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For the lovers and the scholars

Tony Trigwell-Jones reviews Klezmer-ish at ACE Space

Trish Lee

Trish Lee


01635 886663

For the lovers and the scholars

Thomas Verity, Rob Shepley, Concettina Del Vecchio and Marcel Becker have some time off from the day job with the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Being passionate, virtuoso musicians, they continue making beautiful music, here as Klezmer-ish.

Performing tracks from EP Music of the Travellers and so much more, at ACE Space recently, they evoked lonely streets, vast celebrations and back room jamborees - often within one tune. For example, they opened with what sounded like an atmospheric film-noir, building expectation before launching playfully into an accordian-dance party, sorrowful cello, bright clarinet solos, engaging the audience in participation and ending with pace and energy that had the audience explode with applause - and this was just the opening number Dancing with The Rabbi.

Rob Shepley explained that they "collect music from diasporic cultures that settle in new surroundings and merge their music with the locals." Their klezmer is drawn from traditional Russian and German Jewish music merged with the Jazz of 30s/40s New York.

However, Klezmer-ish don't stick to the script, this wasn't a slavish recreation of tradition, they introduced wah-wah pedal, contemporary solos, tapping instruments and music stands, keeping the music as inventive, engaging, joyful and unpredictable as it would have been to American audiences 80 years ago.

It was during their Scottish and Irish medleys that I came to understand the heart of Klezmer-ish: their music is from a tradition of travel, which can be heard in the often-sprawling nature of the tunes themselves, but most impressive is the band’s dedication to continue that rich culture, by continuing to push forward, not just klezmer but also traditional jigs, reels and, in a spectacular finale, the Argentinian tango and gypsy jazz.

“We never get too rooted” explained Shepley and, as such, their approach to traditional music is as exciting and wonderfully celebratory as it will have been to those coming across it century or more ago.

Opening proceedings was Newbury Bluesman Mark T, whose love for his artform can be heard in his often-hypnotic playing of National Steel and the Greek Rembetika, as well as his encyclopaedic knowledge of the global blues tradition.


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