Jim Guttmann’s Bessarabian Breakdown
Klezmer Conservatory Band bassist Jim Guttmann brings his own group, Bessarabian Breakdown, to the NYC Klezmer Series at the Jalopy Theatre on May 11. The group’s repertoire is an exciting, eclectic excursion through klezmer music ranging from traditional performances to fusions that stay true to their idioms. The music is an expression of Guttmann’s love of many kinds of music
— jazz, funk, Afro-Cuban — bound together by traditional klezmer melodies learned in his decades long career with the Klezmer Conservatory Band, and showcases his approach to these different kinds of music both as an ensemble player and as a soloist. While generously featuring Jim’s bass playing, the thrust of the evening’s presentation is the wide array of arrangements and the power of the ensemble’s performances.
This incarnation of the band includes New Yorkers Jeremy Brown, violin, Alec Spiegelman, clarinet and tenor sax, Alex Kontorovich, clarinet and baritone sax, Jordan Hirsch, trumpet and reunites pianist, accordionist and arranger Art Bailey with KCB members Mark Hamilton on trombone and Grant Smith, drums & percussion.
Jim’s career has taken him from smoky dives to Carnegie Hall. As a founding member the Klezmer Conservatory Band, Jim has performed and recorded with Itzhak Perlman and Joel Grey. Outside of KCB he has worked with Andy Statman, Klezmer Plus, The Tarras Band, Alicia Svigals’ Fiddle Express, Frank London and Strings, and Margot Leverett & the Klezmer Mountain Boys and was on staff at Klez Kamp for over 20 years. Outside of klezmer Jim has performed in a wide range of idioms, working with singers Eartha Kitt and Mark Murphy, Mimi Rabson’s Really Eclectic String Quartet (RESQ), Boston’s legendary string band Cheap Trills, blues masters Johnny Shines and James Cotton, the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, Texas swing legend Tiny Moore, new acoustic music guitar virtuoso Russ Barenberg, jazz & bluegrass fiddle wizard Matt Glaser, the Artie Shaw Orchestra, and many more.
In 2010, Guttmann released Bessarabian Breakdown, his first CD as a leader on Kleztone Records. Surrounding himself with current and former members of the KCB, as well as friends from throughout his career, he leads various ensembles through a program that reflects his many interests. As with the May 11 show at the Jalopy Theatre, album features straight-ahead celebratory klezmer, as well as fusions of klezmer with different jazz styles, R&B, Afro-Cuban music, and other unexpected but danceable, hybrids.
Reviews of the group’s recording “Bessarabian Breakdown:
“Those of us who know Jim Guttmann, musically and personally, can only expect top quality in everything he does. His newest CD, featuring himself and many of the foremost players in the field, satisfies in every way. From traditional klez to funk and Mingus Ah-Um, it’s all there —the stuff is here, and it’s mellow!!” —–Pete “Klezmer Fats” Sokolow, musician extraordinaire
“On ‘Bessarabian Breakdown,’ Jim Guttmann has assembled an all-star cast of klezmer talent that brings back that wonderful sense of rediscovering a warm, familiar friend infusing the best of the klezmer revival-era recordings of the 1970s and ’80s. These virtuosos also explore the affinity among klezmer, Latin and world rhythms with convincing authenticity and integrity.” —–Seth Rogovoy, author, “The Essential Klezmer: A Music Lover’s Guide to Jewish Roots and Soul Music”