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February 27, 2006

Sway Machinery Live: Jack from Mimaamakim

Over at the blog version of 'Mimaamakim," blogger Jake has recorded a wonderful review of the Sway Machinery live this weekend. Wish I could have been there!


February 20, 2006

New calendar feature

Twice in the past six months, people have written me asking about how to track events in their area. "Fools", I thought. "Haven't looked at the KlezmerShack Calendar page and seen that you can look at KlezmerShack events granular to a wide range of locations?" It's true. Go to the calendar Scroll down and look for "category archives" on the right side. You'll see a wide variety of geographic categories, based on how many entries I tend to get for a given geographic location. New York City has it's own category: loc:USA_nyc. But, if an event is happening in Asia, you're limited to loc:Asia.

So, I took a second look at the category archives and realized that the new material was always at the bottom of the page. Not so good if you're trying trying to figure out what is coming up. So, I've reversed that order.

Now, all I have to do is to figure out what happened to most of the categories that should be listed on that page. Coming very soon!

February 19, 2006

Call for Volunteers: KlezmerShack 10th Anniversary / Klezmer Conservatory Band Reunion


Klezmer Conservatory Band Reunion
and mini-KlezmerFestival

Saturday, March 25, 8pm
Sunday, March 26: workshops 1-3:30; concert 4pm

Special Guests include:
Michael Alpert
Rosalie Gerut
Deborah Strauss
Jeff Warschauer

I am most embarrassed to note that I haven't said anything in months (possibly ever) about the grand finale to the KlezmerShack 10th anniversary—a KCB Revival reunion, accompanied by a slew of workshops. You can find out more on our calendar, or a the Leventhal-Sidman JCC site.

The important thing to note at the moment, is that we will need volunteers to help during the event. Like other 10th Anniversary Events (including a concert at the beginning of the celebration, last spring, at the JCC) this may sell out, so get tickets early, and if you can help out, Please send me e-mail.

And, between now and March 25th and 26th, expect to hear lots more about this event.

SRO at Kaplan-Rushefsky concert in Newton

Pete and BeckyOne of the most amazing duos performing Jewish music today is the combination of singer/pianist Rebecca Kaplan and tsimbalist Pete Rushefsky. I have my own vested interest in the duo—I typeset the liner notes for their CD—but there were easily 200 people crammed into the largest meeting room in the Newton Library today, ranging in age from just born to grey hair. Maybe it was the fact that this was a free, Sunday afternoon concert, but I have to suggest that part of the credit lies in that incredible combination of Becky's voice—referred to by one reviewer as "this generation's Isa Kremer" and Pete's wonderful tsimbl playing. The two just belong together. The result is sublime: not recycle Yiddish folk shlock, but instead, something that fits this time with songs new or unfamiliar. And it sounds great.

The songs, including one lively tsimbl piece introduced by Pete as "the sort of piece Bruce Springstreen might have written had he been Jewish and played tsimbl," and a wonderful recent song authored by Kaplan and recorded on their CD in which she tells her lover that it is time to decide whether to commit or to move on. A favorite of the audience was a satire with the punch line, by a rabbi, that to "kasher" a philandering husband, the wife should scub him and put him in the fire and then put him in the ground for a year.

Kaplan and Rushefsky also had a sold out house at their concert, with Dobe Ressler and Di Bostoner Klezmer, celebrating this website's 10th anniversary earlier this year. If we can get an audience this good for the closing 10th anniversary concert (March 25th and March 26th, with the Klezmer Conservatory Band and a mini Jewish Music Festival), all will be well.

You can get a copy of Becky and Pete's CD, "On the Paths", from CDBaby.com

Shoshana Damari, z"l

Shoshana DamariFor generations, Shoshana Damari defined Israeli music. She passed away on February 18th. Judith Pinnolis has written an obituary and has links to more information about her life


February 11, 2006

Deborah Strauss and Jeff Warschauer ROCK

band photoI don't know how many times I have seen Deborah Strauss* and Jeff Warschauer. As often as possible, as it happens, and it adds up. Tonight's show at Workmen's Circle in Brookline, though, was the rockingest show I've ever seen them do. It was like a cross between a chassidic revival and a bluegrass show, except for the lack of chassidim and bluegrass.

