Klezmer Melodies, Reggae Vibe

Published: August 27th 2010
in Culture » Music


The Ashkenaz Festival is known for bringing renowned musicians from around the world to Toronto. But they didn’t have to look very far for one band in particular.


Zebrina includes some of Toronto’s leading jazz players. The group features a mix of young musicians who’ve played for a number of local jazz and klezmer bands, including Jonathan Kay (Monsoon), drummer Colin Kingsmore (Elizabeth Shepherd Trio), guitarist Joel Schwartz (The Outlanders), bassist Bret Higgins (Beyond the Pale), Max Senitt from the Flying Bulgars and Jon Feldman (keyboards). 


The band started with Feldman and Higgins, who met at the University of Toronto while studying jazz. “We had a common vision for starting a band to play sort of progressive Jewish music,” says Feldman.


Feldman had an idea of which musicians he wanted in the band and slowly but surely, Zebrina was formed. He was introduced to klezmer music a few years ago, playing with a group in Hamilton. “There’s just something about it that really resonates with me,” shares the musician. “In a way, it makes me feel Jewish.”


However, Zebrina doesn’t just play klezmer music. The group fuses klezmer with jazz, reggae and latin music. “The original klezmer music has a certain feel to it and what we wanted to do was take those melodies but make it feel more contemporary,” says Feldman.


Feldman has more than one reason to be excited to perform at the Ashkenaz Festival. Aside from this being his first time playing there, Feldman is bringing in acclaimed clarinet/saxophone player Alex Kontorovitch to perform with the band. Zebrina will also release the band’s debut CD at the festival. “We have a CD that we just recorded and we were lucky to get a grant from the Ontario Art Council…That’s a big deal for us,” he says.


The band plays regularly in venues across Toronto, including the Tranzac and Free Times Cafe. “The Tranzac’s a cool spot because we seem to be able to let loose and really be ourselves,” says Feldman.


They'll be playing a free concert at the Ashkenaz festival on Sept. 5 at 5 p.m. on the Sirius Stage, Harbourfront Centre. For more information visit www.ashkenazfestival.com. To check out their music and a list of upcoming performances, visit www.myspace.com/zebrina.

Related articles: (Zebrina, klezmer, music, Ashkenaz Festival, Ashkenaz)

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