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December 31, 2006

Pictures of KlezKamp 2006

For those who attended (and for those of us who weren't able to attend this year, but wish we had), Bob Blacksberg has uploaded his amazing pictures. Going to the URL activates a flash application. If you move your mouse towards the top or bottom of the screen you can see captions, or choose specific images:


December 28, 2006

Humongous Jewmongous - shout out to Sean Altman

What I Like About Jew album cover'Okay, I'm exhausted and I have to be up at 6:30 to look at database schema for work. I should not be sitting here writing about weird holiday shows, but I so enjoyed Sean Altman's "Jewmongous" review that I have to put in my short "shout out."

CD single, 'Hanukah with Monica'I don't know who Altman is. I don't know from popular culture. The guy in the line behind me was into blues and jazz. I'm into blues, too, but this show owed much more to the Beatles and Irving Berlin. From Altman's e-mail, I was reminded that he co-wrote a song with Rob Tannenbaum that I have never liked called "Hanukah with Monica."

From the people sitting on both sides of me (both of whom have connections to Boston's big Jewish chorus, Hazamir), Alman is an a capella God, formerly of something called Rockapella. "There's lots of us a capella fans here!" From seeing him perform, all I can tell you is that he probably is taller than Jesus, that he's very funny, has very funny friends, and his wife not only has an operatic voice, but she's very good at harmonizing it in to folky humorous songs.

This time of year has changed radically in the last few years. Last week I was thoroughly enjoying JDUB's "Jewltide" show (about which I promise to write more—Shtreiml rocked out, and Golem played with their usual punk intensity. Not a show to be missed). Last weekend I read in the paper that Christmas eve isn't just for Chinese food any more. It's a big Jewish singles night—including an Orthodox Jewish singles night with parties sponsored by Chabad. And this week I have "Jewmongous," a funny, occasionally adult funny show with songs ranging from "They tried to kill us. We survived. Let's eat" to the Mohel song, "just take a little bit off the top." It's this generation's Catskills humor. The subjects have changed—there are more songs about not knowing tradition—the aforementioned "They tried to kill us" or "Does anyone know what simchas Torah is about"? Almost no Yiddish. I heard the word "wholesale" mentioned once, and the one joke about "363 selling days until Christmas" by one of the guests fell flat. No Jewish mother jokes. No Jewish American Princess jokes. It's funny—often very funny—humor by Jews, for Jews, mostly about being Jewish in America today (which is generally seen as a good thing, despite the lack of presents at Hanukah—last year's show with Rob Tannenbaum was much less positive), with a bit of "Nittel" thrown in. ("Nittel" refers to some of the raunchy, anti-Christian things that our ancestors did during the Middle Ages on Christmas Eve to avoid studying or doing anything praiseworthy that might be misconstrued as praising that former Jew who brought so much trouble down on us. The customs still remain in some Orthodox communities. In non-Orthodox communities we have "Jewmongous.")

From the moment he came on stage and donned his kippah (some interesting semiotics about donning signifying Jewish religious clothing to start a show poking fun about not knowing much about being Jewish) I really enjoyed the evening. There was a song about "Murray the Shofar Blower" (Blow Murray Blow) that was inspired by Yom Kippur at the shul I attend, (on the rare occasions when I attend shul) but from back in the '60s, when it was a very different shul, altogether. At another extreme, was "Today I am a Man" (I may be a Bar Mitzvah boy, but can I drink or drive?) or the rather violent diatribe against "Jews for Jesus."

And for all that, the person who blew me away was one of three guest artists, another person of whom I have never heard, Cindy Kaplan? Whoever this Kaplan person is, she has an acid, sharp wit and I thoroughly enjoyed every second of her song about being the Bride of Jesus (he may have been a carpenter then, but can he put up a simple set of shelves now?), and every second of her song about (oops. this is one of the songs that I probably shouldn't talk about on a website that wants any credibility with parents of younger children). Apparently she wrote a book called Why I'm Like This that has been very popular. It's currently #48,863 on amazon.com. I intend to get a copy of the library tomorrow.

