Boss Bulgar

Klezmer crew taps Jane Bunnett


Rating: NNNNN


THE FLYING BULGAR KLEZMER BAND AND JANE BUNNETT at the Isabel Bader Theatre (73 Queen’s Park Crescent East), Saturday (May 25), $16-$20. 416-504-7529.

David Buchbinder gets off on connecting the dots. The Toronto composer/trumpeter has spent his entire career finding common threads between Yiddish music and jazz, folk, Arabic music and a handful of other different sounds with a dozen different projects. No surprise, then, that in Buchbinder’s mind it makes absolute sense that the first major gig in almost a year by his Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band should be a collaboration with Cuba-obsessed Toronto saxophonist Jane Bunnett.

Even that would be too easy for the peripatetic cornetist, who usually has several different ideas fighting for his attention at any given moment, so Buchbinder’s structured the entire new Bulgars project around pre-war Yiddish beat poetry.

Bunnett’s presence on the marquee is slightly misleading — there won’t be any klezmer descargas or Yiddish versions of Guantanamera — but even if there were, Buchbinder insists it wouldn’t be such a stretch.

“The Afro-Cuban/Yiddish fusion thing actually does work,” he laughs. “I’ve put it into some klezmer tunes before, but there is a real kinship between the two musics. A lot of Cuban music can be traced back to Spain, and the core of Spanish music goes back to Arabs, Gypsies and Jews.

“Bringing those two together was my initial plan when I first started talking to Jane. But as the collaboration progressed, everyone in the band started writing, and the project completely shifted focus. It’s more like she’s sitting in with the Bulgars now than us trying to do some kind of fusion between our two sounds.”

Theatric and full of improvisation, the collaboration fits nicely within Buchbinder’s fascination with taking what he calls New Yiddish Music “beyond klezmer.” Midway through rehearsals, Buchbinder is confident that all the disparate elements of the project will come together, in part because of Bunnett’s experience playing other styles of music beyond jazz.

“When I started playing klezmer music, you had to really figure it out yourself the same goes with Jane and Cuban music,” Buchbinder explains. “People who’ve done that kind of thing have a sense of how to mould themselves into another sound in a way that straight-ahead jazz players, who just look for the notes, don’t.

“I would be happy if people went away and didn’t remember any individual solo or song, but were knocked out by the larger idea of it all.”mattg@nowtoronto.com

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