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.
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.
At the beginning of WWII, Olivier Messiaen was in the French army, and was taken prisoner of war. People less philistine than I consider it one of the premier pieces of 20th century music, and it premiered in Stalag 8-A on Jan 15, 1941 with Messiaen on piano, and three other musicians—one of them a Jewish clarinetist, Henri Akoka. There is a stunning description of the circumstances under which the piece was written and premiered in a new novel, Orfeo by one of my favorite authors, Richard Price. It may be the best section, and one that best illuminates what Powers is trying to say with the novel. (The one Jewish music connection to this piece, perhaps? Partly as a result of being part of that quartet of musicians, with missteps and near-transports along the way, Henri Akoka survived the war.)
I have been listing to an old RCA recording of "The Quartet for the End of Time" for the last couple of months, ever since reading about it in the novel. I had purchased the recording after reading Alex Ross' incredible book on 20th century music, All the rest is noise," a few years ago, and quite frankly, hadn't gotten into it. That has changed.
Now, things have changed again. David Krakauer has released a new recording of the quartet, framed by short pieces composed by himself ("Akoka") and digital re-mix wizard, SoCalled ("Meanwhile...."). It includes Krakauer on clarinet, SoCalled on electronics, Matt Haimovitz on cello, Jonathan Crow on violin, and Geoffrey Burleson on piano. It is stunning. It will officially release on April 1, and if you are at all interested in amazing once-avant garde music, this is a must-purchase. It has replaced (mostly) my older recording. As intended, this is the "Quartet for the end of time" for our time.
The recording is available from Oxingale Music, oxingalerecords.com/2014/02/22/akoka/.
There is an amazing label in Israel, Auris Media, putting out delicious, noisy, mashed-up fusion music. I got my latest fix this week, so let me give you all a quick rundown as I get ready to spend more time listening. I'll also put up links as to how to get these—the Auris Media website is the latest of my favorite vendors to suffer misfortune. In their case, most of the most recent CDs are not listed (or order-able online), although there is an active concert listing for those in Israel. I should also mention that if you purchase physical media, you are getting beautiful packages. This label is a labor of love. For those of us who treasure non-commercial music, Auris Media is a treasure.
Long-time readers of this site will be familiar with "Kruzenshtern and Parohod," a punk/avant-garde-ish band from Tel Aviv. More on them, anon. Most important at the moment is that they have completed two recent EP recordings with fellow-travelers, Vialka, from France. The combined band is know as the "KiV Orchestra." I love it! Each of these recordings contains only five songs. It's as if the US punk-klezmer-balkan band, Golem moved even more extreme (and lost the klezmer), or if soulmates "Painted Bird" likewise amped up the noise and added French and Russian. Heck. "After Hostilities Ended" from Extension could have come from Daniel Kahn if they'd only sung it in Yiddish! KiV is a noise circus coupled with the amazing vocals of Marylise Frecheville. From the press release: "… a twisted version of Berlin 1920s cabaret into broken tango chansons, outsider's music from the Balkan and traditional Russian prisoner's songs. All these different styles and flavors mixed together with tons of black humor and a tough punk attitude." Get your recordings on iTunes, or from the Vialka website: www.vialka.com. Whatever hyperbole follows about other recordings? It may be true, but this is what has captured my listening time since its arrival. Extra kudos for "This is Not Tradition" on the LaRoue EP. You can also get most of the contents of the two EPs on a new release on LP/MP3: Whole.
Igor Krutogolov and his fellow Tel Aviv-niks have been busy. I captured a short set of theirs a couple years ago on the KlezmerShack channel on YouTube which contains some material ("Koshka") from the most recent release, Hidden Album. The band (the origins of whose name resides in Russian irony; no duo, no Kruzenshtern, no Parohod) is now up to four members since the addition of accordionist Boris Martinovsky, the "Michael McLaughlin of the Israeli avant garde." What they haven't lost is intensity. Going back a bit further to what is new to me is Noize 2005. With one song arranged by John Zorn, and that aforementioned intensity (and even without Martinovsky's accordion) the band reminds me a lot of my local Boston homies, Naftule's Dream, with an eclectic avant garde, anarchic-sounding intricately-arranged set of boundary-pushing punk-inflected soundscapes. That may be the longest string of compound adjectives I've used in a while. This isn't simple music (nor music for simple people ;-)). But unlike a lot of such music, these guys have their instruments attuned to something special. I may be listening to KiV Orchestra more, this week, because it is entirely new, but these two CDs will stay out with their brothers for a long while. Get your copies directly from iTunes, or from band camp.
