Alula, 1038
label website

Ensemble FisFüz. An enigmatic name. 'Fis' is German for f-sharp, 'füz' could be a hip spelling of 'füße' - "Feet in F-sharp" then? SimSim stands for sesame in an undisclosed Oriental language. Combine Annette and Wolfgang Maye of Germany's northern-most state of Schleswig-Holstein on clarinet and cello/bass respectively; Iraqi-origin but Berlin native Karim Othman-Hassan on oud; and Turkish percussionist Murat Coşkun - and you have hip instrumental eclecticism that celebrates Klezmer derivative forms with Turkish, Greek, Armenian and Arab folklore filled with danceable rhythms hinting at those füße.

Thematically, SimSim's related to Dhafer Youssef's work on Enja and also Tarik Banzi's Genetic Memories with his Al-Andalus ensemble. However, here the two distinct soloists are clarinet and oud. The blackwood is played with typically German woodsy tone, without vibrato and hence distinct from the French ideal or the American crossover star Richard Stoltzman and Jazz demon Eddie Daniels. While the oud avoids the heavy metal bravado of certain speed freak masters and goes for a more lyrical vein, the clarinet displays a considerable amount of legato and trill chops. Occasionally veering into Giora Feidman 'talking clarinet' antics, it mostly remains a unique syntax benefitting from much prior work with the Clarinet Funtet that was devoted to experimental Klezmer.

Further stylistic parallels for SimSim can be found in the work of Hewbrew/Arabic fusion group Bustan Abraham and Simon Shaheen's hybrid chamber music. Like them, SimSim is musicians' music rather than easy listening fare. Not challenging but intricate, not forboding but intelligent, it's the equivalent of sophisticated Jazz which usually appeals to an audience with a considerable investment of exposure, sympathy and musical activism. It's explorative, semi-improvisational, playful and different, like the cultural mélange of one of NYC's famous immigrant boroughs. Consider this ensemble then as musical ambassadors. They connect the vivaciousness of Klezmer with the off-beat rhythms and bardic elements of Middle-Eastern vernacular.