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Little Princess by Tim Sparks Plays Naftule Brandwein

Guitarist extraordinaire Tim Spark fuses a vibrant spin on traditional klezmer music set down by the once heralded "King of the klezmer clarinet" Naftule Brandwein, who performed in an Uncle Sam costume, garbed in electric lights, largely within the Lower East Side area of Manhattan back in the early 1900s. Interestingly enough, Sparks muses that Brandwein might have been the original downtown artist, which is a novel proposition due to the City’s ‘80s and onward, radical concoctions of jazz, Jewish music, rock and other genres.

Sparks and the rhythm section design a seamless blend of jazz, klezmer and even bossa nova ("The Rebbe’s Hasid"). The guitarist also injects Spanish lines into the grand mix via his fluent phrasings. It’s an airy endeavor, as the rhythm section maintains a solid but limber pulse, enabling Sparks to improvise and invent over the top.

On "Nifty’s Freylekh," percussionist Cyro Baptista uses small woodblock type implements to instill a buoyant Latin groove, abetted by Sparks’ breezy developments and brisk single note runs. Yet it’s partly about the musicians’ conveyance of nuance, complemented by ferocious chops that at times, can be somewhat understated due to the all-acoustic format.

With keenly enacted dynamics, Sparks also offsets the program by morphing blues-rock riffs into the program, evidenced on "Lebenzol Palestina." The guitarist also takes a few solo spots where he dapples the klezmer element with classical music stylizations. It’s a lovely album, indeed. Sparks modernist approach to the old wine historical mindset yields bountiful rewards.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Tim Sparks Plays Naftule Brandwein
  • CD Title: Little Princess
  • Genre: Various Jazz Styles
  • Year Released: 2009
  • Record Label: Tzadik
  • Musicians: Tim Sparks (guitar), Greg Cohen (bass, contrabass guitar), Cyro Baptista (percussion)
  • Rating: Three Stars
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