Start your holiday shopping with the new Brave Old World DVD
It isn't even Thanksgiving yet and I'm already in a panic about how few reviews I've written and how much I want to be sure that the people who make the music I love get the word out in time for the holiday.
So, I'm going to do my best to mention at least one recording each time I sit down at night to work on school or do some programming between now and Hanukkah-ish.
I could begin this series in many, many places, but there is only one new Jewish music DVD. There are movies about klezmer, or other Jewish music, or even about the downtown radical Jewish music scene, but no concert movies of great (or even mediocre) bands until now. And it couldn't be more appropriate than this: Brave Old World, nor could it sound much sweeter—this is a monster concert, featuring much of the music from their "Royte Pomerantsn" and "Bless the Fire" CDs, in front of a friendly audience (Montreal, at a fundraiser for KlezKanada), with the band as tight as one can imagine, playing as if their very playing would bring the Messiah here and now. Indeed, after watching the DVD, one wonders how the Messiah is able to stay up in the heavens rather than come join us already.
When I watch Brave Old World in concert—in real life, and here, as well, I am always struck by how intense their playing is. Sometimes I hark back to myself as a teenager watching King Crimson thinking, "wow, I really don't get this music, but these guys are wonderful." Except that I do get this music, and thought it wonderful even before seeing the extra dimension of watching them play. Some pieces that never turned me on, on record, like the Itzik Manger poetry recited in "Der mentsh trakht un lakht" and reset on "Yankl Dudl" make perfect, ethereal sense here, live (oh, for joy, watch Stu's fingers with the tsimbl hammers while the band plays "Yankl Dudl"). Then, listening to Michael introducing the band before breaking into "Royte Pomarantsn," one of my favorite all-time songs here performed with the zest and life that it demands, I smile so happy.
Sure, the hits are here (hits? brave old world? Is it my fault that there isn't new Jewish music radio, or that the rest of the world prefers the silliness of Britney Spears or Eminem?). You got yer "Uncle Elye." You gotcher 'Still Happy." You gotcher Kurt Bjorling wailing away 90 miles and 50 souls away, "Reb Velvl, may his fingers live and be well". You gotcher "Ladder" with its reset "Shalom Aleichem" and gou gotcher "basarabye". You got Michael Alpert totally transforming the art and role of the badkhn in "The Band", here, as in every performance. But it's not just hearing it, the joy is in being able to see it—the band performing—as well (with subtitles, even, should you be Yiddish-disabled like me) that makes this so remarkable. [Disclaimer: I typeset the Yiddish text that is used in the DVD liner notes. And despite spending months pinning down one special band member to get it proofread, I'm still excited about this project!]
Where can I purchase this gem, you ask? Once again the band eschews the practice of putting the music where the people are. Fuhgedabout amazon or your local Judaica store. But, that's okay, this is the internet. Your browser can take you anywhere. In this case, visit videographer David Kaufman's website (he that produced this masterpiece), www.sunstreetproductions.com. Tell 'em I sent you. Order a dozen. They're cheaper that way, and with a DVD this compelling, you can easily give out that many over the holidays.
P.S. Did I mention that you can play this puppy on your PC so that you can have it right there while you're working like I'm doing now? Go ahead, order another one for the computer station: www.sunstreetproductions.com.