THE KLEZMORIM > Bongo > The Mother of All Klezmer Albums: Di Naye Kapelye 

Of all the astonishing sounds created by the klezmer revolution's new breed, this traditionalist, insanely exciting album by Di Naye Kapelye stands out. I reviewed it in the 14 January 1999 Jewish Review.

Di Naye Kapelye Band: Di Naye Kapelye
Album: Di Naye Kapelye
Label: Oriente Musik [RIEN CD 17]
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FROM SCOTLAND TO NEW ZEALAND, bands by the hundreds have staked out neo-klezmer, post-klezmer, or quasi-klezmer turf. Di Naye Kapelye (Yiddish for "The New Band") occupies the absolute prime niche. What's their secret? Is it their funky good-time sound? Their utter lack of pretension?

Maybe it's their flat-out authenticity. These musicians have tramped the muddy lanes of Moldavia and Transylvania to find obscure klezmer tunes, jamming with Gypsy musicians to master surviving nuances of style. Want to experience a night of debauchery in the Odessa underworld? Di Naye Kapelye's eponymous new disc — the mother of all klezmer albums — is as close as you're gonna get without a time machine.

It's the world-class result of a globe-spanning collaboration between a passel of Hungarian musicians, an expatriate New Yorker, and two Portlanders — Jack Falk and Christina Crowder.

Klezmer chronicler Ari Davidow has called Di Naye Kapelye founder Bob Cohen a "blues shouter." The same could be said of Yankl Falk, who belts out Hasidic liturgical melodies with the gravelly punch of a Big Joe Turner. When these two launch into 19th-century tavern favorites like "Ot Azoy" or "In Ades," hang on to your pocketwatch! Dust-pounding table-stompers are they, scurrilous slivovitz-slurpers, hoarse and husky horse-thieves.

But the essence of klezmer is instrumental, and DNK goes pre-industrial to show the rest of us what it's all about. No Catskills cocktail percussion for these cats — they march to the beat of a baraban, a street player's mobile drum with attached cymbal. And they hold no truck with new-fangled gadgets like the piano — they prefer to plonk and plink on the koboz, an ancient lute.

Even innocent clarinets shriek like shepherd's shawms under the nimble fingers of Janos Barta and Yankl Falk (bursting out of the box here with the boldest, most confident playing of his career). "Dem Rebns Tants" contains all the arcane, subtle klezmer ornamentation of the Art Shryer original from 1929, including the bits that human ears simply don't hear. Yes, there is a Zen of klezmer, manifesting itself in ghostly boidt'yaas — unvoiced notes that flavor the sonic stew like a clove of garlic waved at a cooking pot from afar.

DNK's music is so old it's new again, so far beyond the mainstream that it feels like the Next Big Thing. This ain't history, it's pure Dionysian revelry — as in the grassroots medley "Moldav-O-Rama!" where Robert Kerenyi toots the flutelike caval while growling and roaring like a goat-boy. They don't teach these tricks in music school, kids.

In an album that bears up so well under repeated listening — a disc that'll wear out your rug before it wears out your ears — it's hard to pick favorites. Especially when some of the wildest tracks bear musicologically generic titles like "Jewish Tunes from Szatmar" or "Hangu and Freylakhs from Podoloy." But for a vodkish snootful of fun, don't miss "Shloimke's Russian Dance" — known to hip party animals as the scatological anti-Czar parody "Tsar Nikolay."

Di Naye Kapelye has fashioned a musical Golem from trans-Carpathian clay, slapped boots on its feet, and set it dancing. This groundbreaking album is the Aleph and Omega of klezmer art — a mind-expanding take on the klezmer repertoire, full of dazzling contrasts and revelations. It's a damn fine party record, too! Look elsewhere for a quiet ride — this baby's built for speed.