YID!YID! promised to take “centuries-old Yiddish songs” and present them in a variety of musical styles, from 1930s Big Band to modern-day Electronica. The ensemble of 20+ musicians certainly achieved some memorable moments.

Jazz musician and composer Simon Starr, also one of the founders of the YID! project, described this offering as “Funkadelic style, John Zorn style, Talking Heads style Yiddish big band”.

There were a few distractions on this night. Very often, three apoplectic female backing singers were quite out of place, blocking the view of the musicians we wanted to see making their music. I was pleased when these barely-used singers were sent to the background after about 55 minutes of what seemed to be attempts to “pull focus”, and disappointed when they returned five minutes later.

The narration offered by a female ensemble member was all in Yiddish (I presume), and whilst a little German would help us understand “tanzen und trinken” (dancing and drinking), I suspect many gentiles would often have been clueless about the song introductions. Given this, why have the commentary at all in this setting?

The use of women described above was so tokenistic that it drew attention to itself. It was quite astounding in 2019 to see only one female musician amongst the ensemble. At times some of the tunes might have gone on too long with not enough novelty. But, that may have been due to technical issues, as there seemed to be frantic wrangling of cables on stage at times.

YID! felt a little restrained as a sit-down concert, and might have been more suited to a raucous club gig. The musicianship was certainly of a consistently high quality, and the ensemble showed themselves capable across a range of styles, from the subtleties of ballads to more energetic offerings.

Darebin Arts and Entertainment Centre, Corner Bell Street and St Georges Road, Preston
Performance: Tuesday 4 June 2019 – 7:30pm
Information: www.melbournejazz.com

Image: YID! (supplied)

Review: Jason Whyte