For those not as familiar with their music, Deborah is the incredible fiddler playing alone, in a vacant lot, in Poland, in the middle of the Itzik Perlman "In the Fiddler's House" video. Jeff was the plucked strings genius in the Klezmer Conservatory Band for years and years. (His vocals performances on the most recent KCB CD, A Taste of Paradise, are the standout pieces of the recording.) The two have been touring together for many years. They have a CD available as an import from Germany (irony abounds). It's called "Rejoicing", which is an eponymous title, but also a good description for the CD and tonight's show.

The songs the two sing run a rather wonderful gamut. Most are in Yiddish (translations are provided before the song, or sometimes lined out during the song, as fits best). One, about the new moon (Rosh Hodesh) was in Hebrew—but Hebrew pronounced with an Eastern European accent, not the trendy Israeli accent. Few songs are familiar. A few are current in the former Soviet Union, or come from poets from the former Soviet Union and elsewhere, set to music by Jeff. In one case, Jeff also took the lyrics to the wonderful American spiritual, "The Water is Wide", translated them into Yiddish and reset them as a Yiddish folk melody. Perhaps this is the duo's tribute to the Workmen's Circle chorus which does a lot of spirituals, English and Yiddish.

The songs, on their own, would be a good reason to listen to the two. But the songs come with lots of chassidic niggunim, as well, so there is, as I noted at the beginning, a bit of chassidic revival—if chasidim did revivals of this sort. Then there is that Eastern European/former Soviet Union folk feel. The real pleasure, though, is the playing. In a sense, Strauss and Warschauer have taken the concept of a klezmer set—stringing together lots of tunes into a nice long dance set—into shorter snippets of songs set in an intricate weave of music.

Watching the two just play music, watching them watch each other while playing, watching Jeff switch back and forth between mandolin and guitar, watching their fingers—that's the part that reminds me of bluegrass—the idea of weaving amazing instrumentals and vocals together into a suite of music and words—and yet, retaining the songs. You can still sing along and you will be forced to clap hands and tap feet periodically by the force of the music.

The thing is, as intricate and soulfully skillful as the music is, there is also that rocking intensity. Often by the ends of songs, the musicians are bouncing up and down and the vocals are almost more shout and song. This isn't polite Yiddish in a museum. This is living, Jewish soul music, new and renewing.

Anyway, a good time was had by all and at the end the chairs were all moved to the side of the tiny hall so that Jeff and Deborah could teach some dance, the better that feets could remember the songs next time around.

It was just a wonderful, intimate evening in a wonderful, intimate location. A hartziken dank to both of them.

*Except for Steven Greenman, almost every amazing fiddler in the klezmer world who comes to mind at this late hour is a woman: Alicia Svigals, Deborah, Cookie Segelstein, even Alicia Jo Rabin from Golem and Sophie Solomon of Oi Va Voi. Makes you wonder what music we'd have had if Jascha Heifetz' sister had been allowed on stage.

February 5, 2006

Beyond the Pale wins Canadian Folk Music Award

Beyond the Pale tour posterNews from Eric Stein, about to tour the southwest and California with his band, Beyond the Pale

Beyond the Pale recently won the 2005 Canadian Folk Music Award for “Best Instrumental Group” for our last CD “Consensus”. Last week we were challenged to live up to the title in a very interesting project for CBC radio called “A New World of Mozart.” Ourselves and three other Canadian ‘world’ music ensembles were asked to come up with our own reinterpretations of Mozart’s music to celebrate his 250th birthday. We did BTP-ified versions of Piano Concerto #21 (Elvira Madigan), the 25th Symphony, and “Lacrimosa” and “Confutatis” from the Requiem (the latter of which, after being hybridized with a Dave Tarras tune, was redubbed “Confutarras”). Here is a link to an MP3 of our “25th Symphony Redux” from the broadcast:


Next up we hit the road for our second tour in southern California, Feb 11-19, also including stops in Tucson and at the Folk Alliance conference in Austin. See the KlezmerShack World Jewish Music Calendar for details