Veretski Pass

Traditional East European Jewish Music

Golden Horn GHP 020-2

Originally published in fRoots.

Several factors made this CD one of the most eagerly awaited traditional Jewish music CDs of 2004. First, the dream team line-up: Josh Horowitz on tsimbl (hammered dulcimer) and bayan (button accordion) is amongst the top Jewish music historians - and musicians - in the world (see his weblog Ask Dr Klez below); Cookie Segelstein and bassman Stu Brotman on fiddle/viola and bass/baraban (bass drum) respectively are important figures who have played with just every major klezmer ensemble in the US. Secondly, between them the three musicians have some 80 years experience researching music in Central and Eastern Europe, and much of the material has been recorded here for the first time. The band is named after the geographical source of much of the repertoire: the TransCarpathian region of what is now Western Ukraine, Moldova and the breakaway Moldovan republic of Transdniestr. Add a few Tatar and Karaite melodies from Crimea, plus some original compositions and you have a record that is elegiac and lyrical, punchy and feisty, by excellent musicians on top of their game. A couple of things though – the mix on my tinny computer speakers was a bit violin heavy, and I was grateful for the rare moments when tsimbl and bayan took over the lead. Without wanting to state the obvious, the string trio line up does mean that the instrumentation is fairly constant – violin lead supported by bowed bass and tsimbl – and in terms of frequency ranges I found it difficult to listen all the way through without a pause. But this is perhaps churlish. The liner notes have wonderful photographs and essays from the band and all in all this is a first class record – but maybe not for the uninitiated.

To visit Josh Horowitz’s klezmer clinic visit Ask Dr. Klez.

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