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CHICAGO KLEZMER ENSEMBLE - Early Recordings 1987 - 89
Early Recordings 1987 - 89


USA Stati Uniti
1 CD

The Chicago Klezmer Ensemble began forming in 1983 and gave its first performances under that name in the Spring of 1984. Over the next five years many friends and colleagues played with me at various times, with different combinations of instruments, large groups and small, as 'Chicago Klezmer Ensemble.' In December, 1987, the Chicago Klezmer Ensemble made its first recordings. The band had five members then, but the most effective pieces were recorded by smaller units: two trios and a duet. Those three pieces are included in this CD.
At the beginning of 1989 the band solidified into a core group of four musicians, all of whom are still in the band now, thirteen years later; Kurt Bjorling (myself), Al Ehrich (since 1984), Joshua Huppert (1988) and Eve Monzingo (1989). (The only other permanent member of Chicago Klezmer Ensemble during these years was Deborah Strauss who began playing with us in 1992 and stayed until 2001.) In August, 1989 this quartet recorded the nine pieces which complete this CD.

In early 1988, a few months after the first recordings in this collection were made, I was introduced to Zev Feldman by a mutual acquaintance. Zev was an important figure for me. His LP with Andy Statman, "Jewish Klezmer Music," (1979) had been part of my initiation into klezmer music, and it had served as an example for the idea that klezmer music can be played with emotional depth and intelligence. When I met him, Zev Feldman had 'retired' from active involvement with klezmer music, so it was only with some reluctance that he had agreed to meet me: an unknown musician interested in 'klezmer music.' I did not know this at the time. I simply showed up at his residence at the appointed time with a cassette containing my first recordings, and as we listened to some of these pieces (track #3, 6, and 9) Zev became visibly more interested and then excited. Our conversation turned from an exchange of polite comments to a lively discussion about details of rhythm, phrasing, repertoire, history ... From that moment a new stage in my musical life had begun.
Zev's encouragement added to the confidence and interest I took in my musical efforts, so it was natural, a year and a half later, that I would send Zev recordings of the music Chicago Klezmer Ensemble had been developing (the nine remaining tracks on this CD). He wrote the following in response:
October 10, 1989
"... I think now that you see the great challenge in performing the authentic music in a manner which is both true to the sources and attempts to bring out all the musical potential of the genre. The music was never sealed from various influences, but it had a definite shape of its own. If one wants to alter that shape, then one should begin by knowing what it was, as Dave Tarras did for example. I'm afraid our contemporaries as a rule don't have this basic information ... When I used to go to Dave Tarras' house in the last few years he would play me the latest klezmer LPs, frown and tell me that no one was coming anywhere near what he had done. I think he really would have liked what you are doing."
Dave Tarras had died earlier that year, in February, 1989, and he would not get to hear our music. But the influence of his music runs through much of the material in this collection: The first piece, "SHA,SHA, DI SHVIGER KUMT," is a medley of 4 'KHOSIDLS,' three of which we learned from recordings Dave Tarras made in 1924. The last piece is a medley of three tunes Tarras recorded in the1940s.
So, we called the new recording "1989" and we produced it privately on cassettes which we sold at performances and by mail-order. Twelve years later I still hear from people who call to tell me that this is their favorite recording of klezmer music and to ask, "Is it available on CD?" So, ORIENTE Musik and the Chicago Klezmer Ensemble have decided to issue this 'new/old CD' which still sounds as good to us as it did in 1989.

Kurt Bjorling, September, 2001



1. Sha, Sha, Di Shviger Kumt (trad./arr. C.K.E.) 6:21
2. Yiddish Hora - A Heymish Freylekhs (trad./arr. C.K.E.) 5:02
3. Oy, Di Kinderlakh! (trad./arr. C.K.E.) 3:09
4. A Galician Dance (trad./arr. Bjorling) 5:47
5. Doyna (trad./arr. C.K.E.) 5:14
6. A Romanian Fantasy (trad./arr. Bjorling) 3:24
7. Mazltov Far Di Mekhutonim (trad./arr. C.K.E.) 4:36
8. Behusher Khosid (trad./arr. C.K.E.) 4:47
9. Hora & Honga (trad./arr. Bjorling) 3:50
10. Terkisher Tants & Khosidl (trad./arr. C.K.E.) 6:28
11. Romanian Hora (trad./arr. C.K.E.) 3:47
12. Mazel Tov, in memory of Dave Tarras (Tarras/arr. C.K. E.) 5.13


Kurt Bjorling - clarinet, bass clarinet, accordion
Eve Monzingo, piano;
Joshua Huppert - violin
Alan Ehrlich - double bass (except track 4)

Patrick Fleming - tenor mandolin (tracks 6 & 9)
Alan Goldsher - double bass (track 4)

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