Have you ever imagined a klezmer band that includes Mel Brooks, Don Ho, Soupy Sales and Bobby McFerrin?
No, of course you haven’t. But it gives you an idea what to expect from the latest CD by Cleveland-based klezmer band Yiddishe Cup. It’s titled “Klezmer Guy.”
This septet gives new meaning to the phrase, “don’t take yourself too seriously.” Many of the lyrics are zany and the between-songs bantering from the bandleader, Bert Stratton, and his cohorts is fun to listen to. (Do they really think they’re not cool?)
But all their on-stage antics aside, this is a very tight band of professional, creative musicians who demonstrate that klezmer is klezmer, no matter what musical arrangements or instruments are used. These hybrid songs might even net some new fans.
For instance, “Klezmer Guy” includes a Hawaiian version of the popular Israeli song “Hallelujah,” complete with steel guitar.
“Kol Rino” (The Sound of Joy), a well-known Yiddish wedding song made especially popular by Brave Old World, gets a fresh, more contemporary treatment here.
The band’s zaniness is on full display during its rendition of “Pachalafaka,” the meaning of which, the singer admits he doesn’t know. (Or does he?)
There’s a sci-fi medley on the album. The classical Yiddish “Anim Zemiros” is punched up with yodeling reminiscent of the 1970’s Dutch rock band Focus and some vocal exercising on “Circles and Arches” worthy of a capella great McFerrin.
But the best track on the CD isn’t even a song, though it has a bizarre sort of rhythm. At the end of the album, the band attaches a voicemail message it received from a fan in Brooklyn that simply can’t be described. You must listen to it to believe it.
“Klezmer Guy” is no Grammy winner, but it’s a fun album by a solid group of performers. To say enjoy would be superfluous.
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at email@example.com.)