Klezmer Nut

Self-proclaimed Jewish Christian Sandy Weltman pushes the limits of klezmer without diluting its soul

Weltman engineered, produced and arranged the album completely on his own in his simple but effective home studio in Lafayette Square. On one original composition, "Dancing Sheik to Sheik," he plays harmonicas, electric banjo, mandolin, riq, kanjira, dumbek and bass. But Klezmer Nuthouse finally succeeds through the skills and imagination of some of St. Louis' finest musicians on the roots, classical and jazz scenes. Janis Rieman, Carolbeth True, Brian McCary, Tom Murphy, Mike Tiefenbrun, Thayne Bradford, Dave Black, Gary Hunt, Vince Corkery, Ali Soltanshahi, Mark Holland, Beth Tuttle, Bob Breidenbach and Michelle De Fabio all contribute. At the Sheldon this Thursday, many of these musicians and others will again tackle these demanding, fascinating tunes. Some proceeds from the concert, as well as from the sale of CDs, will be given to HISKIDS, a charity that works with families affected by childhood cancer.

Although klezmer bands aren't about to dominate the St. Louis scene -- Yidn, which gigs occasionally at Brandt's, is one of the few working klezmer groups in town -- the music has seen a recent revival. "About 10 years ago," Weltman says, "the first klezmer band that really knocked me out was the Boston Klezmer Conservatory band. The melodies, man, it just stirred something inside of me. It felt like Jewish soul music -- the equivalent of a Celtic air, only for Jewish people. But for many years, klezmer was associated with poor immigrants to this country. I don't know if they were ashamed, but many people didn't want to be associated with it. It reminded them of their troubles. Then, in the '70s, there was a new generation who discovered the musical aspects of it without the associations. There's so much klezmer music out there. It's kinda like bluegrass. There's a standard repertoire, and some groups may do it the standard way, but then others will do it in a wild way. You can't keep a tradition boxed in; it'll die."

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