Frank London & Marsh Dondurma at Beit Avi Chai

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The “Tzadik Label” jazz series at Beit Avi Chai in Jerusalem came to a wonderful close on Thursday night, when New York klezmer trumpeter Frank London and Jerusalem-based Marsh Dondurma took the stage for two hours of pure instrumental pleasure.

The previous two shows in the “Tzadik Label” jazz series were met with a great deal of enthusiasm and excitement, and rightly so. The atmosphere prior to this third and final show was one of great expectations, and the performers did not fail to deliver. Marsh Dondurma’s world/jazz/funk heritage blended in perfectly with London’s unique klezmer abilities, and gave the crowd a very enjoyable and memorable experience.

Marsh Dondurma/Photo: Noga Cohen Alloro

“We’re here to present the fruits of the recent time in which we have been collaborating,” said percussionist and band leader Dotan Yogev. The show included works from the repertoire of both acts, with new arrangements for several of London’s previous pieces, courtesy of Marsh Dondurma. On several occasions, London set down the trumpet and skillfully conducted the 15-piece band.

The performance was held in Beit Avi Chai’s courtyard with perfect weather conditions, and included a stand selling food and beverages of all kinds. There were seats set up in front of the stage, but there was also plenty of room left for those who wished to dance (a fact which many people took full advantage of.) The audience was made up of couples and families, young and old, English and Hebrew speakers, religious and secular. The crowd’s diversity greatly complemented the music, and mirrored the different influences and backgrounds which came together to make the evening happen.

Frank London

“One of the unique things about doing these kinds of projects,” London said, ”Is that I get to work on new pieces and perform new arrangements of older pieces.” One of the more interesting numbers was ‘Waiting for Godot,’ written by London, which drew on Samuel Becket’s play by the same name. It stood out from the rest of the show in its composition and offbeat flow, and gave the evening a little avant-garde tint. As London said with a grin to the dozens who, up until ‘Godot’, were dancing next to the stage: “That was the challenging part of the show.”

Other pieces which stood out were the band’s adaptation of Alon Olearchik’s ‘Ba Lashchuna Bachur Chadash’ (New kid on the block, as a band member said), which got almost everyone in the crowd clapping from the first chord, and the Chassidic melodies which were played throughout the show. The age-old nigunim were taken to new heights due to the presence of such a large group of talented musicians. London, in the true spirit of klezmer, played a few very heartfelt solos, where you could hear the prayer within the melody and vice versa.

At the end of the evening, and after a 20-minute encore, the band left the stage and slowly got around to leaving the courtyard. One of the greatest advantages of being a marching band is that you can march in and out at your leisure without ever stopping the music. It was a performance which definitely left the audience wanting more.