Tzadik Records’ Radical Jewish Culture releases often split the difference between jazz and klezmer. Both genres drag long canonical histories behind them like the train on a wedding dress. Both are easily innovated upon, prone to flights of improvisation, and adept at locating individual musicians in the midst of a vast history. Joel Rubin and Uri Caine on “Azoy Tsu Tsveyt” rarely stray far from the most essential trappings of their respective genres.
Though many of Tzadik’s albums mine the territory between klezmer and jazz, few show the seams of that synthesis quite as explicitly as Rubin and Caine. It’s not surprising. Whereas other albums often blur genre lines, Azoy clearly delineates where klezmer ends and jazz begins. Rubin, an ethnomusicologist and acclaimed klezmer musician, plays clarinet throughout the album. He riffs off of canonical 78 rpm recordings of klezmer star Naftule Brandwein’s own clarinet styling, such as on the opening to “Kiever.” His playing is skillful, adroit, and his instrument has a warm timbre. Caine’s playing, on a Fender Rhodes and Hammond Organ, is more playful.
Listen to ‘Kiever’: