World & Latin

Klezmer, Canuck-Style


Klezmer is as much about history and culture as it is about melody, harmony and rhythm. It's a musical tradition of the Ashkenazic Jews of Eastern Europe that consists largely of dance tunes and instrumental display pieces for weddings and other celebrations. But, Eastern Europe apparently doesn't have a monopoly on the klezmer market. The Black Sea Station hails from just north of the U.S.-Canadian border in Winnipeg. The group's debut recording, Transylvania Avenue (Rounder) is a mix of traditional and original melodies, each crafted in lush arrangements that evoke the genre's rich historical and cultural underpinnings.

At the heart of the band are brothers Victor and Myron Schultz (violin and clarinet, respectively). Joining the Schultzes are violinist/producer Ken Mink (a frequent collaborator with k.d. lang), San Francisco-based accordionist Nicolai Prisakar and bassist Daniel Koulak.

The opening triptych of the 16-track set illustrates the range that this band is capable of. "Here And There (Aheen n'Aheya)" is an understated and carefully measured waltz that segues into the much more lively "My Dinner At Schwartz's," followed by the somber and haunting "Rumanian Village Suite."

Further in, the lurching "Moyda" is driven by limber clarinet work. Equal parts melodic and trance-like, "When I Close My Eyes" hints at something dark and unsettling, while "Freilach" is much more upbeat and freewheeling. The music comes full circle as the closer, "Trance Sylvanian Waltz," reprises the same melodic theme as the one established in the opening track.

The Black Sea Station may hail from a relatively benign North American commonwealth, but their music captures the essence of a continent and a culture whose story is multi-faceted and bittersweet.