Article Contributed by Calabro Music Media | Published on Friday, March 29, 2024

For nearly three decades, the New Orleans Klezmer All Stars’ wildly original sound – with its Crescent City-steeped aesthetic and endless dry wit – has remained a cornerstone of one of the most unique and culturally significant live music scenes in the world. It’s also spent much of that time evolving – as evidenced by Tipish, the band's first studio album in nearly a decade. Out April 23, this diverse collection of eight original compositions and two reimagined traditionals finds the Klezmers at a new echelon of musical development, clarity and cohesion.

Recorded at New Orleans’ Happyland Theater in November 2023, without isolation booths or overdubs, Tipish features a stunningly wide range of music, all of it as evocative and passionate as it is irreverent and playful. From the woozy, blues-laced title track to the grunge-metal rocker that plays out like a symphonic suite (“Conference of the Jews”) to the circle dance-inspired tunes that flip the script on Romanian horas in search of hard-swinging post-bop, this gorgeously wrought program documents the top of this ensemble’s 30-year game. And whether they’re taking on a Holocaust-era lullabye (the haunting “Dos Einte Kind/ The Lonely Child”) or paying tribute to Fela Kuti (“King Fela’s Chicken Soup”), that game is filtered through the unique New Orleans aesthetic these musicians live and breathe.

Tipish is also first studio album to feature the Klezmers’ longtime horn section, with Ben Ellman (Galactic), Aurora Nealand (Royal Roses, The Monocle) and Dan Oestreicher (Trombone Shorty) on saxophones and Nick Ellman (Naughty Professor) on clarinet.

Bassist Joe Cabral and drummer Doug Garrison (The Iguanas) round out the band, along with its co-founders, accordionist Glenn Hartman (Alex MacMurray Band, Lulu and the Broadsides) and guitarist/composer Jonathan Freilich (Washboard Chaz Blues Trio, Naked Orchestra, James Singleton’s Malabar).

"There was an urgency to capture the band as it is right now, with this energy and level of musicianship,” Hartman says, adding that Freilich’s compositions helped stoke a new fire in the group – an almost palpable “swagger,” as he puts it.

“Jonathan’s written music that challenges all of us, both as a band and as individuals,” says Hartman, who also wrote two tracks with Freilich for the first time ("Amirim," "The Let’s Get a Divorce Dance”) and contributed "Detox Hora" to the mix. "He’s moved the whole band in a growth direction. That’s where that swagger comes from."

A composer whose credits include works for U2 and the Louisiana Philharmonic, Freilich’s also a fearless improviser and prolific guitarist. His range has sent him into all manner of musical formats and contexts with individual members of the Klezmers, many of whom appear in his long-running Naked Orchestra. Over time, that history of musical relationships has advanced the level of insight with which he’s able to write parts for this band.

“The New Orleans Klezmer All Stars are people that are actively engaged in their musical ideas and that makes it a fertile bed for development,” Freilich says. "If it's a stretch for them to play something but they can fulfill the ideas, it makes the instrumentalism that much more exciting. If they’re pushing and being pushed, then we’re all someplace new.”

With Tipish, the Klezmers’ sound decisively enters a new era without leaving its past behind. Even when looking back on the Klezmers’ 30 years of growth, Hartman can’t help but look ahead.

"We put ourselves on the map by providing a kind of wild energetic dance experience. It inspired people to respond in innovative ways with their bodies," he muses. "This is the next step in that evolution."


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