But lest you think that this is academic, brain music, just tune into Gabe Bolkosky's deeply expressive solo on "Ma Navu." You find yourself leaning forward, almost expecting to understand the notes, as though the violin were calling to you in your mother tongue. And later you find yourself singing along with him on the "Der Audience Participation" song, finding that yes, you can scat sing in Yiddish! Then there are the dazzling exchanges between Pardo's clarinet and Bolkosky's violin, bringing to mind an imaginary 1930s jam session with Benny Goodman and Stephane Grappelli. If the Firefly had a dance floor, we'd all be on our feet, stomping out a grapevine to "Mayim." Lacking that, we sway in our seats, pounding our heels, rhythmically clapping with drummer Michael Gabelman and bassist Andrew Ktratzat's syncopated klezmer beats.
As eclectic as all this sounds, Into the Freylakh is, actually, solidly in the klezmer tradition. Klezmer has always traded with the musical cultures that surrounded it. The klezmorim of old listened to the folk and classical music of Eastern Europe. Immigrant klezmer musicians, transplanted to the New World in the early twentieth century, listened to Tin Pan Alley, Dixieland, and swing. Today's klezmer practitioners are often conservatory trained (all the members of Into the Freylakh are current or former U-M music students) and listen to modern classical composers and Coltrane.