Russian rapper/singer Psoy Korolenko is a treasure. In his second outing with Israel's premier klezmer band, Oy Division, Psoy Division / Dicunt he spreads anarchy and good feelings far and wide. It is easy to imagine, in fact, a delightful concert featuring this lineup and the earlier-reviewed KiV Orchestra. I'd go a long way to hear them all live. This is a reasonable place to listen in the meantime. As on his earlier recording with Daniel Kahn (just a few sentences from now), Psoy is mashing up Russian, Yiddish, Hebrew, klezmer, and rap, all to wondrous effect. There is even an excellent cover of Daniel Kahn's recent "Love Lays Low." But, here he is messing more directly with traditional folk traditions, ranging from Russian to Hasidic. I have attitude. I love it when really good musicians mess with things. For those who need their "messing" more political, I've had Daniel Kahn, Psoy Korolenko, Oy Division / The Unternationale in the "listening, must review soon" pile for a couple of years, but haven't gotten a mention online. More shame, me. From the echoes of "Sympathy for the Devil" on the opening "Rakhmones afn tayvl" in Russian and Yiddish with its brilliant klezmer sound, this recording is delightful. The irony of sitting in Jerusalem and refighting the battles between the Zionists and Bundists (exemplified by a cover of the 1931 Beregovski recording, "Oy, ir narishe tsienistn"), plus the usual counterspin on life, politics make this a recording that is not just fun to hear, but fun to listen to closely Psoy's anti-cleric rap in the middle of the traditional Russian "Ekh Lyuli Lyuli" is worth the price of admission all on its own.
If you have stuck it out this far, you must be wondering if the KlezmerShack is ever going to review, say, klezmer again. Is there something on my review pile that is just plain pleasant to listen to, but also worth listening to? So, I'll conclude today's mini-reviews with a mention of Le Freylekh Trio / featuring Goulash System". As Tim put it in his most recent nudge, "One of the coolest bands in Paris. Klezmer-Gypsy-Balkan-African... The sounds of Menilmontant and La Goutte D'Or!" Easy for him to say. He's featured on this recording. If you like Django Reinhardt and jazz that swings, if you like Gypsy and klezmer music, if you just like great guitar and playing, plus wonderful vocals, then this is the recording to listen to. On this recording, the basic guitar-fiddle-bass are joined by a host of others. You can check out the recording on soundcloud.
Okay, now I have mentioned Tim Sparks, the amazing guitarist who, among other accomplishments (more in a minute) has released several tuneful and entirely un-avantgarde Jewish music recordings on Tzadik. Listening/watching him play is one of those special pleasures. There is a warmth to his playing (and an amazing speed to his fingers) that always blows me away and makes me feel good inside. On this 2009 release, Time Sparks / Little Princess, Tim channels crazy man Naftule Brandwein. In Tim's fingers, Brandwein's emotionally complex clarinet solos become instrumentally complex guitar heaven. Ben Bresky interviewed Tim about the album back in 2009 if you want to know more. But me, I'd just get the recording. Right. I have it. Now I've told you about it and you can do the same ;-).
As well as he plays klezmer and other Jewish music, Sparks is better known for covering early 20th century blues and jazz. As he describes in the liner notes to Tim Sparks / Sidewalk Blues, 2009, the early 20th century is when "American Roots music crystallized and was transformed by the effects of recording and radio.…" This is actually the music I loved before I encountered klezmer (and Stockhausen—but that's another story), and this recording is spankin' great. You can get your copy right off his website, along with his guitar transcriptions, books, and instructional DVDs.3 Leg Torso / Animals & Cannibals is a delight through and through. As was true on previous recordings (and especially 2003's Astor in Paris), the band starts out from the tango, but I think it is probably truer to describe them as a chamber music group that starts with great (mostly) dance music (including, on this recording, the whimsical "According to Chagall" plus an intriguingly fun "Frailach #1) and explores. For me, this is great listening music, great music for sharing, and surprisingly great music for working. Like the Tim Sparks recordings that reminded me that this is on the "review me now, dammit" pile, there is a warmth and rhythm to the ensemble that makes it easy to focus when I really need to focus, and a freedom from "thumpa thumpa" that lets me smile when I come up for air. As has been true for everything I've written about this afternoon, this is music that I love. But especially in keeping with with the Freylekh Trio, Tim Sparks recordings, and here, this is music that is gentle, tuneful, and compellingly intricate. You're a click or two away from your own mp3 copy from the band's website (physical CD available from amazon.com, cdbaby.com, and fine purveyors everywhere). Enjoy.
Well, some of the piles are a bit shorter now. Thank you for giving me the excuse to spend the afternoon listening to some of my new, and older favorites, all of which needed to be shared.
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):
What 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.
Who can keep up with Jewlia Eisenberg? "The Bowls Project" is the most radical, revolutionary, and delightful to listen to CD by Charming Hostess, yet.
Heartstoppingly 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.
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"
Glenn Dickson has periodically rented the tiny LilyPad lounge in Cambridge to showcase his bands. In a hall that small, you're really talking about a chance for the band to play what most interests it at the moment, and for a tiny audience (40 people?) to listen in. It's like a slightly extended house concert, and about that formal. On the other hand, on a cold, rainy day like this afternoon, it is the perfect setting to hear hot music.
