Black Ox Orkestar
CST029 180gLP • CD • DL
Release date: 26 April 2004
“It seems appropriate that the city that gave us Mordechai Richler and which was home to Chava Rosenfarb should continue to be the source of new, interesting Yiddish music. Although most of the songs on this album are traditional, they are played in a brooding, nusakh-influenced style that owes as much to Middle Eastern music and modern discordances as to traditional folk music. “Fishelakh in Vaser” is absolutely wonderful as it slowly grows more forceful and discordant—a modern Yiddish street bolero. The words to the title song are incendiary, questioning what is happening in Israel and the question of oppressed turning oppressor. This is a band with a range of moods and strengths. When a band plays this well and engages the politics of today’s world in Yiddish, much positive should be said.” - Klezmer Shack
Evenly split between instrumentals and vocal tunes, this debut album is a compelling blend of originals and new arrangements for pieces pulled from various Eastern European songbooks. The band aimed to expand the definition of Jewish diasporic music, by learning and reinterpreting songs and rhythms from all over Slavic and Balkan Europe. Lyrics are in Yiddish and speak forcefully to the bloody history and intractable contradictions of Jewish diaspora and ‘return’. With backgrounds in punk-rock, free-jazz, and other liberation musics, the all-acoustic playing on this record benefits from a genuinely spirited delivery and intensely original approaches to arrangements that never feel forced. This is modern folk music from Eastern European sources played strong, unburdened by antiseptic production and/or cheap sentimentality.
Songs range from the propulsive to the sublimely restrained. “Fishelakh in Vaser” explodes with a pumping free-music rhythm section, “Cretan Song” is a staccato Balkan dance, and “Ver Tantz?” is an angry, politically-charged klezmer-punk original. Instrumentals “Shvartze Flamen…” and “Nign”, along with the brilliant original “Toyte Goyes” (lyrics taken from a poem by Yiddish writer Itzik Fefer) are meditative and heartrending. Jessica Moss (violin, bass clarinet), Thierry Amar (contrebasse) and Scott Levine Gilmore (vocals, mandolin, cymbalom, drums) all play or played in Silver Mt. Zion, and Gabe Levine (clarinet, guitar) was chief songwriter in Sackville.
CD comes in a custom paperboard mini-gatefold jacket with a printed CD dust sleeve and lyrics insert.
Scott Levine Gilmore: mandolin, cymbalom, guitar, drums, violin, harmonium, voice
Gabe Levine: clarinet, guitar, bass clarinet
Jessica Moss: violin, bass clarinet
Nadia Moss: piano on Track 12
Recorded and mixed at the Hotel2Tango in Montreal by Howard Bilerman, winter 2003.
Mastered at Grey Market in Montreal by Harris Newman.