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Toronto klezmer band ready for world stage

Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band
Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band
By Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band

Traditional Crossroads: 1990 (reissued 1999)

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Agada (Tales From Our Ancestors)
By Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band

Traditional Crossroads: 1993 (reissued 1999)

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By Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band with Adrienne Cooper

Traditional Crossroads: 1999

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These reviews first appeared in the November 13, 1999 edition of the American Reporter.

Klezmer is being heard everywhere. At music festivals, in dorm rooms, even on jazz radio. In fact, Don Rose's review of Howard Mandel's new book, "Future Jazz," in the current issue of Jazz Notes (the newsletter of the Jazz Journalists Association) notes that Mandel even devotes a section of his book to the intersection of avant-garde and klezmer.

And why not? What jazz is to the African American experience, klezmer is to the Eastern European Jewish. Both have developed from earlier folks forms, both demand instrumental virtuosity of their players – and, most importantly, both define themselves at least partially through their unscripted improvisational solos.

An until-now unheralded klezmer band from Toronto should begin making its mark alongside more famous combos such as the Klezmer Conservatory Band, the Klezmatics and Naftule's Dream. The Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band has re-released its first two discs from the early '90s, as well as two new recordings (we haven't yet received a review copy of the latest, "Tsircus").

The three albums show a band that in the decade since its founding has polished its performance, tightened its arrangements, and generally stepped up to the very top level of musicianship.

What they haven't found is a particularly stable lineup. The only constant in the band has been leader/trumpeter David Buchbinder. Ranging from five to seven pieces on this releases, Buchbinder's combos more than make up for in snap and talent what they seem to lack in longevity.

The songs are a mixture of traditional Jewish pieces and new compositions by the band members, particularly Buchbinder. The new songs sound as if they ought to be old standards, and throughout the band maintains a very traditional sound. It's not museum music, mind you – not purely period pieces. There are elements of jazz running throughout, a strong Moorish influence that brings to mind Spanish flamenco, and some very contemporary arrangements.

But unlike say, Naftule's Dream, which can get as far out as as any jazz avant-gardist, the Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band remains firmly grounded in the mainstream; you can dance to every song.