This afternoon it was the turn of Naftule's Dream, the avant garde offshoot of one of my favorite local bands, Shirim Klezmer Orchestra. With the exception of relative newcomer Andrew Stern, on guitar, this is the same ensemble that has played together for decades. They are tight, intricate, and exciting to hear. Today, in particular, I could hear their roots, less in klezmer and jazz, and then klezmer and progressive rock, with all of its classical precedents. It came as no surprise when Glenn introduced one number (Free Klez?) as the band's answer to a particularly well-known Genesis suite.
The band introduced a few new numbers, at least one each by Glenn and accordionist Michael McLaughlin, and reached back through a couple of decades for some wonderful oldies. Introductions were sparse, most often "here's a new one by XXX," with even titles left off. (One new number is called "The Butcher"?) The chatter wasn't really what the audience, ranging from high school age to folks even older than myself, came to hear. It was the music, and in that, we got a treat.
In a few cases, the band explicitly noted the klezmer roots of some tunes. Most notable was their version of the Terkisher, with drummer/percussionist Eric Rosenthal starting things off with the familiar snare marching roll, and gradually becoming more complex, moving to explore new corners of dance, perhaps in an as-yet-unfamiliar dimension. Sousaphonist Jim Gray was incendiary, as was trumpeter Gary Bohan.
I apologize for not taping the show. Sometimes it is good to just listen and watch. For your part, watch the KlezmerShack calendar and make sure you don't miss the next show.
A Klezmerizing Performer: Clarinetist Winograd Transcends Tradition, by Jake Marmer (week of January 25, 2013)
"Thirty-year-old clarinetist and composer Michael Winograd is … [t]horoughly at home with traditional klezmer repertoire, he is able to powerfully summon the wild tragicomic essence of this music in his original compositions. His newest album, "Storm Game," is a complex and not easily classifiable record that not only showcases Winograd's impressive chops, but also grapples with fundamental questions about the very nature of contemporary American klezmer." [more]
Here's a recent article by Alexander Gelfund in the Forward about the latest Jon Madof project, Zion80, which mashes up Shlomo Carlebach melodies with West African rhythms:
East Village Meets West Africa: Isrobeat Pioneers Zion80 Mash Up Shlomo Carlebach with Rhythms Inspired by Fela Kuti, by Alexander Gelfund, Aug 17, 2012
From Talat's Alon Nechushtan, "Reincarnation of a Niggun," as performed by the Ayn Sof Orchestra, live from the six street synagogue in downtown New York, December 24th 2011.
Sway Machinery frontman Jeremiah Lockwood returns from a festival in Mali and Tablet Magazine gets the skinny—photos, recordings, etc. Have fun!
This happened last week. There was a wonderful NPR story about a new release by Jeremiah Lockwood's The Sway Machinery (I have always considered the name to be a sly reference to both Hasidic-style nign and William Burrough's name for the human body, "The Soft Machine."). The interview covers a new release with Mali singer Khaira Arby:
The Brooklyn band the Sway Machinery formed five years ago around a particular notion: Take traditional Jewish music and make it funky enough for a nightclub. About a year ago, the Sway Machinery received an invitation to play for an audience its members probably never imagined at the Festival of the Desert in Timbuktu, Mali....
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:"
You can also hear the first single from The House of Friendly Ghosts, Vol 1 on iTunes.
Really nice article (and accompanying video) that captures one of the current projects, the Ayn Sof Arkestra, of the amazing Greg Wall, rabbi and one of the most "really gets it" people creating Jewish music out there, from one of the NY Times "Local" blogs. His partner in founding Ayn Sof? One of the few other people who deserve that "really gets it" accolades, Frank London:
A Jam That Goes On Without End, by Clint Rainey, Oct 11, 2010
Jeremiah Lockwood, best known for his work in The Sway Machinery and Balkan Beat Box is this year's Artist in Residence at the Forward. In an article this week he describes, and provides a haunting recording, of his "Nigun Project," a fusion of African singing and nign.
The Nigun Project, by Jeremiah Lockwood, Mar 15, 2010
The Sway Machinery traveled to Mali in January to play at the Festival of the Desert. It was quite an exciting moment for the band. You can check out some of what transpired in this video of The Sway Machinery and Super 11:
Oh, this is delicious—from Alain Mihaly :
Extrait du concert Jacques Franck en juin 2008. Zahava Seewald et Zohara interprètent : la chanson "Abulafiah, I would Lay down my life" compositeur J. Zorn sur un thème de Samuel Hanagid Extrait du concert Jacques Franck en juin 2008. Zahava Seewald et Zohara interprètent : la chanson "Abulafiah, I would Lay down my life" compositeur J. Zorn sur un thème de Samuel Hanagid
Jeremiah Lockwood, of The Sway Machinery, sends this recent email. If you have caught the band live recently taking cantorial music to primal therapy places it may never have gone before, you'll know why this is such an appealing idea:
For years now I've holed up in a basement in Greenpoint that I rent from my friend Veronica. It's in this space that I write new material for The Sway Machinery, practice the band, do my research and development and generally hide away from the world and delve down into the gutter of my subconscious.
