4.0 Stars

The London Gypsy klezmer band find their studio groove.

She’Koyokh, the London band who take their name from a Yiddish greeting, are a brilliant live ensemble who effortlessly blend musical flavours from Turkey to Poland while never sounding forced. And where previous She’Koyokh albums have failed to capture the band’s dynamic, First Dance on Second Avenue comes much closer, emphasizing the band’s warmth and diversity. Album opener ‘Second Avenue Square Dance’ hooks listeners with Susi Evans’ seductive clarinet intro and throughout the album there are passages of fierce, inspired playing: Matt Bacon squeezes out sparks on guitar then conjures beautifully eerie sounds on kaval (a long thin flute), Meg Hamilton’s violin shrieks, weeps and riffs hard, Christina Borgenstierna skillfully works an array of percussion and vocalists Çiğdem Aslan and Živorad Nikolić excel both on solo numbers and in witty duets. Nikolić also plays a tasty accordion.

The music performed ranges from New York-style klezmer, Turkish Ladino styles and Albanian kaba (solo violin with drone) to imaginative interpretations of songs from the repertoires of Bulgaria’s Ivo Papasov and Serbia’s Šaban Bajramović. The only fault I can find here is the band’s reliance on uptempo numbers when the most powerful (and memorable) tunes are the slow burners ‘Amani on Komitas Krung’ and ‘Sila Kale Bal’. First Dance on Second Avenue is a musical feast: tuck in.

Garth Cartwright