Local klezmer ensemble debuts in June


Will Soll of the The U. City Klezmer Experience. Photo by Bill Motchan

Bill Motchan , Special to the Jewish Light

A newly formed klezmer band will perform its debut concert on June 11 at The Focal Point in Maplewood. The U. City Klezmer Experience is an ensemble group of talented musicians led by Will Soll, who plays guitar and mandolin. Rounding out the band will be Gabe Segal (clarinet, saxophone), Alyssa Avery (fiddle), Shlomo Ovadya (percussion) and Andy Curry (bass).

The concert will cover a wide array of klezmer music, from traditional wedding music to songs of city life. Soll is a student of the Torah, Yiddish and many forms of music. The name of the group came from his home in University City. Clarinetist Segal lives just a few blocks from him.

“I liked the idea of a name with ‘klezmer experience,’ and I wanted to make it a little different,” Soll said. “We have 40% of the band here and we get a general U. City vibe.”

Klezmer music is an up-tempo form of music that grew out of Central and Eastern Europe by Ashkenazi Jews. It is influenced by a number of other musical genres, including Greek, Romanian and Slavic folk dance. The Focal Point is a roots music listening room that hosts a wide range of music. Judy Stein, a Focal Point volunteer, said the listening room is eager to share klezmer music with a wider audience.

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“Klezmer is interesting because it’s tied to so many different music forms,” Stein said. “There is jazz in it and eastern European music, there’s middle eastern influence, which is very cool, and makes it a really interesting art form.”

The U. City Klezmer Experience will be performing a variety of covers and original tunes, Soll said. 

“We’ll be doing some contemporary music, some old world and some Hasidic,” he said. “Klezmer is the cornerstone, but there’s a broader aspect which is Yiddish culture as a whole and that has so much to offer. Anytime you have a chance to tap into Yiddish culture, that’s a really great thing”

Soll said the first rehearsal of the U. City Klezmer Experience sounded great, which he credited with the caliber of the band members. Segal has played with the Schmaltz Street Klezmer Band and Jumbo Knish Factory. Avery is co-founder of the St. Louis String Collective. Ovadya has toured nationally and played klezmer with the Ottoman Underground. And Curry is a veteran performer and composer-in-residence at Congregation B’nai Amoona.

“I’m just very impressed with the quality of musicians we’ve put together,” Soll said. “I’m hoping that more people will catch the klezmer bug as part of this.”

U. City Klezmer Experience

WHEN: 2 p.m. Sunday, June 11 (doors open at 1:30)
WHERE:  The Focal Point, 2720 Sutton Blvd., Maplewood
HOW MUCH: $15-$20
MORE INFO:  Visit Focal Point Online.