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October 21, 2014
Tonight, NYC, "Letters to Afar" opening reception "Letters to Afar" opening Reception Installation by Péter Forgács and The Klezmatics Tue, Oct 21, 2014, 6-8pm Museum of the City of New York 1220 Fifth Ave, New York, New York 10029 This multimedia installation is based on a YIVO collection of home movies made by New York City's Jewish immigrants who traveled back to visit Poland during the 1920s and '30s. The films document poignant family reunions and everyday life in cities and small towns, capturing a culture on the brink. Facebook: www.facebook.com/events/1491592681124535/permalink/1494650807485389/
Posted by adavidow at 10:38 AM | Permalink
October 18, 2014
Mark Rubin solo Kickstarter project While I am mentioned the phenomenal Oklahoman who pretends to be a Texan (says the guy who went to high school there and has barely been back since), Mark Rubin, I forgot to mention that he is finally getting around to a solo recording. It's called "Southern Discomfort." You can help fund it (and you should). I have have.

Details are on the kickstarter page

Act now. Don't let this one fail, or you'll kick yourself for the next 120 years (we should all live and be healthy for so long).

Posted by adavidow at 09:52 PM | Permalink
Catch Mark Rubin and the Youngers of Zion live on your laptop 10/24

Those who have scanned the KlezmerShack calendar may have noticed that Mark Rubin and the Youngers of Zion will be performing next week in Lafayette, LA. What you may not know is that you can tune in. Pay what you want, and the Blackpot Festival and Valcour Records Present will be playing this 30 minute (or longer) show directly into their laptop, just for you! Feel free to request songs in the chat room and leave a tip when you enjoy something.

Details at www.concertwindow.com/shows/9884-blackpot-festival-and-valcour-records-present-mark-

Posted by adavidow at 09:47 PM | Permalink
Two different takes on Jewish music and Americana: Koby Israelite and Ezekiel's Wheel

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I have reviewed early Koby Israelite releases on these pages, and always with delight. But this latest, which includes some wonderful Americana, along with his usual patented remixing of world traditional music from all over (including a classic version of Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues," perhaps arranged as only an Israeli exile in London can). If you haven't heard of Israelite, or haven't yet heard Blues from elsewhere, you are in for a treat.

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The only thing sad about Ezekiel's Wheels first full-length release is that it has taken me a year to get it online. A traditional American klezmer band, the Wheels seem to infuse everything with a special energy. Their arrangements, even their newer compositions, are so much a part of the traditional approach to klezmer without foregoing what it means to be an American band making Ashkenazic Jewish simkhe music. They don't just sound special as a band, but in person they still seem special. This is the best capturing of that soul, so far, Transported

Posted by adavidow at 09:39 PM | Permalink
October 12, 2014
Zion80, Ichka, Lemon Bucket Orchestra, Lenka Lichtenberg/Yair Dalal - save the best for last from Ashkenaz 2014

So, we're just about at the end of my writing about the Ashkenaz 2014 fest and what I saw and heard there. Just a few more bands/releases to cover. Bear with me. I've kind of saved the best for last, so you wouldn't all go away.

The first full evening of the festival was Saturday night. As festival director Eric Stein noted, every act playing Saturday night was Canadian. That already makes Ashkenaz special. Beyond the rare incursion by some of the Montreal bands, you wouldn't think from sitting here in Boston that there was Jewish music, much less new Jewish music in Canada at all.

cd coverOne of the key ingredients of the festival is the ongoing dancing. This year, the band that did most of the playing for that dancing was a Montreal band, Ichka, that has also done some minor touring—they were even south of the border, here in Boston on a double bill with local favorites Ezekiel's Wheels last winter. They are a powerful, brassy ensemble that remind me in some ways of the venerable Dutch band, Di Gojim. Ichka is young and they play with excellence and fervor. Their first release, Podorozh, captures the contemporary North American klezmer sound: Not only familiar songs such as "Nifty's Freylakhs" or "Fun Tashlikh," but updated to include Steven Greenman's excellent "Dreaming of Goldenshteyn," a delightful "Glazier's Hora" from Alicia Svigals, and best of all, reaching across the pond to capture "the Tongue," by Merlin Shepherd (who, as already mentioned, was also at Ashkenaz with wife, singer/piano player, Polina Shepherd). Opening with a fantastic drumroll and a fantastic blaring of horns, this is both a blast from the past, and a statement about keeping the dancing speaking to us. If you were't at Ashkenaz, you can get your CD or MP3s from bandcamp.

cd coverJoining Ichka on its debut album was the Lemon Bucket Orkestra, one of Toronto's best street orchestras. You don't know from street orchestras? Somewhere, in an urban area near you there is a festival called "Honk!" featuring these popular, often-amateur ensembles from around the world. (Boston's was held this weekend, in fact!) Lemon Bucket is famed for calling out the band to play in an Assisted Living home, or to accompany a good protest. At Ashkenaz, they headlined on Saturday night, exciting the largest crowd I saw during the festival with incredible energy, precision, and a scintillating mix of klezmer, balkan, and whatever else they felt like playing. Their new recording, Lume Lume has the frenetic mix you would expect, with tunes from all over Eastern Europe, Jewish and otherwise. They close with one of my favorites, "7:40." Back towards the beginning of the klezmer revival, this was recorded by everyone. We all moved on. I am greatful to the Lemon Buckets for bringing it back, and for having so much fun playing. You can find out more and get your own copy (CD or MP3) from their bandcamp page.

