Dance Time (Bulgarian Style)

Rex 2008

[creeeeaaaakkkkk] That’s the sound of the vault opening again. This time, we go back to 2008 and one of our most exciting performances at Toronto’s venerable jazz club, The Rex.

In 2008, we played The Rex for the second time, not knowing what to expect. Our first performance there was a late afternoon on Superbowl Sunday in 2007 (in February for those non-football fans) which just happened to be the coldest day of the year. Needless to say that while there was a decent crowd for the first set, most had gone to watch the big game by the time the second set was through.

The gig in May of 2008 definitely had some better weather but we were also a little worried knowing that it was Victoria Day, the Monday of a long weekend in Canada. Would people stay for the first set (starting around 9pm) and then head home because they had to work the next morning?

We were more than pleasantly surprised by the fact that The Rex had a packed house that night. People stayed and danced, and we actually ended up playing past 1am and adding a third set to our show. It was one of our best experiences in a club gig anywhere thanks to the enthusiastic crowd that kept wanting more.

I wrote this tune, inspired by a very obscure recording that was given to me around 1998 or 2000 by clarinetist Jan Hermerschmidt. He was in Toronto playing at the Ashkenaz Festival with Aufwind, an German klezmer band that started playing Jewish music in East Berlin in the late 1980s. I was speaking to Hermerschmidt after the concert and, at the time, I was just getting started playing klezmer and the clarinet. He gave me a CD called Kete Kuf by another band he was in, called Ahava Raba. (The CD is available on John Zorn’s Tzadik label.)

The song Kopanitja captured my imagination and the odd metre intrigued me (as did Hermerschmidt’s clarinet playing). I actually started writing a tune based on the Kopanitja on that album but it remained unfinished for many years. While doing my PhD coursework, I took a course on Eastern European music and the section on Bulgarian music reinforced this fascination with the music and I took a stab at returning to the Kopanitsa that I had started many years before. The Bulgarian Dance (Kopanitsa) was the end result of that long gestation period!

Here’s the latest video from the KlezFactor vaults!

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