Kol Simcha | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Kol Simcha


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Though the name of this Swiss (yes, Swiss) klezmer quintet translates as "Voice of Joy," it plays a brand of klezmer designed more for a concert hall than a village wedding reception. Kol Simcha tempers the wildness of eastern European folk song with both its watchmaker's precision and its unusual instrumentation. Traditional klezmer bands always starred a violin, but in the 20th century it was joined and then replaced by a clarinet. The modern klezmer revival, heavily influenced by jazz, has seen the addition of other instruments--trumpet and sax in the Klezmatics, electric guitar and tuba in Naftule's Dream--and one band, the nicely bent Hasidic New Wave, uses neither violin nor clarinet, severing those explicit ties completely. Kol Simcha pairs clarinet with flute, of all things--a combination that references the wind quintets of Mozart, not the raucous Catskills band of Mickey Katz. And the piano-bass-drums rhythm section tastefully weaves voicings derived from Bill Evans and Herbie Hancock among threads of Bach and Debussy, making Kol Simcha nothing less than a chamber-jazz ensemble--klezmer's answer to the Modern Jazz Quartet. Their range, displayed on their latest, Crazy Freilach (Claves), reflects their ambition: a piece called "Jerusalem" has a Spanish tinge to its harmonic movement and a bolero drumbeat; "Joseph" mirrors Brahms and Mingus in the measured deliberation of its theme; and the self-explanatory "Speedy Hora" revs up the traditional celebratory dance to a tempo that makes dancing impossible, a reminder of the way the beboppers transformed jazz from dance-club sound track into concert art. Wednesday, 7 PM, Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; 312-744-6630. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.

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