It's been a bit quiet with the band lately (although we will soon be starting up playing a bunch of exciting summer festivals). I've been thinking that I would like to invite the world down into my basement to hear the work I'm doing developing new sounds.
I am going to record an EP length CD of new music every month for six months--demos of new songs, solo blues performance, research into Classics of Chazzanus, experimentation of various stripes and colors. These EPs will be available to the public on a sunscription basis: for 50 bucks a subscriber will receive a limited edition EP-length CD with hand made cover in the mail every month for six months, June through December.
Drop me a line if you are interested in becoming a subscriber!
Israel's first chief rabbi's redemption poetry is turned into jazz performances by two rabbis on a new CD and in clubs. Rabbi Greg Wall of Hasidic New Wave fame and Rabbi Itzchak Marmorstein, son of Holocaust survivors release Ha'Orot—The Lights of Rav Kook on John Zorn's Tzadik Records and perform in clubs in Israel and New York. The full text interview with audio is available from Benjamin Bresky's radio show.
I was forced to get my thoughts down about The Sway Machinery because I want to tell you about an excellent interview with band founder/leader Jeremiah Lockwood in this week's Forward. The web version has the longer interview and some mp3s:
Cantorial Blues: The Age of Myth Returns The Sway Machinery Frontman Jeremiah Lockwood on His Musical Development. By Hillel Broder. Published April 02, 2009.
Well, here's a take on John Zorn that sees him in a context that I would never have imagined. There is some interesting thinking happening, and I'm always pleased to promote good writing about someone as significant as Zorn. Check out new KlezmerShack author Carl Packman's John Zorn: The Paul of Klezmer Music
I am so jealous. Eisenberg is one of the most creative people working with Jewish music (and just about everything) today. A query about a Ladino version of "Miserlu" (fielded by the always-knowledgeable Sephardic music maven Judith Cohen netted this wrapup of how she's spent her summer, none of it I might add with a bit if truculence, in Boston. (I did catch Basya Shaechter at Ashkenaz, so it was't a summer without creative highlights on this coast.) At least it's documented!:
… in other news, everything well here. played in the krakow jewfest this summer, that blew my mind. lots of amazing musicians, no sleep. here's a clip:
bowls project almost finished recording, it's coming out on tzadik in february. sketches here: www.charminghostess.us/projects.html
below on that page is this side project i'm doing on the intersection of rebetika and salonikan jewish folk music. kinda cool. doing it with the guys from kugelplex as you can see. it's pretty fun, sexy.
frank london was in town and we did a bunch of khassidish and roma tunes with him, it was fun, here's a little bit of one:
i think that's everything. …
Here's a nice Rosh Hashana treat, as it were—interview with Paul Brody, with clips from a performance by his band "Sadawi," in Vilnius, Lithuania. Treat it as a counter to this summer's antisemitic incidents in that once-very-Jewish town.
And, of course, German-based trumpeter Paul Brody's bands are worth listening to regardless, or from wherever.
One of the themes of my recent reviewing concerns how much incredible music is coming from Eastern Europe. This week, as I double my output from last week, I have managed to tackle two of the most urgent CDs from my "review me now!" table. Alex Kontorovich was born in the former Soviet Union, but has grown up here in the States. While gathering a PhD in math in his spare time, he has also been one of the most exciting of the young musicians who have grown up since the revival. In Kontorovich's case, this means cooking up a delightful stew that melds klezmer with avant garde jazz in "born native" ways that older members of the Radical Jewish Music crowd can't do. His first solo CD, on Europe's "Chamsa" label is exciting, delightful, and features some of the other exciting leaders of this youthful surge. Check out Alex Kontorovich / Deep Minor and see what I mean.
In another mode, entirely, the most recent CD by the Polina Shepherd Vocal Experience manages to use traditional (and "traditional art song") forms to set a plethora of Yiddish poetry to music for the first time. The album is a celebration of vocal pyrotechnics, and a thorough-going pleasure, and demonstrates the originality of grounding of another artists born in the former Soviet Union (now residing in the UK). It is impossible not to love this CD, The Polina Shepherd Vocal Experience / Baym Taykh. As I wrote earlier in the Alex Kontorovich review, you can't have my copy so you'll just have to get your own. (Even my wife has her own copy, despite the fact that both of us share an itunes library!)
By rights I should ignore this rather good article in All About Jazz by Elliott Simon, our usual suspect. If I could stifle enough publicity, there would still be tickets at the box office when I roll in Monday week, hoping for a break in a long car trip from Baltimore. But that would be wrong. And the article, of course, is excellent. I long for the day when lesser-known, excellent avant garde music goes to Standing Room Only and beyond (I am avoiding the term "sell out" for obvious reasons). (John Zorn, given a small-enough venue in a major city, will always sell out. But everyone else?)
Find out what I'm talking about in this instance by reading Ayelet Rose, Anat Fort and Michael Winograd in Philadelphia, by Elliott Simon, posted 2/24/08.
