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George Robinson, GRComm@ writes for the Jewish Week. His book, "Essential Judaism," was published in hardcover by Pocket Books, March 2000. You can find out more at his website.

Articles by George Robinson, available on the KlezmerShack, are:

2004 Chanukah Roundup, by George Robinson, sent 2 Dec 2004.

The Year's Best: the annual "best of" column, by George Robinson, sent 25 Nov 2002.

A Religious Experience: A roundup of recent Jewish liturgical music, by George Robinson, sent 26 Aug 2002.

More Than Klezmer: A sampler of Yiddish vaudeville, folk music and even art song, sent 9 Aug 2002.

Spring Sephardic Music Roundup, send 3 May 2002.

The Spring Roundup, part 1, sent 9 Mar 2002.

The Spring Roundup, part 2, sent 9 Mar 2002.

The Best of 2001 - Hanukah suggestions, sent 7 Dec 2001.

Isaac Stern: Beyond the Fiddle to the Heart of a Man, sent out 5 Oct 2001.

Sounds for the Jewish New Year, sent out 23 Nov 2001.

Slobin on Beregovski (and the survival of Klezmer Music), sent out 30 Aug 2001.

Women of Valor, sent out 15 Aug 2001.

Shabbat, for Starters, sent out 3 Jun 2001.

From Liturgical Rock to the Postmodern, sent out 15 May 2001.

A Sephardic Passover, sent out 25 Mar 2001.

Oh, Klezmer, sent out 18 Mar 2001.

Jewish Classical Music, sent out 1 Mar 2001.

Best of 2000, send out 23 Dec 2000.

Holiday Music for Hanukkah, 6 Dec 2000.

Kidding on the Square, 9/29/00, from the Jewish Week

From the Catskills to Canada, 6/15/00, from the Jewish Week

Sephardic Survey, 05/00, from the Jewish Week

1999 Klezmer Wrapup, from the Jewish Week

Sisters in Swing, 12/15/99, from the Jewish Week

Bending the Genres, October 1998, from the Jewish Week

The Klezmer Drums of Passion, September 1998, from the Jewish Week

Drums of Passion, summer, 1998, from the Jewish Week

Other klezmer articles
on the Internet

From the Catskills to Canada

from the author, 15 Jun '00.
Reprinted by permission of the author.

by George Robinson,

Note: Don't click on any links until the entire file loads, or else the links won't work. I apologize for the inconvenience. webmaster

Cohen, Avishai, and the International Vamp Band / Unity
Alexandria Kleztet / Y2Klezmer
Carlebach, Neshama / Dancing with My Soul
Finjan / Dancing on Water
From Generation to Generation: A Musical Treasury from Central Synagogue, New York
Füzfa, Júlia / "I'm a Slave to Your Beauty
Klezmer! Jewish Music From Old World to Our World
Knitting on the Roof
Lanzboim, C and Noah Solomon / A Tribute
Marcus, Michael / Live in New York
Pharoah's Daughter / Out of the Reeds
Shur, Rabbi Moshe / Renaissance

A few new faces this month, but mostly a gathering of old friends from the Catskills to Canada, from the Lower East Side to the Upper West Side, with a particularly fruitful stop in Brooklyn.

album coverAlexandria Kleztet, The: "Y2Klezmer" (self-produced). A first set by a newish band that is trying to do something different within the confines of fairly mainstream New Klez, led by Cayuga Klezmer Revival clarinetist Seth Kibel. The Alexandrians experiment with old favorites, offering a harmonica-led bluesy "Rozhinkes mit Mandeln" and a strangely funereal "Oyfn Pripitchok."Some of the tempo shifts are awkward and the originals unmemorable, but I'd love to see where these guys go from here. You have to respect a klezmer group willing to take a shot at an obscure Ellington/Strayhorn tune ("Mount Harissa"). Available on their website: Rating: 3 ½ stars.

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Carlebach, Neshama: "Dancing with My Soul" (Sameach). A big disappointment. Carlebach is turning into a surprisingly conventional rock singer-songwriter. Except for four previously unrecorded songs by Reb Shlomo, this could just as easily be a Sarah Maclachlan album, only not as good. She's still got that great, smoky mezzo voice (except on the folkier cuts, where she disconcertingly turns into a little girl soprano), but the material here is nothing special. Rating: 3 stars.

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album coverFinjan: "Dancing on Water" (Rounder). The Canadian group Finjan is one of the oldest of the klezmer revival bands, still hanging in there after 18 years. Their latest set is a marvel of fresh approaches to traditional klezmer. Using an unusual two-clarinet front line, they manage to put a new spin on familiar material and have unearthed or written a wealth of new songs too. Reedplayers Myron Schultz and Sasha Boychouk have a wonderfully symbiotic relationship, with one playing with a very fast vibrato in the upper register and a slightly acid tone reminiscent of Sidney Bechet, while the other works underneath in a beautifully woody (and Woody Hermanish) lower register. A splendid klezmer set that should work for almost anyone. Rating: 5 stars.

