About this Recording
76004-2 - UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - Klezperanto: Klezperanto

Klezperanto will perform as the finale of this year's international Ashkenaz Festival in Toronto, Ontario on Labor Day (or as they say in Canada, Labour Day), Monday Sept. 2 at 7:30 p.m. The concert takes place in the beautiful Harbourfront Center. For details on this and other Ashkenaz Festival events, go to: www.ashkenazfestival.com .

For local Boston-area performances in September, please visit our website: www.klezperanto.com and click on "schedule".

Klezmer is, at its root, dance music from the Eastern European Jewish wedding tradition. But klezmer musicians were expected to know all manner of popular music and the tradition took shape at cultural crossroads where it was influenced by Gypsy and Greek music, as well as other European styles. These styles were blended with cantorial music from the synagogue to create a decidedly secular and distinctively Jewish music.

Klezperanto now updates that traditional sound by tossing into its melting pot a lively mixed-bag of dance music from around the world. The Boston-based group has set its Yiddish and Mediterranean melodies in original arrangements that dip into zydeco, rockabilly, funk, New Orleans jazz, cumbia and Balkan brass surf music. The result is an irresistible set of grooves all graced by a uniquely Klezperanto touch. 

As with anything involving Jewish tradition, there are many opinions about what is and is not klezmer. They run the gamut from a strict preservation perspective through the most avant-garde contemporary music. In this context, it is understandable that Klezperanto resists being defined simply as a klezmer band. Its music is a natural outgrowth of the klezmer tradition, an ever-evolving form of lively accessible dance music. 

The members of Klezperanto all come from a tradiitonal klezmer background. Klezperanto leader Ilene Stahl (clarinet), Evan Harlan (accordion, piano, musical director), Mark Hamilton (trombone), and Grant Smith (drums) all play in one of the most prominent klezmer revival reperatory ensembles, the Klezmer Conservatory Band, led by preeminent music scholar Hankus Netsky. Mike Bullock (bass) and Brandon Seabrook (banjo, guitar, mandolin) are also two of the exceptionally talented members to emerge from Netsky’s Jewish Music Ensemble at the New England Conservatory of Music. 

On their Naxos World debut, the six-member Klezperanto demonstrates that this is also fun music. With solid klezmer roots, spectacular technical vituosity, and a wry sense of humor, they remind us all that this exuberant music is for dancing and celebration. Included is a wild new version of Dizzy Gillespie’s jazz classic, A Night in Tunisia.

As leader Stahl explains of her clarinetist life before klezmer, “I knew there had to be more to life than orchestral obscurity or trying to be Benny Goodman. Then I heard klezmer and my dreams went from black and white to Technicolor. With the first swooping gliss, krekhts and pyrotechnic trill, I realized what a clarinet was made for! But that wasn't even the whole story. It wasn't until my first klezmer gig that people got up and danced to the music I was playing. This had never happened in any chamber music recital I had seen. It thrilled me!" 

Tapping into the urge to move and dance that is so primal, with solid musicianship and an innate sense of cultural and musical history, Klezperanto speaks in a language that is undeniably universal.

The same goes for Klezperanto’s name. Yiddish, with its elements of Hebrew, Slavic, and German, was a lingua franca for Jews in the Diaspora. Dr. Ludwig Zamenhoff, a Yiddish-speaking Jew from Bialystok, expanded this idea with the invention of Esperanto, a pan-European language which he hoped would bring understanding between people spanning national boundaries and cultural distinctions. Klezperanto is a new universal language. The one you speak with your feet.

klezperanto biographies

Ilene Stahl (leader, clarinetist)

Ilene always wanted to play in a rock and roll band but “says she didn't know" she picked the wrong instrument. Nevertheless, she's been called the "Jimi Hendrix of klezmer clarinet" for her pyrotechnic performance style and soulful interpretations of traditional Yiddish music. She founded Klezperanto in 1998 - along with music director and accordionist Evan Harlan ?to create a new kind of dance music that would combine the irresistible rhythms of zydeco, cumbia, funk, second-line, and Romanian brass band surf music with klezmer.

