Big Galut(e) | Big Galut(e)

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World: Klezmer Classical: Baroque Moods: Mood: Fun
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Big Galut(e)

by Big Galut(e)

Eclectic: Klezmer, Classical, Tango, and Folk
Genre: World: Klezmer
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Seletsker Freylekhs: Freylekhs #1 / Big Galut(E) Freylekhs
4:11 album only
2. Levant
4:09 album only
3. Papirosin
6:26 album only
4. Kalkutta Klezmer
2:03 album only
5. Go Down Moses
2:04 album only
6. Charlemos
3:55 album only
7. Wallachian-Appalachian Scratchin'
4:07 album only
8. Sonata Prima
2:56 album only
9. Sonata Settima: 'sopra L'aria D'un Balletto
3:10 album only
10. Tango-Ballade
3:15 album only
11. La Yiddishe Mama
4:42 album only
12. Moyshele / Yankele / Reyzele
4:28 album only
13. Khosidl
6:18 album only
14. Kosher Bagel Medley: Hannukah Freylekhs / Keepin' It Kosher / Bagels in Bangkok
4:35 album only
15. The True Story of Carmen
6:22 album only


Album Notes
Madcap Tradition, Artful Music: Big Galut(e) Rereads Jewish and Classical Music History With Gentle Irreverence

Jewish court composers and shtetl humor. A klezmer twist on Mahler and Argentine Yiddish tangos. Big Galut(e) does it all, with a quirky grin and unflagging musicianship. A quintet that sprang from summer stints at renowned opera festival Glimmerglass, the mostly classically trained artists approach the Western canon with absurdist glee, and Jewish traditions with borscht-belt wit on their self-titled debut album (release: August 21, 2015).

“We must be the only band that plays klezmer on the theorbo,” the Baroque plucked instrument, remarks violinist and vocalist Sasha Margolis, one of the driving forces behind the ensemble. “It has timbral similarities to the tsimbl, and works perfectly.”

The group’s antics play off traditional humor, but they never stray into the realm of novelty and often dive with virtuosic vigor into other offshoots of Jewish creativity. “We enjoy constantly changing styles and energy levels. That keeps everyone engaged. There are serious moments, but there’s also lots of laughter. We tell jokes. Robin tells jokes in Yiddish and I translate loosely into English. We do a few soulful tunes, then switch to the Baroque stuff. Being goofy is true to tradition.”

{full story below}

One day at Glimmerglass, Margolis and clarinetist Robin Seletsky struck up a conversation. They realized that they both longed to play some of the other music they loved. And they learned that they had both learned klezmer from their dads.

Seletsky’s father was a popular klezmer player and composer (“Seletsker Freylekhs” combines two generations of klezmer boogies); Margolis grew up listening to klezmer, thanks to his pianist father. “He teaches piano at Oberlin. When he was young, he made his living as a jazz pianist, played at strip clubs in high school,” recalls Margolis. “He also teaches Yiddish and is a really dedicated linguist. He made some arrangements for my sister and me, and even though I didn’t play it for 30 years, it was always there.”

They started playing together, jamming when not rehearsing or performing. The duo was joined by Baroque instrumental master Michael Leopold (who brought the theorbo to the group), bassist Richard Sosinsky (who also moonlights on mandolin), and accordionist Mark Rubinstein, whose wife is a musician at the opera and who had a lifetime of experience playing everything from klezmer to Latin music, with everyone from Liza Minnelli to Judy Collins.

As they played around together, they found an unexpected groove. It lay where opera plots get revamped as tongue-in-cheek Jewish takes on all that high-flying drama (“The True Story of Carmen”), right down to Sosinsky willingly landing in the (matzo ball) soup for a send up of Aida. They dug up wonderful ditties from Yiddish pop culture, including an uproarious Argentine take on a conversation between a lovelorn caller and a baffled gal on the other end of the line, with a serious wink at Piazzolla (“Charlemos”).

Yet it’s about more than having fun with Jewish roots music. Classical and popular repertoire have an animated chat in Big Galut(e)’s work, and the players bring out the Jewish aspects of classical music--be it Mussorgsky’s mixed messages on Jewish music or Renaissance gems by a Jewish court composer (“Sonata Prima”)--reframing the pieces with cheeky artfulness. They also explore the heartfelt Yiddish works of popular composers, like the sorrowful ballad sung by a child street pedlar, “Papirosin.”

Part of the ensemble’s approach means incorporating the more freewheeling musical ways of klezmer and traditional music, with its improvisation and hamming it up, into the meticulous, notated performance practice of the classical world. “The two are not hermetically sealed,” reflects Margolis. “Being willing to take some risks, to arrange classical works by composers like Mahler, has improved our musicianship, without a doubt.” However Leopold’s background in early music lends itself well to encouraging looser interpretation and more on-the-fly interpretation. “Baroque music has more room to play around and create your own ornamentation,” explains Margolis. “He pushes us to be expressive whenever we can.”

Expressiveness animates the group’s clever originals, like Seletsky’s globe-trotting klezmer tunes (“Kalkutta Klezmer,” “Kosher Bagel Medley”) or Margolis’s stony lonesome Romanian hybrid (“Wallachian-Appalachian Scratchin'”). Margolis and Seletsky swoop in and out in perfect, swaying dialogue, with touching sweetness one moment, and wacky humor the next. It powers Rubinstein’s rollicking solos on tracks like “Yiddishe Mama.” There’s a lyrical, effortless quality to the playing that deploys ornamentation to great effect and transforms the pieces, especially on tracks like Kurt Weill’s “Tango-Ballade.”

Serious chops sometimes serve less serious ends, however, and shine a light on a tradition of wit and silliness that the group savors. “Being silly, and doing it through music, goes back centuries; it’s so much a part of Jewish musical heritage,” remarks Margolis. “It’s funny, the stand up comic persona that comes out when we play live or record something together, it comes out with the music.”



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