Can't wait for it to be that goyishe holiday season again. Where once we Jews tried to pretend that Hanukah was a major holiday like Christmas and blend in, nowadays it's Jewish fun central. It's Good to be a Jew at Christmas.

December 27, 2006

The KlezKamp Blog

klezkamp poster 2006Like me, did you miss KlezKamp this year? Fear not! You can be reminded of how much you missed and feel determined to make it next year, come what may, by browsing the KlezKamp blog:


December 26, 2006

New Fraidy Katz CD, "Di Alte Kashe"

Fraidy Katz CD coverKame'a Media
announces the December 12, 2006 release of The Eternal Question (Di Alte Kashe) by Yiddish singer Fraidy Katz.

Those ordering artist-direct copies of the new Fraidy Katz CD, "The Eternal Question" / "DI ALTE KASHE" from Kame'a Media—until the end of December, 2006—will receive an autographed copy.

The Eternal Question (Di Alte Kashe) by Fraidy Katz includes a 24-page booklet of Yiddish lyrics, YIVO transliterations and English translations, plus songwriter bios -- and more.

For complete lists of Personnel, Program, Listening Links, Ordering Information etc., please visit Web: www.kamea.com
E-mail Kamea Media.

Produced by Wolf Krakowski and Jim Armenti, TEQ includes guest artists:
The Lonesome Brothers, Josh Horowitz, Cookie Segalstein, Brian Bender Jim Matus, David Isabelle, Seth Austen and Beverly Woods, among others.

The long-awaited recording featuring the vocals of one of our finest contemporary Yiddish singers, Fraidy Katz, has finally arrived, and it was worth every minute of the wait. "Eternal Question" (Di Alte Kashe) features a baker's dozen Yiddish folk and popular tunes recontextualized for modern times; Old World ballads are draped in accordion, pipes, tsimbl and violin, in a peaceful coexistence alongside electric guitars, trumpets and saxophones. As co-producer Wolf Krakowski has explored on his own albums that boast a similar approach and use the same core band, the fabulous Lonesome Brothers, there is a natural affinity between Yiddish popular songs and such quintessentially American styles as blues, reggae, jazz, and even country swing, and Katz exploits this affinity in a manner that at once showcases her intuitive grasp of the songs' roots while at the same time effortlessly making them speak to contemporary audiences. Had there been no Shoah, this is undoubtedly the direction in which Yiddish song would have evolved and the music that a vast majority of what would have been a large, Yiddish-speaking world would have been listening to today. It's our good fortune to have it re-created and represented by such a sterling talent as Fraidy Katz.—Seth Rogovoy, author, "The Essential Klezmer: A Music Lover's Guide to Jewish Roots and Soul Music"

"Four and a Half Stars"—George Robinson, New York Jewish Week

Klezmatics new CD nominated for Grammy

Woody Guthrie-style naive art with bad letteringOn a good year, if we're lucky, there is a Jewish-related Grammy nomination. I totally blew it, as there was apparently an earlier round of voting—the nominating ballotÔin which several Jewish albums, including the wonderful German Goldenshteyn CD were suggested and I didn't make time to get that word out (as if enough people read this blog to make a difference, but maybe they would if I made the time to post every now and then). Now, the final nominations are out, and I see exactly one, as usual: If you take a look at the "world music" (Field 16, World Music - still no category for Jewish music, mind you):

In category 73, Contemporary World Music, there is the amazing new Klezmatics Woody Guthrie's Wonder Wheel CD. I suggest that you write anyone you know who can vote, and encourage them to vote a few times for this amazing recording.

Rachel Kafrissen notes that Sex Mob, Steven Bernstein's band, also got a nomination for best contemporary jazz album. I'm kind of impressed, but I think that if there can be a "polka" category, we Jews deserve at least one category of our own. (How to decide whether a Debbie Friedman or Klezmatics or Sex Mob or Pharaoh's Daughter or Chazzanut or children's Chanukah CD should be the winner is a problem that I'll happily embrace once we get that far.)

Vote early. Vote often. Vote Klezmatics.

