Knitting on the Roof

Knitting on the Roof

Various Artists

JAM / Knitting Factory

This tribute to the music of Fiddler on the Roof best expresses the fundamentals of JAM — Jewish Alternative Movement. It’s all too easy to pigeonhole proponents of modern Jewish music into the category of Klezmer revivalists and obtuse instrumentalists, but the cast of players on here proves the contrary. Sure, there’s the expected appearances by the New Orleans Klezmer Allstars (“Tradition”) and Naftue’s Dream (“To Life”), but there are also some interesting contributions from the unexpected. Magnetic Fields’ rendition of “If I Were a Rich Man” is supremely dour, featuring Stephin Meritt’s basso profundo voice accompanied only by a diligently strummed mandolin. Jill Sobule presents a melancholy “Sunrise, Sunset.” The rest of the album is a stunning array of unexpected twists. The Residents adapting “Matchmaker” to their sick circus parade sound, Negativland’s brilliant slice-and-dice “Tevye’s Dream,” Dr. Eugene Chadbourne’s disintegrating banjo avalanche on “Miracle of Miracles.” Come’s “Do You Love Me?” is a fractured telephone conversation, and David S. Ware’s “Far From The Home I Love” is an inspired saxophone frenzy. The cross-pollination of a Broadway musical about Russian Jewry and the talents on the bleeding edge is an experiment that could have ended in tragedy but instead results in an inspired portrait of the state of Jewish music today. Inspiring and multi-faceted, Knitting on the Roof will pop your top and stir its contents.

Knitting Factory Works, 74 Leonard St., New York, NY 10013; http://www.knittingfactory.com/

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