The Baltimore Sun
If you’re thinking “I’ve never heard of this guy, but he sure looks familiar”, perhaps it’s because Howard Leshaw was featured in the PBS special “In the Fiddler’s House”, about Itzhak Perlman’s journey to discover the roots of Klezmer. Or maybe you saw him soloing on Broadway in the Tony nominated musical “Those Were the Days”. Then again, perhaps you caught him leading the orchestra for Joel Grey in his “Music of Mickey Katz,” or on stage with one of the several jazz and klezmer bands with whom he travels the world, appearing in concert halls, jazz clubs and every venue in between. He has also been featured on Jewish recordings by artist as diverse as Bruce Adler, Debbie Friedman, Eleanor Reisa, Phyllis Berk, Paul Zim and the Original Klezmer Jazz Band – not to mention on his own popular recording of Yiddish favorites “Howard Leshaw and The Golden Land Klezmer Orchestra”.
If you were in Thailand last April, you would have seen Howie (as he is generally known) electrify the crowd at a major jazz festival when he put down his sax, picked up his clarinet and played the first ‘doina’ ever heard in that part of the world. But then again, if you’re at all familiar with Leshaw’s legendary virtuosity as a player of both jazz and klezmer, you wouldn’t have been a bit surprised. Howie’s prominence in the world of jazz is undeniable and the liberal dose of swing he applies to traditional Yiddish music is all it takes to make listeners both old and new sit up and take notice.
His approach to the music is that of a contemporary American musician. Rather than trying to recreate that nostalgic sound of old records, he attempts to reveal how the Klezmer masters of yesteryear might sound if they were alive and playing today. With a band comprised of top-notch New York City jazz players who combine superb musicianship with genuine improvisatory flair, Howie and friends have mixed together a unique combination of musical imagination, ethnic integrity and simple, straight-forward virtuosity that regularly leaves audiences breathlessly begging for more.
“Jazz by any other name is still Jazz,” intones Howie, bearing in mind that klezmer was to its originators what Be-Bop is to the players of today. Howie and friends have discovered that rare and special place where the past and present meet, shake hands, then produce the kind of musical energy that always raises the roof.
Howard Leshaw Quartet: Shadow Song (2004) // LINK