Sunday, August 15, 2004

Klezmer With A Slice Of Wry

Bert Stratton and Yiddishe Cup are stand-up guys... in classic Borscht Belt style.
I've been listening to their latest release "Meshugene Mambo" courtesy of Mr. Stratton, and it's a hoot! If the late king of Klezmer Comedy, Mickey Katz and "Weird" Al Yankovic could have collaborated, the results might have sounded something like "Meshugene Mambo."

Album highlights include a version of "My Yiddishe Mama" with sneering vocals any punk rocker would be proud of and an arrangement that segues through the blues, "Goldfinger", "Little Darlin'", and the theme from the "Patty Duke Show!"

"Play, Klezmer Play!" could be the anthem of klezmer club-date musicians. Here's a taste:
The klezmer tunes of yesterday are replaced by "YMCA".... But then I hear the clarinet and it almost makes me forget the uncle from Detroit who wants to sing "Sunrise,Sunset."
Full of idiosyncratic characters, the klezmer complains about the "cerebral" guest who requests "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" (which segues into "Yesh!"), the videographer who misses the motzi, and of course, the “shmendrick” who must make a toast just as the band is about to begin a medley of freilachs by Dave Tarras.

In addition to covers of Katz’s classic parodies, the album is full of pop culture references -- like when the first few bars of "Tanz, Tanz Yiddelakh" are played on synth as the theme from "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" during a sketch on "Essen". On "Nudnik, the Flying Shissel", a theremin plays the "Theme from Star Trek" over a freilach groove as "Nudnik" seeks to discover new frontiers in kosher buffet lines and desert tables. And on “Knish Doctor” a chorus sings “aweem-oy-vey” as somewhere in the jungle the lion fresses Yankel tonight.

But it's not all comedy. The group’s instrumental versions of klezmer classics like Abe Ellstein's "Second Avenue Square Dance", "Trombonik Tanz", and "Li'l Gypsy" --which I know as "Khsidim Tants (Ben Mandelson's Honga Onga Mix) " recorded by the Klezmatics --are tighter than the vest on the head waiter at a Catskills hotel. (Ouch! I know, but who could help it?)

You can listen to sound clips and purchase the CD via CD Baby here.

Ethnic humor isn’t for everyone, and there are one or two jokes that aren’t for the yeshiva boys, but if you like “neo-Borscht Belt” style humor and klezmer, you'll enjoy "Meshugene Mambo."