cd coverAs part of my introduction to the artists playing at Ashkenaz, I mentioned Lenka Lichtenberg's recent CD, Songs for the breathing walls. She was at Ashkenaz to promote a new, just-released project, an album of lullabies which she has put together with Iraqi-Israeli artist Yair Dalal. Lullabies from Exile presents lullabies from both European and Mizrahi Jewish traditions. Featuring the gentle voices of both, as well as Dalal's wonderful oud, and backed by an excellent ensemble, this is the children's recording of the festival. Soothing and gentle, and drawing from so many Jewish traditions (and their overlap), it is a pleasure. Check out Lichtenberg's website for your own copy and for more info.

cd coverFinally, we come to my personal favorite, Sunday night's headline band, Zion 80, jazz guitarist/Tzadik recording artist Jon Madof's recent project merging the AfroPop sounds of Fela Kuti with the melodies of Shlomo Carlebach. While that original project was a wall of danceable, infectious nign, this concert highlighted material from the new release, Adramelech: The book of angels, vol. 22 featuring Madof's arrangements of John Zorn tunes from "The Book of Angels." The band isn't much smaller than the Lemon Bucket Orchestra, and took Jewish music to another continent entirely. If you don't have both of the Zion 80 releases, time to catch up. But, I also have to express my pleasure and delight especially at the new release. Available, of course, from Tzadik Records. Enjoy. Same time, same place, in two years for the next Ashkenaz Festival?

Posted by adavidow at 09:06 PM | Permalink
October 11, 2014
Catching up with Josh Dolgin at Ashkenaz

Josh "Socalled" Dolgin was ubiquitous at this past Ashkenaz (continuing my coverage of Ashkenaz 2014—if this goes on much longer, it won't end until I switch to KlezKamp coverage). He DJ'd late at night. He did magic tricks for kids. He interviewed Canadian folkie Geoff Berner about Berner's new novel. You could pick up copies of his little books of puns at the souvenir stand. No performances of his own music.

Truth is, Socalled appears to exploring a larger world outside Jewish remixes. We saw him evolving as a songwriter on recent recordings (see below), and in fact, his current project is the musical, "The Season." It sounds zany and fun, but is outside the scope of these pages. That being the case, let's work backwords for a while. But, I'll also note that there is a kind of neat capsule of the incredible diversity of Socalled's early Jewish-connected work in "The 'Socalled' Movie," back in 2010. You'd think someone this young doesn't yet need a movie. But, if you are at all familiar with his music, you'll have a lot of fun. And if you aren't familiar, this is a great introduction.

cd coverIn 2011, Dolgin released the Sleepover. To my ear, this was the first that focused primarily on Socalled the Canadian songwriter and hiphop artist, without any klezmer, and without any yiddish. With hits like "UNLVD," "Work with what you got," and "Richi," it's a lovely hiphop-ish, even pop-ish release. Featuring an abundance of Katie Moore's amazing voice, it is his most tuneful and soulful release to date, but also a curious one—a bit of a grabbag, as though he wasn't sure where he was going, but also wasn't going to hold back from trying whatever came to mind. The standout, for me, is a cover of the old Peggy Seeger anthem, "Springhill Mine Disaster." Sung at a faster clip than most versions, it is nonetheless beautiful. It is also one of the few songs to feature Socalled's highly expressive singing voice. More typical is the upbeat, calypso-tinged "Work with what you got." But then, just when you figure you've got the changes figured out, you encounter the "Richi" remixes at the end—a short Irving Fields solo piano gem, and a 15-minute dance remix by Derrick Carter. Like all Socalled releases, you can catch up with this one at the Socalled store.

icons of americanaOne of my favorite all-time releases is this all-star gem featuring David Krakauer, Socalled, and Fred Wesley (better known with James Brown). Jewish klezmer yiddish hiphop fun! I can't cover this in one paragraph. You can read the entire review of Tweet Tweet, or just rush to the website and get your own copy.

cd coverIn 2007, Socalled released the first CD to primarily feature his own songs (as opposed to the inspired remixing and rapping he had been doing for years). "You are never alone," singing of the 'Yiddish Cowboy' is a post-klezmer-revival classic, and that's just one of the songs. There is a full review of Socalled / Ghettoblaster finally up on the KlezmerShack. And, as above, you can get your own copy at the Socalled store.

cd coverThe most recent Krakauer-Socalled collaboration (excepting Abraham Inc, of course, and the very different intro/outro pieces composed for Krakauer's recording of Messiaen's "Quartet for the end of time" released last spring) was 2005's Bubbemeises. You can read more about this wild klezmer-jazz-hiphop collaboration on David Krakauer & Josh 'Socalled' Dolgin / Bubbemeises

As I was saying, Socalled was over the place at Ashkenaz 2014. But if it's Socalled's music you're looking for, these cover the last decade. Enjoy.

