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The Klez Dispensers | New Jersey Freylekhs

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Spiritual: Judaica World: Klezmer Moods: Mood: Upbeat
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New Jersey Freylekhs

by The Klez Dispensers

Traditional and original klezmer tunes, joyful big band-style arrangements and soulful melodies from this energetic young seven-piece ensemble.
Genre: Spiritual: Judaica
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Russische Tzigane
3:32 $0.99
2. Dave's Freylekh
2:40 $0.99
3. Doina
3:16 $0.99
4. Karnofsky Tanz
3:55 $0.99
5. Yismekhu Khosid'l
3:54 $0.99
6. Tanz Istanbul
3:29 $0.99
7. Freylekh Nushiele
3:16 $0.99
8. Hora
4:13 $0.99
9. Abi Gezunt
3:41 $0.99
10. New Jersey Freylekhs
3:55 $0.99
11. Freymilekh (intro)
2:13 $0.99
12. Freymilekh
2:44 $0.99
13. Zefki
3:43 $0.99
14. Goldenshteyn Freylekh
5:06 $0.99
15. Der Heyser Bulgar (intro)
0:54 $0.99
16. Der Heyser Bulgar
4:39 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
The Klez Dispensers, formed in 1998, have a diverse repertoire spanning traditional klezmer, a wide variety of jazz styles, and original compositions. They are currently a seven-piece band, comprising clarinet, trumpet, violin, saxophone, piano, bass and drums. The Klez Dispensers have performed at the New Jersey Folk Festival, the Sedgewick Theater in Philadelphia, Tonic's Klezmer Brunch, the Supper Club and CBGB's in New York, the National Theater Summer Stage in London, and perform frequently at venues in the tri-state area. In 2000, the group released their first album, "Indispensable" (now sold out). Their new album, "New Jersey Freylekhs", was released in early 2004, and won the 2006 Just Plain Folks Music Award in the category of Best Klezmer Album.



to write a review

Elliot Simon, All About Jazz

With their exuberance, musicianship and ability to have any audience get up and
With their exuberance, musicianship and ability to have any audience get up and dance, The Klez Dispensers have become the house band for klezmer's newest wave. New Jersey Freylekhs draws inspiration from the experimental jazz/Jewish interchanges of the late '50s where bop added to klezmer's established relationship with swing.

It is obvious throughout that the Dispensers are filled with “players”; clarinetist/saxophonist Alex Kontorovich, trumpeter Ben Holmes and saxophonist Audrey Betsy Wright use the genre to highlight their technical ability while maintaining the requisite melodic respect. Amy Zakar's heartfelt violin alternates between Jewish and swing to impart warmth that touches the soul. While the band's take on traditional tunes, like their arrangement of “Dave's Freylekhs,” where Kontorovich's clarinet brings back clarinetist Dave Tarras; and “Abi Gezunt,” which has Amy's swing violin conjuring up Stephane Grappelli, do delight, it is the newly composed music and arrangements that most impress such as the Ben Holmes compositions “Doina,” “Karnofsky Tanz” and the title cut.

“Doina” draws its effectiveness from Holmes' restraint as he holds each note while delicately rolling it around until it subtly changes as he spits it out. His “Karnofsky Tanz” serves as the perfect uptempo release with each instrumentalist taking a turn on the dance floor. The title cut begins with a traditional sound, as the piano of Adrian Banner pumps along the rhythm with drummer Gregg Mervine leading violin, clarinet, trumpet and sax to find interesting changes. Banner likewise proves to be a strong composer and arranger as he blends the classical piano/violin duet of “Freymilekh” into an introductory doina, followed by some hot avant klez freylekhing. Banner's version of “Der Heyser Bulgar” takes things further out as Kontorovich switches to bari sax, and with Ed Browne's electric bass, turns what begins as a stately violin/trumpet duet into a modern downtown NYC klez blow out.

Seth Rogovoy, The Forward

On "New Jersey Freylekhs," the Klez Dispensers dispense the voice of both klezme
In the mid- to late 1990s, a strange thing began to happen on college campuses across the land. Alongside marching bands, symphony orchestras, jazz combos and rock groups, klezmer ensembles began to sprout like mushrooms. By the end of the century, klezmer had a formal or informal presence on campuses including Yale, Brown, Columbia, the University of Virginia and the State University of New York at Buffalo.

In 1998, a few students from the Princeton University Jazz Ensemble got together to play klezmer. The Klez Dispensers began as the officially-sanctioned, university klezmer band, but after the musicians graduated, they became an independent group, replaced at Princeton by the Klezmocrats.

On their second CD, "New Jersey Freylekhs," the Klez Dispensers mine a unique, nearly forgotten style of klezmer. Picking up where the music left off in the 1950s, before it was all but steamrollered by mainstream American popular music in the postwar rush to assimilation, the group re-imagines what would have happened to the classic-sounding freylekhs and bulgars if the music had continued evolving along the lines of the post-Swing Era experiments of clarinet great Dave Tarras and his son-in-law, saxophonist Sam Musiker.

On his landmark but grossly neglected 1955 album, "Tanz!," Musiker, who had played with Gene Krupa's swing band, tried to update his father-in-law's sound to reflect some of the harmonic and stylistic innovations of post-swing, small-ensemble bebop. On earlier klezmer recordings, horns and clarinets tended to double each other's melodies in the same way that Old World violins would echo each other one octave apart or simply play rhythmic, pedal-point notes. Musiker introduced the concept of playing sophisticated ascending and descending harmony lines around the lead melody-player in klezmer.

