Hailed as “one of the finest American klezmer bands” by Songlines Magazine (UK), Metropolitan Klezmer performs an exhilarating range of musical treasure with astonishing agility and refreshing depth. Formed in 1994, this collaborative adventure of exceptional New York musicians combines the best of downtown, classical and World Music scenes to create inspired neo-traditional interpretations and compositions around a panoply of eclectic Yiddish repertoire: ethereal trance, rollicking dance, imaginatively-arranged Yiddish swing and tango, plus genre-expanding originals such as klezmer cumbia. Metropolitan Klezmer bandmates bring together stylistic backgrounds from Latin jazz to funk and folk, zydeco and reggae to baroque, complete with panoramic instrumental array and multi-lingual vocals. Led by drummer-archivist Eve Sicular, the ensemble also explores such lesser-known gems as Soviet Yiddish theater melodies and drinking songs, gorgeous overlooked soundtrack tunes from vintage films set in Eastern Europe and the Lower East Side, and unexpected musical angles which transform familiar favorites from the inside out. Time Out New York extols the group: “Metropolitan Klezmer takes a scholarly approach to the genre’s history, yet never skimps on the exuberance at its core.”
Music from Metropolitan Klezmer’s four award-winning CDs — praised by the UK’s Phat Planet as “brilliant and breathless… mixing levity with the gravity” — is heard in documentary features such as HBO’s SCHMATTA: Rags to Riches to Rags and Grace Paley: Collected Shorts, plus broadcasts worldwide: Public Radio International, CBC’s Roots & Wings, Argentina’s Radio Jai, Polish Radio Lublin, Australia’s Hot Club, UK’s Folkswagon, and WDR’s Funkhaus Europa. Live performance on international airwaves: CNN WorldBeat, ARD German TV’s Rhythms of New York, Ebru TV’s Rhythm & Roots. Soundscapes: Covent Garden / London (Royal Ballet: First Drafts), The Jewish Museum / NYC & Contemporary Jewish Museum / SF (Chagall and the Artists of the Russian Jewish Theater), New York Theatre Workshop / Wexner Center / national tour (SITI Company’s Score). The band’s recordings and special projects have received awards and support from The Sparkplug Foundation; OutMusic; The New York State Council on the Arts; and New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs, among others. Cosmik Debris’ rave may explain the group’s wide appeal: “Metropolitan Klezmer is anything but stereotypical, and nothing but terrific. One of the best klezmer bands in the world today.”
Metropolitan Klezmer has toured from coast to coast. Recent performance highlights include the group’s packed Lincoln Center debut at the David Rubenstein Atrium, as well as Southwest and West Coast premieres including Scottsdale Center for the Arts. The band debuted delightfully at The Corning Museum of Glass, Count Basie Theatre (Red Bank NJ), and with full houses and repeat engagements from Miami to Manhattan. Metropolitan Klezmer was also honored to adapt nearly-forgotten, heart-wrenching and soul-stirring Yiddish balladry from the Triangle Fire for the centenary commemoration of this tragedy, presented in New York City’s historic Great Hall of the Cooper Union — with our recording reprised in the audio portion of Activist New York on exhibition at The Museum of the City of New York. Jewish Week gave the band five stars [top rating], lauding their “wildly variegated flavors… Formidable… clever, spirited and smart musicianship.” The Village Voice described this “outstanding group” as “delightfully rambunctious… hard-swinging,” and Flavorpill beamed over “a sound that is not only exuberantly eclectic but also very danceable” from “modern-day purveyors of time-honored traditions.” Metropolitan Klezmer is thrilled to be playing at The Actors Theater for a Vox Hebraica concert with our sister sextet Isle of Klezbos next month, and meanwhile looks forward to concerts throughout the Northeast before the release of the band’s new album, Mazel Means Good Luck, in time for the band’s 20th anniversary.