Helmut Eisel and Band - Klezmer at the Cotton Club
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Helmut Eisel and Band
Klezmer at the Cotton Club
Westpark Music (www.westparkmusic.com)

Combining klezmer, swing and jazz, German clarinetist and bandleader Helmut Eisel asks, "What if Naftule Brandwein and Dave Tarras had played the Cotton Club?" We'll never know, but Eisel and company take an imaginary trip across time and space in a quirky, gentile salute to klezmer leavened with W.C. Handy, Duke Ellington, and Cab Calloway, all with a Brecht-like Stimmung. Kosher it's not, but klezmer itself never made that claim. The Photo-shopped B&W cover suggests that the group headlined at the Cotton Club, but for this disc they never got closer to New York than the studios of Saarland Radio.

No matter. From the roundhouse clarinet, guitar and scat-singing workout that opens on a balkanized "St. Louis Blues" to "Fun for Ungeneral" (easily mistaken for a zydeco strut with a hopping New Orleans backbeat and a Dixie-like clarinet lead), a heavily percussive "Der Rebbe Elymelekh," an over-the-top "Minnie the Moocher" (growled in English, unlike the other tracks), and closing with Eisel's pensive "Joscha's Waltz," this is contemporary good-time music for rootless cosmopolitans. The ensemble calls on the considerable talents of Albanian Nino Deda on accordion, and a trio of German musicians - Michael Marx (guitar, voice), Stefan Engelmann (bass) and Jochen Krämer (drums). - Michael Stone

CD available from cdRoots

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Fun for Ungeneral

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