songs, gradually swirling into a distinct mirror of its place and time. Think early Dixieland with a very thick accent. But that was then. Today, even in a decade suffused with the world's beats, it's still surprising that this traditional Jewish folk music of eastern Europe and western Russia has gained so many modern adherents. As the Klezmatics prove on their recently released Jews With Horns (Xenophile), you won't find any modern klezmer bands doing a more authentic job with this music, right down to the cabalistic numerology of the liner notes--which explain, among other things, that the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word for "horns" can also lead to the translation "the soul." But traditionalists will feel out to sea: even though the Klezmatics capture an authentic sound and energy, they throw in plenty of other musical flotsam and jetsam, reflecting rock beats, other American musical idioms from bluegrass to stage musicals, and a prebop jazz sensibility that would please the heart of Cab Calloway--who in the 30s managed to smoothly integrate klezmer-style melody into such hits as "Minnie the Moocher." In any case, nobody does this stuff with more panache or sheer fun, all of it based in a heady musicianship. Standouts include the passionate clarinet work of David Krakauer (who flies even higher with his own eponymous klezmer trio), the soaring classically trained violinist Alicia Svigals, and the direction of leader and trumpeter/keyboardist Frank London, who explains: "We're Jews. We're in the 1990s. This is New York City. And this is our music!" Sunday, 7 PM, Centre East, 7701 N. Lincoln, Skokie; 847-673-6300 or 902-1500. NEIL TESSER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Linda Rutenberg.