Posted by adavidow at 06:11 PM | Permalink
September 28, 2014
New releases for the Days of Awe

I want to take time out for a few minutes to note the current season and mention a few recent releases that may help get you in the mood for t'shuvah.

CD coverI'll first mention a new instrumental release by Tzadik saxophonist Paul Shapiro / Shofarot Verses. His 2003 "Midnight Minyan" put the daven into jazz. Here he continues that tradition, with some of my favorite Tzadik musicians, including Captain Beefheart alum Marc Ribot on guitar, Brad Jones on bass, and Tony Lewis on drums. From the opening moments of the very season-appropriate "Hashivenu" through the closing "With Reed and Skins" Shapiro manages to combine jazz and a sense of nusach (Ashkenazic Jewish cantorial modes) in ways that seek out that still small voice within us. At the same time, as on "Daven Dance," he reminds us that joy can physically move us. The shofar-like soprano sax impulsion on "Halil," with Ribot's answering guitar is one standout, followed by an actual shofar on "Ashamnu," which takes the familiar Yom Kippur melody to a new place of grace. The album's ethos is perhaps best expressed in the description of "Search your soul," "Finding solace in the house of b-flat." More info at Paul's website. The music is available from Tzadik and the usual disk and MP3 vendors online.

CD coverComing from another place, entirely, (and perhaps exemplifying the difference between the gritty downtown New York scene vs. the spiritual secularism of California's Bay Area) singer/cantor Linda Hirschhorn's voice and words speak directly to those parts of us that aspire to heal and to help a world in need of healing. Her 2013 recording, "Amazed" is also an album with beautiful personal love songs. With an all-star cast, including Holly Near on the backing vocals of the opening hymn, "Amazed," this is just a wonderful album, balm for a "verbissener velt." Tunes range from the folkie to the blues, as on "Some Love," to the hum along inspirational and aspirational, as "Give it all you have." You can listen to samples and purchase the CD from Linda Hirschhorn's website and the usual online vendors.

cd coverSiach Hasadeh is a Montreal-based duo, clarinet and bass, exploring Jewish niggun. Since they also appeared at Ashkenaz 2014, I can also link this set of reviews to my continuing coverage of the standout artists at that festival. Although the music is sweet, the duo explores the rougher sides of harmony as well. There is a delightful tone poem/art song/modern classical dissonance that weaves in and out of these tunes, from the opening "R' Levi Yitzchak Berditchever's Niggun" to "Niggun firn di tsaddikim in gay eyden" or "Rabbeinu's Niggun" featuring Shtreiml masters Jason Rosenblatt on harmonica and Ismail Fencioğlu on oud. For those who enjoy digging deeper and letter ways of niggun wash over them, this is a rich recording. You can read more about the recording on the band's website or purchase it directly from CDBaby.com.

cd coverThe standout voice, the woman everyone wanted to hear at this year's Ashkenaz Festival was Polina Shepherd. Readers of these pages over the years will not be surprised—you have read reviews of her singing with choirs, with brass bands, with just her husband, Merlin Shepherd, and friends. She plays an amazing piano, but it is her voice that you notice. Amazing range. Beauty, and a force of nature. Born in the former Soviet Union, this recording is a tribute to both her Russian and Yiddish roots. She sings of love and longing, universal yearnings, whether, say, in the Russian "Silver Birch" or the more modern Yiddish of "Birch Tree;" from folk melodies, to Eastern European "scat," here a wordless prayer in "Ay Yay Yay;" whether the text comes from the Song of Songs, "Place me like a seal," her own poetry (most of these pieces), or evokes life, itself, in the Yom Kippur plea, "Avinu Malkeinu" (Our Father, Our King). Shepherd's voice is transformative. More information, and CD purchases from the artist's website.

cd coverThere has been an evolution as Basya Schechter has gone from writing Middle Eastern-inflected folksongs, to someone more involved with rethinking religious poetry. He most recent CD was a recording of her settings of love poems, both to women, and to God (and sometimes, like "Song of Songs," as easily to read as expressing love for both) written in Yiddish by Rabbi A. J. Heschel. This latest recording by Pharaoh's Daughter consists entirely of settings of traditional prayer and piyyut. The music, though, comes from around the world. The opening "Adon Olam" conveys echoes of electronica. The familiar "Maoz Tzur" is rethought with celesta-like keyboard pinpoints, as though to highlight falling snow; in the simplicity of the melody you can hear echoes of a family lighting Hanukkah candles. Likewise, "Ha-nerot Halaluh" contains elements of electronica and metallic percussion and a lively sing-along melody. The title song, for instance, "Dumiya," echoes all of the above, with hints of African rhythm and Middle Eastern flow. The closing "Shebishlifleynu" has a driving, somewhat psychedelic beat. The current season is evoked with light glissando's of sound setting "Zikaron," a poem conveying the awe of standing in front of G-d on Yom Kippur, with a quieter new melody for "P'tach lanu sha'ar" (open a gate for us). If the music of Shlomo Carlebach and Debbie Friedman simplified melodies and invited congregational participation in davenning in new ways, the music of Basya Schechter and Pharaoh's Daughter fuses Sephardic, Ashkenazic, and indeed, world music traditions for a new generation of prayers. It is good to hear such eloquent settings for songs of renewal in this season of awe. Liner notes and more info available on the Pharaoh's Daughter website. You can purchase a copy from Amazon.com.