December 25, 2006

Illustrated Tribute to Frank London

what you see is what you get - this is amazing musicFrom Piranha, comes this news about Frank London. Me, I'm holding out the the tribute album:

Richard Kenigsman was the artist who gave Frank London's Klezmer Brass Allstars cover "Carnival Conspiracy" its great colorful outlook. If you're in Brussels, don't miss his exhibition from 12 Dec to 18 Jan, including a painted tribute to Frank London. All details on www.piranha.de/_downloads/KenigsmanTribute.jpg or go to Richard's website www.kenigsman.com

new Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman children's CD

Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman/Fli  Mayn FlishlangAt the risk of embarrassing her, I post Jeanette Lewicki's wonderful words about an album she helped produce, Schaechter-Gottesman's wonderful new children's album. The CD is available from CDbaby.com (and for reasons I do not understand, is not yet mentioned on the Yiddishland Records website!). Jeanette posted about the CD in response to a query about new Chanukah albums. At the risk of embarrassing her further, I note that, in my mind, if Lewicki is involved with an album, the odds that it is worth listening to go up by at least an order of magnitude (consider her work with the amazing Arkady Gendler CD a few years ago):

I recommend "Fli Mayn Flishlang," Beyle Schaechter-Gotteman's new CD of Yiddish children's songs.

For one thing, I had the honour of arranging eight songs on it: "Di ban" & "Der vint" for Lorin Sklamberg; "Feter Shneyer" sung by Beyle's granddaughter Esther with Harry Carey; "Fli Mayn Flishlang" sung by Perl Teitelbaum, & various holiday songs sung by by Harry & the incomparable Perl. I also play solo accordion on a couple of tracks with Esther, who rules. Itzik went out on a limb to hire me as arranger & it turns out I really love to do it.

There are songs not only for Khanike/Hanukka/Chanukah, but other Jewish holidays as well, including a super funky "Tu Besvhvat." (I think this is the one DJ SoCalled will sample. The arrangement was inspired by Sun Ra, Rokhl, by way of that crazy brass band of ten brothers with plastic instruments who've been playing the subways lately. It turns out they are all sons of one of the Arkestra musicians.)

We had great studio musicians inluding Matt Darrieau, Aaron Alexander, Rima Fand, Jake Shulman-Ment, Ron Caswell, Jacob Garchik, Mariana Beytelmen, Reuben Radding.

This CD also features children's songs sung by children, arranged by Binyumen Schaechter (in New York with the Pripetshik Singers) & Lorin Sklamberg (with a Russian youth chorus).

My own goal as an arranger was to get the best possible Yiddish music in the kids' ears now, while they're young, so they can appreciate it when they grow up.

Oh, & I get to sing one song, with an arrangement boosted from Bartok. The whole thing made my year.

Jeanette Lewicki

Ithaca College Klezmorim release "Music for Hawaiian Gardens"

Ithaca College Klezmorim/Music for Hawaiian GardensI keep assuming that all institutes of higher learning in Ithaca are Cornell. I am clearly wrong. It looks like there is finally a replacement for the lamented Cayuga Klezmer Band!. The following is all I know about them (if memory serves, the band was originally mentored by Joel Rubin when he was a professor there.)

The alluring new album from the Ithaca College Klezmorim, produced and featuring Trombonist Ryan Zawel is called "Music for Hawaiian Gardens.

"This recording shows the breadth of the music now understood to be "klezmer"—Joel Rubin

Listen to or purchase at www.activelistening.org

new Jewish-only MP3 site, and more: OySongs.com

Here's George Robinson's take on this new idea: For The Love Of Jewish Music, from the Aug 11, 2006, Jewish Week: "Joe Eglash turns his passion into the first music download site dedicated to Jewish tunes."

And here's Joe's most recent email (much delayed, and apology to Joe owed for the delay). While I confess to having a soft spot for Klezmer, myself, the KlezmerShack (and the Jewish-Music mailing list) covers all Jewish music that interests me. Hopefully, this generally extends far beyond Klezmer:

We wrote each other a while back about the launch of my site, oySongs.com (it launched in early July).

