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August 25, 2016

"The Tsimbalist" - murder and klezmer, too!

Thank you, Pete Rushefsky for turning me onto this one. It's a murder mystery set in mid-19th century Russia and the hero is a tsimbl player—just like Pete! (although, other than musicianship and being people you'd like to hang out with, there are no other resemblances). Written by Big Galut(e) fiddler Sasha Margolis, the mystery provides a good, if occasionally idealized look at Jewish life in that place and time (not so idealized that there aren't anti-Jewish mob confrontations, mind you). The mystery is reasonably good, the characters are sympathetic, and the novel ends with a wonderful description of an old-style wedding. Best of all, the seeds are sown for a sequel. I would look forward to reading another one. If you don't want to order via Amazon, I am sure your local bookstore could be convinced to order it, and perhaps even to stock it for the convenience of your friends.

July 24, 2016

Review: Joel Grey's "Master of Ceremonies"

Rokhl Kafrissen with a short capsule review of Joel Grey's memoir, Master of Ceremonies:

Master of Ceremonies: A Memoir, by Rokhl Kafrissen

Joel Grey is much more than a consummate song-and-dance man with a career spanning an astonishing eight decades: he is also the intermediate link in a Jewish-American entertainment dynasty. [more]

March 22, 2016

"The Essentials of Klezmer Banjo," by Pete Rushefsky

The most frequently requested out of print music book has to be Pete Rushefsky's "Essentials of Klezmer Banjo." It's still essential, and Pete has graciously scanned it and made it available for free download as a PDF. Now available.

The Essentials of Klezmer 5-String Banjo

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.

May 17, 2014

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

December 20, 2013

"Revival," by Scott Alarik

Was just reading a new-to-me novel by local writer about traditional music, Scott Alarik. It's called "Revival." Not a bad novel. A very good bit of writing about what folk traditions are and why they matter--just the sort of thing that people involved in traditional Jewish music, for instance, and its evolution might enjoy. One quote in particular articulated something that I have thought about for years without being able to put it into words: "tradition is another word for community."

December 12, 2013

more praise for "Joy of Klez" charts

No other klezmer book seems to get as much praise over the years. Here's another enthusiastic customer:

I think the Joy of Klez are tops and want to support Lori and the Maxwell St gang. I have a quartet at Tree of Life in Columbia Congregation, SC and Rabbi Sherman has been great in hosting us. We play mostly contemporary Klezmer from Daniel Galay but add traditional tunes and use the Joy of Klez books.

From my own experience in playing Klezmer, the Joy of Klez books are the best. The score provided allows adding instrumentation, but the supplied parts for violin/flute/mandolin, clarinet, alto sax, trumpet, bass and piano are very well written, easy to read and not difficult. Best is the fact that CDs are available to hear this music played in style. I am waiting for a second album.

A dank

Bill Campbell
Columbia, SC

To order the books from Tara Music, see: www.jewishmusic.com/search?q=joy+of+klez

July 14, 2013

Pianist Irving Fields new autobiography "The Pianos I Have Known" now available

To be honest, this has been available for a year! Time to get the word out.

The Pianos I Have Known: The Autobiography Of Irving Fields was collaboratively written by 94 year old Irving Fields and Huffington Post columnist Tony Sachs and edited/released by music critic Aaron Joy through his indie book publishing/music label Roman Midnight Music.

The book is currently available in paperback via Lulu, Inc. or Amazon.

The following is from the back cover, covering all the bases of Irving's career: "He's the composer of chart- topping songs performed by the likes of Dean Martin, Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan and Xavier Cugat … one of the original Manhattan "society" cocktail pianists whose career stretches back to the days of Prohibition … whose sister Peppy was known as the Sophie Tucker of Miami Beach due to her long running radio show … the originator of one of the first piano-drum-bass trios, with a later trio lasting nearly 40 years … the man who first fused Jewish and Latin music with the classic 1959 album Bagels & Bongos … a headliner at Carnegie Hall, top draw on round-the-world cruises, star of radio and TV, and writer/performer of a hit song on YouTube … and he's still playing six nights a week as he approaches his 100th birthday … This is the life of a Jewish kid from the Lower East Side who hated practicing piano." He's also the inspiration behind the writing of the book And You Shall Know Us By The Trail Of Our Vinyl about Jewish music history and the first release by the ReBoot Stereophonic jazz reissue label.

