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Review: Klezmer-ish at the Music Room ****

March 12, 2018

The Liverpool Phil actively encourages its players to progress their own musical interests and ambitions outside the confines of the symphony orchestra.

A number of musicians have formed their own off-shoot groups, including Klezmer-ish which has developed a loyal and growing following – as its two sold out nights in the Music Room this week demonstrates.

The band, whose repertoire stretches from tango and hot jazz to traditional Irish, and yes, sinuous klezmer music, explores, in double bass player Marcel Becker’s words, “the music of immigrants from all sorts of musical and cultural backgrounds who left their homelands to travel the world in pursuit of a better life.”

And it certainly achieves its aim in this new programme, titled Voices From the Road, and which takes its audience on an irresistible musical journey from Buenos Aires and Paris to the Levant and the Emerald Isle, with Klezmer-ish’s quartet joined by fellow Phil fiddler Roisin Walters as a special guest.

Walters does eventually get out her violin, for a foot-stomping, hand-clapping section of Irish classics, but for the majority of the evening she acts as a versatile vocalist, adapting her voice to a variety of styles and languages.

In fact, she’s not the only one exhibiting multi talents on stage. While Connie Del Vecchio swaps between accordion and violin, Rob Shepley between guitar and violin, and Tom Verity between all manner of clarinets and a penny whistle, Shepley and Verity are also composers and arrangers.

And Shepley’s pair of gypsy jazz/hot jazz compositions, September Sun and Dusty Road, are two of the highlights of an evening packed with musical treats. September Sun’s opening evokes a scene from West Side Story while the body of the piece is pure 30s jazz, the music deliciously jaunty and swaggering.

The opening evening’s concert got off to a slightly shaky start sound-wise, with the quartet taking a bit of time to meld harmoniously together (the amplification perhaps a bit out of balance), while the programme is indeed only klezmer-ish – being light on the wonderful, evocative minor melodies of the traditional Jewish music and heavy on the Irish airs, reels and whip-quick jigs.

But all in all it’s a real box of delights, played with evident pleasure by the band who take it in turn to step in to the spotlight with hugely enjoyable freewheeling solos which showcase their dexterity and talent.

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