Shtreiml - Fenci's Blues
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cd cover Shtreiml
Fenci's Blues
artist release (www.shtreiml.com)

The Fenci in the title refers to virtuoso oud player and vocalist Ismail Hakki Fencioglu. The title track is a blues of a sort, albeit in 7/8 and consisting of sixteen bars instead of the customary twelve. It's a strong start to a generally strong collection of klezmer/gypsy/jazz/blues music by this talented Montreal quintet.

Listen
"Nihavend Longa"
Sharing the spotlight with Fencioglu is harmonica wiz Jason Rosenblatt. A student of the great Howard Levy, Rosenblatt has developed a technique for playing the diatonic blues harp chromatically. How does he do it? Who knows? Just sit back and be amazed. Rachel Lemisch has a rich, creamy tone and a solid technique on trombone. Her playing gives a Balkan flavor to several tracks. Thierry Arsenault's restless drumming pushes the whole thing forward.

The band draws on traditional Turkish and Hassidic music for much of its sound. The originals respect the spirit of the traditional pieces, all the while looking forward into the twenty-first century. On "Bu Duzen" Fencioglu imparts a flamenco-like sound on oud. "Semalardan Gunes Hala Inmiyor" is a lovely song composed by Syrian Jew Udi Ibrahim Efendi, who died in 1933. The oud lifts the vocal line like a gentle updraft. The traditional Turkish melody "Nihavend Longa" allows Rosenblatt, Fencioglu, and Lemisch each to soar in "top this" solos.

The only weak spots are "Beyoglunda Gezersin" and "Shabbat Hayom L'Hashem." The former, a traditional Turkish song, mixes some decidedly out of place bluegrass references. The result is a train wreck of an arrangement that doesn't know what it wants to be. The latter is a smarmy "smooth jazz" (not to be confused with actual jazz) arrangement of a traditional Shabbat song. But the rest of the album is so compelling that these little slip-ups are minor anomalies. - Peggy Latkovich

CD available from cdRoots

See also our review of Shtreiml's Spicy Paprikash

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