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August 29, 2003

More on the Milken Archive and Conference

Mobius, whose Jew*School weblog is my favorite Jewish weblog, sends me a link, www.jta.org/story.asp?id=030828-musi, to a lovely JTA article on the 80 CD set the Milken Archive is releasing on American Jewish music starting Sep 23, and the celebratory conference this Nov. 7-11.

August 26, 2003

Howie Leess, z"l

Eve Sicular, of Metropolitan Klezmer (a band originally founded around Howie), writes:

I am sorry to pass along the news that our great friend and wonderful musical comrade Howard (Howie) Leess died early Saturday, Aug 23. His funeral was held on Sunday in the Rochester NY area.

It's hard for me to write much more than that right now. I am so glad so many people had the chance to be at live performances he gave so beautifully.

we miss him... a beautiful man; an inspiration to have known him!

Condolences can be sent to: Shirley Leess 174 Brittany Lane Pittsford NY 14534 or by e-mail: hleess@hotmail.com

For additional memories of Howie Leess, see the KlezmerShack "Howie Leess, in Memoriam" page

Hop Hop Hoodios sign national distribution

faux hebrew lettering, faux puerto rican flagsIn one of the most culturally significant developments since Sandy Koufax bailed on pitching for the Dodgers on Yom Kippur of the 1965 World Series, Hip Hop Hoodios "Raza Hoodia" album has been picked up for national distribution by DLN/Delanuca - which means you can now find it in a lot more places (Tower Records & Virgin Megastores in particular).

So if you haven't grabbed our CD yet - or know friends, family, or somebody with a lot of money that could use some Latino-Jewish hiphop in their lives - please feel free to have them visit one of the fine stores below. The album is specially-priced at these retailers for just $9.99

We are hard at work recording the follow up album to 'Raza Hoodia', and are very excited about the guests we've lined up. The sooner you snatch up the remaining copies of 'Raza Hoodia', the quicker we can settle our debts with the IRS, the Mossad, and the entire population of Cameroon and put our next album out with a guilt-free conscience. [I've heard some new tracks, and they are going to be exciting when they come out. I'd pick up the first EP before it disappears! ari]

Please note: you'll usually find our album stocked in the "Latin Rock" or "Latin Pop" section of these stores

Also, don't forget the big concert at Joe's Pub, in NYC, on Sep 6.

August 21, 2003

Folksbiene Weekend, Catskills, NY, Labor Day Weekend, Aug 29 - Sep 1

folksbiene logoSpend Labor Day Weekend, Aug 29 - Sep 1, with the New Folksbiene Yiddish Theater as they prepare for their 89th season. Enjoy lectures, demonstrations, panel discussions and concerts, and participate in activities ranging from choral singing to an acting workshop.

For more information, see the Klezmer Calendar

For reservations, call 800-551-1553 or 845-221-2771 or www.circle.org/Circle/circle%20v.2/wcsr.htm

August 13, 2003

Now we're "Fair and Balanced"

Every so often someone makes a claim to the English language that is so egregious, and at the same time, hits my funny bone just right, that I am forced to rename the site for a while. The first instance, of course, came when RadioShack decided that it owned the term "Shack" and went after an early web-based community, the Smut Shack. That one seems to have stuck permanently.

This site was only the Twisted Barbie KlezmerShack for a while, and ya'll can guess what prompted that alteration. Now, Fox News is going after Al Franken, whose new book, "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right" allegedly might confuse folks who know Fox's news slogan, "Fair and Balanced."

Now, here's where I lose it in so many ways. And it's too bad this has nothing directly to do with Jewish music, or klezmer, other than that without freedom of expression, and without a diversity of opinion, and without respect for that diversity, this site, like others, gets repressed or ignored.

First, let me state the obvious. "Fair and Balanced" is not copyrightable. It's a common phrase. Second, let me state the equally obvious. Fox News' sensationalist, vitritolic hate-mongering is a parody of "Fair and Balanced." It is "Fair and Balanced" for those who believe that the substitution for full-time hate speech, the elevation of the likes of Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh from the gutter to positions of credibility, and the end of civility in civil life--the presumption that if you lose an election, then you can just dig and dig and when you find nothing, impeach a president anyway, or recall a governor of California--that you can pour your money into full-time vitriol and obscene abuse of the democratic process and the respect that such a process requires for democracy to survive--yeah, if that's your idea of democracy, or of "fair and balanced" then Fox News is probably doing the right thing. Those of us who are literate might have other views. I certainly do.

