Alibi V.20 No.7 • Feb 17-23, 2011 

Music to Your Ears

The Layman’s Klezmer

The following albums are good places to start investigating.

This compilation is especially good for people who have heard very little klezmer, or none at all. It has 18 splendid tracks by top-notch artists from the last 90-or-so years. From musicians touring now to masters popular in the early ’20s, listeners get a broad cross-section of the genre’s evolution.

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Born near Bucharest, Romania, Schwartz was one of the first recorded klezmer musicians in the U.S. He was a multi-instrumentalist who recorded dozens of songs, many of which are still covered today. This album offers a great taste of what this music sounded like during its rise in U.S. popularity in the early 20th century.

Jews With Horns ()

Formed in 1986, in New York City, The Klezmatics play traditional klezmer infused with other styles, like African and Balkan beats. The band also uses a hefty dose of punk, making songs that are super upbeat with a rough edge. Play this at a party and you might get a dance circle, but you might also get a mosh pit.

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Known for its original compositions, this now defunct Polish quartet abstracted and experimented with the genre. Those who find CKB to their liking can check out the same musicians doing something more jazzy—but still with a klezmer tinge—in their active group, Bester Quartet.