Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Frank London's Klezmer Brass All-Stars -- DCJCC - May 7 2013

Frank London's Klezmer Brass All-Stars Klezmer-Bhangra Extravaganza featuring Deep Singh - In the time it takes to announce this band, the Minutemen could knock out a song or two. But it also takes as much time to explain this fascinating concept of combining Jewish and Indian music with both the spiritual and party connections. It is not really all that surprising as Frank London has been turning traditional music on its head for decades now, most known as a member of the great Klezmatics. I saw them years back in Denver as they played klezmer music with reams of jazz and rock moves woven in. A rather straight laced guy at work told me the next day he saw me at the show and although he and his wife were traditional dancers to klezmer music, he had never seen anything quite like them and he liked it. And that was what was great about tonight's show, as it was filled with an audience from age 8 to 80 who had never experienced anything quite like this. That went for me as well, as although I've heard a lot of Indian music, I had never heard it infused into klezmer jazz anything remotely like this.
Frank London was on trumpet, but was also conducting in a jazz manner of calling out solos, switches, and some volume control with his usual band of trombone, clarinet, accordion, tuba, and drums. They played a revved up eleven minute number that gave everyone a taste of this band's past history. But then it was on to the future with fresh material with two guest vocalists, an electric guitarist, and Deep Singh on a large Indian drum he held and played with a stick on each end (may be a dhol or naal). They mixed it up with up tempo party numbers and deeper spiritual songs with graceful and seamless shifts. One of the vocalists tackled a Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan songs, which is challenging task, but proved up to it. The other sang some hyper-fast Jewish traditional songs while the band kept up. There was a lovely Indian song with chanted vocals and slide guitar in a minor harmonic scale perhaps with only a touch of other instrumentation. They even did a song by a famous cantor in a Sun Ra style arrangement. So basically, anything in the world of music was fair game tonight and the band pulled it all together with a cohesion where they embraced their rare mistakes with their amazing instrumental prowess. This was a fabulous 105 minutes of music delivered with spirit and taken in with respect and excitement.

I am thankful that the Washington Jewish Music Festival continues to pull in such exciting acts like this, although it reminds me of what a dolt I have been for not paying attention to Frank London the past 15 years. There are only a couple more shows left in this year's festival, but if you can't make those, be sure to put it on your calendar for next year.

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