The book, at nearly 300 pages, covers his life growing up in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, performing in local Jewish theaters, through being inspired by a trip to Cuba and forming his legendary trio, recording his albums and making hit records, a look behind many of his popular songs, playing with many celebrities including songwriter Albert Gamse, Jackie Mason, Canadian Jewish fusion artist Josh "SoCalled" Dolgin, and to finding a second career well past retirement age. Also included are unseen photos, the first published visual discography of his albums, an appendix on his sister Peppy Fields "the Sophie Tucker of Miami" who started a career in New York as a radio host before relocating south and now she gets into print for the first time. 30 year Manhattan lounge pianist Albert Aprigliano, whose often worked with Irving over the decades, contributed a short introduction.

Irving, who will turn 98 August 4th, continues to play as a solo pianist 6 nights a week in Manhattan at Nino's Tuscany (117 W 58th, Manhattan, Tuesday through Sunday 7-10).

January 2, 2011

Book review: Israeli Mediterranean Music

From Eva Broman, on the Jewish-Music mailing list:

book coverHere is a review of Amy Horowitz's book on Israeli Mediterranean music that might be of interest:

Mediterranean Israeli Music and the Politics of the Aesthetic, reviewed by Motti Regev, Aug 30, 2010

Musiqa mizrahit, aka Israeli Mediterranean Music, is a category of popular music mostly known for its strong Middle Eastern and Greek tinges. It has been at the center of Israeli public discourse on popular music since the late 1970s. By 2010, the leading theme of this discourse is the "triumph" of the genre in the field of Israeli popular music. With prominent performers such as Sarit Hadad, Eyal Golan, Kobi Peretz, Moshe Peretz, Shlomi Shabat, Lior Narkis and others filling up the largest music venues in Israel, leading the sale charts and ruling the radio airwaves, Israeli Mediterranean Music is by 2010 the "mainstream" of Israeli popular music.

September 12, 2010

"Black Sabbath" on NPR this morning

cd coverWe were fortunate enough to hear Josh Kun talk about Jewish music at the Ashkenaz Festival at a talk based on his book, And You Shall Know Us by the Trail of Our Vinyl: The Jewish Past as Told by the Records We Have Loved and Lost. Using album covers as signifiers, he walked us through early releases, and spent wonderful time on both black-Jewish and Latin American-Jewish fusions of eras gone by. Now his re-release team, the Idelson Society, has released a collection of music documenting Black-Jewish interactions in an era gone by: "Black Sabbath." You can hear about it on NPR:

The Secret Musical History Of... 'Black Sabbath'?

This complements a link I have been meaning to post for a couple of weeks, Exploring the Jewish influence on black American music, by Ezra Gale in the SF Weekly. Josh Kun really seems to get it.

February 7, 2009

"The Real Arab Book" now available from OrTav

book coverYossi Zucker writes that "The Real Arab Book," described last month on this blog, is now available directly from Or Tav in Israel. Regarding the question of translation to English he also writes:

To clarify the issue of the English translation of the text in "The Real Arab Book:"

There are two sections with text in Hebrew:

  • A two page introduction, with very short descriptions (not even full sentences sometimes)
  • The addendum, which is a discussion of the scales of the maqamat, which has partly Hebrew titles and again extremely short Hebrew descriptions/definitions.

In the body of the book, all titles and the names of composers are given in English as well.

Quickly going over the texts, I see that I could, with the author's permission, translate the introduction and insert the page. Providing a translation of the section on the scales of the maqamat is problematic. First of all, I would need to receive the original music files from the authors and insert the texts. Secondly, I am not sure how useful this section is, or (more importantly) how accurate. The authors have chosen to list the scales for the maqamat, but the scales are not the maqamat. Also, some of the divisions into families of scales that they have made may not be the most accurate. We are working very hard to be able to issue our English translation of David Muallem's "The Scale and Maqam in the Arabic Musical Tradition," and there you will find a much more detailed and accurate description of the scales and the maqamat that are based on the scales, along with a demonstration CD played on kanun. This book should be ready in several months.

I think that we should see "The Real Arab Book" as a collection of melodies and songs, and leave the business of explaining the maqamat to those who do it better.

January 17, 2009

"The Arab Real Book" - a boon for fans of Middle Eastern Book

Binyomin Ginzberg spotted this one:.

book coverI found an interesting book series during my recent visit to Israel and thought this might well be of interest to list members.

It's a series of books called "The Real Arab Book—For All Oriental Instruments", and it is modeled on the classic jazz "Real Book."

There are two volumes that I'm aware of. I've found a link to an Israeli music bookstore carrying these (Safir music store on Rehov Ben Yehudah). I picked them up locally.

