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Jack Saul, z"l

Catching up from the beginning of last month. Lori Cahan-Simon, of Cleveland, wrote on May Day, 2009:

Khaveyrim, I am sorry to tell you all that the wonderful Jack Saul has passed today [May 1, 2009]. I know many on this list visited his amazing record collection and benefited from his extraordinary knowledge of music when they the visited Cleveland area. He was a gentle, kind, and generous soul who will be greatly missed.

There is an obituary, but without a picture, in the Cleveland Plain Dealer Jack Saul had a passion for music, especially classical, Saturday, May 09, 2009, Grant Segall, Plain Dealer Reporter

Bert Stratton adds:

Jack Saul was a collector. You couldn't find a seat in his house unless he moved a ton of records for you to sit down.

Every time he played a record he'd clean it with Windex. No scratches. Smooth-h-h.

He didn't throw anything out—since Day One. He even had a John McGraw baseball card.

A couple years ago I sold my baseball cards—for a few grand—and he said, "Why'd you do that?" (I wasn't looking at 'em and my kids didn't want 'em. They didn't know who Harmon Killebrew was.) "Why'd you do that?" he said again, semi-stunned.

The Cleveland Jewish music scene is all about Jack Saul. The Kleveland Klezmorim musicians went to Jack's house in the early 1980s to records '78s.

Those '78s were pristine.

When Boston public radio, WGBH, did a radio show in 2000 about Mickey Katz, they came to Jack for clean recordings.

Jack never let a record out of his house. You had to sit there for an hour, or two, and have him dub the records onto tape.

He always had time for musicians. The first time I went there, in 1988, I recorded cuts from Music For Happy Occasions, Paul Pincus; Jay Chernow and his Hi-Hat Ensemble.; Dukes of Frelaichland, Max Epstein; Jewish Wedding Dances, Sam Musiker; Twisting the Frelaichs; and Casamiento Judio, Sam Lieberman. A freaking klezmer record from Latin America!

Jack had almost every Jewish record. And it had it in both monaural and stereo.

Jack's favorite popular musicians were Guy Lombardo and Irving Fields. Jack liked musicians who, when they improvised, stayed close to the melody. He phoned Fields when I was over."What's new, Irving? I'd like to get you to Cleveland." Never happened.

Everybody talked to Jack, because, for one thing, he could supply them with recordings of their own works that they, the musicians, couldn't even remember making.

Jack had a thing for Guy Lombardo. Jack's thesis was Guy Lombardo was behind "Bay mir bistu sheyn"'s popularity. Jack gave me an article from a mag—name unknown, possibly the New Yorker—dated Feb. 19, 1938, titled "Everybody's singing it—Bie Mir Bist Du Schoen. Played on the air for the first time by Guy Lombardo, Radio Made it the Nation's No. 1 Hit."

Jack liked my band, Yiddishe Cup. (He also liked Steven Greenman, Lori Cahan-Simon, Cantor Kathy Sebo—Cleveland Jewish musicians.) At a meeting for the Workmen's Circle Yiddish concert committee, he said, "We've got talent in this town. We don't always have to always run to New York [for entertainers]."

That meant a lot to us locals.

When Jack talked, the rest of the committee listened. He had a stellar rep—Cleveland Orchestra and Sir Thomas Beecham Society credibility. Jack had every Beecham recording. That classical-music imprimatur really cut it with the older klezmer crowd.

Flip side: the rough-edged Abe Elenkrig's Orchestra's "Di Zilberne Chasene" (Silver Wedding) on '78. Jack had thousands of records like that. Gritty. But not a scratch.

Jack Saul made Jewish music in Cleveland.

—Bert Stratton
May 2, 2009

Hankus Netsky adds:

What a great guy he was…

BTW, I'm the one who sent WGBH to Jack's house for the Mickey Katz Records. Before our tour with Joel Grey's Katz review, "BorshtCapades" in 1994, I had visited Jack, who had made me the ultimate Katz compilation. We couldn't have done the show without those recordings—Joel himself had never heard a lot of them!

Besides the records in every corner ("but not in the kitchen," the one concession to his loving and remarkably tolerant wife), the other amazing thing were the front walls of the house that had been hollowed out and replaced with speakers of every shape, size, and frequency.

A great loss—I sure hope they have a good hi-fi up there….