Nowadays, when you listen to "Tanz!," it sounds strikingly modern, in part because many of the early klezmer revivalists of the 1970s and 1980s went back further in time and recapitulated the more primitive ways of playing and arranging klezmer. Even the more experimentally-oriented of the current crop of klezmorim, including those who add rock, jazz and other influences to the mix, tend to build their work upon more straightforward melody-playing.

On "New Jersey Freylekhs," the Klez Dispensers have chosen to revive Musiker's approach while adding a few twists of their own. The group puts violin and mandolin back into the ensemble in the person of Amy Zakar, spicing up the horn-heavy jazz sound with some Old World tam, or flavor. Many of the group's arrangements are solidly rooted in Adrian Banner's piano, another element borrowed from jazz.

But purists needn't fret. In clarinetist Alex Kontorovich, the stately playing of Dave Tarras lives on. Like Tarras, Kontorovich holds much in reserve, carefully parceling out the trademark achy, bent notes — the krekhts and kneytshn that klezmer inherited from cantorial music — using them as delicately placed punctuation. Trumpeter Ben Holmes sounds equally schooled in the playing of Benny Goodman trumpeter Ziggy Elman and the Klezmatics' Frank London. The rest of the musicians have obviously done their homework, too.

The Klez Dispensers don't play with blinders on. The album's final track, a version of "Der Heyser Bulgar," originally popularized by clarinetist Naftule Brandwein in the 1920s, suggests that these 20-something musicians have avant-garde leanings of their own. The selection opens with the instruments entering one at a time, playing a fractured version of the melody, before the bass lays down an odd Balkan meter over state-of-the-art drumming of the sort more likely to be heard at the Knitting Factory than at a Jewish wedding — or any wedding, for that matter.

On "New Jersey Freylekhs," the Klez Dispensers dispense the voice of both klezmer past and future, providing the connective tissue between the two.

Avi Davidow, KlezmerShack

On the back of the CD liner notes is a picture of the band dancing, and the quot
On the back of the CD liner notes is a picture of the band dancing, and the quote, "Make a joyful noise, all ye lands...." This recording is the embodiment of that quote. It is also the best and most fun traditional American klezmer revival recording in ages. In fact, as you listen to the sax come in on the very first cut, "Rissische Tzigane" and think to yourself, "Epstein Brothers," consider that Pete Sokolow, the "fifth" Epstein writes the intro to the liner notes. He knows the band from KlezKamp and the like, and he is impressed.

As Sokolow writes in his intro, this isn't early revival imitation of those early American klezmer 78s. Rather, this is the smooth, jazzy, very American Jewish dance music of the 1950s, just updated. The musicians fit together seamlessly and play to die for. Except for the paucity of vocals, and the new compositions (including a piece from the relatively new-to-the-US repertoire of German Goldenshteyn that the band takes from traditional klezmer into a bit of the avant garde, or the full-bore jazz interpretation of "Der Heyser Bulgar"), this could almost be an Epstein Brothers album, or fit with those classics of the era, such as "Tanz!" the collaboration between Sam Musiker and Dave Tarras.

Part of the reason that the band is so tight may be that it is the rare college klezmer band that stayed together. Original formed at Princeton many years ago, the Klez Dispensers have since graduated, and in fact, another klezmer band has taken their place in Princeton. But they keep playing together and get tighter as they go. Whether they are channeling traditional tunes (as on the "Yismekhu Khosid'l" or featuring their own material (say, Ben Holmes incredibly smooth "Doina"), this band plays with incredible skill and maturity, as though they've been doing it all of their lives—all of their very long lives. (This should also come to pass!)

I have to especially note everyone. Audrey Betsy Wright's incredibly smooth sax, Ben Holmes equally well-oiled and tight trumpet, Amy Zakar's violin (or her mandolin on "Zefki") or Alex Kontorovich's clarinet. Adrian Banner's piano is perfect (take note of the solos in "freylekh Nushiele", the bass players have a perfect groove, and Gregg Mervine is one of the few klez drummers who really seems to get it. Having Inna Barmash show up for a delightful "Abi Gezunt", or Philly's klezmer-about-the-world Susan Watts show up for the "Goldenshteyn Freylekh" don't hurt, either.

On the other hand, the wealth of Klez Dispensers originals also demonstrates that this band has thoroughly absorbed the material and is entirely comfortable creating not just new arrangements, but new music. Holmes' "New Jersey Freylekhs" for instance, is likely to become de rigueur each and every time we find ourselves crawling along on the New Jersey Turnpike. It's also fun the way the band divides some pieces, as on separating the introductory clarinet doina on "Freymilekh" into its own track from the traditional band bash-up that concludes the piece (or the similarly divided, by also very different take on "Heyser Bulgar").

The Klez Dispensers new album is indispensible. That's all there is to it. This is klezmer played by incredibly talented musicians who really love and get the music. Here's what's scary. If they're this good now, what will they sound like when they're 64?


great songs and good fun
I enjoy this type of music. It reflects lots of cultures- Eastern Europe and Isreali/Jewish origins. The songs are emotional and fun too! I will continue to buy more Klez music real soon.

Harvey from Princeton

Excellent! A joyous celebration of the best in Jewish music!
This album is a joy! The Klez Dispensers are excellent musicians who know how to have fun with their medium. They capture the spirit of the old-time klezmer bands and restore your faith in the future of klezmer as an art form. Highly recommended for listeners of every age, gender, or religious persuasion. Viele nachess (much happiness)!