American-Yiddish Rhapsody would have been an accurate title. The music being orchestrally interpreted on this disc by the Sirba Octet, the Orchestre de Pau Pays de Bearn, and a sweet-voiced French theatre singer named Isabelle Georges, comes from Yiddish folk culture via 1920s and ‘30s New York. It’s East European Jewish with Broadway swing. “Oy, Voch, Tyoch, Tyoch” ends with chorus-line booms and swirls and Georges doing a politer version of the professional stage dame belting out a climax. “Mayn Libe Tokhter” and “Bir Mir Bis Tu Sheyn” incorporate the sound of tapdancing. Each track ends with applause—the album was recorded live. The applause is not misplaced. The mass of instruments is nimble enough to keep up with the music’s strengths, its tart speed, its twists, the shift from glee to heavy sentiment and back again. Their “Misirlou” rises in a thickening swirl like Ravel’s “Boléro” then breaks away into an imitation of Dick Dale’s 1962 version, an convoluted turn of fate for a Greek tune Dale learnt from his Lebanese grandfather.
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