With a flair for lively showmanship grounded in perfected technique, Margot Leverett has become known as a master in the ever-expanding world of klezmer music.
Leverett's fingers began to master the clarinet during grade school. She went on to study classical music at Indiana University School of Music. While focusing on avant-garde music in New York City, 1985, she was asked by Frank London (trumpet) and Alicia Svigals (fiddle) to audition for a new band they were forming that became famous as the Klezmatics. Together with other bandmembers Dave Lindsay (bass), Rob Chavez (clarinet), Lorin Sklamberg (vocals, accordion), and David Licht (drums), they learned the sounds of klezmer from scratchy old 78s dubbed and re-dubbed onto poor cassette tapes. These were the only resources available prior to the klezmer revival, and they were found in attics and basements of the senior Jewish generations in the U.S. and Europe. Digging into old Eastern European roots for the klezmer sets of definite patterns (called "ornaments"), and infiltrating this structure with her own repertoire of laugh-like staccatos and wailing moans became Leverett's passion. She studied the works of klezmer master Shloymke Beckerman, and studied with his son, Sid Beckerman, carrying on the traditions of European klezmer from the '20s and '30s.
In 1989, Leverett appeared on Meshugge for You with the Mazletones, and she joined with Adrienne Cooper, Alicia Svigals (from the Klezmatics), Lauren Brody, and Nicki Parrott in 1999 as founding members of Mikveh. Leverett arranged and played clarinet for their CD, Mikveh, released in May, 2001. The album is a tribute to all the meaningful emotional periods of a Jewish woman's life, from birth to bat mitzvah, marriage to death.
In January, 2000 Traditional Crossroads released Leverett's first solo album, the Art of Klezmer Clarinet, which portrayed the story-telling qualities of the blues in Yiddish. Accompanying Leverett's klezmetic technique on this album were Jim Guttmann (bass), Evan Harian (accordion), David Harris (trombone), Mimi Rabson (violin), Grant Smith (percussion), and Bob Weiner (percussion). The glowing reviews confirmed that Leverett had become a well-established as a virtuoso soloist. She formed her own band, Margot Leverett & the Klezmer Mountain Boys in 2001. Unique in its ability to combine klezmer with bluegrass, the band creates a foot-stomping, hilarious, and melancholic expression of pre-war Russia and the Appalachian Mountains. Leverett's bandmembers include Marty Confurius (bass), who has appeared with top names in both bluegrass and klezmer, such as Andy Statman, Dave Tarras, and Vassar Clements; Joe Selly (guitar), who toured nationally with the Lombardo Orchestra and appeared with Barbara Eden, Tex Logan, and Phoebe Snow, in addition to his teaching jazz, bluegrass, and swing; Kenny Kosek (fiddle), who has appeared with John Denver, Jerry Garcia, and David Byrne, and who has published dozens of instructional books; and Barry Mitterhoff (mandolin/guitar), who has appeared with Tony Trischka & Skyline, Hazel Dickens, and John Gorka, in addition to performing at the White House, Carnegie Hall, the Alice Tully Hall, and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. The Traditional Crossroads label released the band's first album, self-titled, in September, 2003. With the mixture of klezmer and bluegrass, Leverett has taken klezmer out of the revival period into the post-revival era. ~ Eleanor Ditzel
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