Posted by adavidow at 06:05 PM | Permalink
September 27, 2014
More from Ashkenaz 2014: Forshpil, Geoff Berner

Before memories of this year's Ashkenaz Festival totally dissipate, I wanted to continue my mentions of several notable bands and musicians encountered there.

cd coverFirst up is Forshpil, from Riga, Latvia. Although they performed a couple of traditional klezmer/yiddish sets at the obligatory "Bella Did ya eat?" brunch at the FreeTimes Cafe, the band is much more "rock-klezmer" fusion. In fact, the opening "Volekhl" on their eponymous 2012 CD immediately attracts the ears, sounding like an improbably successful marriage between Hawkwind and traditional klezmer. From there, it's on to a funk-infused "Priv Trink Oys." Despite the quite, gentle rendition of "Di sapozkelekh" or the closing "Dobranotsh," and although there are reggae and jazz influences, the dominant sound is that opening "heavy metal progrock" feel, along with a certain Dick Dale-inspired speed guitar picking, as on "Meyld in di yorn." In this, the band reminds me not a little of "Yiddish Princess." The diversity continues to good effect. Like so much good klezmer-and-more recordings these days, you can get your copy at CDBaby.com, where you can also listen to samples of each of the songs.

cd coverGeoff Berner's 2011 "Victory Party" is a different kettle of fish. A long-time stalwart of the Canadian folkie scene, this is his sixth recording. Berner is often compared to Daniel Katz for the social commentary and (in Berner's case, relatively rare) Yiddish or klezmer inflections in his music. You can hear their similarities in songs such as "Laughing Jackie the Pimp" and in a very nicely contextualized "Daloy Polizei," also covered by Kahn (especially timely this year--and now that I think about it, all too often). At the same time, where Kahn both incites to action and expresses an ennui (this, too, will not ultimately change the world), Berner more often seems a bit more of a commentator, distant. His "Mayn rue platz" is less a call to action, than an evocation of sadness. But, we speak of relativity. "I am going to jail / to get a new pair of shoes" ("Jail") pulls few punches, despite its jaunty tune. "Oh my golem" is likewise fairly direct commentary. "Did you really think a perfect god / wants you to burn a goat / or nail the Messiah in place" from "Rabbi Berner finally reveals his true religion" may be gentle, but it's a call to action, nonetheless (smirk included).

In addition to performing at Ashkenaz, Berner was interviewed by DJ SoCalled (who also produced "Victory Party") at the Festival about his relatively recent short novel, Festival Man. Advertised as a hard-hitting satire about the Canadian Folk Festival scene, the book is actually a bit of a fond love poem to same—satire included, and a pleasure to read.

Posted by adavidow at 10:53 AM | Permalink
September 21, 2014
David Buchbinder's Odessa/Havana, "Walk to the Sea"

another faux deep tzadik coverOne of the highlights of the Saturday evening concerts at this year's Ashkenaz Festival in Toronto was the appearance of David Buchbinder's Odessa/Havana. Showcasing their 2013 release on Tzadik, "Walk to the sea," the music was exhilarating. The fusion of Cuban, klezmer, and jazz, and much more was seamless. Buchbinder and his bands are always excellent, but watching pianist Hilario Durán was magic. Listening to vocalist Maryem Hassan Tollar live was a revelation. I have a short review of the CD now on the KlezmerShack. Enjoy. You can get your own copy via the band's website.

Posted by adavidow at 12:57 PM | Permalink
Save the date! Adrienne Cooper Fund for Dreaming in Yiddish SAVE THE DATE!! December 30 honoring genius, writer, Yiddishist, and brave buddy of Adrienne, (drum roll) Michael Wex! More on Facebook: www.facebook.com/AdrienneCooperFundForDreamingInYiddish
Posted by adavidow at 10:55 AM | Permalink
September 20, 2014
Marin Bunea video

Posted to Facebook by Pete Rushefsky

These musicians are from Republic of Moldova, Chisinau. Marin Bunea - violin, Mihai Sorocan - accordeon, Valeriu Cascaval - cimbalom, Ion Croitoru - double bass.

Posted by adavidow at 05:47 PM | Permalink
September 17, 2014
KlezKanada - 2014 student concert - Dave Tarras Ensemble
Posted by adavidow at 06:55 AM | Permalink
"Talk Dirty," the Yiddish version

Postmodern Jukebox presents "Talk Dirty"—Vintage Klezmer Jason Derulo Cover (with 2 Chainz Rap in Yiddish)

Posted by adavidow at 06:47 AM | Permalink
September 09, 2014
Klezmatics in studio, interview, on Voice of Israel

From Eitan of the "Voice of Israel." The Klezmatics are in town for a sacred music festival:

Musicians Frank London and David Licht of the Grammy award-winning band The Klezmatics perform live in-studio on VOI's Yishai Fleisher Show. Tune in for a fun conversation about culture, sacred music, and 'Jewy' pride.

