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Gig Review: Klezmer Kollectiv at Green Note in Camden

Published 16 January 2011

With the jaunty tune of Golden Wedding (Goldene Khasene), Klezmer Kollectiv kick-started their debut in London. Thereafter, Adam Cross’ clarinet and Jacob Shaw’s saxophone led the melodies of the cheerful repertoire they played at Green Note.

The cosy, small-scale venue contributed to a warm, joyful klezmer session. About 50 people were there, either having dinner or drinks. Everyone came to Camden’s vegetarian restaurant and bar eager to listen to the Cardiff-based octet. (Septet, actually, as ‘cellist Christopher Yorke Baker missed the show.)

An irresistible tune

The first song shocked the audience with its unique, upbeat rhythm. Unanimously, wow’s and whistles from the crowd gave the band the impetus to continue the rest of their repertoire with the same zest and energy.

The following songs made everyone stomp along to the beat, so infectious were the irresistible tunes. Those seated at the dinner tables went on with a funny, odd “seat-dancing” style – none could help but swing their heads to the music.

The first 30-minute set felt quite short and passed by in a whirl. It included both fast-pace and melancholic tunes of traditional Jewish music (klezmer) among other East European folk songs. One of the most exciting moments was driven by the “Odessa Bulgar” (Bulgarian dance) song – a classic klezmer melody.

Soon after the break, the second set consisted of much faster beats and fun. Eventually, the audience engaged fully and managed to dance freely in the tiny space left between the stage and the dining tables.

Funny as it sounded, the song “Where were you before prohibition?” made everybody move in a mix of Charleston-based dancing with a hint of the Russian Cossack style trying to follow the syncopated rhythm. “Miserlou”, the famous song included in the Pulp Fiction movie soundtrack, brought up the familiarity of klezmer.

One of a kind

People at the gig described Klezmer Kollectiv’s sound as “energetic”, having a “smooth jazz influence”, and “loads of fun”. Indeed, Saxophonist Jacob Shaw played a jazzy-solo that could have led the chance to show-off each individual instrument – let’s have it next time guys!

But virtuosity is not an issue for Klezmer Kollectiv. You can tell they are professional, young musicians – very talented, actually. But it seems their young age on the stage restrained them for more spontaneity, which is a skill they need if they want to help the public to engage with the unique music they play.

Don’t get me wrong, they do enjoy playing and you can tell that they are having a good time doing so. However, klezmer requires cheering and clapping to trigger the fun of it. During the gig, it took a while for the band to warm up – same as the audience. As a brand-new band, they just can’t take for granted that the music will do it all

Anyhow, the promising future is on their hands. The gig at Green Note demonstrated that even under a new line up – Jonathan Stern replaced Rossini Bartolotti-Hayward in guitar – the band is a great ensemble of musicians.

Keep an eye on the Klezmer Kollectiv website. They announced another gig on 25th February in Soho – to be confirmed. In any case, if you are planning a party, they are available for booking!

Photo gallery of Klezmer Kollectiv’s gig at Green Note in Camden:

All photos in the article and in the photo gallery are by Anders Stromberg.

  • Jenny Peters

    I was at that gig and it was amazing! I’d definately go again, I just wish they could have played for another hour!!

  • Phoebe Ferris-Rotman

    Loved it guys! More London gigs please!