Imagine members of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band jamming at a Jewish wedding with Last Exit and the Klezmatics. Oy! While it's not exactly kosher, the Boston-based Naftfule's Dream has cooked up an intriguing tsimmes that skirts the outre edges of the neoklezmer revival.
The Jewish heart and soul of the group belongs to clarinetist Glenn Dickson, who also produced Job, to which Bill Laswell added some sonic tweakage. Accordion ace Michael McLaughlin contributes to the Eastern European feeling, while tuba player James Gray adds a nimble, shape-shifting low end that would be equally at home at a Jewish wedding or a sweaty night at Tipitina's down in N'awlins. Add some strong, supple soloing and strictly executed unison lines from trombonist David Harris, precisely interactive backbeats from drummer Eric Rosenthal and a dash of Hendrixian panache courtesy of guitarist Pete Fitzpatrick's dissonant feedback squalls and you've got the most remarkably flexible band of musical renegades to come along since John Zorn's Naked City. Everything from surf guitar to accordion schmaltz, funk, punk and seething free jazz goes into Naftule's creative cauldron, along with a heavy dose of traditional real-deal klezmer. And they are capable of shifting themes and genres on a dime.
Dickson's heavier-than-Slayer dirge "Job" is the conceptual centerpiece of this recording, which is chockfull of sonic surprises, such as the band's arrangements of a piano piece by French composer Erik Satie and its outrageous punk-funk, no-wave take on "To Life" from Fiddler on the Roof. McLaughlin's "Industrial Bulgar" begins as a traditional energized Bulgarian dance rhythm before the floor drops out, opening the door for a provocative free-jazz excursion that eventually morphs back into the giddy klezmer jam. Another musical highlight is Dickson's "Naftule's Dream," a compelling suite underscored by surging forward momentum with a few intriguing dissonant detours and exotic modal excursions along the way.
Naftule's third CD on Tzadik masterfully blends order and chaos with intelligence, virtuosity and a mischievous sense of humor.