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"From Generation to Generation: A Musical Treasury from Central Synagogue, New York" (Rockport). Although this is billed as a musical salute to Central Synagogue, it could just as easily be taken as a tribute to Transcontinental Music, the Reform movement's music publishing company, an instructive tour of recent Reform music, from the poignant Janowski "Avinu Malkeinu" through the lugubrious Steinberg "Shalom Rav," with a lengthy selection from Lazar Weiner's setting of the Shabbat Shakharit service. The first half of the set is sung by the synagogue's current cantor, Richard Botton, a resounding baritone whose his diction is a bit fussy to my ears. The Weiner is sung by the late Frederick Lechner, who was Central's cantor for an amazing 37 years, another powerhouse baritone in the Golden Age tradition. This set is useful corrective for those who underrate the music of the Reform movement (myself among them). Rating: 4 stars.

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Füzfa, Júlia: "I'm a Slave to Your Beauty" (Hungaroton). Füfza is a typically heavy East European mezzo, with uncertain intonation and a plodding rhythmic sense. This collection of assorted Sephardic, Yiddish and Hebrew songs is undistinguised in repertoire -- "Tumbalalaika," "Eli, Eli," "Yerushalayim Shel Zahav" oh please -- and execution, and the piano is recorded with a distant echoey thrum. Rating: 1 star.

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"Klezmer! Jewish Music From Old World to Our World" (Yazoo). A 22-cut chronological anthology, compiled to accompany Henry Sapoznik's book of the same name, this set ranges from 1912 to 1997, including most of the big names -- Tarras, Brandwein, Kandel, Lebedeff, KCB, the ‘Matics, Kapelye. Some of these cuts are primarily of historical/educational interest and their inclusion probably makes more sense if you have Sapoznik's book in front of you. But there is plenty here to savor. If you haven't acquired any of the compilations of old 78s that Sapoznik and others have been committing to CD in the past few years, this is a good place to start. Rating: 4 ½ stars.

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album cover"Knitting on the Roof" (Kniting Factory). Maybe I'm ironied-out, but I found the best of this Downtown-does-Broadway set to be the most straightforward: a surprisingly moving "Sunrise, Sunset" by Jill Sobule, backed by acoustic guitar; a ravishing meditation on "Far From the Home I Love" by free-jazz master David S. Ware, a somber "Sabbath Prayer" by Uri Caine and Lorin Sklamberg; stark, abstract guitar musings by Elliot Sharp and a weirdly moving "Anatevka" by Paradox Trio that reinvents the original as an avant-Middle-Eastern lament. I also have a certain grudging affection for the Leonard-Cohen-with-ukelele rendering of "If I Were a Rich Man" by Magnetic Fields. Rating: 3½ stars.

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Lanzboim, C and Noah Solomon: "A Tribute" (Sameach). Sort of Inasense unplugged, with Lanzboim and Solomon playing spirited acoustic guitar and mandolin duos in memory of Shlomo Carlebach. English-language originals are folky duets a la Seals and Crofts, but the highlight of the album is an Everly Brothers-style "Ki Va Moed." Rating: 3 stars, but add a star if you like this genre.stars.

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Marcus, Michael: "Live in New York" (Soul Note). The free-jazz equivalent of a power trio, Marcus highly creative on reeds, with Cody Moffett on drums and the estimable Chris Sullivan on bass. Very reminiscent of early Ornette Coleman, particularly on quick riff tunes like "Blue Halo." The surprise on this set is a deeply ruminative "‘Round Midnight." Rating: 4 stars.

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album coverPharoah's Daughter: "Out of the Reeds" (Knitting Factory). This is the album that Basya Schechter was born to make -- reverent, intelligent and exciting settings of classic Jewish liturgy and folksongs with superb backing by her own band and a distinguished group of guests including Anthony Coleman and Matt Darriau. From a haunting "Hevel" through a niggun created from a West African melody, from an eerie "Eicha" through the best new "Lecha Dodi" I've heard in years, a powerhouse "Shnirele Perele," "Ija Mia" a wonderful Ladino closing -- well, there simply isn't a false step. A bona fide, genuine, gilt-edged masterpiece. Rating: 5 stars.

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Shur, Rabbi Moshe: "Renaissance" (Hillel). Imitation Carlebach meets "smooth jazz." Nightmarish. Rating: no stars.

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Contents copyright © 2001 by George Robinson. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Page last revised 11 June, 2007.