The most exotic aroma from a 1980s UCLA coffee shop was the rich and diverse notes of klezmer.“I’d never heard music like that before,” Carla Chandler said, of her first exposure to the Jewish heritage music.
Yet, those strange notes were fleeting.
“In those days it just wasn’t as easy to buy music as today,” Chandler said.
So it wasn’t until 2006 that Chandler, a violin player since elementary school and old-timey fiddler, began a full immersion into klezmer, eventually devoting the band Gefilte Trout to it.
After an invitation to play at a Hanukkah party, Chandler said, she brushed up on some klezmer tunes, found some people who were interested and played the gig.
Since then Gefilte Trout has brought their ethnic stylings to the Moscow Farmers Market and Spokane Folk Festival among others, and to various weddings and parties. They played a show at the Dahmen Barn in Uniontown last year and will play again Saturday.
Their first album, “Moscow Klezmer,” came out in 2014 and was deemed a success by Chandler.
“We broke even,” she exclaimed.
The album can be sampled directly from Amazon. The first song, “Rumanian Bulgar,” is an exemplary klezmer track, says Chandler.
Klezmer is the folk music of the Ashkenazi Jews, originally of southeastern Europe.
Gefilte Trout’s instrumentation — one Chandler calls traditional because it omits the louder horns that shouldered in following klezmer’s trip across the Atlantic — includes: violin (Carla Chandler), percussion/vocals (Mary Donohoe), clarinet (Bill Voxman), guitar (Bill Thompson), mandolin (Bill Thomson), and bass (Greg Donohoe).
Klezmer derives much of its unique flavor through the use of minor scales, Chandler said.
“It’s like the emotional expression you would hear in a human voice,” she said.
The clarinet — and sometimes the violin — notes stand for an emotion like crying or laughing.
Despite a reliance on minor scales, commonly believed to be a gloomier set of notes in the West, klezmer music is played during weddings and other celebrations. As such, many of the klezmer tunes that survived are for dances like Horas or Bulgars.
Gefilte Trout’s own particular lore aligns with folk tradition.
They sing songs in Yiddish and Hebrew. “La Rosa Enflorese” (The Rose Blooms), is a centuries old song percussionist Donohoe sings in Ladino, the native tongue of the Jewish people of Spain.
There are tunes that borrow from other Eastern musical influences like the Roma.
The band name is a lighthearted melding of the distinctly Jewish with the familiar Idahoan symbol of the trout.
Loosely defined, folk music is the music of the people. Gefilte Trout is folk and it’s klezmer, and it’s uniquely Palouse.
Chandler recommends the Klezmer Conservatory Band and Hot Pstrami for anyone who’d like to brush up on the genre.
If You Go:
What: Gefilte Trout performs eastern European klezmer music
Where: The Dahmen Barn, Uniontown, W.A., 419 North Parkway
When: Saturday, Feb. 20, 7:30 p.m.