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Boston, Massachusetts, United States | INDIE

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | INDIE
Band World Jazz




"Klezwoods at Atwoods"

“…After pretending to grade papers all afternoon, I ran out to Atwoods Tavern, a Somerville establishment midway between Inman Square and Kendall Square, home to excellent local beer and some decent food, to catch the elusive “Klezwoods.” I was lured by the claim on the tavern’s website that the gig would begin at 8pm. Alas, it began at 9, a bit too close to my bedtime. But the time preceding was pleasantly filled by shmoozing with band-member Dr. Michael McLaughlin (also of Shirim, Naftule’s Dream, and the Tufts professor in charge of that school’s klezmer band).
Klezwoods was put together by Joe Kessler and McLaughlin a couple of years ago when the tavern decided that it would be kind of cool to have a “Klezmer Christmas” concert. The result fuses some of my favorite musicians from the local klezmer, balkan, and other music scenes, anchored by KCB drummer Grant Smith and including Shirim’s Jim Gray, Hebrew College cantorial student Becky Wexler on clarinet, and several people I have not yet gotten to know. The result is that rare perfection, “bar klezmer,” or perhaps more accurately, “bar music from the former Ottoman empire” because riffs ranged from Greek and Balkan melodies to Israeli music and klezmer, all interspersed with excellent soloes…I am very excited about seeing the band again. This was my idea of an excellent evening, full of good music, unexpected connections, and great beer in a con - theklezmershack.com

"Klezwoods-Oy Yeah!"

There’s something about the cover art of Klezwoods’ Oy Yeah! that speaks volumes about the music. Most jazz albums have a dark image on the front of one person playing a piano or saxophone, and they’re almost never inviting. But here we have a circus-like group parading with instruments, and on the inside cover, a ferris wheel.

And that’s what you get on Oy Yeah!. None of it really fits together logically, but it blends so well and smoothly that it’s beyond enjoyable. The cover art invites you in to a jazz party, and even if you know nothing about jazz, you’ll have a good time.

Klezwoods is a nine-man band led by Joe Kessler on violin. It’s hard to even call it jazz, because each song will bring a different, almost anti-jazz culture to your mind, from Jewish to Arabic. But that’s the real beauty of the party here – whether you know anything about these cultures or you’ve never heard of them or their music, the songs will still entertain you.

Klezwoods has accomplished something very difficult on Oy Yeah! – they have made jazz accessible, fun, and listenable to even those who don’t enjoy the genre, and they have still found a way to work other cultures into their work while showing off their own styles and skill at playing. It’s a party you won’t want to miss out on. - muzikreviews.com

"Oy Yeah!"

From the opening bass, snare drum and accordion of "Ki Eshmera," the Boston-based Klezwoods deliver a beautifully structured and performed collection of traditional tunes on its debut, Oy Yeah!. The nine-piece band moves from haunting ballads to frenzied dance tunes with ease, adding an intriguing original tune from clarinetist Alec Spiegelman for good measure.
Kletzwoods is led by violinist Joe Kessler, a versatile player who has worked with Morphine and the Robert Plant/Jimmy Page reunion band. Kessler describes Klezwoods' music as "music of the Ottoman Empire." It's as good a description as any, for most of these tunes originate from East European countries such as Greece, Turkey, and Bulgaria—but it fails to convey the delight and joyousness contained within the tunes and expressed wonderfully by the band.

"Ki Eshmera," a Yemenite Jewish song taught to Kessler by his father, Jack, is given a funky groove by courtesy of Greg Loughman's bass but there is also a plaintive quality to the tune, beautifully expressed by Sam Dechenne's trumpet solo. In contrast, the Bulgarian "Gankino Oro" is unmistakably upbeat and optimistic—Tev Stevig, whose guitar playing is exceptional throughout the album, creates a fine single note solo here.

"Cuperlika," from Macedonia, is another lovely tune with a sense of longing expressed by Kessler's violin and Dechenne's trumpet. "Hey Lady" is klezmer with a hint of reggae and a touch of avant-garde, thanks to Spiegelman's clarinet. The entire band races through "Chassidic Medley No 1" with gusto, on the other hand, underpinned by Jim Gray's richly-toned tuba and Jeremy Gustin's urgent and driving drums.

Spiegelman's "Giant Jew" is based on John Coltrane's "Giant Steps." Speigelman leads the tune on clarinet rather than saxophone; his solo is smooth and sweet, the tune hinting at the Coltrane original rather than simply replicating it. The result references modern jazz but still sits perfectly alongside Oy Yeah's more traditional tunes.

Klezwoods draws its influences and tunes from across cultural, religious and political borders to create Oy Yeah! It's an eclectic, energetic and happy album that demonstrates music's power to lift the spirits. - Allaboutjazz.com

"Klezwoods-Oy Yeah!"