The Internet Archive is the home to the "Wayback machine" and a host of other imperfectly-maintained archives. So, don't rely on the IA for the long-term preservation of your precious tapes. What you can rely on is that there are millions of digital recordings, from web pages to audio and video, available. Sadly, there is virtually no klezmer (and no much more Jewish music in general). The only thing I could find that was longer than a single clip was this performance/interview by David Krakauer (with SoCalled and the rest of the band circa "Bubbe Meises"). I'd say that this recording, alone, is worth exploring further for. Check it out at www.archive.org/details/KEXPKEXPLivePerformances_23
I, myself, have a very few live recordings of various bands created over the years. If you know that I have a recording of your band, and I haven't yet asked, please feel encouraged to email me and let me know that your recordings can be uploaded. It's a great option for me—I have no time to create podcasts, and don't record much because I never have time to listen to the recordings once I've made them. Even getting the recording from DAT or Digital Memory card takes time and energy that I often can't find. But, there should be good, interesting Jewish music that can be found online. I'm happy to help, and even more, I encourage others to participate here, or elsewhere.
My solo performance at the SOS Festival a couple of weeks ago is up on this very cool web site, Jamendo, which you should check out whether you want to hear me or not. My recording is at www.jamendo.com/en/album/5585/.
You can download it for free, as well as any of the other music on the web site, it is all on a "Creative Commons" license which means you can download for personal use. Click on the "music" tab at the top and you can see a list of genres to start exploring, or click on the "spiral" tab to explore in a different way.
Columbia University School of the Arts announces that
is the 2007 recipient of the William Schuman Award
Columbia's MILLER THEATRE hosts concert and award ceremony
Thursday, April 26, 8:00PM
[Of special interest in this regard is John Zorn's recent reposting (posting?) of Radical Jewish Culture. ari]
On a lovely spring day a couple of weeks ago, just after the goyishe New Year, I saw Naftule's Dream for the first time in ages. The setting was the Forsyth Chapel at Forest Hill's Cemetery here in Boston. The cemetery is one of at least a couple in Boston designed to provide a lovely place to picnic and to commune with the dead. In this case, although the band ended with "Black Wedding" from their very first CD, both the living and dead were very much at peace. Although, thinking of the intensity and wonderful disharmonics of some of the band's music, that might be a minor mis-statement.
The band started off with some quieter new material, perhaps in keeping with the setting, but with the audience's approval and occasional nods to the klezmer music that gave them their name, the music got louder and more intense. The new pieces sound different—those showcased here were quieter and perhaps closer to chamber music in some ways that earlier, more prog-rock inflected numbers. Relatively new trumpeterGary Bohan was featured on at least one number, as were several by accordionist Michael McLaughlin.
As usual, I left at peace, with some of my inner chaos expressed, and ready to see them again, soon. The only thing that could have made the event closer to perfect would have been the Isaac Bashevis Singer material that they worked up years ago and never recorded. Yiddish ghost stories for a New England cemetery—that would be pretty slick.
Andy 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.
Marilyn Lerner / Romanian Fantasy. ML-001, 2006 www.marilynlerner.com JD003, 2005.
CD available from CD Baby.com
I am at the point that if Marilyn Lerner breathes on a piano, I am already giddy. Here, on the first solo outing in a few years based on traditional Eastern European Jewish music, I am doubly ecstatic. Her improvisational playing is as inventive as ever. From the explorations and chording the forms the bones of the "Yismekhu", there is something magical about her sense of sound and tone and music. As Michael Wex notes in the liner notes, this isn't klezmer, or Eastern European Jewish folk music, nor classical nor jazz. It's the Jewish music about which I once wrote, "I can see the Shekhinah sitting up in the heavens, listening to this music performed, smiling to herself and saying to the assembled angels, 'Finally, we can listen to it in its true time and place.'"
It started with a new Rough Guide release, this time, the Rough Guide to the music of Israel. It is really good. I don't mention it very often, but I first began writing about Jewish music as a reviewer for the Jerusalem Post back in the late 1970s. By then I had spent years doing community theatre and hanging out with musicians in Israel. I didn't write for the Post long—it was difficult to focus on a gig writing for a newspaper that I shunned reading—but I have never lost my love for Israeli music and its diversity. This recording captures a good slice of that diversity, as updated and compiled just a couple of months ago. There is also an interview with the compiler on the CD, playable on a computer via webbrowser. Although a Jewish lad growing up in a Zionist home, the compiler seems ignorant of most details of modern Jewish history. But he has enough generalities generally right that this, too, forms a good introduction to Israeli music, overall. Those who let their ears get them into trouble will dig more deeply.
The problem was that I got so wrapped up in the first CD, that I had to spend time with that Idan Raichel CD that I've been meaning to write about for years: 2002's Idan Raichel Project. I find this the most mind-blowing Israeli CD in years. In some ways, it reminds of of Ofra Haza's early work, an explosion of traditional sounds transformed for this time and place. It also reminds me of my favorite Israeli band of the '90s, the Ethnix. But it's also it's own original sound, building on Israeli and world music, with everything from reggae to hip hop, inflected by Raichel's Ethiopian roots. Wonderful.
