The Jewish Music Festival opened a four-night run at the Knitting Factory on Tuesday with a rousing set of tunes from Hollywood Klezmer. Although the group's glitzy name may have suggested otherwise, the program had a solidly traditional quality.
And that was just fine for the moderate-sized but highly enthusiastic crowd, who reacted in spirited fashion to numbers that embraced such pop-derived numbers as "And the Angels Sing" and "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen." By the time the opening set reached its closing, a circle of dancers had filled the center of the main stage arena, spontaneously creating their versions of traditional dances.
In addition to its familiar items, Hollywood Klezmer added a few more unusual selections, including a self-described "Middle Eastern" piece, as well as numbers with Sephardic and Greek qualities. But for the most part, the five-piece ensemble steered clear of the sort of musical trailblazing by groups such as the Klezmatics and Brave Old World.
The ensemble's musical focus was largely determined by clarinetist Leo Chelyapov, who together with guitarist Jordan Charnofsky and bassist Larry Steen make up the core of Hollywood Klezmer, adding other musicians (in this case drums and accordion) as needed.