Isle of Klezbos Play a City Winery Show Worth Waking Up For

by delarue

The Sunday morning/early afternoon klezmer brunch concert concept didn’t originate at City Winery. That venue stole the idea from Tonic, the late, well-loved Lower East Side venue with the leaky roof that closed in 2006 and was razed within months to make room for a mostly vacant “luxury” condo tower. Tonic was doing klezmer brunch shows as far back as the fall of 2001, when Isle of Klezbos played one of them. If memory serves right, that edition of the irrepressibly tuneful, mostly-female, klezmer/latin/jazz jamband – a more improvisational spinoff of cinematic NYC institution Metropolitan Klezmer – featured Rachelle Garniez on accordion along with founder Eve Sicular on drums, Melissa Fogarty on vocals, Debra Kreisberg on clarinet and sax and Pam Fleming on trumpet. Who the bass player was is a mystery. Yeah, you’d think that with a band that works such a slinky groove, that person’s contribution would leave a mark, but that position in the group has been something of a revolving door and after thirteen years, memories of a hungover late Sunday morning spent leaning on the bar and wishing for a seat get fuzzy- it may have been early, but the show was crowded. Anyone who might wish they could have seen that show – it was a good one – can check out the band when they do it again this Sunday, August 17 starting at around 11 in the morning at City Winery. Cover is $10, there’s no minimum purchase and kids 12 and under get in free.

If more recent memory serves right, Isle of Klezbos’ previous New York show  was a deliriously fun, free outdoor performance in a 12th Street community garden right before the Fourth of July weekend. This edition of the band was pretty much the same, Shoko Nagai adding sepulchral swirls, pointillistic punches and jaunty chords on accordion. How has Isle of Klezbos changed over the years? They’re doing psychedelic cumbias now, really fun ones, like an acoustic, horn-driven Chicha Libre. Fleming introduced one of those tunes as a brooding reggae song, more or less, then the band took it in more Colombian direction before taking a spin back toward Jamaica. The other was a gorgeously ominous number that built suspensefully to a long, joyous Kreisberg clarinet solo.

Fleming’s Middle Eastern-flavored Revery in Hijaz was especially tasty, the trumpeter finally pulling the band out of a haunting groove to an apprehensively triumphant crescendo. The band also aired out long, expansive versions of Sicular’s towering, rollercoastering narrative East Habsburg Waltz, a couple of somber-then-frantic wedding dances, took their time through a brief, murky bass-and-clarinet duo take of what sounded like Summertime and then a brisk, bouncy tango that gave Fogarty a launching pad to climb to the top of her stratospheric range. And that was just the first set. It would have been fun to stick around for the second, but by then the mosquitoes had come out in full force and the beer had run out – at least this blog’s supply, anyway. Neither of those factors should be an issue at City Winery.