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October 28, 2004

Go Red Sox! 2004 World Series Champions

red sox logoNothing is more Jewish than the World Series (although, arguably, the number of devout Christians on the Red Sox makes for a relatively goyish team playing this great Jewish passtime). No one of my generation doesn't remember how Sandy Koufax refused to play in the World Series on Yom Kippur, making us all feel special to be Jewish, and bonding Jews to the ideal of a multicultural America where we could be free to assimilate, or not; to play klezmer, or jazz, or to mix them all together to create something new.

It was that wonderful Jewish American songwriter, Irving Berlin, who penned the song they sing during the Seventh inning stretch, "God Bentsh America". But, the best way to celebrate this victory is to bring back memories of baseball 86 years ago, when many of our great grandparents were arriving on these shores, quickly learning to sing about, "der base ball spiel". Thank you Mandy Patinkin for the album whence this clip came, "Mamaloshen". Thank you Henry Sapoznik for the Yiddish. Thank you Bernard Malamud for "The Natural". And thanks to my home town team for breaking a long drought and winning the world series again.


October 26, 2004

Wafarin Strangers

The bluegrass/jazz band, "Wayfaring Strangers" is coming to town in a couple of weeks and I am rather dismayed by my inability to sit down and order tickets. Some of this is due to being distracted by the World Series and the election. Some of it is the usual money concerns (employment suggestions for an excellent it project manager—pmp—in the boston area cheerfully considered). But for some reason, even as the band comes up in my mind all the time—most recently I compared some of Michael Winograd's lovely compositions for Khevre to similarly jazzy, spacious compositions by the band—I can't keep their name straight.

I used to think of Wafaring Strangers as Jewish bluegrass. On their first album, and when I saw them a couple of years ago, at the intimate Johnny D's club in Somerville, one of my favorite places to see good music, Andy Statman was still playing with them, and would occasionally break into a bit of nign or klezmer when doing one of his solos. Watching Andy Statman play with musicians of his calibre is a rare event and always worthwhile. (Watching, or listening to Andy Statman play with musicians who are merely "good" or "excellent" doesn't pull the best out of him the same way. It's like watching David Krakauer with most of his bands, just quieter.) From recent band personnel listings, though, it doesn't look like he'll be there. Was Andy even on the second Wafaring Strangers album?

But the worst problem is that from day one I have had trouble remembering the name of the band. I keep talking to friends about this great bluegrass band, "Wandering ...." Wandering who? what? I can't remember. I find myself wondering why a band would be called "Wandering Stars" when we all know that is the name of a book about Yiddish Theatre. I have an odd form of mental dyslexia that makes it very difficult for me to remember some names. (Wanna know the names of the three longest lived monarchs in Europe? I've been unable to forget that since 9th grade. But none of them play bluegrass these days.)

Anyway, I have a bad feeling that I'll procrastinate until the last moment, and then blow it for the last time when I go to Ticketmaster for the overpriced last-minute tix and can't find 'Wafarin Strangers' wondering all the time why a band would name itself after rat poison, and wasn't that a song by the Grateful Dead, anyway?

Sorry. Not really about Jewish Music. But my mind wanders sometimes. There's a band coming to town soon. "Wandering ... Stars"?

October 25, 2004

Some klezmer listings are going away

Yup. This morning I removed the first listing in a while: a Vancouver band named "Kreplach" from whom I haven't heard since 1997, and for whom I could discover no working contact.

One result of moving all e-mail addresses into the new anti-spam database is that everyone is getting an e-mail asked for confirmation. Those that are obviously unconfirmable now are being removed first. Others will be removed over the next couple of months. It's all going to take a while. I am currently guessing about 1500 listings. I've gone over the first 200.

If you are listed on the Klezmershack, or have a band or organization or radio show or whatever listed here, take a look at your listing and confirm that it is current. Doing this will accomplish two things:

  • You'll jump to the head of the queue for getting your e-mail address in the anti-spam queue, because all changes at this point start with that action. (If you have a listing but haven't gotten leads in a while, an outdated listing may be the explanation.)
  • You'll prevent that embarrassing disappearance of your listing when I can't find proof that your band, person, organization, whatever still exists to the public.
  • You'll earn serious points with me - anyone who saves me effort or makes my life easier is a major mensh and I appreciate it.

