It's awfully hard to say "No" to klezmer music. There's such life and vivacity to it, and the form shares many links with other Western and Near East musics, so much so that one can as easily picture gypsies dancing to it as Hassid rabbis. There's also a degree of complexity and derring-do that immediately attracts the ear and mind. These two guitar players, Oren Neiman and Gilad Ben-Zevi, Israeli musicians, present a collection of songs that base in the mode but incorporate generous slices of rock, cinema, folk, jazz, flamenco, and other styles so that the outcome is hybrid and exploratory.
There are a number of problems, however. One is the miking, which was must have been open-air and presents a number of drops in clarity during certain passages (usually means the musician was leaning away from the microphone). Another is a lack of full integration, one musician with the other, as well as insufficient woodshedding individually to keep up with some of their own chops (especially heard during speed-leads). Some of the CD comes off well, though, most prominently in the balladic and folk pastorale cuts. On Pney Hayam, however, they reach their zenith, committing to a lyricism and progressive flavor that's tantalizing, rhapsodic, and cerebral. Save for an ill-considered high-speed flamenco chord passage, it's demonstrative of what Neiman and Ben-Zevi are really capable of.
This CD falls within a zone of music that has become extremely competitive of late, mainly because of the high quality of the extraordinary CandyRat label but also harkening back to Windham Hill, Takoma, and other imprints. My advice to those desiring a slot in this genre is to listen to the Les Deux Amis Plays Focus Classics LP, an outstanding old guitar duet recording hard to lay hold of now, I'm sorry to say, as well as the series of Larry Coryell's numerous duet releases back then, not to mention that most exalted of World Music bands, Oregon, especially their earliest forays. I have no doubt this pair is capable of what they're aiming for and will one day get there, but not yet.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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