Borealis 165
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The Parisian super group Bratsch remains the undisputed king of modern-day Gypsy music. They're equally comfortable with Sinti and Romani material as they are with Greek and Turkish variants. Now there's Beyond The Pale, Bratsch reborn as Jazz Klezmorim. Consensus is a live performance at Toronto's Al Green Theatre and sports Bogdan Djukic on violin/percussion, Bret Higgins on bass, Milos Popovic on accordion, Eric Stein on mandolin/mandocello, Martin Van de Ven on clarinet/bass clarinet, and special guests Josh Dolgrin on vocals/piano and Ukrainian Yeva Medvedyuk on vocals.

Jazz, Middle-East, Yiddish and plenty of musical humor collide during this high-energy performance that smacks of Jewish bluegrass with equal doses of risqué bar songs and Macedonian dances. The emphasis is on saftig - juicy. During the "Oy I Like She" bit of vaudeville stagecraft, the lovesick vocalist sings himself into an ecstatic vision of his beloved, dishing out loud lip smackers only to end up kissing a schvartze katz instead - an ordinary and well-clawed black cat.

There are Romanian lautari tunes reinterpreted with panache and all the complicated ornamental trills of the original. There's a famous Serbian brass band number adapted for strings and wind. There's a Hassidic nigunim intertwining with an Eric Satie melody, leading the latter into some unexpectedly far-out harmonization. There are devilish odd-metered Bulgarian kopanitsas like "Enosereh" which have the clarinetist walking on eggs. There's the contest of the weird instrumental noises that's "Bulcharescu". There's a medley of three lullabies that spins out into a radical group improv.

There's the schmaltzy pathos of "Moses Nign" and the swingin' let-it-all-hang-out adaptation of a Romanian dance from Calusari. And there's a lot more still in these 15 tracks, all fabulous stuff accompanied by imaginary and real huzzahs and clinking steins. This band is clearly not a studio outfit for hire but deeply addicted to the contact high that only playing live audiences and taking calculated stage risks rewards with. If Zeus had been a Klezmer, Consensus would have been his hammer. "Hush, don't make noise - the rabbi's dancing". Jawohl!