There is no one taking care of your listings but you - don't wait for me to discover that you forgot. This stuff is here because it is supposed to be helpful. Help me keep it so.

A hartsikn dank and a toda raba, ari

October 23, 2004

Belated Post - Di Fidl Kapelye in NYC, reviewed by Roger Reid

Metro New York's Ronan Tsimbler, Roger Reid, saw Amsterdam's Di Fidl Kapelye last winter and posted to the Jewish-Music list. Operating under extreme Jewish time, that review is now available to the rest of the world: Dutch Strings, Hammers, and Bows.

Many thanks to Roger "Got Belf?" Reid for permission to make this available on the Klezmershack.

October 17, 2004

Svigals and Lerner enchant Amherst

It was a concert worth driving two hours each way for as Canada's famed jazz pianist Marilyn Lerner (Flying Bulgars, duos with David Wall, etc.) met New York City's groundbreaking klezmer fiddler Alicia Svigals halfway at the National Yiddish Book Center last night. Those present had come primarily to hear Svigals who was as incendiary and amazing as usual, and who was matched by the incomparable Lerner on piano. The two performed klezmer standards, each other's pieces, and even did some improvisation based on audience request. People kept looking at each other, "did you hear that"?

I mention this especially because the two are meeting up with the renowned Adrienne Cooper tonight at Satalla, in NYC. This should be one of the amazing concerts of the season. All three have played together in various ensembles (Cooper and Svigals are both in the acclaimed "Mikveh" all-women's ensemble; Cooper has frequently sung with Toronto's Flying Bulgars, which also features Lerner, who has done much Yiddish art song, a category in which Cooper excels, with David Wall, also of the Bulgars. So, klezmer, Yiddish song, art song, and jazz and much new, performed by three of the best. Don't miss it.

The concert is at Satalla at 5pm this afternoon.

October 13, 2004

"The Immigrant" - a new musical about the Jewish Immigrant experience

show logoThey fled the darkest corners of Eastern Europe. Their story was written thousands of times over by people who risked everything to live a dream. Only a few would welcome them. THE IMMIGRANT, a new off-Broadway musical produced by Hello Entertainment, celebrates one such story in the most unlikely of places - Hamilton, Texas. This remarkable quirk in history is the beginning of the true story of Haskell Harelik who rose from street peddler to become the owner of a prominent department store. The New York Times calls it "A deeply satisfying new musical, with much on its mind about history, humanity, man and God and the American Dream, [it] touches the heart and glows with humor."

THE IMMIGRANT begins performances at the new DODGER STAGES on 340 West 50th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue on November 4th.

For more information visit www.theimmigrantmusical.com. For tickets visit www.telecharge.com or call 212 239 6200

October 7, 2004

Oh, right, there's no point writing reviews if I don't mention them....

I have slowly been trying to find my way out from under the scary stacks of CDs sitting here awaiting reviews. The good news is that there are so many, I get to choose my favorites for review first. The bad news? This is just the tip of the iceberg and next week I could be (and hopefully, will be) equally ecstatic over an entirely different list.

album coverFirst on today's list has to be my homies, the Shirim Klezmer Orchestra who turn out their first straight-forward klezmer album in several years (Pincus and the Pig is due out next month) and it is just killer—my favorite album in years, by one of my favorite bands: Mayse (Tales). I need to add a minor caveat: the lone word of Yiddish on the cover was typeset by moi, so it's not as if I am entirely disinterested. On the other hand, as readers of these pages know, I wouldn't offer my services if I wasn't already blown away by the music: big, brassy, exciting American klezmer with lots of surprises that make it all even better.

album coverNext up come a pair of very traditional albums from the Chassidic side of klezmer. First is Andy Statman's first release in years, Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge. On it, Statman explores the world of Chassidic nign, always informing the music with his own great klezmer, bluegrass, and jazz chops.