I don't actually find Al Franken funny, although I do like the titles of his books. But if objecting to this suit is one way of encouraging people to ask what the far right has done to the American political process, and how that might not be a good thing, then I'm all for it, and for now, we're going to be the "Fair and Balanced KlezmerShack.

And I intend to be (in my own mind, continue to be) the"fair and balanced Klezmershack." I won't give you one point of extreme view and claim that it runs the gamut. I'm not Fox News (this statement here just in case you didn't notice the static, and non-"parody-patriotic" tenor of this site). I'll continue to post and to link to as much information and opinion about good music of interest to site visitors as I can. When I hate something, I'll say so. (More often, I just bite my tongue--the goal here is to promote the good, not to waste time on the bad). And I'll also link to people who say otherwise. Music, like democracy, sounds best and gets most interesting when more and more people with interesting ideas get heard.

And for goodness sake, buy a copy of Franken's book and send a copy of your sales slip to Fox News, thanking them for letting you know about it. And while I have your attention, if you're an American citizen, better take a look at the so-called Victory Act, with its echoes of 1984, that our so-called Fair and Balanced Attorney General, he who doesn't seem to have much respect for the Constitution, is trying to PATRIOTically foist on Congress now. Sheesh. And I thought keeping track of who plays with whom and who wouldn't be caught on the same stage--or carefully defining just what, exactly, Jewish music (or klezmer) is--was tough.

Latest reviews on the KlezmerShack

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:

interesting lettering and '30s-style cartoonInto 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.

decent monotype of the band on a bridge, as though old timeyFialke / 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.)

another obscure tzadik album cover of building upon building upon older buildingPaul 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.


August 12, 2003

Robinson feature on Rashanim, Shtreiml

George Robinson just did a feature on Rashanim and also on Shtreiml (both are playing Makor this week), which can be found at:


Great bands. I have reviewed both recently on the KlezmerShack Excellent article. Enjoy!

August 11, 2003

New Afro-Semitic CD - music from High Holidays

I'm excited to announce that my new CD: The Days of Awe: Meditations for Selichot, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur will be officially released on Thursday, August 14. This groundbreaking recording is the very first jazz holiday album to focus exclusively on interpretations of music from the Jewish High Holy Day repertoire. Six of the tracks on the album are my arrangements of High Holy Day prayers from the repertoire of the legendary Cantor, Yossele Rosenblatt.

Accompanying me on the album are members of The Afro-Semitic Experience and Frank London of the Klezmatics. It will be available on-line at several major outlets including www.hatikvahmusic.com, www.cdbaby.com, and www.amazon.com.

To celebrate the release of this unique album there will be two concerts in the coming weeks.

On Thursday, August 21, 12:00 p.m. I will be giving a free Concert at the Chase Bank Building Plaza/City Hall Annex, 999 Broad Street, Downtown Bridgeport, Connecticut. The Afro-Semitic Experience will be palying music from The Days of Awe and This Is The Afro-Semitic Experience.

Here's the link for those who need driving directions to this concert:

CHASE Summer Arts Series.
CHASE Plaza/City Hall Annex, Broad Street, Downtown Bridgeport

On Tuesday, August 26, at 9:00 p.m. I will be performing exclusively music from The Days of Awe at The Space in Hamden, Connecticut. Joining me for this one time concert will be Frank London of the Klezmatics and Alvin Benjamin Carter, Jr., Stacy Phillips, and other members of the Afro-Semitic Experience.

The Space is located at 295 Treadwell Street Building H in Hamden Ct, 203-288-6400

There are excellent driving instructions on their web site: www.thespace.tk

Klezmatics to do Woody Guthrie Hanukkah program

On Dec. 20, The Klezmatics and special guest vocalists will present a special holiday concert featuring the world premiere of Woody Guthrie's Hanukkah songs, translated into Yiddish. Called The Yiddish Woody Guthrie, it will take place at 1395 Lexington Ave, New York City. The Klezmatics have been working with Nora Guthrie and the Woody Guthrie Archives to uncover Guthrie's unknown Jewish holiday songs. Also featured will be songs by Guthrie's mother-in-law and famous New York Yiddish poet Aliza Greenblatt. Presented by the Y's MAKOR program.

