February 2008

The Flying Bulgars
February 9, 2008 Al Green Theatre Toronto
Bulgar Salad
by Tova G. Kardonne with photos by Mike Colyer
Twenty years ago The Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band (now The Flying Bulgars) made their debut on the Toronto scene, and on Saturday, February 8 at the Al Green Theatre in the MNJCC, they celebrated by looking back, looking forward, looking around. Led by trumpeter and composer David Buchbinder, the show was a fat and fabulous mix of old traditionals, the traditional-ish with variations, and a kind of new folk music with English lyrics, but in the klezmer idiom and sticking to the traditional themes of joy-within-angst-in-this-crazy-world that is just so Yiddish.

We were not allowed to dance. This was bound to cause trouble. The band said dance, the theatre said don’t dance, there was some negotiation, and in the end, those who simply had to dance got away with some fairly boisterous in-chair self-expression. It was a typical compromise that way. What was also typical were the couple-or-three oblique references to international politics that are harmless enough if you agree with their gist or are able to ignore them, but are nonetheless graceless.

With Dave Wall on vocals, Tania Gill on piano, Victor Bateman on bass and Max Sennit on drums, and guest appearances by Rick Lazar among others, the ensemble was heavy with skill and locked together beautifully, but the stand-out performance for me was from Peter Lutek on clarinet. The range and dexterity of his playing, as well as its idiomatic authenticity, was truly thrilling and his every entry raised the intensity of the tune in play.

Buchbinder, a real trooper, took the stage and performed well despite a raging fever, and with an audience peppered with former band members and family (“Daddy!” the little-girl’s voice bubbled up from the reserved section), it was a celebration and an inside joke and a skillfully played concert rolled into one.

David Buchbinder

Peter Lutek
We welcome your comments and feedback
Tova G. Kardonne
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Mike Colyer
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The Live Music Report

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