I just had an article about oySongs and me in the Jewish Week, written by George Robinson, who spoke very highly of you.

One of the reasons I'm emailing, besides keeping in touch, is to ask if you could post something on the Jewish Music from a World Perspective (is that the name?) listserv that you manage inviting artists to sign up to sell their music on oySongs. I have a special interest in Klezmer (as a klezmer myself) bands.

Just got back from the CAJE conference (Duke U) where I was co-chair of entertainment—we booked a lot of musicians/bands, but among them was Steve Weintraub and the Klezmer Mountain Boys. Amazing.

Joe Eglash

new Jewish Music label: Jewish Music Group

Jewish Music Group logoIf you were paying attention to the latest Klezmatics' releases, you noticed that they were being distributed by a new music label, "Jewish Music Group." The write:

The Jewish Music Group is Record Label and Music Distributor specializing in Jewish Music and Entertainment. The label is owned and run by industry veterans Richard Foos (formerly Rhino, currently Shout Factory Entertainment) and David McLees (formerly Rhino Entertainment and Warner Music Group). JMG is distributed in the U.S. by RED Distribution exclusively in the the non-Judaica market. Label President, David McLees explains, We want our releases to cover a wide spectrum of music, the Jewish retail world, as well as cross over into the broadest possible market including traditional, specialty and mainstream. Web: www.jewishmusicgroup.com. Any questions? ">email or call us...818-508-2500.

A few months ago, I asked Mindy McLees to tell me a little more about the new label:

Well, this is fully addressed in Ed Silverman's article titled "Jewish Music by Choice"... within which you have a great quote. [how awkward to be quoted in an article I don't remember! Anyone have a source on this?] I think you get it when you said...

"At least in recent times, what McLees is doing is totally new. It seems quite conceivable that a large Jewish market wouldn't go into a Judaica shop, but would be intrigued by something at a Tower Records. And something like the new Klezmatics album has a good chance of speaking to a broader non-Jewish market. There's also a modern phenomenon at work. People are open to Jewish music in ways they weren't before. It's no longer someone looking for a Jewish artifact, but also Jewish music as a hip movement. So if the label speaks to a lot of current trends, it should be sellable. There's definitely room for this."

We are selling into Judaica, but we also have mainstream distribution. We are interested in putting out Jewish Music that we love..."Jewish music that changes everything" is a tag line we have been using lately to describe our eclectic mix of releases.... Changes how you view Jewish music, or maybe how you feel about God, or how you feel about Jews and Jewish culture. We realize that we are taking on a lot, but as it says in the article, our President, David McLees is a wide eyed, passionate convert with 18 years of record company experience.

With new albums by Moshav, The Klezmatics, and Debbie Friedman and new albums coming out from Ta-Shma and Rav Shmuel our label is hitting a broad spectrum of the Jewish market. If you add to that "Connie Francis sings Jewish favorites," the "Yentl" soundtrack, a Neil Diamond tribute record, and Don Rickles "Speaks!" among other albums and you have a very eclectic and yes, "hip" mix of Jewish music and entertainment.

review of new Yale Strom book

Yale Strom/The Absolutely Complete Introduction to KlezmerElliott Simon reviews the latest Yale Strom book/CD project, The Absolutely Complete Introduction to Klezmer in All About Jazz. The CD is a companion to Yale's new klezmer fake book (Transcontinental Music/Hal Leonard) "The Absolutely Complete Klezmer Songbook" which features 311 klezmer tunes most from out of print sources and many from his field recordings :

"In addition to being an author, a filmmaker and a violinist of the first order, Yale Strom is also a musical archivist. His frequent trips to Eastern Europe and interviews with Rom musicians have done much to advance our knowledge of what the music was like when the archetypal klezmers and gypsies roamed the countryside and shared repertoire. Drawing upon classic archival material and his own painstakingly assembled tunes...." more, on the All About Jazz site

The march of bad Jewish videos continues

Lila Feingold passes on this, um, version of one of the songs we instructed the band, at our wedding, not to play:


And Cantor Sam Weiss contributes this swinging version of the dreidl song featuring singer Kenny Ellis:


A day in the life of a tuba player

I'm only a few months behind in the list of really cool stuff that I need to get up on the KlezmerShack right away. But, here's a wonderful item forwarded to us by tuba god, Ron Caswell:

A friend of mine did a short 3 minute film on a day in the life of a tuba player in New York City. Some will find it amusing. Others will be horrified. I apologize in advance.



