Violinist AND fiddler Joe Kessler has been playing Irish music, klezmer, jazz, rock, gypsy music, bluegrass on
the Boston and Philadelphia scenes for decades. His light-
fingered, exuberant approach to music has made him one of the busiest players around Boston, the kind of musician bandleaders love to have on board. He has toured or
recorded with Morphine, the Robert Plant/Jimmy Page
reunion tour, Wooden Leg and his father Jack Kessler’s
Klezwoods is Kessler’s debut as a bandleader, and leading a fairly large ensemble he shows as deft a touch as a bandleader as he does with bow and fingerboard. The repertoire is what he describes as “music of the Ottoman Empire,” roughly speaking, music from the eastern end of the Mediterranean and the Balkans. In Klezwoods’ hands, Klezmer, Turkish, Greek, Yemenite Jewish, Bulgarian, Macedonian and Arabic songs form a remarkably seamless repertoire.
As Joe is a member of the Jewish/Arabic/Danish Middle East World Peace Orchestra, it’s not a reach to say that his choice of repertoire for Klezwoods makes a subtle political statement. However, it’s the spirit and bouyancy of Klezwoods that really drives home the point that music can transcend borders and lift up us all.
The musicians are some of the Boston’s area’s most creative and skilled players, from
accordion master Michael McLaughlin to amazing left-handed bassist Greg Loughman, “Miss Tess” reedman Alec Speigelman and the frighteningly versatile percussionist Brian O’Neill, leader of the
19 piece Esquivel tribute “Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica” among other bands. Plus, Jim Gray, tuba; Sam
Dechenne, trumpet; Jeremy Gustin, drums; Tev Stevig, guitar.
1. Ki Eshmera: Yemenite Jewish song, taught to Joe Kessler
by his father Jack, a prominent and innovative cantor
2. Gankino Oro: Bulgarian
3. Bahar Dansi: Turkish
4. Mache Reynista: klezmer, learned from Harold Carabell,
the late, great Philadelphia klezmer clarinetist
5. Cuperlika: Macedonian
6. Hey Lady: klezmer, hint of avant and rock
7. Nassam Aleyna: Arabic, hint of tango
8. Syrtos: Greek
9. Giant Jew: original by Alec Spiegelman, based on John Coltrane’s Giant Steps
10. Chassidic Medley No.1: also from Jack Kessler