soundcloud.com/voiceofisrael/klezmatics-sep9-2014

Posted by adavidow at 10:52 AM | Permalink
September 08, 2014
Join campaign for Litvakus CD @ Indiegogo Litvakus: The Lost Jewish Music of Belarus CD Help release our first full-length album Dear Friends, Litvakus is recording its first full-length album, Raysn (a Yiddish name for Belarus) that includes incredibly beautiful and endangered Belarusian Jewish music discovered and revived after 70 years of oblivion, as well original songs to the poetry of Moyshe Kulbak and Zisl Slepovitch. We are asking our friends for support that would make this project happen. Please check out the Litvakus' Raysn Indiegogo page for the full story of this record and consider supporting us through that page.
Posted by adavidow at 07:07 AM | Permalink
September 01, 2014
A few special things seen at the Ashkenaz Festival

The problem with writing about a festival whilst attending, is that one feels some obligation to hear music every waking minutes. So, this will be a brief list.

We drove in from the States late and missed Geoff Berner's set on Saturday, which had been one of our goals. I did get a chance to catch him at an interview about his just-released book (which sounds good, but has nothing to do with Jewish Culture, new or otherwise) with SoCalled, and that was fun, if not musical. On his recordings, Berner has a political and somewhat satiric bent that reminds me of Daniel Kahn, except that Berner sings in English. You can catch him on his most recent recording, Victory Party.

David Buchbinder's Odessa/Havana show was a highlight. It isn't just that the band was tight, or that the singer, Maryem Hassan Tollar is exceptional, but pianist Hilario Duran is a treasure. If you saw the performance, you already have the new CD. If you weren't there, let me assure you that the CD is exceptional.

We were exhausted, but stayed for the Lemon Bucket Orkestra, a delightful street band that has been on tour for the last couple of months. Extraordinary energy and much fun in a sort of Eastern European mix. Huge orchestra! I hope they come to my neighborhood's "Honk!" festival this year and soon. David Buchbinder came out to join the band in one number, as did members of Forshpil, and the incomparable Polina Shepherd. Readers of these pages already know that Shepherd is an extraordinary singer. Here at Ashkenaz, she and husband Merlin Shepherd blew audiences away. If there were justice, they would have been booked for several more shows here. Several of her recordings have been reviewed in raves on these pages. Live, she is even better.

One special moment at the festival so far was the appearance of Steve Greenman with Chinese pipa player Gao Hong. They were right. The two musical traditions, as well as fiddle and pipa, were made to play together.

Michael Winograd's new project, "Sandaraa" was billed as a fusion. In truth, it is Pakistani music, mostly from Baluchistan, and I love it. (Yes, it is a Jewish music festival, but ...) Played by Winograd's ensemble, and featuring the voice of Zebunnisa (Zeb) Bangash, with a touch of "jam band" feel, this was just plain fun. Of special note, along with Winograd's clarinet, was Richie Barshay's amazingly fluent drumming and percussion.

We ended last night with Zion80, a relatively new project by Tzadik recording artist Jon Madof. The band has just released a new CD of Zorn's music, following their initial release of Carlebach tunes. The fusion of Jewish avant garde jazz and Fela Kuti's African beat is phenomenal. We danced our way home. In a few minutes, the Ashkenaz parade will come by, then I'll go listen to Shtreiml, see the new Veretski Pass theatrical piece, "Lilith" (Likely to write more about that later), and then, sadly, but with great fun, the Festival Finale.

Posted by adavidow at 03:17 PM | Permalink
Lenka Lichtenberg, "Breathing Walls," new CD review for the Ashkenaz Fest Note: Lenka and Yair Dalal actually premiered their new children's CD, Lullabies from Exile at this year's Ashkenaz. Review of that recording, pending.

CD coverCzeck-born Lenka Lichtenberg has been exploring Jewish, Israeli, Eastern European, and Middle Eastern music since before I met her back at one of the first Ashkenaz Festivals. Her voice is exquisite. The recordings keep getting better. Her imagination is even bigger. At the same time, with musical interests around the world, she has remained uncategorizable. That's probably a good thing. This latest recording, Breathing Walls is an excellent example, and an exquisite take on Jewish sacred music.

Breathing Walls came about after a concert series back in her native Czech Republic. After listening to the sound of performing in synagogues in Plzen and Liberec in 2009, she returned a year later to record Jewish liturgical poems in twelve synagogues. The melodies range from traditional Eastern European, to newer settings by contemporary composers such as Shlomo Carlebach and Shirona. Working with musicians as diverse as Israeli's Yair Dalal ("Maoz Tsur" and "Adon Olam," for instance) and klezmer clarinetist Christian Dawid ("Esa Eyney"), and an array of musicians from around the world, Lichtenberg fuses all of these influences and melodies into a new, tender world Jewish music.

This is a very special recording. Unlike her earlier CDs, where she focuses on Jewish folk music, often re-imagined with Middle-Eastern-sounding settings (partly influenced, I imagine, by the side of her family that hails from Iraq, and partly influenced by her friendship and musical partnership with Iraqi-Israeli musician Yair Dalal), these are sacred tunes. Again, they are often re-imagined and reset, but the result, with a beautiful accompanying CD case and booklet, is an explicitly spiritual journey. Our blessing is that she has chosen to record these pieces and present them. You can get your copy of "Breathing Walls" directly from Lichtenberg's website.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, sitting in the delicious sunshine of the Ashkenaz Festival in Toronto, ahead of a performance by the artist later this afternoon, 1 Sep 2014.