1st Shirim CD now available at CDBaby.com

Shirim / of angels and horseradishThe first Shirim CD is among my favorites, and most-listened-to oldies. I am dilatory in getting this notice, from bandleader Glenn Dickson out to the general world. He understates how intensely good this CD. It is the only incarnation of a young Shirim Klezmer Orchestra, then following brilliantly in the footsteps of, and even surpassing the other groundbreaking Boston klezmer revival band, Klezmer Conservatory Band, in presenting klezmer, Yiddish theatre music, and even the new music directions by which most of the world now knows the band and its entirely avant garde side, Naftule's Dream:

I am happy to say that Shirim's first CD, "Of Angels and Horseradish," released initially in 1990 is available for the first time in years on CD Baby at cdbaby.com/cd/shirim4. Please check it out. If you have "Klezmer Nutcracker" or "Pincus and the Pig" you will discover another side of the band on this CD. The dual vocals of Betty Silberman and Rosalie Gerut (reminiscent of the Barry Sisters), dazzling new instrumentals and new Yiddish songs as well as some startling remakes of some old chestnuts (check out the post-bop arrangement of “And the Angels Sing”) combine to make this a CD a grandmother can love but which also turns the heads of the younger crowd.

December 17, 2006

review of Cahan-Simon Chanukah CD

Cahan-Simon / Chanukah CD coverLori Cahan-Simon, whose previous CDs have already been reviewed here on the KlezmerShack, announces that her latest, just in time for our current holiday, is also receiving excellent (we should expect anything less? reviews:

If I may kvell for a moment—my new CD got a nice writeup in the Cleveland Jewish News today: Holiday CD in Yiddish, by Alan Smason, Dec. 17, 2006.

You can find out more and pick up a copy of the CD on cdbaby.com (and help support the KlezmerShack, while you're at it, by starting your purchase by clicking here).

KlezKamp 22 - begins Dec 24-26 - still a few slots!

dancing at KlezKampDear Friends, tayere fraynd,

KlezKamp 22 is almost here!! We are in the midst of our intensive preparations for this annual event and if you have not yet signed up, it's not too late! There is room for even more of you to join our wonderful KlezKamp community at the premier Yiddish folk arts and music festival, December 24-26, 2006 at the Hudson Valley Resort & Spa in upstate New York. More information about attending KlezKamp may be found at the KlezKamp homepage.

We have added a few new features that will be of interest to you:

  • KLEZKAMP BLOG! Yes, we now have an official ongoing KlezKamp blog. Bookmark this site www.klezkamp.blogspot.com and check it regularly for an ongoing account of KlezKamp activities, photos, music files and other blogeray leading up to, during, and after KlezKamp. The blog is also available through a link on the Living Traditions and KlezKamp homepages. Even if you can't make it to KlezKamp this year, experience KlezKamp through our blog.
  • Photos and bios of the KlezKamp staff are now available at www.livingtraditions.org/docs/kk/staffbios.htm
  • If you are unable to join us at KlezKamp, please consider supporting us financially by making a contribution or becoming a member of Living Traditions. Details may be found at www.livingtraditions.org/docs/memb.htm
  • For last minute holiday gift ideas, don't forget the wonderful recordings and books available at the online EpesCenter on our website: www.livingtraditions.org/docs/store.htm

Zayt gezunt.
Henry Sapoznik
Founder and Director, KlezKamp
Executive Director, Living Traditions

Indie klezmer recording awards - another good Hanukkah gift list!

Old friend, Riki Friedman writes:

I am delighted to announce that our CD,Freylach Time! The Klezmer Dance Band won 4th place in Just Plain Folks album of the year competition (Klezmer category) for 2006. Just Plain Folks is a large network supporting independent musicians and recording artists.

