City Paper is not for tourists.
The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band rocks! Although I use the word “rock” somewhat loosely, if you’ve ever stood up and clapped to “Hava Nagila” on the organ at a hockey game, this disc will take you straight to hora heaven. While artists such as clarinetist Don Byron and the New Klezmer Trio work to update klezmer for the ’90s, “Max” stays faithful to the original Yiddish spirit of the music. Not that it’s unwilling to experiment; the last track on the disc is a stream-of-consciousness medley titled “Compote,” after a traditional dish of stewed fruit (it’s the only time you’ll ever hear “Jingle Bells,” “Summertime,” “America the Beautiful,” “Flight of the Bumblebee,” and the Passover tune “Dayenu” flow together so seamlessly). Klezmer is based on the rituals of everyday Jewish life in old Eastern Europe; the record’s best slice-of-life moments include “A Yiddishe Mama,” “Meheteyneste Mayne,” a mother’s warning to her new in-laws, and “Di Rebbetzin,” a woman’s dream of marrying a rabbi (“A cute little thing—a bouncy one—a sweet little cheese blintz! Oy, is this a rabbi’s wife—I should be so lucky!”). Those of you not fluent in Yiddish can just pretend and dance around to the sound of the clarinet.