Dance Me to the End of Love
Rounder Record Corp.
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
Paying tribute to friends and mentors, Dance Me to the End of Love is another generous helping of the very best klezmer from America's pre-eminent purveyors of the Jewish musical tradition. With the release of their ninth album, this klezmer big band, featuring eleven members on fifteen instruments, plows through nineteen songs and nearly seventy minutes of music that is both reverent and adventurous. In short, The Klezmer Conservatory Band blends authenticity and professionalism. |
Incorporating a wildly eclectic sound, The Klezmer Conservatory Band covers the entire spectrum of human emotion. The big swinging Romanian Bukharester Bulgar opens the album on a joyous note, as the sheer hugeness of this band's sound is amazing. The following tune, Di Mekhutonim Geyen/Tants a Freylekhs (The In-laws Are Coming/Dance a Freylekhs), continues this infectiously happy vibe, that periodically returns in tracks like the obscure Skotshne #60 a la Merlin. Similarly, the klezmer mixed with swing of Bublitchki and the frantic Biz In Vaysn Tog Arayn are great songs for rainy days, with airtight musicianship driving the energizing rhythms. Still, just as many songs offer a rather pensive, if not mournful, feel.
A cover of Leonard Cohen's Dance Me to the End of Love reveals an altogether different layer of gracefulness in the track. Similarly Zol Nokh Zayn Shabes (Let It Still Be Shabes) is soaked in an otherworldly, almost operatic beauty. The verse of these songs, almost entirely in Yiddish (with liner notes in English), is a cultural lesson unto itself, as the words magnificently paint intricate pictures of Jewish life. Occasionally incorporating religious themes, the rousing Yism'khu (You Shall Rejoice) is a tune that passed into the liturgy from its secular roots. For how dense their sound can be, the band loses none of its thunder with the solo piano lullaby of Shlof in Zisn Ru, nor the slowly building collaboration of guitar and violin of Dem Rebn's Nign. The charmingly optimistic Khasene Tantz (Wedding Dance) offered as a hopeful anthem for all the wives waiting for their husbands to return from World War II, is indicative of the straightforward power of these tunes. Finishing up with the somber Dobranotsh (Good Night Waltz), which is traditionally played at the end of Jewish weddings, is a most appropriate finale.
To be sure, The Klezmer Conservatory Band squeezes an awful lot of music into these nineteen tracks. Embracing with dignity the varied themes of the Jewish experience, Dance Me to the End of Love is an endlessly rewarding listen. Overall, the command in Freylekh Zayn (Be Happy) is not too hard to follow when given such an inspirational model.