Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Janet Klein and Her Parlor Boys: Obscure, Naughty, and Lovely Music

Janet KleinI've always had a thing for traditional jazz and ragtime. While not lacking in artistry, it lacks a lot of artistic pretension. It conjures, to me at least, a saloon with sawdust covered floors and piano keeping things lively. There's more than nostalgia to it. There's a certain sense of humor and joy to it that is missing in a lot of contemporary music. (I love klezmer for that reason, as well). I'm clearly not the only one. There are no shortage of traditional jazz and ragtime festivals and a small but steady stream of nutty cross-over bands (The Squirrel Nut Zippers and the What Cheer? Brigade come to mind), not to mention wild Balkan brass band's such as the Boban Markovic Orkestar (you haven't heard Hava Nagila until you hear Markovic's version.)

Janet Klein clearly loves traditional jazz, reveling in the off-color stories as much as the blue notes. And her take on Jewish vaudeville songs is spot on. Klein, in a 2006 interview by Jazz Not Jazz explains it like this...
"...I was fairly disconnected and discontented with contemporary culture and retreated to my dad’s painting studio where he had a great record collection and a nice bohemian atmosphere. I was more comfortable around my parents, grandparents and great aunts than with other kids my own age. They told me great stories about New York in the 1930s-50s and about their experiences in the “Old Country”, i.e. Poland."
Here are two of Klein's Jewish pieces. Fabulous.

Janet Klein and Her Parlor Boys - Yiddish Hula Boy

Janet Klein sings, "Cohen Owes Me Ninety-Seven Dollars"

For more info and to pick up one of her six albums, check Klein's website.

Hat tip to the Klezmershack mailing list for pointing me to Klein.

1 comment:

tdub1941 said...

I ejoyed this excellent article about Janet Klein. She is such a delightful entertainer.
Thanks for posting her videos!
tdub1941 RagJazzMonkey Tom Warner