By now I was in trouble, so I also polished off a review of the relatively recent release of the final album by Israeli jazz masters, The Platina: Platina / Girl with the Flaxen Hair. Released back in 2003 as part of tributes to bandleader Roman Kunsman who had just passed away, this is material that was original recording in 1976 and then lost. The studio mangled most of the original tapes, then the band broke up. And we all moved on, remembering the concerts and the transformed Debussey of the title track. I have tried to begin to describe how good it sounds, even now, 30 years later. This is a must-have CD for anyone remotely interested in jazz or jazz-rock or Debussey.
There is something about Philadelphia Jews. I've said this before, but with the release of Klingon Klezmer / Blue Suede Jews, it bears repeating. This is, after all, the home of Benny and the Vilda Chayas. But it's also Hankus Netsky's home turf. It's the city that gave us not only Anthony Coleman, but also nth generation straight-ahead klezmorim like Rachel Lemish and Susan Watts. This latest excursion by the Klingons is a delightful, zany, and damn fine exploriation of the psychedelic side of klezmer.
The 10th Anniversary of the first Masada material has prompted a wonderful re-examination of that work by a wide variety of artists. I confess to being among the few who find Zorn's Masada okay, but don't have a great need to own each volume. On the other hand, listening to Jon Madof and his noisemakers, er, Rashanim, transform some of the material is entirely different. 2005's Rashanim / Masada Rock, Vol. 5 is going to be part of your essential Masada collection.
Ladies and gentlemen, for another take on the extraordinary John Zorn/Masada material, may I offer you the totally flipped, amazing Koby Israelite / Orobas: Book of Angels Vol. 4, 2006.
And, finally, in a nod to everything that I didn't have time to listen to today, all of which is at least htis good, I offer one last fusion, the world music band Asefa, house band to Sam Thomas' Brooklyn-based "Jewish Awareness through Music" organization. Samuel Thomas / Asefa, 2005. Same bass-player, incidentally, as with Jon Madof's Rashanim. These folks get around!
I can't believe how many CDs are crying out for attention and didn't get any today. Stay tuned. I'll try to do this again, real soon now. I have to. The pile fell over last week. Everything is confused, and until I get some reviews written and some CDs put away, I've lost use of my favorite reading chair.
I listened hard to the first Sway Machinery album when it first came out. It wasn't klezmer. It wasn't punk or blues. It was't clear to me that it represented something that I needed to hear often.
Lately, I've been hearing more buzz about the band. In this interview for the NPR show, Benjamin Walker's "Theory of Everything," band leader Jeremiah Lockwood talks about chazanes and his grandfather, Jacob Koenigsberg, a wonderful chazan from the Golden Age. He also talks about the cantor as a spokesperson—he doesn't use the word, but he seems to be referring to the cantor as shaliakh tsibur (have I got the term right)—and also refers to the cantor as a storyteller.
So, now you have a guy playing a very emotional, noisy, blues-based music with stretches of chazones of some form—something his fellow band member, Stuart Bogie says could just as easily be speaking in tongues. I still don't know that I like it, or hear the divine in it, but it's definitely worth checking out.>In the end, I don't have to decide. I just have to keep on listening. So do you!:
You can check the band out live, on April 9th, in Brooklyn
George 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!)
Hey, if this isn't a good excuse to be up early and listening to NPR instead of working! A really nice interview with John Zorn about his Masada music, and John Madof who recently released one of the 10th Anniversary Masada albums, and of John Madof. What I found especially interesting was the assertion that the Radical Jewish Music label was formed to give a voice to Jewish music that is broader than klezmer—to counter the notion that klezmer and Jewish music are synonyms—a goal with which anyone who knows and loves Jewish music (see last week's entry on "A Cantor's Tale," for one non-klezmer roots example) will heartily concur.
It's an interesting interview with excellent song samples. The audio should be available for rerun online today after 1pm EST at 'Masada Songbook': Zorn Redefines Jewish Music
link updated 3/21/07
Four new reviews on the KlezmerShack:
Freylach Time!, based in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina is a tradtional klezmer gem. It is also a community treasure. Now that the band has finally recorded, you can hear for yourself: Freylach Time! / The Klezmer Dance Band
London's Oi Va Voi has been impressing audiences from the UK to KlezKamp and everywhere in between for years. Whatever they are playing, it isn't klezmer any more, except insofar as it gets people up to dance. This new album, "Laughter Through Tears" just made the New York Time's "10 Best" list for 2003. For a change, I agree!: Oi Va Voi / Laughter Through Tears
César Lerner and Marcelo Moguilevsky are two amazing musicians from Argentina. I've seen them perform in the UK and Canada. Now you can year why audiences love them and their brand of passionate klezmer infused with South American jazz. The new album, Sobreviviente, is live: Lerner Moguilevsky Duo / Sobreviviente
A year with a new release from the Klezmer Conservatory Band is a good year. This latest contains many new gems - more than a taste of paradise: Klezmer Conservatory Band / A Taste of Paradise
David Krakauer has released a live album, recorded last summer in his family's ancentral town, Krakow. The album, on France's notable jazz label, "Label Bleu", is due to be released in the US by Harmonia Mundi USA on January 13th.
