Jim Guttmann’s debut CD, Bessarabian Breakdown (Kleztone Records), has been a long time coming. The 62-year-old bassist has been the anchor man of the renowned Klezmer Conservatory Band since its inception, and has played everything from klezmer to jazz to bluegrass to classical with a diverse array of musicians, including singers Eartha Kitt and Mark Murphy, blues masters Johnny Shines and James Cotton, Texas swing legend Tiny Moore, acoustic-guitar virtuoso Russ Barenberg, the Artie Shaw Orchestra, and Jaki Byard’s Apollo Stompers. But he’d never recorded his own CD.
In fact, one day it dawned on him that no other bass player in klezmer music had led a recording date. So he began assembling his favorite tunes and favorite musicians. Bessarabian Breakdown, released April 9, features 19 top-shelf musicians, including trumpeter Frank London, clarinetist Billy Novick, violinist Mimi Rabson and guitarist/mandolinist Brandon Seabrook. The result is a joyful collection of 11 tunes ranging from “Philadelphia Sher,” a traditional Jewish dance tune featuring raucous New Orleans Mardi Gras abandon by a horn-heavy 10-piece ensemble, to Guttmann’s unaccompanied solo version of Naftule Brandwein’s “Firn Di Mekhutonim Aheym.”
The CD is getting a warm reception so far, says Guttmann. “One radio show host wrote telling me that when he listens to the CD it makes him feel like dancing.”
Photo credit: Randy Goodman