Here is their website: www.jpfolks.com

Evidently this year CDbaby.com submitted the entry, along with hundreds of others to be judged this year. If you want to see the competition, this will take you to CDbaby's Klezmer listings: cdbaby.com/found?allsearch=klezmer&allsearchsubmit=Search

Of course there were other entries besides those sent in by CDbaby

The Judges then chose 8 finalists in each category using the criteria: Does it move me? These are the nominees and winners

Rank   Klezmer Album Nominees, Artist--   Location
1New Jersey Freylekhs, The Klez DispensersNY
2Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Andy StatmanNY
3Close Enough for Klezmer, The Alexandria KleztetMD
4Freylach Time! The Klezmer Dance Band, Freylach Time!NC
5Actions Speak Louder Than Words, The Klezmer Juice QuintetCA
6Amulet, NikitovMN
7Live from KlezKamp! The Staff Concerts 1, Various ArtistsNY
8Nakhes Fun Klezmer, Dobe Ressler and di bostoner klezmerMA

Looks like we were in some really great company! I'm still trying to figure out how it happened, but we'll take the complement! To all of you who helped with this CD project in '03, thanks again! This is a tribute to all of your work. It's nice to be reminded we made a recording to be proud of.

Feminist klezmer band, Pomegranate, releases first CD in Toronto

pomegranate / gezint CD coverFrom the "Mendele" mailing list:

"Gezint", dem ershten CD fun mayn mezinkale Reena's gantz froen klezmer kapelye, "Pomegranate", iz gelantsirt geven dem 8 juli in Toronto. Me ken es krigen durkh www.sonicpomegranate.com. Me ken heren dem titl yogveg oyf www.rabble.ca/rpn/episode.shtml?x=51401 (Episode 25).

"Gezint", the first CD by "Pomegranate", my youngest daughter Reena's
all-women klezmer band was launched on July 8 in Toronto. For orders
try www.sonicpomegranate.com.
Hear the title track at www.rabble.ca/rpn/episode.shtml?x=51401.

Zay shtark un gezint, Bernard Katz, Toronto.

December 16, 2006

Incredible concert in Boston area, option 2

jewltide graphicHaving seen Shirim the night before, Thursday night you can catch my favorite Montreal band, Shtreiml, whose latest CD fuses harmonica-driven klezmer with amazing Turkish music, plus punk-lounge Yiddishists "Golem," SoCalled—the hottest DJ in Yiddishland, whose new CD is burning up the charts in France, the LeeVees have recently been added, too + the rest of the holiday noise system. It's a holiday. If you don't see them now, then when?:

Jewltide in Boston
Thurs. Dec. 21
TT The Bears
$10 On Sale Now / $12 Day of Show / 18+ / Doors 8:30 PM
Featuring Golem + SoCalled + Heeb Magazine + Shtreiml

This event made possible through a grant from Charles & Lynn Schusterman Foundation.

Incredible concert in Boston area, option 1

I'm going to be out of town, but I want to be sure that word gets out about this event on Wednesday. Shirim, everyone knows—on their own account, this would be a "must see" show. But the Yiddish singer from Berlin is getting plaudits all over the place. So, a chance to see your usual amazing Boston klezmer band, and see a new singer and find out what all the buzz is about:

Come dance to the Klezmer Nutcracker at Johnny D’s (17 Holland St., Somerville, MA, 617-776-2004) on Wednesday, December 20, 8:30pm, performed by your favorite klezmer band, Shirim. Warming up will be Yiddish acoustic pop singer from Berlin, Germany, Fabian Schnedler. Tickets are $10.

The band will also premiere their new Hannukah tune “Oy, Hannukah, Oy” and some other tunes appropriate to the season. Dancing will be encouraged, especially to the Klezmer Nutcracker movements: “Kozatsky ‘til you Dropsky,” “Waltz of the Ruggelah,” and “Dance of the Latkes Queen.”

