“Seriously, how can you not pay attention to a futuristic klezmer band that has it’s grooves informed by Hasidic new wave? … Wildly world beat, it’s a sure fire gasser for anyone that likes grooves from elsewhere that march to their own beat.” Chris Spector, Midwest Record
To be thrown “into the fray” is to enter an intense situation. Fray is also a Yiddish word meaning “Free”; an apropos double-entendre with the on-point application. Queen Kong’s debut album, Fray, was created during tumultuous times and perilous futures, seeking inspiration and paths forward rooted in the rich tradition of klezmer music. During a time of unraveling, Fray is a unifying statement, merging myriad influences to create something unique.
Queen Kong, led by drummer Lorie Wolf does not play traditional klezmer per se–or at least, not as Queen Kong, which focuses on Wolf’s original material. (Most of the members moonlight in Horah Machine, a popular Toronto Jewish wedding band.) Queen Kong’s collective CV spans Balkan punk, hip-hop brass, classical ensembles, reggae, traditional jazz and Brazilian psych-rock, while Fray also features the contributions of NYC klezmer clarinet wizard Michael Winograd. Their uniting musical influence is the world of veteran New York City composer John Zorn, whose eclectic Masada and Bar Kokhba projects aim to create a new klezmer canon of “radical Jewish culture” drawing from all sorts of disparate musical influences. That’s Queen Kong’s template as well.
Amidst the intensely melodic and rhythmically complex originals, Wolf sings torchy lead vocals on “Di Zun Vet Aruntergeyn,” which she explains is “a poem written before the Holocaust and later set to music and recorded by the Klezmatics in 1988.” Wolf’s originals move through off-kilter syncopation (“Bethema,” featuring cellist Beth Silver), Jewish jazz (“If/Then”), mournful moments (“Kaddish for Johnny,” arranged by Frank London), pizzicato-punctuated Balkan funk (“East 3rd and C”) and more. Queen Kong will perform at various festivals this spring and summer including Jewish Music Week, Toronto Jazz Festival and various venues around and outside town and will be looking forward to a fall tour of 2022.