She’koyokh Klezmer Ensemble
Buskers’ Ballroom (ARC Music EUCD 2322, 2011)
Small wonder that London’s She’koyokh Klezmer Ensemble has moved to the front of the klezmer queue. They’ve got the energy, the musical chops and most importantly, the desire to take the Jewish roots of klezmer and see what a lovely fit they can be with Arabic, Greek, Balkan and Turkish styles. That desire was evident on their 2008 debut Sandanski’s Chicken, a disc every bit as delicious as the title suggests. But Buskers’ Ballroom really piles on the courses, and you the listener are in for many a treat.
As soon as the richly textured opener “Russian Shers” fills your ears with the dancing Eastern European tones of Matt Bacon on guitar, Ben Samuels, Meg Hamilton and Susi Evans swirling around the axis on mandolin, violin and clarinet respectively and Robin Harris chiming in with cheeky trombone accents, surrender to the album’s hour-plus of nutty bliss and melancholic asides is assured.
The tracks are mainly traditional pieces given new arrangements on an excursion that travels both time and borders from Ukrainian to Mediterranean to Parisian to Macedonian to Ottoman to pre-Islamic Arabian and doesn’t miss a trick.
These guys and gals are so effortlessly versatile that when they do break into pure klezmer- as in the midst of “Fantasia Rumania and Serba” and elsewhere -it’s as much a reminder of their core identity as a show of what great players they are.
New percussionist Vasilis Sarikis locks in tight with double bassist Oliver Baldwin through the many twists and turns, and another new addition, Istanbul native Cigdem Aslan, adds gorgeous vocals to what was previously an exclusively instrumental outfit.
Buskers’ Ballroom is a joyous journey of klezmer-inspired mastery and a heartfelt tribute to accordionist and She’koyokh co-founder Jim Markovitch, who passed away just as the group was hitting their stride.
Buy the album or MP3 downloads and listen to samples: