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January 18, 2017

The unexpected smash success of Jewish bluegrass music - Forward, 12-Jan-17

This one was captured by Margot Leverett, leader of the Klezmer Mountain Boys. Not sure the headline writer knows the difference between "blues" and "bluegrass", so think of this as a paean to Jewish "Americana" music. But, don't let the headline put you off—good article:

The Unexpected Smash Success of Jewish Bluegrass Music, by Gabe Friedman, January 12, 2017, The Forward

Saul Kaye never wanted to be a "Jewish blues" player. In his opinion, the Jewish music he had heard growing up in Northern California's Bay Area ranged from "really bad to horrible." In 2009, he was touring as a rock musician, playing hundreds of shows a year with various bands at bars and clubs. And though he had never been very religious, he experienced a bad breakup and felt the need to do something spiritually "radical." …[more]

August 23, 2015

"Fiddler on the Roof" + klezmer + The Temptations.

From Bert Stratton, whose band, is the true inheritor of the Mickey Katz-inspired mashup. This one has a bit of bite. Timely:

February 21, 2015

Mark Rubin CD released

Pretty damn fine 'Jew of Oklahoma' album artOver the years, we've seen and heard lots of musicians who blend a little of this and a little of that. Mark Rubin doesn't really mix anything. He plays the gamut of American music styles from blues to bluegrass, from Cajun to klezmer, closing out with some joyous rhythm 'n' blues. You can tell which is which. What I didn't notice, even from his Americana band, Bad Livers, is how good he is as a song-writer, singer, and fiddler. This CD should make the point.

It takes a Jew from Oklahoma to give us the folk ballad, "The murder of Leo Frank" ("Next time you're at services / say a kaddish for Leo Frank"), followed by a lovely "Rumainyan Fancy." I also appreciate the topicality, breadth, and poetry of the songwriting, from "Key Chain Blues," ("Well the boss man called me up today / Said I gotta take a key off your key chain....") to "(Why am I trying to) kill myself" to the organizing song, "No more to you."

The recording opens with Rubin leaving Texas in "Blues rides a mule," but this music is the best cure for the blues I've heard in too long. This one will be on the playlist for a long time. Best, you can get your own copy—physical CD or download—from our friends at CDBaby. Download it soon, y'all. Time to enjoy some prodigious good picking and feel good about the world again. Great album art, too.

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.

December 20, 2013

Two House Parties

This has been a wonderful week for music. I was too tired to attend the KlezWoods Christmas Klezmer Special (hint: holding me to attend events that begin at my bedtime is iffy), much as I would love to see them back where it all began, at the Atwoods Tavern in Cambridge. But they have neat shows planned for January (see the KlezmerShack world Jewish music calendar) so I am sure to see them soon.

But, this past Saturday night, motzei shabbes, I was treated to a rare local performance—the week's first house party by Alicia Jo Rabins. With her husband, Aaron, she presented a wonderful, midrashic evening full of "Girls in Trouble," including some very new stories that will be featured on a third album in the series. For those unfamilar with "Girls in Trouble," it is a program that grew out of a Masters Thesis at JTA in which Rabins tells the story of women in the Bible. Her use of both literal text and midrash to explicate the lives of women, both well-known (e.g., the prophetess Miriam) and obscure (Tamar), coupled with very American music make for a delicious concert To listen to midrash about Biblical women during this season of lights is also very special. Nah, the truth is, Girls in Trouble give good concert. The rest is just, um, midrash. You can find out more about the project at the Girls in Trouble website.

Wednesday night, we hosted Canadian ethnomusicologist Judith Cohen at our own home. As usually happens, people from all walks of life attended, and the event was just as lively for the conversations that took place after the lecture/performance as people discovered new connections amongst themselves, as for the event itself, which extended long past the scheduled stop time. Cohen reflected on her work in North Africa, Israel, Europe, and back home in Canada, gathering songs and stories. We followed the same song through several languages. We spent a lot of time on variants of the "guy goes off to war, comes back seven years later, and what happens when he tests his wife's faithfulness and feelings." Alas, in all of the variants, there appear to be none in which the woman says, "fuck you for abandoning me for seven years and then having the gall to test my fidelity get lost." There are, however, some in which she says, "well, too bad. I'm married with four kids now. Shoulda stayed home." It's a start.

As tends to happen when the speaker has done field research around the globe, she was also able to dig up songs from town and regions whence came several members of the audience. There were also some singalongs, and, happily, no performance of "Cuando el rey nimrod" (or other chestnuts). Cohen did point out that a song about the birth of the founder of the Hebrew people that refers to the "Jewish Quarter" does lack a certain amount of credibility, overall--but does reflect the song's own origins outside of Jewish tradition.

This morning, Henry Goldberg sent a list of links to follow up on some of the discussion. I post them here for those who were (or weren't) there, for following up further.

  • "Judith mentioned the National Authority for Ladino and postings on youtube—if you search for: Autoridad Nasionala del Ladino i su Kultura you will find many postings
    – some are interviews with Sephardim (in Judeo-Espanyol); – some are songs, including the singalong songs
  • if you search for: שרים בלאדינו you will get those most directly, but they have a number of other videos that are songs with lyrics that one can sing with. This one: www.youtube.com/watch?v=szYhwb8mq0g is a long posting with 8 different songs.
  • Judith also mentioned the songs collected by Susana Weich-Shahak—and there are a number of examples posted on youtube. You can search for: Susana Weich-Shahak or שושנה וייך-שחק those come up.

Judith did recover from her travels, and adds to the above:

Here's a link to one of my general articles on Sephardic music—most of my articles aren't online (or maybe they are and I just don't know—it happens.) This one is from the SIbE online journal TRANS (SIbE is Sociedad Iberica de Etnomusicología): www.redalyc.org/pdf/822/82220947013.pdf

July 30, 2013

Kahn, Charming Hostess, Schechter

Still pretending that I am making a dent in the piles (I count five, all labeled, "review first") of CDs and MP3s on the review tables):

cd coverWhat does a theatre major with an affinity with Yiddish do? Obviously, move to Berlin and make trouble. This latest release, "Bad Old Songs" by Daniel Kahn & the Painted Bird demonstrates that trouble is in no danger of abating.

cd coverWho can keep up with Jewlia Eisenberg? "The Bowls Project" is the most radical, revolutionary, and delightful to listen to CD by Charming Hostess, yet.

cd coverHeartstoppingly beautiful settings for equally intricate and beautiful poetry by the late Rabbi Abraham Joshual Heschel, Basya Schechter's latest solo project, "Songs of Wonder" is the closest we have to new Yiddish music to carry on the tradition of the late Adrienne Cooper.

July 9, 2013

We're #1! Hatikvah's "Jewish Soul" is Amazon.com hit

From Hatikvah Music's Simon, on the Jewish-Music list

'I went to Amazon to see how our CD of "Jewish Soul: The Heart & Soul of Jewish Music" is doing in the ratings, and I was quite pleasantly surprised to see it ranked at #1 in both the "Jewish" and "Israel" categories.'

'The ratings are updated every hour based on sales, but this was quite a nice surprised considering the CD was originally release almost 3 years ago. www.amazon.com/Jewish-Soul-The-Heart-Music/dp/B004CP7T8A/'

This was the "report" around 6:00 PM

Original Release Date: 2010
Number of Discs: 1
Label: Hatikvah Music
Run Time: 43 minutes
ASIN: B004CP7T8A Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,683 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
#1 in Music > World Music > Middle East > Israel
#1 in Music > Folk > Jewish & Yiddish Music
#11 in Music > World Music > Europe > Eastern Europe

July 7, 2013

"God Bless America--or, Mose and His Big Jewish Nose"

From the Jewish-Music list, via Cantor Sam Weiss, one last tribute this year to the anniversary of the US Declaration of Independence:

"That's the title of this July 4th Jewniverse.com article: thejewniverse.com/2013/god-bless-america-or-mose-and-his-big-jewish-nose/

"I first came across the vaudeville song (Before the Jewface CD brought it to our attention) in a much rarer alternate version of the sheet-music in which the title is ever-so-slightly modified by one word to make it ever-so-slightly less offensive: "When Mose With His Hand Leads the Band." Similarly in the lyrics, the line "He's unique with nothing else but just his nose" (which you hear in the Jewniverse recording link at 0:48) was changed to "And to see him lead they stand up on their toes." I just located a complete copy of this version of the sheet music here:

"dl.lib.brown.edu/repository2/repoman.php?verb=render&id=1130861973560044&view=pageturner&pageno=1

"Compared to the "Nose" cover attached to the "Jewniverse" article, the "Hand" cover shows an even more prominently preposterous proboscis, and when I first saw it I just knew that "hand" could not have been in the original title. Sure enough the anatomically correct original version soon was publicized in connection with the Jewface album release.

"Interestingly, both versions were published in 1906. My guess is that the milder title was issued to suit the more delicate sensibilities of the lady performer (Jeannette Dupre) seen in the bottom cameo photo. The recorded version on the Jewface album is slightly faster, and includes the second verse ("Katzenstein plays 'The Rhein'...") missing from the recorded link in this article.

"As far as interesting musicology on "God Bless America," the book described in this recent Forward article looks much more promising: forward.com/articles/179363/the-jewish-history-of-god-bless-america/"

July 4, 2013

"In a Jewish Moog" - Gershon Kingsley

While I'm catching up on amazing finds from Eric Krasner, here's one more, posted to the Jewish music list last August:

"Here's a fascinating clip of a performance of Gershon Kingsley's 'Sabbath for Today' (1971) performed with an early Moog synthesizer. Gershon Kingsley is the man behind the kitschy Moog classic, "Popcorn".

"Gershon Kingsley's 'Sabbath for today,' conducted by the composer, broadcast on Channel 13 in 1971 from Temple Rodeph Shalom. Ephraim Biran cantor/soloist, Rabbi Gunter Hirschberg, speaker, Alfred Drake, narrator, Kenneth Bichel, Moog Modular"

Catching up - remember Mickey Katz, born June 15 over a century ago

I was a bit out of it this past month (bicycle accident—see Google Plus). Among the things I missed were Mickey Katz' birthday on June 15th. Happily, Eric Krasner has shared some links:

104 years ago on June 15, 1909, in the city of Cleveland, a baby born was born, Mickey Myron Victor Katz.

/thejewniverse.com/2013/mickey-katz-borscht-jester/ (includes video w/recording of "Duvid Krocket")

Need some "Yinglish" translation? "Duvid Crockett" was actuall banned in Mickey's hometown! Eric found this gem to help us understand the fuss:

"Big Chief" Norman Wain, a disc jockey in Mickey's hometown of Cleveland banned Mickey's hit, "Duvid Crockett" from his radio show on WDOK back in 1955. Radio host, Phil Fink translates the Yiddish and Yinglish lyrics for us in a search to find out why.

You can find out more about Eric's Mickey Katz movie project at:

www.MickeyKatzMovie.com

Here are two clips from a 1979 interview with Mickey Katz, plus a very short clip of Mickey posing for an album cover, put online by Eric this year—he has more—fund him!

Mickey Katz posing for the cover of "The Most Mishige" (1958) from CineGraphic Studios on Vimeo.

May 22, 2011

JDUB releases free digital Sabbath album

cd coverNew York, NY (April 5th, 2011)-- Walking around a small and dusty record store in Brooklyn one weekend, something odd caught Rob Markoff's eye as he dug through old vinyl: "Sing Out it's Shabbos" was described as "A folk rock Sabbath celebration by the young people of Temple Shaari Emeth, Englishtown, New Jersey." Rob had never seen a record like this before, and he was instantly attracted to the colorized photos splayed across the sleeve in yellow, red and blue, depicting Chuck Taylor-clad teenagers strumming guitars against a curtained backdrop-- a sign above them reading "Give God the Nod." Markoff felt immediately nostalgic for the '70s synagogue of his youth, in which the congregants feathered their hair and the rabbis played guitar and sang in harmony, so he opened his wallet, forked over two bucks, and rushed home to listen.

Sabbapath will be released for free April 5th, 2011 through JDubDigital.com

Continue reading "JDUB releases free digital Sabbath album" »

December 15, 2010

Jeremiah Lockwood, of The Sway Machinery sends this update:

I just recorded a track with Jordan McLean's DROID...extremely lovely experience...listen here:

www.forward.com/articles/133780

"This is the last installation in my ten month long NIGUN PROJECT for the Forward...all ten collaborations (including work with Khaira Arby, Sahr Ngaujah, Brian Chase and other wonderful friends) based on old nigunim are now up online and can be heard here:"

www.forward.com/tags/the-nigun-project

You can also hear the first single from The House of Friendly Ghosts, Vol 1 on iTunes.

October 18, 2010

Latest online access: You ain’t heard nothin’ yet: Al Jolson sings

al jolson singsAl Jolson’s earliest recordings are now online! Visit the glory days of turn-of-the century vaudeville.

The JSA has created five digital albums from 55 of Al Jolson’s most popular songs that were originally produced on 78 rpm recordings. Known as “The World’s Greatest Entertainer” during his lifetime, Jolson became an American-Jewish icon.

Can you remember these favorites tunes? I bet you can’t listen to just one.

Help keep the music alive … Contribute to the JSA

Click here to find out more about Al Jolson.

Click here to listen to all 55 songs.

June 26, 2010

Three new reviews - recordings with attitude

I didn't realize until afterwards that there was a strong theme to today's reviews—these are all CDs that marry really, really good playing with really, really strong attitude. God bless every one of them.

Interesting type and graphics w/homage to wooden type.First up, Daniel Kahn and his Painted Bird ensemble have made a sort of hipster antiestablishmentarian "Yiddish as implicit protest" statement from the beginning. With this 2009 recording, I think the ensemble is coming into its own as a powerful voice for activism. I was corresponding with someone on Facebook last week and he mentioned this recording as one of his favorite recent recordings, so I knew it was time to actually tell people about Parasites & Partisans.

I saw Yiddish Princess in concert last week and haven't had such a good time in a long time. So, with unseemly haste and a lack of reflection, I provide a quick review of their extraordinary debut CD.

And now for an entirely different sort of attitude, perhaps appropriate for posting on a Shabbes before I hit the road to visit friends, we have the aptly named Breslov Bar Band / Have no fear with some of my favorite young New York musicians. Barroom rock 'n' roll meets Breslov to wonderful effect. Enjoy!

First Jewish Women's Music Festival, Falls Village, CT, Aug 2-8, 2010

festival photoJewish Women's Music Festival Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center Falls Village CT August 2-8, 2010 The festival will feature classes with renowned artists, and workshops in song sharing, writing a spiritual song, song and ritual, using chant, drumming, leadership of an audience/reading an audience, choral leadership and a cappella performance (among others). Opportunities to jam will abound and every night there will be a performance as well as open mic opportunities. In the Elat Chayyim tradition, Shabbat will be the central part of the festival. The festival culminates in a public performance at Isabella Freedman on Sunday, August 8th with featured performers including Vocolot, Rakia and Yofiah. For further info: isabellafreedman.org/womensmusic To register: thriva.activenetwork.com

March 24, 2010

Kafrissen on rebooting the Barry Sisters

Rokhl Kafrissen has an interesting piece on Reboot's recent rerelease of a late Barry Sisters recording in the latest issue of Jewish Currents to which I hope all KlezmerShack readers are subscribed. Take a look at Yiddish American Music: “Camp” or For Real?. Enjoy!

October 19, 2009

"Girls in Trouble" captivates

Updated to include current contact/purchase information, 21-Nov-2015. This CD was originally released on the wonderful and much missed JDUB label. The label may be gone, but the musicians continue to make wonderful music.

Girls in Trouble CD coverNobody who knows fiddler & poet Alicia Jo Rabin's first, pre-Golem release, Sugar Shack (2003) will be surprised to hear that her latest project, "Girls in Trouble" is amazing, tuneful, poetic, and just damn impossible to walk away from.

The album's concept is simple: while procrastinating about writing a thesis to complete her Jewish Studies degree at the Jewish Theological Seminary, Rabins wrote poems about several Biblical "women in trouble" and set them to music. Then they took on a life of their own. The subjects range from the obscure (Yiftah's daughter—the one example of uninterrupted human sacrifice in the TaNaKh) to the familiar—Miriam and Ruth. Part of the fun is trying to connect the story as told in Rabins' wonderful poetry, to the actual Biblical event. But the songs are balm. Even when the tales are chilling, her ability to tell a story and set it to wonderful, quiet music, is healing.

I wasn't going to mention this CD until it's release next week, but I can't stop listening to it. Like Rabins, I have to stop procrastinating and get back to work, so let me at least pass on the word about this recording—and suggest that you get your own copy.

For more information about Girls in Trouble, visit the Bandcamp page.

You can also catch an article by Alexander Gelfund, Art Pop Indie Rock Meets Midrash from the Forward, July 1, 2009.

May 30, 2009

Sam Glaser in NJ shabbaton fundraiser for Dubiecko cemetery fund

A SHABBATON WITH SAM GLASER ~ JEWISH MUSIC, JEWISH MEMORY

Sam GlaserFriday, August 7 & Saturday, August 8, 2009
Flemington Jewish Community Center
5 Sergeantsville Road, Flemington, NJ 08822

Friday, August 7th , starting at 7:30 PM
Enter into Shabbat with a joyous Kabbalat Shabbat and Evening service, followed by a festive Shabbat dinner, with study and singing.

Saturday, August 8th, starting at 9:15 AM
Stay connected with your Shabbat Soul with Shabbat services. Sam Glaser will present the Dvar Torah after the Torah service. Services will be followed by a Kiddush luncheon, followed by study and some more singing!

Shabbat Afternoon, starting at 6:00
Children's programming- Sam will teach some songs to the children who will later participate in the Saturday Night concert after Havdalah.
At 7:00, Sam will again lead a study and discussion group on "Attitude of Gratitude"- the theme of his most recent CD of the Psalms of Hallel.

Satruday evening, starting at 7:30
Mincha service, followed by Seudat Sh'lishit, the Third Meal of Shabbat, followed by study and EVEN MORE SINGING! Then we will have the Shabbat evening service and Havdalah.

Motzei Shabbat, approximately 9:00:
A SAM GLASER CONCERT- WITH PARTICIPATION OF FRIENDS AND KIDS!
Special Guest: Adrianne Greenbaum of KlezmerFlute - Nationally and internationally known klezmer musician and teacher.

All this for a requested donation of $18 per person, $36 per family. All proceeds go to support the restoration of the Jewish cemetery in Dubiecko, Poland- one of the "Lost Jewish communities" of Polish Galicia - through a program of the American Joint Distribution Committee.
PLEASE MAKE ANY CHECKS OUT TO: FJCC/ RABBI'S DISCRETIONARY FUND: DUBIECKO FUND.

Call (908) 782-6410 for further information

Continue reading "Sam Glaser in NJ shabbaton fundraiser for Dubiecko cemetery fund" »

January 23, 2009

Second Jack Zaentz podcast released

From Jack:

I wanted to let everyone know that the Teruah Podcast Episode 2: The Story Show is now online. In this episode I've rounded up a great array of Jewish story songs sung in English, everything from Yiddish novelty songs to brand new Indie Pop with stories ranging from the Torah to Chelm to New York. Check it out.

January 21, 2009

Judith Pinnolis review: Rebecca Teplow's "Kaveh / Hope"

cd coverOver at the Jewish Music Web Center, Judith Pinnolis has a short review of a new CD by Rebecca Teplow, "Kaveh / Hope". The recording features Teplow's lovely, Joni Mitchell-ish voice and liturgical texts and folky-to-rock-ish music. The CD is available from cdbaby.com.

July 6, 2008

The Jerusalem Post weighs in on "Lipa"

Sent to the Jewish-Music mailing list by Michael Makiri:

The first haredi pop star, by Michal Lando, on July 3, 2008

The wisdom of crowds being what it is, the following comment came from Sam Weiss:

Great article, though it misses the mark in one key paragraph: "… in the past few years, Schmeltzer's albums have gained tremendous popularity within the Orthodox world—due in part to his innovations in fusing traditional hassidic music with contemporary music styles."

Continue reading "The Jerusalem Post weighs in on "Lipa"" »

June 30, 2008

The Lipa Ban - Charedi music controversy continues

Over at Blog in Dm, the author has been detailing curious stories of bizarre over-reaching by some charedi rabbis in Brooklyn. The most intriguing one was a ban on listening to an Orthodox entertainer, Lipa Schmeltzer, right before a major gig. It doesn't seem to have worked, and the new Lipa LP, "A simple guy" (a poshuter yid) is now out. More details from the source: This Review Is Banned! -- Lipa Schmeltzer's "A Poshiter Yid".

I took a quick gander at the promotional video for the new LP:

By me, this is good, current dance music set to frum words. Neither is something that I have a great interest in, although I'm getting ready to pick up my own copy of the CD to weigh in on the controversy. What keeps coming up for me, and I'm sure I've mentioned this before, is what the rebbes in Babylon must have said when those modern piyyutim folks started bringing in these pietistic poems set to the current dance music of the day some 1500 years ago (stay tuned--I attended a piyyut class in Jerusalem while I was in Israel this spring and it was damn fun--blog post to follow, I hope, before time erases it from my memory). So, today, at a time when I run around talking about how Judaism is changing and Rabbinic Judaism is sooo last century, people still living in the middle of that allegedly outdated community are listening to what's happening around them and setting pieties to today's modern dance music. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Irony on me if the big changes that stick have to do with music (especially when you consider that I quite like most traditional musics and have no interest in the current stuff), not מנהג or הלכה. heh!

And the anti-Lipa rabbonim? The dustbin of history will be theirs soon enough. Too damn bad they have to engage in such nasty lashon ha-ra on the way.

June 23, 2008

"Essen" sticks to my ribs

CD coverSuppose Mickey Katz were alive today. Not alive in tribute. Not alive as a mere incredible clarinet player, but suppose someone could play like Mickey Katz, someone who got how Mickey would sound today and made his music sound like today's hip R&B. Then suppose that this person could convey the craziness of Katz, even better, could channel the earlier craziness of Slim Gaillard, Cab Calloway, the Barton Brothers, even add to it….

Continue reading ""Essen" sticks to my ribs" »

June 22, 2008

New blog from Jeff Klepper

Pioneer in the "folky" new nusakh movement, Cantor Jeff Klepper, now has a blog up at jeffklepper.blogspot.com". He describes it as: "devoted to 'musings on Jewish music, spirituality and humor, and wistful memories of days gone by.' There's a lot of interesting and off-beat music to listen to—what more can I say? "

June 21, 2008

JDUB 5th Anniversary party in NYC

event logoOn Sunday July 20th, JDub is celebrating its 5th Anniversary with a FREE event at the Prospect Park bandshell as part of the annual Celebrate Brooklyn festival series. The event, which runs from 5-9 PM (doors open at 4) will feature Golem, Soulico, DeLeon, Sway Machinery, and Michael Showalter hosting, as well as cool special guests like Brian from Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Israeli godfather of hip-hop Sagol 59 and a marching band.

JDub has brought some of the most interesting music of the last five years--yeah, those are JDub artists above, and doesn't even include SoCalled or former stablemate, Matisyahu. This is the place to be on July 20th.

Celebrate Brooklyn @ Prospect Park Bandshell
Doors open at 4 PM; music starts at 5 PM
$3 suggested donation to Celebrate Brooklyn
www.briconline.org/celebrate/072008.asp

March 9, 2008

Herbie Mann's Eastern European Roots

According to Wikipedia, this was the last Herbie Mann recording made. Britt, of the Nefesh Klezmer Band, spotting this back in 2001.

cd coverChaverim,

pardon my enthusiasm, but …

I'm in love with a new CD and I just had to share it with the list. It's Herbie Mann's "Eastern European Roots". Yes, it's the same jazz flute I've loved since I first heard it as a teenager, but there is something more, a soulfulness. Mann explains in his liner notes that a brush with death made him re-examine his musical life, and he realized he had explored many other types of music but not his own Jewish musical roots—his mother is from Bucovina, Romania.

When he recovered, he traveled to Eastern Europe and this CD is the result. He's joined by other exemplary musicians, most notably Gil Goldstein on accordion (sounds to me like a chromatic button accordion) played with a moody musette sound. And Alexander Fedoriouk on cymbalom, my current instrument of choice. His style ranges from a dark, old time klezmer- sound to a jazzy gypsy swing (a la Kalman Balogh). However you classify this album (jazz, klezmer), I'm sure many list members will also enjoy it.

February 11, 2008

New reviews by Keith Wolzinger

CD coverI have been slowly gathering in reviews written by Keith Wolzinger over the last few months. There are many more to come, but in the meantime, check out his wide-ranging examination of the post-klezmer sounds of The Lithuanian Empire, country-Jewish Mare Winningham / Refugee Rock Sublime, Yiddish folk and theatre songs from Hy Wolfe / Yiddish Songs for the Soul, world Jewish music by Montrealer Hélène Engel Trio / Voyage, and new Jewish sounds of another Montrealer, Shelley Posen / Menorah.

August 7, 2007

Zamir Chorale of Boston to hold Auditions, Newton, MA, Sep 23, 2007

The Zamir Chorale of Boston, "America's foremost Jewish choral ensemble," will hold auditions for all voice parts on Sunday, September 23 from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. at Hebrew College, 160 Herrick Road, Newton Centre. Auditions are by appointment only and must be scheduled in advance by calling the Zamir office at (617) 244-6333.

Candidates must have excellent vocal quality, the ability to sight-read music, and previous choral experience. In addition to the audition, candidates are required to attend open rehearsals at Hebrew College on Tuesday, September 11th and September 18th from 7:15 to 10:00 p.m. Rehearsals are held on Tuesdays at Hebrew College, from 7:15 to 10:00 p.m., from September through early June. For more information about Zamir, visit www.zamir.org

December 2, 2006

CD Review: Klezmatics / Wonder Wheel

Woody Guthrie-style naive art with bad letteringKlezmatics / Wonder Wheel. JMG Records, JMG 18033-02, 2006. CD available everywhere. Start at the Klezmatics website, www.klezmatics.com.
Seth Rogovoy about the Klezmatics' Woody Guthrie project
There are few concerts I have enjoyed as much as the Klezmatics' debut of Woody Guthrie songs that they had set to music a couple of years ago. (They are on tour with this music now, so check out their website or the KlezmerShack calendar for concerts near you.) The band has captured the spirit of Woody without ever sounding like anyone but the Klezmatics. Now, two years later I am listening to the actual music captured on CD with tears in my eyes. It's just that good*.

Continue reading "CD Review: Klezmatics / Wonder Wheel" »

November 27, 2006

CD Review: Andy Statman / East Flatbush Blues

nice image of Andy; the type does nothing for meAndy Statman / East Flatbush Blues. Shefa Records, HORN-3001, 2006 www.andystatman.org .
CD available from amazon.com. Elliott Simon has also reviewed this CD for All About Jazz.
The Klezmershack received two new CDs by Andy Statman, recorded contemporaneously, each featuring a different side of the artist. This is the bluegrass CD, and on it Statman is backed by Jim Whitney, and one of my favorite Americana drummers, Larry Eagle. Eagle I last heard propelling Bruce Springstein's "Pete Seeger Sessions" show. Statman I last saw playing with one of my favorite bluegrass bands, Wayfaring Strangers. But standing there, Statman merged bluegrass with klezmer and hassidic music. On this CD, he pays tribute to Bill Monroe and to his bluegrass roots only. I gotta say: when you're Andy Statman, that's enough.

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December 31, 2005

George Robinson: Best Jewish Music Recordings of 2005

album coverGeorge Robinson writes frequently for the Jewish Week. He listens to an incredible diversity of music. Take a read of Five Stars All Around: From chasidic reggae to Golden Age chazanut, the best recordings of 2005, Jewish Week, 12/30/2005 (could this really be? Posting a new review in a timely fashion! I'll try to keep up for a while! Since several of the CDs I've been meaning to review are on this list, I even resolve to catch up here at home!)

November 23, 2003

New KlezmerShack reviews

There never seems to be time to review everything I'd like to write about. When music this good arises, I find myself listening over and over and forgetting to move on. That's okay. That's why I listen and write in the first place. So, from Australia to Ireland via California and Salonika via NYC, here are the latest. If you are getting an early start on your Chanuka shopping this coming weekend, pay good attention - these are the new musics that folks will be wanting:

a ripe fig. deliciousThe Fig Tree, 2003
This is a delightful collection of Greek, Jewish, and other music, accompanying a book on immigrants to Australia by Arnold Zable. Don't let the distance from Australia stop you from listening to this, hearing the latest from our favorite Australian klezmer bands, and hearing some wonderful other music, as well.

the green of ireland seen through a deep stone windowCeiliZemer / Shalom Ireland, 2003
Continuing the international tour, this soundtrack to a documentary about Jews in Ireland fuses the two musics delightfully. Yes, indeed, think of what hasidic music (and klezmer) might have been like if the uillean pipes had been available in Eastern Europe. There's still time to add them here.

Helvetica. Sheesh. and bits of time and musicDavid Chevan / Days of Awe, 2003
Chevan has gathered his Afro-Semitic Experience, including guitar wizzard Stacy Phillips, and added Frank London. The result is exquisite jazz versions of music from the High Holy Days. If you like this sort of thing (I do), this is definitely the sort of thing that you will like.

The high lonesome wooden synagogueMargot Leverett & the Klezmer Mountain Boys, 2003
Today's theme seems to be fusion music. You got yer Greeks and Klezmers; you got yer Irish and Klezmers. And when you're especially lucky, you got your bluegrass klezmers. But, it's a Margot Leverett album, so you already knew that it would be on your "essential klezmer" list, anyway. I think of Leverett the way I think of Jeff Warschauer and Deborah Strauss - if she's involved, it's not only amazing, but it's comfort music - the perfect accompaniment for when you feel great, and an even better accompaniment for when you need a lift.

  • interesting letter on desert backgroundSarah Aroeste / A la una, 2003
    Mobius, of my favorite Jewish weblog, Jew*School suggested that I write something about these new Sephardic artists. Some I knew. Aroeste's name was unfamiliar. It shouldn't be. This is extraordinary Ladino music, set with contemporary instrumentation and sounds by someone who has worked with good avant garde musicians and knows what good music should sound like. But the critical part is how seamlessly she has kept the feel of traditional Ladino song. This is one of our favorite albums this year. Who knew?

    interested hip hop khasene sceneSolomon & Socalled / HipHopKhasene, 2003
    As much fun as I had writing about everything else, this is my favorite of the bunch. Witty, brilliant, funny, and great music. The album features not only the amazing Socalled, but Oi Va Voi's Sophie Solomon. Guests include David Krakauer, Zev Feldman, Frank London, Michael Alpert, Elaine Hoffman-Watts and daughter Susan... even Jewish-music mailing list regular, Cantor Sam Weiss. Essential for all but the humor-impaired.

  • November 3, 2003

    New reviews by George Robinson

    George Robinson announces a slew of new music columns published almost all together in New York's Jewish Week:

    Five-Star Klez: From New Orleans and Odessa, fusion and traditional approaches.

    A Fall Sampler: From Solomon Rossi to Michael Strassfeld.

    Heard Around The World: From Turkey to London to the Lower East Side.

    August 4, 2003

    Five new music reviews

    I only got to two of the brand new recordings this weekend, partly because I've had trouble putting away some of the CDs that were sent last year. It's time. It's certainly time to spread the word.

    anothing Tzadik coverAnyone who has watched him perform, or more broadly, who has seen Claudia Heuermann's "Sabbath in Paradise," which covers the New York downtown Jewish music scene, is familiar with Coleman's work. His recordings with Sephardic Tinge--Coleman accompanied by bass and drums--present him at his most accessible and, I think, most lyrical. Last year's Our Beautiful Garden Is Open is an excellent example.

    a lovely purple potatoI remember being amused by the name, "Orient Express Shnorer Klezmers" or something--a French klezmer band that seemed interesting, but I never had time to write a review. Now they have evolved into an incredibly articulate, brassy klezmer jazz ensemble. This tribute to Jewish food is a perfect introduction. Remember, when terrorists put a bomb in Paris back in the mid-eighties, it was a Jewish deli that was bombed. This is French Jewish food. Food matters. Delicatessen

    lovely detail from Turkish SynagogueThis is simply a pleasure. One of the most beautiful Sephardic albums I have heard in a while. Lovingly documented, beautifully sung by Hadass Pal-Yarden. Yahudice

    Surely we should never have to see a poorly used Zapf chancery again!ëYes, we have another name change. The band whose name was once preceded by "Shawn's", is now simply "Kugel." Be that as it may, here's another helping of everything from the Grateful Dead to Aleynu, in Finger Play

    delightful painting of 'Jewish Folk Musicians' by Mané-Katz' w/appropriate party typographyThis week's winner of the "another band that I would have happily hired for my own wedding" is KlezmerFest. The band includes a couple of members of Hasidic New Wave, but this is where they get down and make traditional Party Music.

    May 26, 2003

    New reviews from all over

    It is nice to be at a point where the KlezmerShack can feature articles by people who listen to and are interested in music about which I know nothing. My goal is to ensure that people who love Jewish music can spread the word about things that may be worth listening to. The more voices, and the more diverse ways of considering the subject there are, the better.

    In that vein, Chicago writer Stewart Cherlin, who did a year end wrapup back in 1997 has recently contributed an article on Rabbi Joe Black

    And, stepping into the breach to write about related non-Jewish music that will be of interest to KlezmerShack readers, Roger Reid contributes a review of the new album by cymbalist Alexander Fedoriouk, "Crossing Paths." Fedoriouk is familiar to many klezmer aficionados for his work on recent albums by Sy Kushner and others. He is also a member of the Cleveland-based world music band, Harmonia, in which Khevrisa violinist Steve Greenman (as well as former Budowitz co-member Walt Mahalovich) also finds a home.

    I have been trying to dig myself out from under the accumulated mountain of incredible music, as well.

    One of my favorite "traditional" klezmer albums these past few months has been a delightful album from the Montreal-based band, Shtreiml. What makes this unusual, and causes me to put the word "traditional" in quotes is the use of the harmonica as the primary solo instrument. Once you hear the music, however, I trust that you, too, will be a Harmonica Galitzianer

    One of the latest releases from Tzadik is Jon Madof's first recording with his Jewish-derived jazz band, "Rashanim". Although the band is named for the noisemakers used on Purim to drown out the sound of Haman's name, the jazz is anything but. The mix of Jewish, as well as other music sources is well done and a joy to the ears.

    April 13, 2003

    Jewish Music Conference at Yale, Apr 12-13

    New Haven, Conn. Yale University will host a conference on April 12 and 13, celebrating the acquisition of a major collection of Jewish music by the University.

    The Wallersteiner Collection of Jewish Music includes about 700 pieces of sheet music of popular, liturgical and theater songs and hymns from Germany, the United States, Israel and elsewhere from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The collection was acquired by the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library at Yale.

    For further information check the conference web site at www.library.yale.edu/judaica/music/index.html or contact Nanette Stahl, conference director, at nanette.stahl@yale.edu or phone number (203)432-7207.

    Continue reading "Jewish Music Conference at Yale, Apr 12-13" »

    April 11, 2003

    TRANCE: An Art Installation (Opens April 30)

    ELDRIDGE STREET PROJECT
    presents a site-specific multimedia installation

    TRANCE
    Pearl Gluck and Basya Schechter

    April 30 - July 30 2003

    OPENING NIGHT WED, APRIL 30, 6PM
    live performance and reception
    exhibition graphic

    12 Eldridge Street, (between Canal and Division)
    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 212.978.0803

    Continue reading "TRANCE: An Art Installation (Opens April 30)" »

    March 23, 2003

    New KlezmerShack Reviews

    The church at the end of the alley, decent punk typeIt's been a very fun week. There are new reviews up demonstrating, once again, the absurd bread of interesting music that is being sent to the KlezmerShack:

    Naftule's Dream / Live in Florence is a dream--this live recording catches the energy and interplay of this post-klezmer edge band as nothing yet.

    loud, cheesy benguiat with cliched drawing of chassidim drinking in violin caseDresder & Mayer / Sruli and Lisa's Klezmer Dance Party provides the answer to the question: "what two people are most responsible for people associating "party" and "klezmer".

    Nikolayev Kapeliah / Vodkazak features some of my favorite klezmer and jazz musicians (Alicia Svigals, Jeff Warschauer, Sy Kushner, Marty Confurious, Nicki Parrot) tearing up chasidic standards. Hot.

    Meshugga Beach Party. It's time to twist to those freilachs once again. Dick Dale meets "Hatikvah" and wins.

    March 22, 2003

    Review of Laura Wetzler CD

    Looks like kabbalah to meIt's about time, but we finally have a short review up of the marvellous recent CD by Laura Wetzler, Kabbalah Music

    March 8, 2003

    "Kabbalah Music" CD Concert Art Exhibit, premiers Mar 9

    Looks like kabbalah to me

    "Kabbalah Music" CD Release Concert & Art Exhibit
    Sisters Explore Jewish Mysticism through Music and Painting

    Laura Wetzler in "Kabbalah Music: Songs of the Jewish Mystics" Sunday, March 9, 3pm at The Merkin Concert Hall, 129 W.67th St., NYC. Tickets $25. Call Box Office:(212) 501-3330, Special Guests: Alicia Svigals, violin (of the Klezmatics,) Amir Chehade & Robin Burdulis, mideast percussion; Scott Wilson, kanun; Maurice Chedid, oud. Set Design and Art Exhibit by Angela Milner.

    In conjunction, "Kabbalah Music: Encaustic Paintings by Angela Milner" The Merkin Concert Hall Gallery, 129 W.67th St. NYC. March 9-April 1. Post "Kabbalah Music" concert reception and art opening in gallery. Gallery hours by appointment thereafter: (212) 307-1385.

    Continue reading ""Kabbalah Music" CD Concert Art Exhibit, premiers Mar 9" »

    February 23, 2003

    Five New Reviews

    The next-best-thing to Hopper in expressing exile and alonenessIn what I hope will be the beginning of a plethora of new reviews, as I catch up with the pile of CDs that has accumulated since before my wedding, I have the first five up. All of these are great albums, but I caution folks that this is still the tip of the iceberg. In any event:
    • Pharaoh's Daughter / Exile, 2002 -- this will blow your mind. Basya Schechter has gotten superlative reviews for previous albums, but this new album is even better.

    • The Red-Hot Chachkas / Family Album, 2002 -- I have been following Julie Egger since she formed her first band, post KlezKamp, in 1998. This album shows how good she, and the band are. It is a very exciting traditional klezmer album with a couple of excellent new tunes.

    • Vocolot / Heart Beat, 2002 -- my earliest memory of Linda Hirschhorn is her talking with a friend of mine, even before I moved to Berkeley (which is a major relocation ago) about her music. Here, she and her primarily a capella band, the Vocolot (how aptly named! "vocolot" is Hebrew for "voices") range all over the world for songs of spirit and beauty, as well as featuring some of Linda's newest compositions.

    • clunky pastel drawing - not to my taste, although the type is fineAdrianne Greenbaum / FleytMuzik, 2002 -- I am awestruck, and am not going to waste further verbiage trying to describe what an amazing, beautiful, virtuosic album this is. If you like klezmer, or you like flute, or if you didn't know that you liked either, this will still be your favorite album for a long time.

    • Paul Shapiro / Midnight Minyan, 2003 -- this just arrived. I popped it on to the changer to check it out, and have had a hard time not leaving it on constant replay ever since. Shapiro works primarily with the familiar Conservative synagogue song that all bar mitzvahs of a certain age (and perhaps bar and bat mitzvahs to this day) will recall. But what he does with this music, and with other Jewish sources, is to take davening to a new level. This is spiritual music and jazz of the highest order. (Bet you never davened to a rhumba before!)

    Enjoy.

    February 17, 2003

    Review of Maxwell Street / Old Roots New World, by Richard Sharma

    album coverRichard Sharma has posted several reviews of wonderful klezmer albums to the Jewish-music list. The author has given us permission to post this one to the KlezmerShack, and we thank him profusely. Our own delay in getting this reviewed is only partially mitigated by Mr. Sharma's well-written, and suitably enthusiastic words: www.klezmershack.com/articles/sharma/sharma.maxwellst.html

    Enjoy!

    December 20, 2002

    New American-Jewish Music for Prayer CD

    OPEN THE GATES! is a representative sampling (or as representative as one CD can be)--18 selections, by 18 different composers and performers--of contemporary American-Jewish religious folk music, reflecting the inclusive, intimate, and lyrical style of contemporary Jewish prayer music--and incorporating various American folk and popular styles (bluegrass/country/world music/a cappella/"light" jazz; guitars and fiddles, pianos and flutes) in the characteristic manner of Jewish musical fusion. It is unusual--and perhaps unique--for including under one virtual roof the music of almost every segment of the American Jewish community--from the more-or-less yeshiva world to Jewish Renewal, and many in between. The compiler is Robert Cohen.

    December 30, 2001

    The Soul of Klezmer: Last reviews of 2001

    Capsule reviews of music by San Francisco Klezmer Experience, Channe Nussbaum & Spielniks, Jack Kessler, Bang on a Can, Abby Rabinowitz, Klezmerica, Musa Berlin, Di Gojim, Jamie Saft, Jeremy Brown, and compilation 'The Soul of Klezmer'

    December 1, 2001

    The latest hot stuff, part 2, 12 Dec 2001

    Capsule reviews of music by Moshe 'Moussa' Berlin, Klezmokum, Di Naye Kapelye, Shirim Klezmer Orchestra w/Ellen Kushner, Lerner & Moguilevsky (aka 'Klezmer en Buenos Aires'), Hester Street Troupe, Mesinke, a rerelease from the Chicago Klezmer Ensemble, and two compilations: the Rough Guide to Klezmer and Henry Sapoznik's Klezmer! Jewish Music from Old World to Our World.