album coverGood as Statman is, however, he is one amazing musician playing with a workaday accompaniment. Not so this re-release of Moussa Berlin's "Sulam" ensemble live recording. The album was re-released as a memorial to the late jazz flautist Roman Kunsman (with some new material added to the CD emphasize Kunsman's contribution to the ensemble) and more than most Moussa Berlin albums, this one is a collaborative effort with a whole amazing band playing together. Sulam is my favorite Berlin album, and the rerelease eulogizes Kunsman in the best way possible—by giving us a generous helping of his playing and reminding us of what we have lost, while cheering us up in our loss by letting us hear lots of his playing.

album coverI knew that Aaron Alexander was ubiquitous, but I didn't realize what an exciting composer he was until I saw a piece off this album performed at KlezKanada. Then I got the CD and fell in love. Alexander brings unusual Jewish depth, both musically and otherwise, to his music, but he also brings jazz and lots more. This is the most fun I've had listening to a Tzadik recording since Koby Israelite's album last year, I think. When we talk about Radical Jewish Music, meaning music that pushes the edges of what "Jewish Music" is, and that gets you excited about the idea, this is the music we're talking about. Don't miss the Midrash Mish Mosh. It's less mish mosh than fusion; and an excellent midrash on how to make new, exciting, experimental Jewish music.

album coverComing from another place, entirely, this first solo outing by Basya Schechter, the creative genius behind Pharaoh's Daughter, is an exciting instrumental exploration of oud, santur, and Middle Eastern instruments used in the composition of new, very American music, that pulls together sounds from across and around the world. Queen's Dominion is every bit as exciting as Pharaoh's Daughter's most recent CD, "Exile", and completely different.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are more reviews written, just waiting for CDs to become available, and a host more that I'm going to catch up with very very soon, I hope. Stay tuned. In the meantime, good listening!

More reviews by George Robinson

Another "lost" link—in this case, a whole new slew of reviews (well, new back in February) from George Robinson for the Jewish Week: An Eclectic New Year: From Arab-Andalusian classics to Baudelaire-inspired piano, a wide-ranging mix of CDs for the new season.

Who is a Jew? What is Jewish Art?

Lori Cahan-Simon found this very interesting article, from Aug 6, '04, about the new Modigliani exhibit at New York's Jewish Museum: Modigliani: Pretty darned Jewish

October 6, 2004

Mishegoss! set to run in Minneapolis

show logoWhat happens when Albert Einstein, Eddie Cantor, Meyer Lansky, and Major League ballplayer turned spy Moe Berg all share the same stage? Mishegass! Make plans this minute to see the new musical by Joseph Vass, featuring the world-class band Klezmerica, with singer/actors Laura Adams, Kevin Dutcher, Arne Fogel, Geoff Jones, and Michael Paul Levin (remember Michael's outstanding turn as George Gershwin in "Gershwin The Klezmer"?)

The run opens with four previews in St. Cloud: two Saturday night shows October 9 and 16; and two Sunday matinees October 10 and 17. Then the show settles into the Woman's Club Theatre in Loring Park in Minneapolis for a four week run. Shows are Thursday nights, Saturday nights, and two shows on Sundays, starting Thursday evening, October 21. In keeping with the Jewish Sabbath, there will be no Friday evening performances.

For tickets to St. Cloud performances, call (320) 203-1233 or visit www.pioneerplaceonfifth.com

For tickets to Minneapolis Woman's Club Theater performances, contact TicketMaster at (612) 673-0404 or visit www.ticketmaster.com/artist/930276/

For more information, visit our Website at mishegass.com.

Tickets to Mishegass are now on sale and the best seats will go fast! "Mishegass" means "craziness" in Yiddish, and crazy is what you'll be to miss this. Luckily, you have many opportunities to attend.