Krakauer's "Klezmer Madness" ensemble will be making its Carnegie Hall debut on February 25th with guest artist jazz composer/pianist Uri Caine.
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:
The 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.
CeiliZemer / 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.
David 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.
Margot 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.
Solomon & 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.
George Robinson announces a slew of new music columns published almost all together in New York's Jewish Week:
They are a trio and they don't play klezmer. But whatever it is, this is wonderful, wonderful experimental music - the sort of music that causes people like me to brave dozens of tedious mishmoshes of sound to find something this good.
All I know about the band is that they come from Russia. Now they live in Israel. They formed a year ago. And they are insanely good. For more, read my review. Then run out and order the album.
Sometimes I get so caught up into listening to new music that I forget to tell people about reviews written. That is particular unfortunate this week, since there are some really exciting albums that I wrote about:
Into the Freylakh has produced a debut album that includes a very tuneful mix of klezmer and jazz. Lots of new jazz material, in particular, to gladden your ears. The album cover is also quite classy.
Fialke / A grus fun der alter heym. Now, someone explain to me why some of the best traditional klezmer is coming from Germany? For those of us waiting on a next fix from Budowitz or Khevrisa, Fialke steps into the breach. Guest participation by Budowitz tsimbl-master Josh Horowitz helps, too. (Horowitz is currently finishing up an album with fellow-tsimbler Stu Brotman of Brave Old World, et al, and Cookie Segelstein of Klezical Tradition, himself, so stay tuned.)
Paul Brody's Sadawi / Kabbalah Dream. This is one of the most amazing trumpet albums I have heard in a while. Klezmer, jazz, avant-garde, and entirely listenable.
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.
Anyone 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.
I 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
This 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
Yes, 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
This 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.
Despite best of intentions, I couldn't stop listening to these four albums this weekend. So that's as many reviews as got done:
I used to claim that the New Orleans Klezmer Allstars were the hardest working klezmer bar band in existence. They've gotten much better than that. And their mix of New Orleans funk and Jewish soul just gets better and better with Borvis.
This is almost the Jewish equivalent of Gregorian Chant, just more recent, in tune with the music of the Ottoman Empire, and, well, very Jewish. Very well done, with very good notes: Maftirim.
If, like me, you thought that Adrianne Greenbaum's flute album, or the Duo Controverso albums were high points of the year, then this incredible collection of clarinet-accordion pieces based on perfect klezmer will be the next essential stop. Truly heymisher.
This is the best Klezmatics album since, oh, "Jews with Horns"? Ecstatic music, ranging from klezmer to hasidish to the edges of new Yiddish music, and words worth listening to, context worth considering. If you read the KlezmerShack, you've probably already got your copy. If not, time to Rise Up.
Elliott Simon writes to the Jewish-Music mailing list:
"Hi...just wanted to make those interested aware of a website that caters to NYC experimental/improvisational music and as such does feature/promote a fair amount of Jewish influenced jazz CDs/concerts. It is run by Kurt Gottschalk who I met at the recent NYC visions festival. At which, BTW, Erik Friedlander, Greg Cohen and Mark Friedman performed an incredible set as the Masada String Trio. They were conducted by John Zorn who sat on stage in front of the trio. Anyway, Kurt asked me to review the new Koby Israelite CD (which has generated some discussion in here already)...so check out the site www.squidsear.com
In addition, he suggests checking out Eyal Hareuveni's review of Borah Bergman: Piano Meditations
I got carried away. CDs were falling off the shelf, so I sat down this weekend and stayed sat down until I got several reviewed. We've got some great new Jewish music, some avant garde and jazz, some klezmer (lots of klezmer), some Sephardic and Mizrahi music, more klezmer and Yiddish folk.... That's not the whole gamut, but odds are that something in this weekend's stack will be just what you were looking for:
The amazing Margot Leverett is at the Tonic this Sunday. This is a short notice show to fill in. It would be a major bummer for the audience to be limited to the two folks who happened to wander by due to late publicity. Here's the scoop:This Sunday at Tonic June 8
Margot Leverett and Ruslan Agababayev present a very special program of klezmer and jazz improvisation. Ruslan is a young prodigy with a startlingly original take on klezmer and jazz. This will be an unforgettable afternoon!
Tonic is at 107 Norfolk St in Manhattan (F train to Delancey), or take Williamsburg bridge to Delancey and turn right on Norfolk. Shows are at 1:30 and 3pm, $10 for one show, $15 for both. Brunch available and optional. (212) 358-7501
See you there!
