KOL SIMCHA

Though the name of this Swiss (yes, Swiss) klezmer quintet translates as “Voice of Joy,” it plays a brand of klezmer designed more for a concert hall than a village wedding reception. Kol Simcha tempers the wildness of eastern European folk song with both its watchmaker’s precision and its unusual instrumentation. Traditional klezmer bands always starred a violin, but in the 20th century it was joined and then replaced by a clarinet. The modern klezmer revival, heavily influenced by jazz, has seen the addition of other instruments–trumpet and sax in the Klezmatics, electric guitar and tuba in Naftule’s Dream–and one band, the nicely bent Hasidic New Wave, uses neither violin nor clarinet, severing those explicit ties completely. Kol Simcha pairs clarinet with flute, of all things–a combination that references the wind quintets of Mozart, not the raucous Catskills band of Mickey Katz. And the piano-bass-drums rhythm section tastefully weaves voicings derived from Bill Evans and Herbie Hancock among threads of Bach and Debussy, making Kol Simcha nothing less than a chamber-jazz ensemble–klezmer’s answer to the Modern Jazz Quartet. Their range, displayed on their latest, Crazy Freilach (Claves), reflects their ambition: a piece called “Jerusalem” has a Spanish tinge to its harmonic movement and a bolero drumbeat; “Joseph” mirrors Brahms and Mingus in the measured deliberation of its theme; and the self-explanatory “Speedy Hora” revs up the traditional celebratory dance to a tempo that makes dancing impossible, a reminder of the way the beboppers transformed jazz from dance-club sound track into concert art. Wednesday, 7 PM, Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; 312-744-6630. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.