Here are links to Book 1 and Book 2. The version I bought is a revised 2006 version.

In addition to the sheet music, the books also have brief explanatory sections in Hebrew on Arabic song form, the various scales/modes used, etc. The song titles are written in Hebrew and English (and often Arabic too). The index is in Hebrew and English.

I linked to the Music Bookshop website because they have scans of the index available for viewing. You can find it by clicking on the link "לחץ לצפיה בתוכן העניינים" to the left of the cover image on that site. They don't appear to have an English version of their site.

I haven't had a chance to play through these yet, but on quick perusal, I see that includes some specifically Jewish songs like Tzur Mishelo (aka Los Bilibicos), and Yehallel Niv Sefatenu, among others.

It may be possible to get the books directly from the author, E-mail Jacob Nakov

December 18, 2008

Klára Móricz - The Art of Jewish Music, à la Russe

Jewish Identities - book coverMy knowledge of music in general, and of classical music in specific, is limited. But hearing of a lecture about Russia's Jewish Folk Music Society, during this, the centennial of the society's founding, was exciting. Here's the thing. Back in the early 20th century you had the Jews infiltrating Russian conservatories. They decided to band together and create "Jewish music." But, what did that mean?

Continue reading "Klára Móricz - The Art of Jewish Music, à la Russe" »

December 14, 2008

Review: New Klezmer Fiddle book by Ilana Cravitz

book coverWe've already noted that the book is out, but now Eric Zaidins takes Ilana Cravitz' new book for a spin and tries it out with his Westchester Klez Kidz. This is the gift for the budding musician in your family this year. Check out the details of Klezmer Fiddle: a how-to guide. (Note, the book comes with parts for a number of string instruments. We had the great pleasure of using it during our Sukkoth klezmer jam. ari)

With luck, getting this review online means that I'll be breaking the logjam and other listings, calendar events, and reviews will start appearing. If you haven't already purchased items for the gift-giving season, stay tuned.

September 28, 2008

new Yale Strom children's book

The Wedding that saved a town

Yale Strom writes:

For those who love klezmer. A true klezmer story I researched in Poland turned into a children's story. It makes for a wonderful gift for your children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces and friends. Enjoy!

Find out more at Kar-Ben books

Happy Healthy New Year - A Zis un Gezint Naye Yor!
Yale Strom

February 23, 2008

Zeek issue on Jewish music

magazine logoA few months ago I got the then current (Fall/Winter 2007) issue of a new, relatively edgy Jewish cultural magazine called "Zeek." Featuring photography, poetry, and both a CD and several articles on "Music, Art, and the World," the magazine provided a window onto new Jewish music, most of which I had, at best, vaguely heard of. There was an article by Basya Schaechter, of Pharaoh's Daughter, and the words to the Tipex Eurovision entry, "Push the button" (along with an article about Israel, Eurovision, and this particularly controversial entry). Another article claimed, "Piyyut is Jewish Soul Music." The CD (what an anachronism for an online magazine!?!), curated by Jew*School founder Mobius and others, contained cuts by rappers Y-Love and Sagol 59, along with cuts by Pharaoh's Daughter, Juez, Roberto Rodriguez, the aforementioned Tipex (oops, after legal threats, that is now "Teapacks" in transliteration), as well as Silver Jews, Chana Rothman, and others about whom I know next to nothing.

It's sort of humbling to have spent a decade or so claiming to be writing about cutting edge Jewish music and then see someone else not just have a different take on bands that are significant, but present so many bands about whom I know nothing. (The reverse is also true. I would have valued this CD more if there were some Deep Minor, or Later Prophets, or Rashanim, or Hazanos, or Strauss-Warschauer or any of a host of bands/musicians that are neither Israeli nor NewYorkish, but are blowing away old ideas of what "Jewish Music" means.). But then, if you went over to the hasidish Jewish-Music list (not the older list of the same name that I host) you'd find yet another repertoire and list of cutting-edge musicians. If we can't even bring the musics together, what are we to do about the rest of our lives?

In the meantime, hie to the Zeek website, www.zeek.net and sample the articles, catch the latest from the magazine, and help keep them going by ordering your own copy of this rather marvellous collection—it may be as new and wonderous to you as it largely was to me.

November 5, 2007

Another late review: The Yiddish Policeman's Union

book coverIt took me a long time to get into Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union. For the first half of the book I was struck by the author's imagination—an intriguing, vaguely plausible alternative universe leading up to our time such that many things were the same, and a few, including the local slang in this Yiddish outpost in Sitka, were richly different.