Posted by adavidow at 03:06 PM | Permalink
new CD review, just in time for Ashkenaz Fest, Shtreiml's "Eastern Hora"

CD coverWhen you need a pick-me-up, sometimes nothing but a festive Shtreiml will do. On their latest outing, Eastern Hora, the band continues its celebration with Turkish musician Ismail Fenicoglu, blending klezmer seamlessly with Turkish music and coming up with a result that makes the klezmer sound fresh, with energy and life. The result is something not just Jewish or Turkish, but also, as in the case of "A Saturday Evening Blues," as Jason's plaintive harmonica melds with Ismail's soulful our and with the band, the result is something unique.

What is surprising to me is that fewer klezmer bands have made the Turkish connection. After all, klezmer itself grew up in the borderlands between the Ottomans and Europe. To take a full-on North American klezmer sound, with Thierry Arsenault's progressive drumming, Jason Rosenblatt's harmonica and keyboards, nth-generation Philly klezmer Rachel Lemisch's trombone (take a good listen to her riffs on "Rayrus Spielt" and throughout the CD), and the dance-friendly bass-lines of Joel Kerr, and then re-merge it with Fenicoglu's fluent oud and you have a match made in heaven. From the opening, full-steam "Grand Theft Stutinki" and onward into "Chassidl pour les batards" on through the closing, gentle "Lullaby for Halleli" the band is a cure for a world in need of healing dance and soothing music. It is not only clear why this is one of the best wedding bands around, but, here, in concert mode, we get the band exploring a broader dimension of joy and music than would normally come through at a simkhe, with the bonus lightning oud strikes.

Like 2006's "Fenci's Blues," this CD exemplifies what is most exciting about modern klezmer. The playing of traditional music is fluid and celebratory, but the renewal that comes from the encounter with new Turkish music creates a magic that will please not only klezmer fanatics, but fans of Turkish music as well. You can get your own copy, as well as copies for your friends via iTunes or CDBaby.com

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 1 Sep 2014, from the Ashkenaz Festival where Shtreiml are featured performers.

Posted by adavidow at 02:37 PM | Permalink
August 19, 2014
Ashkenaz 2014, Toronto, Canada, starts August 26, 2014

Ashkenaz appYes, our favorite North American festival of new Jewish music starts next week, and this year it joins the current century by enabling an actual iPhone "app." Search for it in the Apple Store. That's the minor reason to go. The major reason is new music, ranging from a new music from Veretski Pass, "Lillith, the Night Demon," to music inspired by the Sarajevo Hagaddah, Yiddish "New Wave" from Eastgern Europe, Dudu Tassa from Israel, and more. See you at the Ashkenaz Festival!

Posted by adavidow at 07:58 AM | Permalink
May 31, 2014
Yaela Hertz, z"l

Yaela Hertz, by Alan LankinKnown to the rest of the world as a master violinist, teacher, mentor, Yaela Hertz was also a critical faculty member at KlezKanada where I was fortunate to meet her. She had that rare combination of extraordinary ability, insight, and human warmth that will be heard for generations as her students teach their students. Deborah Strauss posted on Facebook yesterday that she had passed away May 30, 2014. You can get a brief sense of who she was professionally from her entry in the Canadian Encyclopedia, or from this 1963 article in the Montreal Gazette.

Posted by adavidow at 04:23 PM | Permalink
Who writes for us secular Jews

There was a great piece by Ezra Glinter in last week's Forward about the growing fictional genre for people who have left the ultra-Orthodox community. It inspired me to read a new-to-me Tova Mirvis (which I enjoyed as much as her first book, a best-seller).

It also made me reflect that I rarely encounter fictional characters who resemble myself: a former Orthodox Jew who is generally quite religiously secular. Esther Broner captured a community in Israel (albeit, primarily only from the women's side) 30 or 40 years ago in A Weave of Women that was possibly the only time that I read a book and felt as though I could almost identity each character and its real-life inspiration—many of them friends. Since then, the closest I have come is, perhaps, Peter Mansur's Song of the Butcher's Daughter, which, centered at the Yiddish Book Center, at least centered around an institution that is important in my life.

It may be that I am sufficiently unusual—both knowledgeable about Jewish life, but distant from it—that I shouldn't expect to see people who look familiar. Michael Chabon's recent Telegraph Avenue at least featured some types, some even Jewish, that I knew from my years in the Bay Area, although their lack of connection to "Jewish" beyond some vague childhood culture points was disappointingly tenuous (if also quite common). What have you read that resonates? Who is writing about the American Jewish experience that resonates for you? Email me.

Posted by adavidow at 01:34 PM | Permalink
May 30, 2014
The things one learns from fund-raising mailers

It was in the today's mail. Kvell from the Yiddish Book Center. It contained an interview with donor Monty Hall. Who knew that the long-time "Let's Make a Deal" host was born in Winnipeg, Canada, and had such great memories of the Jewish community there.