For tickets to St. Cloud performances, call (320) 203-1233 or visit www.pioneerplaceonfifth.com

For tickets to Minneapolis Woman's Club Theater performances, contact TicketMaster at (612) 673-0404 or visit www.ticketmaster.com/artist/930276/

For those who like to combine good works with good theatre, Mt. ZIon Congregation has bought out the house for the Opening Night in Minneapolis and designated it a special benefit for the temple with an additional mission to help restock the Neighborhood House foodshelves. So, for that one night only, Thursday, October 21, call (651) 774-0354 for tickets, and kindly bring non-perishable food items to share with our less fortunate neighbors.

For more information, visit our Website at mishegass.com. Then call your friends -- of every religious persuasion and none -- and plan a theatre party to celebrate the craziness and wonder of the American immigrant experience. See you there!

Elliot Simon on The Chassidic Jazz Project and Klez Dispensers

album coverElliot Simon writes the Jewish-Music list about his new reviews:

Ruben Hoch and The Chassidic Jazz Project Live....a very nice CD with jazz interpretations of Jewish liturgical music.....my thoughts are at....The Chassidic Jazz Project Live

Also in this months issue of AAJ-NY.... and soon to be online....a review of "the house band for klezmer's newest wave..." New Jersey Freylekhs.

October 5, 2004

Mizrahi music takes over the Israeli airwaves

Eva Broman found this article and posted to the Jewish-Music mailing list. Once Considered an Oriental Sound, Mizrahi Music Now Pervades Mainstream, by Loolwa Khazoom, for JTA, June 9, 2004. By way of contrast, consider Judith Cohen's article describing a scene that I well remember from 30 years ago, Bus Station Music, 1993

October 4, 2004

Stempenyu's Dream CD released

album coverSteven Greenman's new CD project, "Stempenyu's Dream", is finally released. I last mentioned this back in April and heard selections at KlezKanada this summer where I was blown away. People raved about the music when played at this year's Ashkenaz Festival.

You can order your copy already—no need to wait for me to get around to writing a rave review. Steven describes the album thusly:

"The first modern studio recording comprised entirely of originally composed traditional klezmer violin music, Stempenyu's Dream is the music of the violinist, Steven Greenman, one of the finest practitioners of East European Jewish violin music in the world today. This double-CD recording features soulful examples of stirring religious hymns, virtuosic Jewish/Moldavian dances, spiritual nigunim and artistic table music for listening. A cast of some of the finest musicians of the klezmer revival including Michael Alpert, Alan Bern, Stuart Brotman, Alexander Fedoriouk, Walter Zev Feldman, Mark Rubin and Pete Rushefsky capture the essence of these new yet traditionally sounding compositions evoking memories of an honored Jewish musical life and continuing creative culture."

Double CD set
$25.00 USD plus
$3.85 shipping
$28.85 total

For CDs please send checks or money orders to:
Steven Greenman
818 South Green Rd. Apt. 4
South Euclid, OH 44121
E-mail Steven Greenman for more info.

KlezmerShack coding updated

me in the CaribbeanI have finally finished the promised first phase of moving the KlezmerShack into a database-driven format as promised back in August. As of now, I am embedding all new e-mail addresses in the initial database such that (I hope!) it is no longer to harvest new e-mail addresses from the KlezmerShack pages.

I am now moving slowly through the backlog of listing changes, and thence to converting all e-mail addresses to the new system. I hope thereby to be removing one extant target from e-mail harvesters and making the world a trifle safer for klezmer and Jewish music in general :-).

If spam is especially bothering you, please feel encouraged to e-mail me and let me know (niceness does help) that you would like to be jumped to the head of the queue as I get a chance to deal with hundreds of e-mail addresses. I would rather help those who are most bothered by this plague first.

When this is all done, I'll be moving all listings into database tables and expanding the ways in which you can find bands, dance instructors, festival, ongoing gatherings and the like. Stay tuned and have a sweet new year.

