The mystical high priest of New Wave Avant-Klez jazz, Frank London, has released an album that defies phony political barriers and exposes solid musical commonalties among Gypsy, Jewish and Arabic music. "Brotherhood of Brass", the second release from Frank London’s Klezmer Brass All Stars, is a concept album that reaches across multiple millennia to present a view of musical cultural inter-relationships. For this purpose, London has enlisted the aid of two other brass bands, the Boban Markovic Orkestar (Serbia) and the Hasaballa Brass Band (Egypt). With the Klezmer Brass All Stars own impressive line up, the resultant melding of Jewish, Romanie and Moorish sounds exposes common threads that at times effect an exciting musical A-HA phenomenon.
The first cut, "Freylekhs-Cocek #5", is from the repertoire of German Goldenshtayn, one of the few remaining "old-world trained" Klezmer clarinetists. A Jewish freilach with a Gypsy cocek, it features Boban Markovic. Markovic is the pre-eminent Roma trumpet player in the world and "blows them away" each year at the Guca, Serbian Brass festival. Clarinet and trumpets trade off and build to a fever pitch as we are taken back to a time when perhaps the boundaries between Jewish and Gypsy music were porous. On one level, these and the four other Markovic/London collaborations are making a politico-historical statement but on another level, when you hear them, you forget about politics and history and just dance. For that is what this music really is; happy celebratory dance music. From Serbia to Cairo to New York City’s Lower East Side, people who hear this will be dancing. Of these five, "Lieberman Funky Freylekhs" and "Doin the Oriental" are standouts. For the former, a funky freilach beat is pumped out by Mark Rubin on the bass helicon, whose playing is exceptional throughout the entire CD. "Doin’ the Oriental" could be called the signature piece of the album. It is "from the trans-national repetoire" and is in two parts. Part 1 sets up with a trumpet doina as in Doina the Oriental and Part 2 does the oriental with a melding of Gypsy/Jewish jazz that is very sweet.
A drawback is the lack of credits as to who played which horn on what cut. You sit and think; "Wow that solo was hot, was that Frank or Boban?" but then again, maybe that is the point. A-HA. This is a CD chocked full of music, 16 songs with a surprise 17th that is uncredited, for over 65 minutes of listening, make that dancing. The straight ahead Klezmer like "Wedding in Crown Heights", "Watts-Hoffman Special", "Fast Hasidic Nign" and "A Freylekhs Nokh Dem Khuppah" evidence that the Brass All Stars continue to be the premier big brass Klez band. These selections pay homage to Klezmer legends like Harry Kandel and xylophonist Jack Hoffman, whose granddaughter Susan Sandler plays a solid second trumpet with the All-Stars. The band is a who’s who of Klez-jazz and features current or former members of the Klezmatics, Klezmer Conservatory Band and Hasidic New Wave.
As "Nomen Est Omen (The name is a sign)" alludes, Gypsy is etymologically related to Egypt and Abd Ehamid Kamel on metal clarinet takes the stage with his Hasaballa Brass Band on "Imayel Ya Khail" and "Shish Kebab". The blending of a very Arabic/Moorish sounding clarinet and percussion with a Klez/jazz rhythm makes you stop and take notice. Kamel is clearly a very accomplished musician who plays the "Hasaballa" style. This style of Egyptian music is named for Hasaballa, who fronted a brass band of retired army musicians. They would play for weddings, pilgrimages to Mecca, the transfer of a brides clothing to her new home and any other occasion that called for a large amount of noise. They were playing mid eastern quartertone songs on army brass instruments and were looked down upon by other Egyptian musicians. A-HA. This is a fun CD that makes you both think and dance. You can’t really ask for more.