Following their debut album, Oy Yeah!, Klezwoods’ sophomore release highlights a more refined and intricate ensemble featuring original compositions by several band members and new takes on traditional Klezmer, Balkan and Arabic sounds of the past.
The musical journey starts with a full band drone in “The New Path,” translated from the original Macedonian title “Jeni Jol.” Originally a traditional song, Klezwoods gives it a new rock feel, entrancing the listener with old world wisdom and new world flavor. “Egypt Trip” is an original song by trumpeter Sam Dechenne and has echoes of classic Middle Eastern orchestras, Gustav Mahler and Egyptian melodies. The song was written after Dechenne’s excursion to Egypt to see a traditional Islamic wedding in the ancient city of Alexandria. “Harmonika,” a famous Israeli dance often played at Jewish weddings, comes next, and represents the classic Klezmer roots of the band. In the tradition of promoting peace through music, the next track on the album is a Palestinian song that the Klezwoods likes to call “Hot Wheels” (traditionally titled “Hawwil”). Bandleader Joe Kessler (violin) learned this song from the Shani Girls Choir, an Israeli/Palestinian group made up of Jewish, Arabic, Christian and Muslim girls. In the next tune, “A Glass of Wine," the groups successful merges reggae into the klezmer genre and features Dan Linden’s dub reggae-style trombone solo (skillfully recorded by engineer Jason “Jocko” Randall).
Becky Wexler’s voice radiates in the only vocal tune on the album, “Shoes.” Originally called “Di Sapozhkelekh” in Yiddish, Shoes melds a beautifully emotive and longing sound with a very interesting groove. “Brass Belly,” a Macedonian melody for a dance known as “Bachinoselsko Oro” (oro dance), features brass attacks, violin, oud solos, and a roving melody
throughout. The “mad-scientist” guitar sounds and compositions of “oud master” Tev Stevig (Boston Globe) can be heard on “Play To Win,” an original of Stevig’s that accents real Balkan flavor with heavy melodies, harmonies and improvisation. Based on the traditional Turkish dance called Karsilama, this song seamlessly bridges the sounds of Balkan folk dance and
contemporary Eastern European night clubs.
“Pick Up and Go” is a change of pace for The 30th Meridian. Coming from the Beregovsky Collection, this is a traditional Klezmer Freylekhs and the Klezwoods scales down to a quartet (clarinet, accordion, tuba and tambourine) for this light hearted step into a joyous and well executed melody. “Cherambe” is another original by Stevig based on the Balkan dance called Berance. Weaving melodies and rhythms permeate the song with an intricately chaotic alto saxophone solo by special guest, Alec Spiegelman. “Circus Wheel” is a Romanian folk song commonly known as “Hora Din Clejani” (a hora from the city of Cluj). This features the album’s only upright bass solo by Greg Loughman and brings to mind the gentle whirls of circus Ferris wheels. Loughman also contributes his own composition to the album entitled, “Somerville Sirba,” which he describes as a “madcap ride on a circus wagon through the streets of Somerville, MA.” After riding Loughman’s sirba, the album turns a bit more traditional with “A Little Israel,” which combines the klezmer and Chassidic songs “A Bisl
Leb’n” and “Yi Yi Israel,” and honors the spirit of the hora (circle) wedding dances. Listen carefully for a boisterous laugh and exuberant accordion solo by the bellowing Michael Mclaughlin (Shirim Klezmer Orchestra and Naftule’s Dream). And finally, the journey ends with “January 7th Early in the Morning.” This song originally goes by the title “L’kho Doydi” and was taught to Wexler by well-known New York clarinetist and singer Sruli Dresdner. One can imagine a gentle sunrise on a St. Petersburg morning accompanied by this song to celebrate the Russian New Year on January 7th.
Joe Kessler, violinist and bandleader, has played with Morphine, the Palestinian/Israeli/Danish World Peace Orchestra and toured with Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and Hossam Ramzy on the No Quarter Tour, where Klezwoods gets their Arabic and Rock sound. Drummer Grant Smith has toured the world with The Klezmer Conservatory Orchestra and performed with music greats Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma. Trumpeter Sam Dechenne is a member of John Brown’s Body, the legendary American Reggae band, and plays all over the world with the traditional Turkish group, Dunnya. “Percussion master and musical polymath” Brian O’Neill (Boston Phoenix) is a member of chamber-rockers Cordis and the artistic director of the double-ensemble Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica, a group in which Klezwoods’ Tev Stevig (guitar) and Dan Linden (trombone) often
participate. Tuba player Jim Gray also accompanies Michael McLaughlin in the klezmer groups Naftule’s Dream and Shirim Klezmer Orchestra. Clarinetist Becky Wexler is studying to become a cantor at the Hebrew College in Newton, MA. Busy bassist Greg Loughman (Yoko Miwa) is also a bandleader himself with his solo project, Lowman. Tev Stevig has played with international Balkan music stars Georgi Yanev, Goran Alachki and Yuri Yunakov and leads his own groups, Kafana and Jeni Jol along with O’Neill. Trombonist Dan Linden has shared the stage with The New Hampshire Pops, Slavic Soul Party, and many other hip bands from NYC. Special guest, Alec Spiegelman (David Wax Museum, Cuddle Magic, Ronald Reagan, Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica) is another heavy hitter on the Klezwoods’ second album. These diverse backgrounds come
together to create the Klezwoods sound.
Klezwoods is an amalgam of strings, horns and percussion that melds the spirit of traditional klezmer and balkan music with modern grooves, improvisation, and melodies. Formed in 2007 by bandleader Joe Kessler for a special "Klezmer Christmas" event at Atwoods Tavern, the group featured stellar Boston musicians from the klezmer, balkan, pop and jazz scenes for the performance. The music was a great success and since that special night, Klezwoods has continued to play all over the northeast Unites States and in Europe.