Yiddish songs meet Gypsy Jazz; traditionele Jiddische liederen omlijst met prachtige Gypsy Jazz improvisaties.
Nikitov is one of the best of the new Yiddish folksong ensembles. This is something seen far more often in Europe than in the US, where one might see Celtic folk band almost any night of the week, but Jewish folk has largely been relegated to a few numbers by a wedding band. On the other hand, neither is this a reworking of Yiddish folk music in new idiom, as say, Golem or Khevre, or for that matter German bands such as Aufwind. Rather, this is a very well-done collection of beautifully sung Yiddish folk songs from Europe, from America, including Yiddish theatre favorites, backed by an excellent group of musicians. And, just as American Jewish wedding bands will throw in the occasional Yiddish tune, here, the band takes on a couple of delightful violin/guitar/bass klezmer improvisations. Rather nice, that, too.
Singer Niki Jacobs manages to impart a sweet, folky, compelling style that even embraces one of the few bearable version of “Shabes, Shabes”, a song otherwise high on my top ten songs never to hear again. By eschewing theatre flash and renewing the song in folk idiom, she similarly makes “Bai mir bistu sheyn” bearable and gives new life and gravity to “Az der rebe”, a song original written as a satire against Hasidim. Her version of “Mayn rue plats”, Morris Rosenfeld’s lament to the horrible working conditions in New York sweatshops, is the best I have heard since Miriam Dvorin’s recording 20 years ago, with “Umru mayne” heartbreakingly beautiful. There is no particularly rare material on this CD. What is rare is the assurance and tightness of the arrangements, and the aural excellence of the result. This is the best Yiddish folk music I have heard since the Pete Rushefsky/Becky Kaplan CD earlier this year and is very much on par with that recording. What a pleasure!