Continue reading "Another late review: The Yiddish Policeman's Union" »

October 27, 2007

Michael Wex book launch, "Just Say Nu", Gladstone, Toronto, Oct 29

book coverIf you are a fan of Michael Wex (which is to say, if you have ever met him, heard him speak, or read his previous best-seller), and you live in Toronto, you will be quite pleased to know that the new book, Just say nu is out. It's available at Pages and fine bookstores everywhere. The launch party is going to be this coming Monday night at one of Queen St.'s great reformed hotels (unless you were one of the indigent people who could afford the SRO that it used to be), the Gladstone.

The reading is sponsored by Pages—it's part of their "This is not a reading" series which presents writers and artists with new books. Even if you don't want the book, don't want the autograph, it's still worth showing up because Wex is so damn funny.

Why is Wex so funny? I blame it on Alberta, or at least the Calgary Hebrew Day School, which we both attended (me for just a few early years, insufficient for an adequate humor education, in the early 1960s).

June 24, 2007

review of Regev and Seroussi's "popular music of Israel"

Eva Broman spotted this one and posted it to the Jewish-Music list:

Moti Regev and Edwin Seroussi, Popular Music and National Culture in Israel (University of California Press, 2004). (For the review, scroll down past the information about an Edwin Seroussi speaking engagement): notes.co.il/mati/28799.asp

March 20, 2007

Leibu Levin - a new Anthology of music to Yiddish Poetry

From Ruth Levin a few months ago:

'Leibu Levin: Word and Melody' book coverDear friend,

May I recommend for your Yiddish Music library a new anthology of music to Yiddish poetry—Leibu Levin. Word and Melody, published by I.L. Peretz Publications. Leibu Levin (1914–1983), called Yiddish Schubert, the late Czernowitz born Yiddish actor, singer and composer, was a real troubadour of Yiddish literature. Levin's compositions have been sung also by other Yiddish singers, but until now, there was no anthology of his work.

The new Anthology, compiled by Ruth Levin, the composer’s daughter, includes most of Levin's lifetime work. Piano arrangements are by Hanan Winternitz. All the texts are in Yiddish, English and Hebrew.

The Anthology can be ordered from Ruth Levin for 41 $ USA
0523-455860
E-mail Ruth Levin

Continue reading "Leibu Levin - a new Anthology of music to Yiddish Poetry" »

new editon of "Jewish Heritage Travel" released today

book coverRuth Gruber just posted this to the Jewish-Music mailing list. I travelled all over Eastern Europe ten years ago using the previous edition (which was snapped off my shelf from a fellow-traveler, so who knows where it's gone since then). I should also note to the uninitiated that Ruth Gruber is also the author of 2001's highly-acclaimed "Virtually Jewish: Reinventing Jewish Culture in Europe".

I'm pleased to announce the publication of my book, "National Geographic Jewish Heritage Travel: A Guide to Eastern Europe," which officially comes out today, March 20. It's a new, updated and expanded edition of my original Jewish Heritage Travel, which first came out in back in 1992—a lot has changed since then….

Continue reading "new editon of "Jewish Heritage Travel" released today" »

March 14, 2007

Discovering Jewish Music, now in paperback with audio CD

Discovering Jewish Music, by Marsha Bryan EdelmanDiscovering Jewish Music, by Marsha Bryan Edelman
New in Paperback!

Preview the Preface (PDF)
Preview excerpts from Chapter 8 (PDF)

Jewish music from the Bible to the present, with musical illustrations and an audio CD

Continue reading "Discovering Jewish Music, now in paperback with audio CD" »

September 17, 2006

The world's first graphic novel about Klezmorim? Mighty good, too!

book coverA couple of years ago, I was blown away by a very different Jewish graphic novel called "The Rabbi's Cat." It was by Joann Sfar, who I understand to be a fairly well-known French cartoonist. Now, Avidan Kogel has emailed to let me know of the latest Sfar release, the first volume in a new series: Klezmer: Tales of the Wild East.

Continue reading "The world's first graphic novel about Klezmorim? Mighty good, too!" »

October 9, 2005

A wonderful new graphic novel, "The Rabbi's Cat"

book coverI don't have much of an excuse for writing about this wonderful graphic novel on the KlezmerShack except for the fact that it is, in fact, a wonderful graphic novel. And, among the wonders of this collection of stories about an Algerian rabbi, his daughter, and his cat (narrated by the cat) is some great music. So, genug.

Continue reading "A wonderful new graphic novel, "The Rabbi's Cat"" »