"Klezmer bands with 18 members are not exactly common anywhere in the world, but it's safe to say this is the only one of Japanese provenance. Reed giant Kazutoki Umezu formed Betsuni Nanmo Klezmer in 1992 and the sprawling ensemble left the world with three public recordings, the 1994 debut Omedeto I shall be celebrating below, and two 1996 releases, Waruzu and Ahiru. Surely a monumental challenge to organize and sustain, the orchestra project was supplemented and eventually supplanted by Komatcha Klezmer, a small group vehicle for Umezu's klez urges that formed in 1995 and continues to be active, with releases in 2001 (Komatcha Kle) and 2003 (Gekkoishi no Shippo). With the exception of drumkitter Kozo Nida, the members of Komatcha Klezmer are BNK alumni: alto saxist Yoko Tada, violinist Ayumi Matsui, accordionist Koyo Chan, and tubist Takero Sekijima, and the two stars (in my mind) of BNK, wunderkind vocalists Tokyo Nammy and Koichi Makigami, have joined the group as occasional guests.
Omedeto is one of the strangest and most cherished items in my music collection. For starters, it's a positively ass-kicking, burning klezmer disc with inspired solos and a rare and devastating orchestral punch. Even more distinctively, the vocal performances by Makigami and Nammy are astonishing triumphs of creativity and virtuosity. More than anything, though, the group stands alone in the annals of klezmer for its alternately sublime and zany postmodernism. The musicians were clearly chosen for their freewheeling embrace of humor and playful antics as much as their instrumental chops. The lineup is something of an abridged who's who of Tokyo's bohemian prankster avant-garde. The total package unfolds as a seamless, ambitious, far-ranging album that doesn't falter for a single moment.
The playing is flawless and bursting with the invigorating spirit of the timeless rhythms and melodies. I could listen to music like this for hours on end.
For a guy who doesn't speak the language, Koichi Makigami's Yiddhish vocals on "Ale Brider" and throughout the album are unbelievably compelling. He rips through each line with utter clarity and verve, and there are few singers in the world who can rival his booming tone and precise, hovering vibrato."
Michael Anton Parker
01. Ale Brider
02. Dona Dona (Shalom Secunda)
03. Der Shtiler Bulgar (tradition)
04. Terk in Amerika (tradional)
05. Mahotsukai Sally
07. Der Gasn Nigun (traditional)
Kazutoki Umezu: clarinet, bass clarinet, alto saxophone, bass drum
Wataru Okuma: clarinet, bass clarinet
Kazuhiro Nomoto: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet
Kanji Nakao: soprano saxophone
Takero Sekijima: tuba
Hiroshi Itaya: trombone
Yoko Tada: alto saxophone
Ayumi Matsui: violin
Yuriko Mukojima: violin
Hidehiko Urayama: banjo
Chan Koyo: piano, accordion
Jyoji Sawada: double bass
Yasuhiko Tachibana: double bass
Yasuo Sano: kit drums, snare drum
Yasuhiro Yoshigaki: kit drums, cymbals, bass drum
Sachiko Nagata: xylophone, percussion
Koichi Makigami: vocal
Nammy Tokyo: vocal