World Music Review
By DON HECKMAN
SPECIAL TO THE TIMES
Most art forms do a bit of borrowing here and there, taking in elements from other sources and shaping them toward their own ends. The Jewish music that emerged from Eastern Europe is a classic example, a creative expression that gathered in melodies and rhythms from cultures ranging from India to Celtic Ireland.
The klezmer revival of the past few decades has taken a similar tact, at first relying primarily upon traditional sources, then taking in whatever it found useful from jazz, world, soul and pure pop sources. Two different versions of those syntheses were present Saturday night at the John Anson Ford Theatre in the Yiddishkayt Los Angeles performances of the groups Brave old World and Paris to Kyiv. The former was originally founded upon the Eastern European elements of klezmer; the latter upon the musical tradition of the Ukraine. Both have evolved into musically compelling cross-cultural ensembles.
Their collaboration titled "Night Songs From a Neighboring Village," was focused around a poem written by the Ukrainian Yiddish poet Herts Rivkin, an evocative image of country life. The groups' interpretations, however, were quite different reflective, to some extent, of their disparate cultural orientations, but equally a product of the uniquely transformative methods with which each approached traditional material.
Brave Old World's renderings were strongly affected by the musical direction of pianist Alan Bern, whose eclectic settings were filled with subtle, often quite lush harmonizations. One piece - its title unannounced - enveloped clarinetist Kurt Bjorling in a chordal atmosphere reminiscent of Bill Evans, Stuart Brotman added sturdy bass and the traditional sounding cimbalom, and violinist-vocalist Michael Alpert was an ebullient front man for the traditional klezmer pieces.
Paris to Kyiv's presentation was considerably more layered. With Alexis Kochan's superb vocals as a centerpiece, the music was filled with unusual instrumental textures, from Julian Kytasty's bandura (a kind of harp/cimbalom) to the small Northumbrian small pipes of Martin Colledge. At times, the players swung in a distinctly jazz direction, led by the improvising of violist Richard Moody.
And, in the brief passages when Brave Old World and Paris to Kyiv joined together, the results were truly multicultural, splendid evidence of music's ability to cross all boundaries.