“I know it’s a bit of a tiresome cliché when someone says ‘I know what I like’, but that was the case when the first notes of Ki Eshmera came out of the speakers. Klezwoods are a rootsy band from Boston playing a mix of Klezmer, Irish, Gypsy, bluegrass, rock and jazz, Oy Yeah!is their new album and it is a joy to listen to – a real toe tapper and if you have the energy it is an album to dance to. The ten tracks certainly have a strong vein of Jewish, Arab and Eastern European influences running through them – with the instrumentation to match: tuba, accordion, clarinet, sax, trumpet, lots of percussion, bass and guitar.

Track three, Bahar Dansi certainly has a happy, upbeat feel to it. The rest of the tracks are: Gankino Oro, Mache Teynista, Cuperlika, Hey Lady, Nassam Aleyna, Syrtos, Giant Jew and Chassidic Medley #1. I didn’t realise Boston was such a cross-roads of fertile musical inventiveness. The band is led by violinist Joe Kessler and consists of nine musicians who create this marvellous diversity of sounds. Of course there is a subtext relating to the fact that these various ethnic types of music share much and the people of the Middle East should take note of this. That aside, Oy Yeah! is a joyous album stuffed full with great tunes and emanating fantastic vibes. Highly recommended.” - the-borderland.co.uk

"Klezwoods Romp Through The Dark Corners of Eastern European Melody"

Peter Jaques of Brass Menazeri describes klezmer as a “gateway drug” to the music of Eastern Europe. The same could be said for violinist Joe Kessler’s band Klezwoods,since that’s his background. Their debut album may be classified as klezmer, and many of its most exhilarating moments are on its Jewish songs, but the material here spans the entirety of what used to be the Ottoman Empire. Basically, it’s haunting minor-key dance music with Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and occasional latin tinges, and it pushes the envelope, its jazz-influenced, playful arrangements utilizing the whole band and giving them a richer, fuller sound than it would seem their nine members could create. The band is colossally good: Sam Dechenne on trumpet, Jim Gray on tuba, Jeremy Gustin on drums, Greg Loughman on bass, Michael McLaughlin (of Naftule’s Dream) on accordion, Brian O’Neill on percussion, Alec Spiegelman (of Miss Tess’ band the Bon Temps Parade) on clarinet and sax and Tev Stevig on electric guitar.

The opening track, a Yemenite Jewish number that Kessler learned from his father Jack (a highly regarded cantor), takes on a lush majesty, plaintive clarinet contrasting with muted trumpet, distant accordion and sweeping violin. The tricky Bulgarian dance Gankina Oro has the first of several bracingly rippling guitar solos by Stevig, this one sounding like a bouzouki but with better sustain. A Turkish folk melody, Bahar Dansi pulses along on a reggaeish beat, a playfully warped sax solo kicking off a boisterous game of hot potato between seemingly everybody in the band. They follow that with a somewhat deadpan, methodical take of Mache Teynista (The Mother-in-Law Dance), blippy tuba under tense, staccato accordion.

The highlight of the album is the slinky, hypnotic, absolutely gorgeous Cuperlika, from Macedonia, darkly pointillistic guitar giving way to the violin, accordion and finally a powerful, epic crescendo. Hey Lady sets levantine violin to a jaunty, altered tango beat with spiraling jazz guitar and a long, adrenalizing crescendo. Stevig takes his most intense solo of the night as the band vamps behind him on the Middle Eastern tune Nassam Aleyna. Syrtos is a Greek number which actually sounds more like traditional klezmer than anything else here other than the romping medley of hasidic dances that closes the album. And there’s also Giant Jew, a tongue-in-cheek klezmer take on Coltrane’s Giant Steps, Loughman’s solo bass tiptoeing deviously around the theme. The chemistry between band members makes Kessler’s split-second choreography work perfectly: as it should, considering how much fun this band is obviously having. The klezmer crowd will love this, as will anyone with a fondness for the dark, otherworldly singalong melodies and tricky rhythms of Eastern Europe. It’s out now on Either/Orchestra’s upstart label Accurate Records. Boston area fans can enjoy their cd release show on October 4 at Atwoods, 877 Cambridge St. in Cambridge. - Lucidculture.com


"Oy Yeah!"-2010 Accurate Records



Klezwoods is a Boston-based amalgam of strings, horns, and percussion that melds the spirit of traditional klezmer and balkan music with modern grooves, improvisation and east coast attitude.

Every player comes from a different background, which creates the band’s unique sound and style. They originally got their start some years back when local Cambridge, MA haunt, Atwood’s Tavern, asked soon-to-be-bandleader Joseph Kessler to put together a group of klezmer musicians during Christmas time for a “klezmer Christmas” event. Thus, Klezwoods was born, and continues to captivate audiences all over the world.