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More new releases for Hanukkah!

Here is another installment of recent KlezmerShack arrivals. The world of Jewish music just gets wider and deeper. Enjoy.

  • Itzhak Perlman and Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot / Eternal Echoes: Songs & Dances for the Soul (classical, cantorial)
  • Susan Watts / Hartsklap (American klezmer)
  • Yiddishkeit Klezmer Ensemble / A Freylekhs Far Ale (American klezmer)
  • The Amsterdam Klezmer Band / Mokum (Live in Amsterdam) (American klezmer)
  • Sarah Aroeste / Gracia (Sephardic)
  • Isra-Alien / Somewhere is here (jazz, Israeli)
  • Merlin and Polina Shepherd / A Blade of Grass (trad. Jewish, Eastern European)
  • Sephardic Music Festival, Vols. 1 & 2 (Sephardic, hip hop, Middle Eastern, Israeli)
  • Aaron Alexander / Julian Priester / Conversational Music (jazz, experimental)
  • Aaron Novik / Secrets of Secrets (jazz, experimental)
  • CD coverIt's over 15 years since Itzhak Perlman made "klezmer" a household world. His "In the Fiddler's House" recordings included some of the best bands of that period and continue to serve as an excellent introduction to an incredibly exciting time. Now he is back in the Jewish world in a delightful pairing with Cantorl Yitzchak Meir Helfgot. is Itzhak Perlman and Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot / Eternal Echoes: Songs & Dances for the Soul a harmonious invocation of synagogue favorites. Meticulously produced by Boston's own Hankus Netsky this recording comes on the heels of a growing revival of the art of nusakh and the cantorial riches of an earlier age. Available, of course, on amazon.com and wherever fine recordings are purveyed.

    CD coverSpeaking of classical sounds, fourth generation Philadelphia klezmer Susan Watts teams up with her mother, drummer Elaine Hoffman Watts, and the rest of the NYC and Philly klezmer allstars for a timely and lovely trip through the American Yiddish and Philadelphia klezmer sound. Watts' voice is in perfect form and her trumpet sings on Susan Watts / Hartsklap. Available, of course, as CD or mp3 from cdbaby.com and, as always, wherever fine recordings are purveyed.

    CD coverWestern Massachusetts klezmer Brian Bender fronts his own band, and serves in others, in between rambling off to Europe to play in bands there. One result is a rich and varied traditional American klezmer repertoire with a nice smattering of originals and the occasional farflung gem. This new recording, Yiddishkeit Klezmer Ensemble / A Freylekhs Far Ale is, indeed, a delightful collection of "freylekhs" for all of us. You can check it out and get your own copy (mp3 or CD) in time for holiday revelry at his website.

    CD coverSpeaking of rambling through Europe, The Amsterdam Klezmer Band is one of the most prolific and well-regarded bands from one of the original hotbeds of the Klezmer revival, the Netherlands. Playing a frenetic, brassy American-style klezmer this The Amsterdam Klezmer Band / Mokum (Live in Amsterdam) fits right in with the above-mentioned Yiddishkeit and Susan Watts bands. An entire dance party of new music is therefore at hand. You can get your copy at the Amsterdam Klezmerband website.

    This is a lot of music to publicize without mentioning any new Sephardic releases. Sarah Aroeste / Gracia continues the artist's continued journey as she resets traditional Ladino music into new rock and electronic settings. The melodies are derived from Sephardic and Middle Eastern melodies with an emphasis on dance. Want to liven up that Klezmer dance party? Want to suggest that there is something more lively to those Yasmin Levy songs? As with earlier Aroeste releases, but with added maturity, this new release is lots of fun, often full of pleasant surprises, and worth adding to your collection.

    You can get your copy on CD or downloadable mp3 from Sarah Aroeste's website.

    CD coverTwo Israelis, now living in the United States, get together to perform energetic accoustic-guitar-based jazz incorporating lots of traditional Israeli and Jewish melodies. Isra-Alien / Somewhere is here is their second outing and it is quite pleasant on the ears. They are in the middle of their CD release tour, so if you keep your eyes open (and pay attention to the KlezmerShack calendar you may get to hear them live. In all cases, do check out the sounds at cdbaby.com

    CD coverMerlin and Polina Shepherd are two of the most accomplished musicians in the klezmer world. We don't hear much of them in the United States—they reside in the UK. A significant loss. Fortunately, they periodically issue new recordings to document their musical travels. This year, that recording is Merlin and Polina Shepherd / A Blade of Grass, in which they play "original compositions for clarinet, piano, electric guitar, whistle and voic … drawing influences from the Pale of Settlement, Russia, Tatarstan and Turkey. including new settings of Liturgical texts in Yiddish. Songs in Russian, Yiddish and Hebrew." CD coverI could listen to either of them for hours. Together, they play off each other marvelously. Before I close out, I also need to mention Polina's brass recording from last year with the Brighton, UK brass band, Fanfara. Polina Skovoroda & Fanfara / Civilisation is an extraordinarily delightful mix of "Romanian Gypsy Brass tunes with new material that pushes the boundaries of traditional Russian and Yiddish song." Find out more and get your copies of each from Polina Shepherd's website.

    CD coverIn recent years, December is the time that the folks at Shemspeed put on an amazing and broad festival in NYC. This year, the Sephardic Music Festival happens from Dec 8-14. CD coverThere will also be a second volume of festival recordings released on Dec. 11. But why wait? The 2010 release of Volume 1 covered ground from Matisyahu to Yasmin Levy to Pharaoh's Daughter. It is killer—one of my favorite compilations. I'd make sure a copy (or digital download) is part of the soundtrack to your Hanukkah party, and you can get it off the festival website. You can also pre-order volume 2 from Shemspeed.

    CD coverIt is easy to forget, when listening to drummer/percussionist Aaron Alexander make so much klezmer sound so good, that he is perhaps better known in the jazz and experimental music worlds. In this set of delicious duets with trombonist Julian Priester, Aaron Alexander / Julian Priester / Conversational Music we get a reflective, often quieter, sense of percussive questing and mastery. But, don't get all gooey. One piece is named after the master of Yiddish satire, Michael Wex. You can get your copy on cdbaby.com, and hey, let's keep talking!

    CD coverLast week, in mentioning the Mexican band, Klezmerson, I talked about "guy music." This week's last entry falls into the same category—wonderful, exploratory, often loud and intricate music that seems to appeal mostly to us guys. A recent release by San Francisco-based composer Aaron Novik / Secrets of Secrets is based on Novik's reading of kabbalah, Jewish mystic lore, but I think that, overall, that is the rationalization after the fact for an intriguing and interesting, often minimalist, music disk. Participating friends include Ben Goldberg, Carla Hihlstedt, and Fred Frith. The recording is available, of course, from our friends at tzadik records. Enjoy!