Klezmer meets Jazz

Schwäbische Post, 21. April 2010:

Klezmer meets Jazz

Ortner-Roberts Duo sparkled in the Synagogue

This is not the first time that Jewish klezmer melodies have been heard in the former Synagogue. But the unique manner in which the Ortner-Roberts Duo melded these tunes with American Jazz from the 20s through the 40s was truly astonishing. The audience in the sold-out house was completely enchanted.

Bopfingen-Oberdorf The German clarinetist Susanne Ortner along with her husband, the American pianist Tom Roberts, proved with their cleverly mixed arrangements and interpretations, that they are one-of-a-kind musicians, who created the illusion of a larger orchestra – especially when Tom played the drums with one hand while simultaneously playing complex passages with the other hand on the piano.

Their concert, called “Trip around the World”, had a wide range of music, culled from seemingly unrelated musical styles and cultures, in the manner of such klezmer bandleaders who incorporated jazzy melodies into their repertoire. In addition to klezmer and Harlem Stride they included Swing (from the legendary “Small Groups”), Calypso, Gypsy, and Tango – beloved melodies presented in a new beautiful garb. The music of Benny Goodman, Jelly Roll Morton, Artie Shaw, and Sidney Bechet evoked the thicksweet air of New Orleans or the glamour of a shimmering dancehall somewhere in Chicago or New York City.

The audience quickly fell under the spell of the stunning virtuosity of the two artists: Tom Roberts is acknowledged as one of the worlds leading Stride pianists, and performed at New Yorks Carnegie Hall, composed film music, and tours with famous Jazz bands throughout the world. For the past three years he tours with his wife Susanne, who gave up her teaching position (in Germany) and made a name for herself in the US with her expressive clarinet playing.

The mournful, longing Yiddish love song “Forges Mikh Nit” (Forget Me Not) is representative of her special commitment for remembrance: She teaches Jazz and Klezmer (…), she provides musical accompaniment for the stories of (Pittsburgh area) Holocaust survivor, and is a lecturer at schools and Universities.

The two exciting musicians received a standing ovation at the end of the concert.