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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Erev Ravs...Not Yo' Daddy's Klezmer!

Painting of the Erev Ravs by Tweed Meyer, Beyond The Borders Festival 2009

As a musician, I have to say that one of the most incredible experiences is to watch the journey of a younger, beloved musician. I met Daniel Landin when he was in high school with my son, back in New York (some mumble-mumble years ago) and his talent perked-up my senses back then. There was something about this gentle young man and the spirit he brought to the musical table. His right hand was a powerhouse of rhythm and energy. His head pumped the machine, 'fro flying.

Flash forward (as they say) and imagine my delight at finding him out here, just down in Olympia. We've had wonderful visits and, last year, I had the chance to see him perform at our Longbranch "Beyond The Borders" Music Festival with his Klezmer band, the Erev Ravs. They certainly had the crowd revved-up on a beautiful Summer afternoon at the Longbranch Improvement Club, and our borders were expanded!

Klezmer is the music developed through the souls of musicians in the Eastern European Jewish ghettos, or "shtetls," with Romanian, Turkish and Greek influences. I have heard it described as Eastern European Bluegrass, with melodies and harmonies singing as voices through lead instruments like clarinet and violin. Whether it be joyous or sad, Klezmer reaches you with the rhythms that pull on your heartbeat, and melodies that play to your deepest emotions.

I'm lucky enough to have an advance copy of the Erev Ravs' new, Live EP called, "Oly Shtetl Klezmer," and let me tell you...this ain't yo' daddy's Klezmer! A world of experience and diverse backgrounds knit and braid past into future within the six tracks on this CD. The rhythm section holds it all together with such a rock-solid loom for the lead and support instruments' weaving. The freedom with which they cascade through "Naphtaly's Freylach" is as breath-taking as hope and laughter in the shtetls. You'll want to whirl and declare yourself a happy fool.

Then the rhythm changes for "Broydessa," and you're pulled forward by the hips, the chromatic harp handing off to mandolin in a tropical slow reggae-funk...that 1 and 3 accent rhythm. Then violin and flute bring you through sensually-curved dunes with mid-eastern belly-moves on your mind. The support and space each lead player gives to another, handing-off like a camel train, carries the listener forward on the song's swaying caravan.

I'm particularly fond of a tune called "Der Gasn Nigun," or "The Street Tune." This begins with Daniel's muted heartbeat strum...then, a lone violin, setting the mood before the rest of the band joins in. I see a young couple meet on a cobblestone street corner in the blue of shadowed, window-lit night...waltzing with hope and tragedy on that carousel's turn, almost lost...cherished, like Klezmer itself.

To introduce the rest of the band...Tom Russell is one of Olympia's finest jazz musicians, who celebrates over forty years in this soul-carrying art. I have personally enjoyed jamming with Tom and know him to be a sincere and giving player. He is hot hot hot in this live performance, whether it be on the clarinet or flute. In "Wedding Trance" his clarinet sings of desire and laces the veil with the incredible work of the band's newest member and shining asset, Ardas Hassler, on violin. Jamie Stillman on drums is a spring of many rhythms. Phil Post has such a subtle brilliance on upright bass. Jeff Rygwelski on chromatic harp and Miles Nowlin on mandolin can dance separately or joined at the hip, play support fills or take their leads.

Live, this band does the magic...and the magic has been caught on this EP. What a pleasure it is for me, to catch up with Daniel at another milepost of his musical journey. Interested enough to take a listen? Go to and turn yourself on to something old and new, groovin' in the South Sound!


Stephanie Frieze said...

I enjoy klezmer and loved reading about this musician and his group. I hope they come play up this way again, soon!

Lorraine Hart said...

I will buy the EP for you soon as it's out...then you'll be dancing in the living room!