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21 October 2008

Review: Taibele And Her Demon

Review: Taibele And Her Demon
Lorie Wolf

Mixing music with narrative storytelling is an unusual project to undertake these days, but Lorie Wolf’s Taibele and Her Demon breaks new ground, with new possibilities for us to ponder. The album takes its title from the Isaac Bashevis Singer short story about Taibele, a Jewish woman living in a shtetl in Poland, whose husband abandoned her after their three infant children had died of childhood disease. She is visited late one night by a widower from the shtetl who claims to be a Demon, saying he will destroy her if she does not do as he says.

The narrative on the album differs from the original story only in that it is told in the first person and is shortened. The accompanying music, all original compositions by Wolf, is interspersed with the story and sets the mood, much in the same way that a film score sets the mood and tone for each scene.

The music of Taibele And Her Demon is Contemporary Jazz, with some gorgeous harmonies and energetic improvisations. The one exception is Tango For Taibele, where Wolf explores the Jazz possibilities of the Tango, adding Accordion along with Violin as Taibele succumbs to the Demon. This is a perfect match of music and mood.

On Seven Wives, we hear some beautifully creepy music as the narrator tells us the evil characteristics of the Demon’s seven she-devil wives. The band gets a good workout here, with some great solos from the Bass, sleazy Trombone, Flute and Piano, and Violin/Clarinet duo.

On Demon Dance we are treated to Wolf’s solo turn on Drums, with subtle accompaniment from the Bass. The melody and rich harmonies are woven through the song, an uptempo tune that implies the Demonic joy of Hurmizah as he controls Taibele.

On the last track, So Be It, we hear the soft, sad, and melancholy side of Wolf’s writing style. Soulful Saxophone, Piano, and Bass ably convey the feelings of loss and sadness theat consume Taibele at the end of the story. The Piano solo is a fitting response to the mood of the piece.

My favorite track is Moonless Night, Where the narrator sets up the plot of the story leading up to the appearance of the Demon. Wolf writes what is for me the most memorable theme on the album, with her great harmonic fabric woven so ably by Flugelhorn and Sax. The simultaneous improvising by the two instruments behind the narrative lends much to the story line. Returning to the theme at the end, we are left with the beautiful harmony in our ears.

Alchonon is a more upbeat piece, with a nice groove, and some fine solos from the Violin, Bass, Trombone, and Soprano Sax. There are some places in this piece where you can sense a Jewish/Klezmer chord structure, along with some of the best Jazz on the album. This is some of the most creative music on the album.

The album sounds terrific, with a great mix throughout. On everything from my home theater to computer speakers all the instruments were clear and well-defined, down to the last detail of every bit of Wolf’s Drum kit. My personal preference on the narration would have been to use a bit more reverb, as the voice sounds a bit flat compared to the richness of the instruments. And there are some points where the voice is overwhelmed by the band. But these are fine points and in no way diminish the enjoyment of the experience.

The album is listed under the “Alternative” genre in the iTunes Music Store, and I suppose that is the most appropriate. This is one album that cannot be pigeonholed because it is really in a category by itself. Wolf and her band have done a wonderful job of exploring the boundaries of what we think of as Jewish music. Wolfe has put considerable effort into this project and it shows in the very high quality of the writing and the performance of everyone involved. Listening to the album compelled me to pull out my dusty volume of Singer’s works and take another look at this story. Now, I can’t read it without hearing Wolf’s melodies running through my head. And that is the sign of great music and the impact it can have on us. I highly recommend this album to anyone who has an interest in original Jewish music and the work of Singer. And those who secretly love Demons.

Keith Wolzinger
Klezmer Podcast

Taibele And Her Demon
Lorie Wolf

Track List:

1 Agunah
2 Moonless Night
3 Monologue I
4 Alchonon
5 Monologue II
6 Tango for Taibele
7 Monologue III
8 Seven Wives
9 Demon Dance
10 Monologue IV
11 So Be It

Lorie Wolf
LW MySpace
CD Baby

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