You want to be on the Yiddish Center's mailing list (which includes the benefit of kvelling about being a donor to same), go to www.yiddishbookcenter.org/giving. Tell them that the KlezmerShack sent you.

While you're there, take a look at their new translation program. Pretty nifty! Might be worth whispering in someone's ear, "don't forget the women!"

Posted by adavidow at 09:58 PM | Permalink
May 25, 2014
Frank London's "Glass House Project" debuts "The Glass House Project" Three concerts in NY & DC recreate the musical culture of Hungarian Jewish communities destroyed by the Holocaust Grammy Award-winning trumpeter FRANK LONDON (of The Klezmatics) brings together a supergroup of jazz/world/folk virtuosi from Hungary & NYC Working from meticulously reconstructed scores & archival records of long forgotten folk songs, performances range from the reverential to the decidedly experimental THE GLASS HOUSE ENSEMBLE: from Hungary MIKLÓS LUKÁCS, cimbalon BÉLA ÁGOSTON, winds SZIRTES EDINA MÓKUS, singer ÁRON SZÉKELY, kontra KATA HARSÁCZKI, singer from NYC FRANK LONDON, trumpet PABLO ASLAN, bass RICHIE BARSHAY, drums ARAM BAJAKIAN, guitar JAKE SHULMAN-MENT, violin Tuesday, May 27, 7:00 pm Museum of Jewish Heritage 36 Battery Pl, New York City Free Admission Wednesday, May 28, 6:00 pm John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Terrace Theater 2700 F St NW, Washington, DC Free Admission
Posted by adavidow at 03:13 PM | Permalink
May 22, 2014
Cantorial recordings re-imagined

This latest Yoshie Fruchter project needs help on Kickstarter. I'm in. How about you?

Schizophonia is an exploration of cantorial music found on 20th century recordings and re-imagined through a contemporary lens.

Posted by adavidow at 09:18 AM | Permalink
May 20, 2014
Hankus Netsky to speak at TheRetreat, Palmer, MA, Jun 12, 2014

Kind of neat that Jewish music makes it to an event of this type. Clearly klezmer is no longer avant garde ;-) (but that's been true for decades). Stephen Baum writes:

"Hankus Netsky is speaking at TheRetreat—a three day experience in Jewish learning, fellowship, davening, and sports at Camp Ramah in Palmer, Massachusetts. His subject is Klezmer music, and its migration from Europe to America—a migration that each of you has been a part of."

Info: www.theretreatfjmc.com/
tel: 781-724-2551

"The lecture itself is on Thursday, June 12th, beginning at 8:00 PM. Afterwards there will be some unstructured hospitality at the camp, but I'd really like to see that evolve into a Klezmer jam session.

"TheRetreat itself opens at 3:00 PM that day, with dinner at 5:45, and Ma'ariv at 7:15. It can be a wonderful weekend, and we expect around a hundred Jewish men from the New England, Hudson Valley, and Connecticut regions to attend. The first timer fee for the full weekend, including 4 Days and 3 Nights of a shared room in Camp Ramah's bunks, kosher meals & snacks, plus all lectures and activities is $250 for first timers, $315 for those who have been before.

"You are also, of course, welcome to just come for the evening itself, and that is free. It is a little over an hour from the Weston tolls at the I-90/128 intersection. If you'd like to, you could join us for dinner, and if you'd rather stay the night and join us for breakfast, that would be great too. The full weekend is a Men's Club regional event, but there are enough available bunk houses that it would be no problem to accommodate women who would prefer to stay over to Friday. Coming just for the lecture and jam session would be free, but if you'd like to come for full evening and following morning, it would be $75. Again, check the web site specified above for further information."

Posted by adavidow at 09:28 AM | Permalink
May 17, 2014
Elaine Hoffman Watts to be honored by PFP June 7, 2014

Folk Arts and Social Change Awardees Nana Korantema Ayeboafo and Elaine Hoffman Watts will be honored on June 7th at the Philadelphia Folklore Project annual bash.

The party runs from 6 PM - 9 PM at the Painted Bride Art Center, 230 Vine Street, in Philadelphia. Expect food, fun, engaging activities, a wonderful crowd of people, and an all-around joyful evening! This year's Birthday Bash marks big changes at PFP, includes great performances (with your participation), and it honors amazing women who are inspiring models in folk arts and change. Support the Philadelphia Folklore Project and honor people in our region whose work in folk arts and social change is inspiring.

More info: www.folkloreproject.org/about/news/PFP27thBirthdayBash.php

Posted by adavidow at 03:14 PM | Permalink
Jewish Music Week in Toronto, May 18 - 25

Too many events to list, and it's not even Ashkenaz week yet!

Jewish Music Week in Toronto

Posted by adavidow at 03:11 PM | Permalink
Great new resource: YIVO Digital Archive on Jewish Life in Poland

From Gerben Zaagsma in the "Yiddish Sources" group on LinkedIn

polishjews.yivoarchives.org

Poland was once the home of the largest Jewish community in the world and until World War II was one of the great centers of Jewish political, cultural, and religious life.