I'll post more to the calendar for that date as I know it, but if you think of how amazing the recent Woody Guthrie music done by Billy Bragg was, and you think of the Klezmatics and what they added to their collaboration with Chava Alberstein, you can see why being in New York this Hanukkah may seem essential.

August 10, 2003

Audition for the Folksbiene

The Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre is casting "The Lady Next Door", a comedy-drama about the immigrant experience written by Leon Kobrin and directed by Allen Lewis Rickman. The show will preview on October 25 and run through January 4, 2004. Auditions will be held in early August and rehearsals start October 1.

Additional information is available on the Folksbiene web site at www.folksbiene.org.

We are also expanding our files for future projects. We are seeking all types, but at this time we are only interested in actors who have a functioning acquaintance with Yiddish (i.e., know more than a few phrases). Send headshots and resumes to: Folksbiene Yiddish Theater, 45 East 33rd St., New York, NY 10016. Please note language skill on your submission.

Folksbiene Yiddish Theater
45 E. 33rd Street
New York, NY 10016

Zalmen Mlotek, Executive Director

Release "Eybike Mame"/10th anniversary of Wergo Jewish Music Series

Di Eybike Mame (The Eternal Mother): Women in Yiddish Theater and Popular Song, 1905-1929
Wergo SM 1625-2
Available August 4, 2003 (U.S. distribution: Harmonia Mundi USA, beginning ca. October 2003)

We are pleased to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Joel Rubin and Rita Ottens' Jewish Music Series for Wergo with "Di Eybike Mame", the first CD anthology of recordings featuring women of the Yiddish stage. This carefully edited production documents the enormous variety of music present during the period 1890-1930, from folksong to music hall and vaudeville, liturgical song to operetta and musical comedy. The booklet includes a detailed essay on Yiddish theater music and the role of women in Yiddish popular song.


Despite prohibitions in traditional Judaism against the singing of women in the presence of men, biblical figures such as Miriam and Deborah stand for a female contribution to music within Jewish history. In the 20th century, singers like Sophie Kurtzer, Shaindele and Batsheva dedicated themselves to the Jewish liturgy. Ironically known as khazntes (lit. "cantors' wives"), they were compelled to practice their art outside of the synagogue on vaudeville stages and remained exceptions to the rule ‹ despite a stylistic closeness to the great male cantors such as Yossele Rosenblatt and Gershon Sirota. Yiddish popular songs depicted a great variety of womenıs roles, including not only deceived girls, deserted wives and long-suffering mothers, but also suffragettes, adulteresses and eccentric spinsters. Its stars - often singer, actress, dancer and impresario all rolled up into one - charmed the Jewish world from Warsaw to Buenos Aires and played an important role in the expansion of gender roles. The singer and actress Bertha Kalish from Lemberg was compared favorably to the great actress Sarah Bernhardt, and Regina Pragerıs voice could have held its own with that of a Wagnerian heroine. Isa Kremer set new standards with her art song interpretations of Yiddish folksongs, the tomboyish Molly Picon wrote her own lyrics, and melodramatic Jennie Goldstein managed her own theater at the age of 16. Even today one encounters the odd 80 year-old retiree who is still enraptured by the sex appeal of Nellie Casman.


2000 sheets of Cantorial music online

Ladies and Gentlemen!

It gives me the greatest of pleasure, after more than 7 years of travail, to announce that over 2,000 sheets of shul music have now been scanned and put on the www.shulmusic.org site.

Stephen Simpson
Moderator, Shul Music List

Because of bandwidth constraints and the anticipated stampede to download material, only the Yamim Noraim music is now available. Stay tuned to the shul music list (groups.yahoo.com/subscribe.cgi/jewishshulmusic), and I'll keep you updated as to when the next batches will be on-line.