And don't forget Seth Rogovoy's recent interview with her at www.rogovoy.com/447.shtml
Self-proclaimed "Renaissance Man," Richard A. Sharma raves about the latest Tzadik release by Koby Israelite. Tzadik Records describes the new release as a combination of "Cantorial Death Metal, Nino Rota Klezmer, Balkan Surf, Catskills free improvisation". It's gotten my attention, and I'm looking forward to listening to it, myself. You can head straight for the review (okay, I would format the pages differently, which would make them differently hard-to-read) at www.rainlore.demon.co.uk/Reviews/KobyIsraelite-DanceOfTheIdiots.html
RAS has accumulated an impressive set of reviews, as well as uploaded archives on early Jewish European music star, Guzikov. Knock at Rainlore's World of Music, at www.rainlore.demon.co.uk/WorldOfMusic.html
As I try to catch up, I am happily snowed under by even more incredible music. Here is a taste:
Italy's Klezroym have put together an incredibly powerful album, "Yankele nel Ghetto," based on Gila Flam's collection of songs from the Lodz Ghetto. Notes in Italian and English.
Rob Burger's recent Tzadik release, "Lost Photograph," combines lounge and exotica with South American and Jewish styles.
Wholesale Klezmer's new "Sing for Peace, Dance for Joy" shows why I think of the band as "Comfort Klezmer".
There are a very few new Jewish music bands: Brave Old World, say, or the Klezmatics, who consistently push the envelope and take my breath away like the Flying Bulgars. I have arranged work schedules so that I can stop off in Toronto to see them perform. It is therefore with great excitement that I present the following:
The Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band
presents a CD Release Celebration Concert for their new recording,
Saturday, May 10, 8:30pm; Sunday, May 11, 2pm
Hugh's Room, 2261 Dundas St W, Toronto
Tickets: Sat. $15/Sun. $12 BOX OFFICE: 416-531-6604
ELDRIDGE STREET PROJECT
presents a site-specific multimedia installation
Pearl Gluck and Basya Schechter
April 30 - July 30 2003
OPENING NIGHT WED, APRIL 30, 6PM
live performance and reception
12 Eldridge Street, (between Canal and Division)
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 212.978.0803
It'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.
Dresder & 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.
My review of Burton Greene's Klezthetics.....Calistrophy is now posted online....
The latest offering from pianist Burton Greene, Calistrophy, is a curious blend of klezmer, blues, swing, free form, Latin, Balkan and plain old straight ahead jazz. Greene, a founding member of the '60s cutting edge Free Form Improvisation Ensemble, was, with his group Klezmokum, also among the first to reacquaint contemporary jazz with klezmer. Joining Greene on this effort, and billed as the Klez-Thetics, are Hungarian reeds player Akos Laki and Klezmokum's core rhythm-masters drummer Roberto Haliffi and tubaist Larry Fishkind.....
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.
Adrianne 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!)
Elliott Simon has written two new articles.
The first, about Tzadik Records, includes an interview with John Zorn, the label's founder: www.allaboutjazz.com/articles/arti1202_06.htm
The second, "Terry Gibbs Plays Jewish Melodies in Jazztime" is about the CD release of the groundbreaking 1963 album by jazz vibraphonist Terry Gibbs: www.allaboutjazz.com/reviews/r1202_103.htm
Every year, George Robinson pegs the best of the albums that he has reviewed. The Klezmershack is months behind, so I'm just getting this up now. Still, the choices are excellent, so any time is the right time to read them:
The latest reviews include Byrd/Chevan / This is the Afro-Semitic Experience, 2002; Tim Sparks / At the Rebbe's Table, 2002;Yankele / L'Esprit du klezmer, 2001; Howard Leshaw / Bronx Volume II: Yiddish on the Edge, 2001; Klezmaniacs (MA) / Sveet like herring vit potatoes, 2001; Amsterdam Klezmer Band / Limonchiki, 2001; Alain Chekroun & Taouifik Bestandji / Chants des Synagogues du Maghreb, 2000; Mark Levy / Bin ikhmir a shnayderl (I'm a little Tailor), 1999; Roy Nathanson & Anthony Coleman / I could've been a drum, 1997; Rabson, Mimi / Music, 2002.
Michael Spudic makes the second person in recent weeks to see the David Krakauer Klezmer Madness ensemble performing its new work, and is delighted. His writeup of the Apr 13 Klezmer Madness concert at Symphony Space in New York is now on the KlezmerShack.
The Klezmer Madness CD entitled "12 Tribes" was released in France on March 15th. It is available from the French Amazon.com. It will be released in the USA in late 2002 early 2003. Early reports on the CD, and on the current Klezmer Madness tour indicate that this will be quite exciting.
The latest reviews include Lori Cahan-Simon's secular Yiddish Passover song, a SoCalled Hip Hop seder, Nefesh' debut album, 'unplucked,' a delightful album by Israeli band, Tea Packs, 'your life in a lafa,' and Jewlia Eisenberg's latest effort, an avant gardeish, mostly a capella piece based on the writings and diaries of Walter Benjamin and Asja Lacis. A mediation by singer between two lovers. A 'Trilectic.'
reviews of great new releases of music by Mikis Theodorakis, Zakarya, Naftule's Dream, Chava Alberstein, and Monsieur Camembert.