Notes from Zamir/ Mark Slobin commenting on Jewish Music Theatre

It was Cantor Sam Weiss who also posted the following to the Jewish Music list last spring:

"Notes From Zamir", which I referenced earlier regarding Salomone Rossi, is turning into a very interesting Jewish Music magazine. In their current issue devoted to Jewish Musical Theatre, also available online, www.zamir.org/Notes/", there's an article by Mark Slobin on "The Jazz Singer," from which comes the following excerpt which I thought would be interesting to many on this list:

"A young man named Samson Raphaelson did understand the inherent dramatic possibilities of the rise of the immigrant entertainer. While still in his twenties, Raphaelson wrote a short story called "The Day of Atonement," and then turned it into a highly successfiil Broadway production of 1925 called The Jazz Singer. It starred George Jessel, who apparently gave the performance of a lifetime. Indeed, some New York reviews concentrated on the remarkable dramatic skills of the vaudevillian and even presumed the play was put together as a vehicle for Jessel's crossover to legitimate theater. It was, however, a goal far from Raphaelson's mind. The author laid out his own agenda with extreme clarity in a preface to the published version of the play:

In seeking a symbol of the vital chaos of America's soul, I find no more adequate one than jazz... Jazz is prayer. It is too passionate to be anything else. It is prayer distorted, sick, unconscious of its destination.... In this, my first play, I have tried to crystallize the ironic truth that one of the Americas of 1925—that one which packs to overflowing our cabarets, musical reviews and dance halls-is praying with a fervor as intense as that of the America which goes sedately to church and synagogue.... & I have used a Jewish youth as my protagonist because the Jews are determining the nature and scope of jazz more than any other race-more than the Negroes from whom they have stolen jazz and given it a new color and meaning. Jazz is Irving Berlin, Al Jolson, Sophia Tucker. These are Jews with their roots in the synagogue. And these are expressing in evangelical terms the nature of our chaos today.

You find the soul of a people in the songs they sing. You find the meaning of the songs in the souls of the minstrels who create and interpret them. In "The Jazz Singer," I have attempted an exploration of the soul of one of these minstrels.

"Notice Raphaelson's insight into the linkage of the Jew "with his roots in the synagogue" with the social ferment here loosely generalized as jazz. There are both literal and metaphoric truths lurking in his purple prose. Literally, he is correct: many of the main figures of Jewish-American, internal entertainment began their careers as choirboys; in addition, a figure like Irving Berlin had similar experiences, and Jolson himself really was the son of a cantor. Metaphorically, the sense of the star entertainer as being on a par with the ecstatic, shamanistic ritual of the evangelist and medicine man is an insight regarding American popular culture that was just beginning to emerge in 1925. Raphaelson had grasped the fact that the immigrants could wield power through entertainment, and that their power stemmed from an ability to channel their indigenous expressive systems into strategic, socially rewarding directions. It is no accident that he calls these entertainers "minstrels"; they literally were minstrels. Virtually every major entertainer-Jolson, Cantor, Jesse, Sophia Tucker, even the Yiddish comedienne Molly Pico-appeared in blackface early in their careers. Some of them explicitly state, in memoirs, the comfort they derived from putting on that all-American mask of burnt cork. In blackface, they were no longer the immigrant-they were one with the soul of America as represented by the grotesque co-optation of the slave's persona. As bizarre as such a phenomenon must have been for Eastern European Jews, so completely unfamiliar with the concept of black vs. white as cardinal principle of social organization, they quickly understood its value for them: the ritual mask of the powerless gave them, the underdogs, sacred strength in this strange and dangerous New World..."

Cantor Sam Weiss on "Teshuva"

album coverIn this case, it's an album by Ramón Tasat, César Lerner and Marcelo Moguilevsky, reviewed by Cantor Sam Weiss for the KlezmerShack. It was Cantor Weiss' goal to make this available during the High Holiday period. Happily, the review is none the less interesting and pertinent for the delay.

October 3, 2004

3rd Int'l Conf. on Judeo-Spanish Studies

3rd Int'l Conf. on Judeo-Spanish Studies will be held in Thessaloniki October 17 & 18, 2004. The theme of the conference is "The Social and Cultural Life in Salonika through Judeo-Spanish Texts".

A PDF of the program is available at www.jct.gr/programma.pdf

The event is sponsored and organized by the Jewish community of Thessaloniki.