This band’s tagline of ‘what happens when classical musicians let their hair down’, could equally be put as ‘what happens when classical musicians don flat caps’. ‘What happens’ is a complete and utter transportation to any cobbled, bohemian street in Eastern Europe through the rustic charm of Klezmer-ish’s music, resplendent with quirky off-beats and pretty melodies.
The group takes its primary inspiration (and name) from the ‘klezmer music’ of the Eastern European Ashkenazi Jews, which we were informed was once the staple of wedding celebrations and the like, much to our unsurprise. If it weren’t for the somewhat austere lecture theatre surrounding, no doubt everyone would have been shamelessly attempting their best estimate of a Jewish dance.
Verity’s clarinet playing calls to mind that of the snake charmer with the archetypal swoops and bends of Eastern European folk music, and Shepley comps rhythmically on guitar to percussive effect. With Del Vecchio’s accordion and Becker’s double bass, Klezmer-ish have an almost ‘chocolatey’ sonority, in that their sound is rich and multi-layered, the various textures running as deep as they do wide. Distinct flavours surface at different moments through the players turn-taking solos in a nod towards jazz.
This is the kind of group you want accompanying your coffee on Bold St, but if this were the case, concentrating on drinking it would be nigh on impossible. The music by its very nature is perfectly disrupted; eclectic overlapping beat patterns, jazzed harmonies and bent notes aplenty would make for the most distracted coffee break you’d ever had.
Some pieces are so folkish one half expects the Irish-accented tones of a Celtic vocalist singing a pentatonic melody over the instrumentation. Verity’s penny whistle plays as clear as water in a sweet duet with the bass, with Becker reaching way down the body of his instrument to reach the high register. Warming to the piece as it progressed, the audience managed to overcome their Englishness and begin clapping with self-conscious grins, alas getting left behind in the jubilant gathering of speed towards the end.
Perhaps a higgledy piggledy arrangement of bar tables and chairs would be more conducive to Klezmer-ish’s vibe, as it would allow us the close proximity to the players that this genre demands, and to get closer to the warmth that their instruments exude. However at the same time it is enough to be glad that this wonderfully convivial music is receiving the spotlight it deserves, rather than simply belonging to the street buskers.