The Nu Haven Kapelye Bring Their Mighty, Majestic Sound to a Party in Red Hook
The klezmer and Celtic music worlds have a lot in common: there’s a cottage industry of party bands on every continent playing a lot of the same songs. The Nu Haven Kapelye distinguish themselves both with their lavishly orchestrated sound and eclectic taste, mining the depth of Jewish folk traditions around the globe with epic sweep and jazz chops. With a rotating cast of characters, they number as many as ten people onstage, and their instrumentation and arrangements are individualistic: this isn’t a bunch of old guys in suits reliving a past that never existed. They’re bringing their fiery, often exhilarating live show to the Jalopy on Dec 22 at 7;30 PM for the mostly-weekly klezmer extravaganza booked by erudite jazz drummer Aaron Alexander. Cover is $15; you can get there early and learn some dance steps, or bring your insrument for the late-night jam afterward for extra.
Their latest album – streaming at their merch page – is coyly titled What’s Nu? Nu…it’s awesome. They open it on the trad, Romany-via-Brooklyn tip with Ale Brider, which kicks off with a spiraling, brooding accordion intro and hits a joyous minor-key dance groove. Zor Mit Mame has clave slink, gorgeous Middle Eastern chromatics and stark, Hungarian folk-tinged violin trading off with an exuberantly acerbic horn section, and a smoky organ solo that sounds more like the Doorsy Balkanisms of Choban Elektrik than your typical klezmer.
A gazillion klezmer and swing bands play Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen – Nu Haven Kapelye make it fresh with a boisterous New Orleans flavor, a vivid, direct alto sax solo interpolated into its mighty swells as the women in the band join voices for a cheery vocal. Their Kiev Sher has epic orchestral majestry: with the swells of the strings rising and falling: it’s the kind of number that could get a whole wedding hall bouncing until the floor starts to wobble. Tasty, biting chromatic trombone and alto flute solos toward the end add extra advenaline.
Considering how much cross-pollination there’s been between Romany and Eastern European Jewish music over the ages, it makes sense that the group would give their signaure heft to a mighty take of Chiri Bim Bim. Gas Nign has a suspensefully waltzing pulse, darkly stately chromatics and a brooding, minutely nuanced trumpet solo.
With its explosive drums and almost frantic, brass-and-clarinet-fueled drive, a Ukrainian dance diptych sounds like the Klezmatics on steroids. The New Havenites’ version of Yosl, Yosl (they call it Joseph, Joseph) has a sexy swing fueled by Hedda Rubinstein’s expressive, melismatic vocals over punchy horns and warmly enveloping strings. The lavish version of klezmer clarinet legend Dave Tarras’ Dovidi Bazezt die Kalleh brings the mystery to a peak with swooshy, dramatic cymbals, plaintive flute and stark accordion; then the band blaze into an ecstatically swirling, slinky chromatic groove with elegantly intense flute, violin and sax solos.
With its swooping, dancing melody, explosive rhythm and boisterous exchanges between instruments, the Kostakovsky Bulgar has as much grandeur as scamper. Eliyahu Hanavi has pounding tradeoffs between the drums and a mighty hi-de-ho swing, a wicked blues violin solo; then the clarinet, flute and trombone take turns building to a blistering gospel-infused coda. It’s a real Battle of Jericho.
The album’s most expansive number is an anthem titled Gross – German and Yiddish for “big” – its combative psychedelic guitars amid the stormy orchestration bringing to mind the more stripped-down but similarly innovative Boston band Klezwoods, or Brooklyn metal band Greek Judas with strings..The bittersweetly waltzing and then pouncing final cut, Hora Midor di Romania again evokes the Klezmatics, who have a killer new album of their own just out. If minor keys, the irresistible chromatics of Eastern Europe and the Balkans and soulful jazz-quality playing are your thing, get to know this talented Connecticut crew. There’s nothing like an album like this to put a smile on your face and get you bouncing in your seat on an otherwise tortuous train ride home.