YIVO's Polish Jewish Archive is the only American collection, and one of very few worldwide, which was saved from the destruction of the Holocaust.

Explore this world here through manuscripts, posters, photographs, music and other artifacts.

Posted by adavidow at 02:58 PM | Permalink
Aaron Lansky honored by White House

So, did I mention that this week Aaron Lansky, founder of the Yiddish Book Center, was honored at the White House? The Tablet used it to write a couple of great articles, including a short interview with Peter Manseau, whose Song of the Butcher's Daughter is one of my favorite recent novels, and perhaps the first to feature the Yiddish Book Center as a location:

Michelle Obama Celebrates Yiddish Literature: Awards Yiddish Book Center nation's highest honor for museums and libraries, by Hannah Dreyfus, May 8, 2014

The Irish Catholic Promoting Yiddish Literature Peter Manseau on accepting Yiddish Book Center honor from the First Lady, by Hannah Dreyfus, May 16, 2014

Yiddish Book Center blog: 2014 National Medal for Museum and Library Service

Posted by adavidow at 02:34 PM | Permalink
di bostoner klezmer, Jewish Heritage Night @ Fenway, Boston, May 29

Wondering when to catch your next Boston Red Sox game? Thursday, May 29 is "Jewish Heritage Night" at Fenway Park. di bostoner klezmer is thrilled to have been invited to play before the game on Yawkey Way as fans go into the stadium to see the Red Sox playing. We play from 5:40 P.M. for 50 minutes. Come say hello. It will be fun.

Thursday, May 29at 5:40pm - 6:30pm
1 Yawkey Place,
Boston, MA

Facebook: www.facebook.com/events/1404376956514491/

Posted by adavidow at 01:26 PM | Permalink
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    This is a Flickr badge showing public photos from Flickr tagged with klezmer. Make your own badge here.

    Got klezmer photos you'd like me to include on the KlezmerShack? Upload them to flickr with the label "klezmer" and they'll be in rotation here!



    The above feature, "This Week in History," is available to all websites from my employer, the Jewish Women's Archive. Time to get the word out! When you use the code, let JWA know.


    About Klezmer Music

    The Klezmer revival (article revised 9/97) sparked a renaissance in Jewish music and culture. Nowadays, the revival is over--klezmer is a popular music form that is no longer exclusively Jewish, and other forms of Jewish music are also gaining in popularity. And no one questions the place of klezmer in both Jewish and popular cultures. Well, no one we care about. Meanwhile, the edges of musical and cultural boundaries continue to change, expand, and morph onward, fueled by the imperatives to explore new music on the one hand, and by the shifting sense of Jewish identity on another, not always related, hand. So I find myself, in these pages, moving both directions at once: trying to expand access to all Jewish music materials, and happily exploring musical edges, some of which have nothing to do with Jewish music.

    Klezmer is the music that speaks to me. It's balkans and blues, ancient Jewish culture and prayer and history, spirit and jazz all mixed together. Good klezmer, and the music inspired by it, demands that one dance. In the words immortalized by Emma Goldman: "If your revolution doesn't include klezmer, I don't want it." I sometimes envision the Holy One, Blessed Be Whatever He/She/It May Be, who knows all history before its time, sitting on the throne in heaven, watching new music and cultural excitement unfold, turning and declaring to the assembled angels and saints and sinners, "ahhhh, now I can hear it live."

    KlezmerShack FAQ
    (Frequently Asked Questions)

    We have klezmer news and the latest reviews. For new musicians, we've added a FAQ on "Essential klezmer repertoire" culled from the Jewish-music mailing list.

    If you want to be listed here, or to get advice on putting together your own web page or CD, read this short "how-to" page.

    If you are looking for sources of sheet music, several online vendors carry books and music. If you are looking for album recommendations, browse the reviews and try what sounds like you. Be aware that I don't know which , and will never recommend any band for your simkha--contact your local Jewish community newspaper, book store, or federation--or any of the bands from your area. And, mazel tov! Oh, and don't forget to browse the "klezcontacts" page. The Klezclassified's is the place to check to advertise, find other's ads, jamming partners, whatever. If you'd like to be listed, on any of these pages (or more than one) just send me e-mail, or use the semi-convenient form, telling me a bit about yourself. (Don't send me a web URL and expect me to extract info. Don't even get me started about incoherent web pages--look over my notes on designing a usable web page, and then, still, send me a paragraph of text about yourself, your band, or just to say 'hello'.)

    Search the KlezmerShack:
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    Note that the latest stuff may not yet be indexed.

    As I said, I never make any recommendations beyond what is listed here. For recommendations of any sort, or for gossip, discussion, or even to ask about stuff that I clearly don't know about, the best place to ask is the jewish-music mailing list. I specifically never make recommendations or suggestions about bands for your wedding or bar mitzvah (see above for similar rant). To repeat, you always want to be consulting local Jewish newspapers, federations, and other community organizations and services. They survive only because you use them. Please do.

    If you have a klez story to tell, comments, reviews to add, or just want to let people know about your band, or have something else to say that I haven't already mentioned (and especially about bad links or other mistakes)--send me e-mail. I'll get it all online as I have time. It's a pleasure!