The uploaded files are:

  • Yamim Noraim basics, taken from 2 choirs: 18 MB
  • Sulzer in zipped file: 84 Mb
  • Lewandowski - all three volumes (Shabbat, Yom tov and recitatives): 100 MB
  • Basic shabbat choral material: 14 MB
  • Index of all known liturgical music composers: 2 Mb
  • The Blue Book in a zipped file: 44 MB
  • The Goldfarb (son and father) Yamim noraim songster from 1926: 4 Mb

The URL is: www.shulmusic.org/latest_updates.htm

Please contact me if you experience any problems, have any special requests or ideas.

Stephen Simpson
Moderator, Shul Music List

Update from KFAR Jewish Center

Perhaps you've been wondering what's up in Chicago and why KFAR Jewish Arts Center has been so quiet following last season. Well, first there was a WAR, then we had Sfirah (a traditional period of no music) and then came our summer break and then there's the economy... But have we been sitting on our tuchas? Heck, no! We've been preparing a tasty selection for your enjoyment for the coming year. Check it out:


Tzitzit: Voices from the Jewish Fringe

KFAR is on summer hiatus, but take a sneak peak at our exciting upcoming season of cutting-edge concerts, including some of the hottest act in contemporary Jewish music. thisyear, you'll hear Diaspora Jazz, Jewish Med-Rim Fusion, Ladino Blues, Jewish Rock, Afro-Semitism, Cosmic Neo-Klezmer Funk, Israeli Avant-Jazz, Yiddish Reggae and much more! Visit www.kfarcenter.com to hear music samples and see what in store!

Community Calendar

We've also updated the community calendar, and while we're still in the 9 days of no music, there's plenty coming up after Tisha B'av, plus interesting movies and plays to check out in the interim.

Subscribe to the tribe and buy advance tickets.

If you're a diehard member of the KFAR tribal circle and went to 3 or more of our events last year, buy your tickets in advance and SAVE. Last year, several of our events were sold out or nearly sold out, and with the renewed enforcement of city venue capacity laws, we want to be sure that everyone who wants to attend our events can do so. Avoid the hassle of getting shut out and save 20% by subscribing to the entire season of 8 KFAR concerts, including a special Hanukah event.

Be a member of our tribe

KFAR is Hebrew for a tribal village, and our village needs your support. If you're down with KFAR Jewish Arts Center, we're looking for volunteers to help promote events, house and transport artists and generally support a great mission. You'll meet great people, work on the coolest Jewish committee in town, participate in great events and get invited to meet artists and attend special events.

Contribute to Jewish Creativity

Our arts village also relies on the generous support of sponsors and individuals whose share our vision for vibrant Jewish cultural events in Chicago. Consider a tax-deductable contribution to the only organization completely dedicated to providing ongoing arts programming to Chicago's Jewish community.

Next year is now!

Finally, we're now accepting submissions for the 2004-2005 season (I know, can you believe it?). If you haven't already submitted your materials, send a HARD COPY PRESS KIT (yes, we need it) to us for consideration. The deadlne this year will be October 15, 2003. ALL Jewish music genre's are welcome. Print and fill out the the form at booking.kfarcenter.com/tzitzitform.html and return it with your kit.

Rainlore posts new klezmer reviews

After being put out of commission for a short while due to a faulty computer, Richard Scharma has released reviews of new releases by Metropolitan Klezmer and Isle of Klezbos, as well as a concert review.


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.

August 3, 2003

First feature-film klezmer soundtrack in 50 years?

Album cover: video coverIt may be the first feature film in 50 years to use klezmer as the soundtrack - pretty wild when you consider that the film in question, "Dad on the Run" is about the madcap adventures of a French Jewish wedding musician of North African descent.

But the movie is incredibly funny, and well-worth seeing--if only for what may be the first loving circumcision ceremony on film ("when I do a bris, the baby never cries") and a Jewish mother who isn't a misogynist caricature. Even "Fiddler on the Roof" gets a good-bye sendoff.

Why don't American filmmakers do funny movies about Jews that don't involve making fun of being Jewish? Even "Crossing Delancy," which does have some nice, albeit culturally conservative moments, fails on the above-mentioned ceremony (and perhaps also in its culturally moribund moral message). You'd think we could do better. You'd think that a culture that can revive joy of klezmer could be less uncomfortable with making non-self-hating fun of itself. Sheesh, even "Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob" had to be made in France.