Ilene has also been the clarinetist with The Klezmer Conservatory Band since 1987. She came to Boston immediately after graduating from Hampshire College where she did her Division III thesis, "Special Oy-fects: The Art of Klezmer Clarinet." With the KCB, Ilene has performed extensively throughout the United States and on all international tours. She has been featured on numerous recordings and on radio and TV broadcasts, including the Great Performances program "In The  Fiddler's House" with Itzhak Perlman as well as both recordings based on that collaboration. Her musical theater experience includes the world premiere of The American Reperatory Theater production of "Shlemiel The First", and "Borschtcapades" with Joel Grey. Ilene also teaches clarinet. Many of her students from Boston, Klezkamp, and KlezCanada have gone on to form Klezmer bands of their own. Sometimes they call her when they need to sub out a gig.

Evan Harlan (accordion, piano, music director)

Evan Harlan has recorded and performed internationally with several jazz and world music ensembles including the Klezmer Conservatory Band and the Claudio Ragazzi Quintet. His own ensemble, Excelsior, plays “declassified?arrangements of 20th century composers?works. In addition to performances throughout New England, Excelsior has been featured on WGBH radio’s internationally distributed Art Of The States, WGBH/BBC’s The World, WBUR’s The Connection and Here & Now. Evan has composed numerous scores for film, dance and theater, and has played on the soundtracks of Sidney Lumet’s A Stranger Among Us, John Sayles?Lone Star, and Sayles?Men With Guns. In musical theater, he has conducted “Shlemeil The First?at The American Repertory Theater, “Fiorello?at Brandeis University, and “Happy End?at Boston University.

Mark Hamilton (trombone)

Mark has been playing the trombone ever since the fourth grade, the same year he won a dixie cup for performing I Love You Truly the best in his class. Since those early beginnings, Mark has performed all over the world and recorded nine CDs as a member of the Klezmer Conservatory Band. He is a busy freelancer and has performed with Joe Williams, Itzhak Perlman, Victor Borge, Robin Williams, and Joel Grey, among others. A talented educator, Mark is on the jazz faculty at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Michigan and is the former Instrumental Music Director at a fancy Independent School in central Massachusetts where his bands consistently won top honors at the International Association of Jazz Educator’s festivals. Both an arranger and composer, he specializes in klezmer and jazz music for concert bands and other ensembles. Mark created a publishing company to make this music available for such groups (hamiltunes.com). As if this is not enough, Mark is also a proud graduate of the New England Conservatory and the University of Delaware. He is a founding member of Klezperanto. 

Brandon Seabrook (banjo, mandolin, guitar)

After years of worship at the altar of Led Zeppelin, Brandon Seabrook discovered the visceral power of klezmer banjo while studying at Boston's New England Conservatory. He brings a sense of sonic exploration and reckless abandon to everything he plays, from chugging banjo rhythms to screaming guitar leads. He has collaborated and performed with many of the key figures on Boston's klezmer, jam band and jazz scenes.

Likes: anything on Thrill Jockey, 80's metal, and TLC.

Dislikes: neo-traditionalist be-boppers, weak coffee and Derek Jeter.

Mike Bullock (bass)

Bassist Mike Bullock has played and studied with a wide range of musicians, from Hankus Netsky and Theodore Bikel to new music pioneers like Peter Kowald, Joe Maneri, and Ran Blake. He is one of the busiest members of Boston's surging avant-garde scene. Dena Ressler of Jewish music source, A Bisl Yiddishkayt, describes Mike's playing as "essential, sweet, and virtuosic." His debut as a leader is "There the Eye Goes Not" on Tautology Records, released in 1999.

Grant Smith (drums, percussion)

Grant Smith studied drumset with Alan Dawson, Arabic drums with Jamie Haddad, tabla with Shashi Nayak, and Afro-Cuban percussion with Enrique Pla. The Boston Globe calls him a "brilliant improviser." The Boston Phoenix has noted his topflight "cross-genre " abilities. Ilene notes his sunny disposition. Grant has toured extensively, including Thailand, Australia, and both Europes. A member of the Klezmer Conservatory Band, he is also a part of many world music, jazz, classical, orthodox, deconstructed, and both free projects. Theatre and dance credits include the American Repertory Theater's production of "The King Stag," featuring a solo multi-percussion score (with staging and costumes by Julie Taymore) and movement works with Shakti Smith, Jane Wang, and Anika Tromboldt Kristensen as well as his own choreography known as hogginsho.

Despite such high profile gigs as tympani with Itzhak Perlman, borscht drums with Joel Grey, and tabla with the Violent Femmes, Grant still insists that his biggest gig was the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with Kermit the Frog and Big Bird. Fave color: green. Fave food: Jane's cookies.


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