Klezmer Divas

Blue Beat, November 3

Photo: Paul Green Photography.

It happened in almost every song: little explosions of exuberance whenever Eddie Bronson or Daniel Weltlinger took a solo, like opening a door on a rowdy party. Not that the rest of what was happening was a dour affair, by any means. Perhaps the simile should have been a party within a party.

Fay Sussman’s septet keeps alight the flame of Yiddish song. This is music that wears its heart emblazoned on its sleeve, and spurns matters of academic authenticity. It must be played with spirit or should not be played at all.

Klezmer Divas hit the ground running with a rampant Zol Shoyn Kumen Di Geule, and you could feel the faces around you relaxing into smiles. On Abi Gezunt Bronson’s ecstatic soprano saxophone solo was matched by Weltlinger’s violin, and the pattern was set. On Ich Hob Dich Tzifeel Lieb Bronson’s clarinet ached and glowed and swarmed into the inner recesses of one’s mind, while the Russian Bublitchki Begelach featured a Weltinger solo that was enough to rouse the dead from their tombs and set them dancing.

Sussman, meanwhile, deployed a voice with an indomitable core, and could launch into the wild celebration that was Odessa Mama, or pour her heart into the touching Mamaleh (just with Phil Marks’s piano). Elsewhere there was sometimes a sense of her rushing: not the phrasing, but the emotion, as if forcing the music to have an impact, where Bronson, Weltlinger and Lara Goodridge (vocals, violin) just let it happen.

Goodridge is an asset to any project, whether harmonising, sharing the lead vocals (as on Bronson’s enchanting I Miss You), taking centre stage, herself (a rousing Dark Eyes in Russian) or playing violin.

The band was completed by Philippe Wittwer (accordion) and Mark Harris (playing rambunctious bass), and joined by singer Ben Goldstein on occasion, who displayed some commendable qualities, but lacked any edge of vulnerability. Bronson, meanwhile was repeatedly slicing to the heart of what it is to be alive.