Shirim has performed accross North America and Europe, is featured on the soundtrack of Woody Allen's "Deconstructing Harry" and has released some great CDs, including "Klezmer Nutcracker," "Pincus and the Pig," (a collaboration with Maurice Sendak), and "The Golden Dreydl" (a collaboration with Ellen Kushner). Most of their CDs are available at cdbaby.com/all/grd

Shirim Klezmer Orchestra features some of Boston's finest instrumentalists: Clarinetist-bandleader Glenn Dickson is joined by trombonist David Harris, pianist Michael McLaughlin, drummer Eric Rosenthal, and Jim Gray on tuba.

Joel Rubin to be on Virginia Public Radio show, "With Good Reason"

Joel Rubin writes to the Jewish-Music list:

If you live in or near Virginia, there will be a segment on me on the
Virginia Public Radio show With Good Reason, which will be broadcast
throughout Virginia and in DC from Saturday, Dec. 16 through the 22nd
It will be available on the internet beginning on Dec. 20 or 21:

I'll be talking about my new CD, Midnight Prayer (more on that later), on
Traditional Crossroads, and lots of other things. The CD will be out in the
stores towards the end of next month. For those of you who can't wait, I've
heard tell that the CDs will be available by next week from Traditional
Crossroads directly (www.traditionalcrossroads.com)

December 11, 2006

Arkady Gendler to join Dnieper Klezmer Cruise, Apr 29-May 11, 2007

News about the Klez Cruise next spring (April 29 - May 11, 2007). Arkady Gendler the legendary repository of Yiddish music of Ukraine will be joining us from Zaporozhye (his home) to Sevastopol in Crimea, to sing and cruise and shmooze with everyone on board. There are still have a few cabins left for passengers wanting to join the adventure—check it out at www.magma.ca/~klezmercruise (Contact AC & Marc Dolgin via the website. A rather extraordinary time is likely.)
cruise ship

Spring mini-KlezmerFest set to return to Boston area

BOW, seatedBrave Old World
Song of the Lodz Ghetto
Coming to the Boston area on March 17th and 18th, 2007

The program, based on songs compiled by musicologist Gila Flam, has never before been presented in the Boston area. It is not to be missed. If you saw it elsewhere, years ago, see it again—the evolution over the years is extraordinary (as if it were any less powerful 10 years ago). If all goes well, we'll be reprising the "mini-Jewish Music festival" we did last year for the KlezmerShack 10th anniversary with workshops and a jam session. Get your tickets now so that the JCC knows that there is interest in the program.

CD Review: the Klezmatics / Woody Guthrie's Happy Joyous Hanukkah

Kind of nice dreidl and lettering in winter browns and yellows and greensKlezmatics / Woody Guthrie's Happy Joyous Hanukkah. JMG Records, JMG 18050-02, 2006. CD available everywhere. Start at the Klezmatics website, www.klezmatics.com.
I can't take the chance that Hanukkah will arrive before people have time to order the one new essential Hanukkah album of the year. Some of these songs were part of the Klezmatics' Woody Guthrie show of a couple of years ago, and were first released on a limited edition CD at the time. On this full-length CD the band switches back and forth between klezmer and Americana to great effect. This is the most fun Hanukkah CD since Sruli and Lisa's "Oy Vey, Chanukah."

As with the previous Woody Guthrie project, each band member set a couple of poems to music, and most also contributed instrumentals, ranging from Lorin's more traditional "Gilad and Ziv's Sirba" to Frank London's lounge klezmer "(Do the) Latke Flip Flop," to Lisa Gutkin's humorous clog-happy "Spin Dreydl Spin," ensuring a latke-licious variety of tunes. In a couple of cases, "The Many and the Few"—as good a retelling of the story as you'll find on a children's record, and wistfully melancholy of the closing "Hanuka Dance" (the major disagreement between the band and Guthrie appears to be over the English spelling of "Hanukkah") they have Woody's music as well as his words. But then, as Lorin sings "Hanuka Gelt," one of a couple of counting songs on the CD, it's not hard imagining that Woody would have set it to the same music. The a capella intro to London's setting of "Hanuka's Flame" is equally rooted.

These are children's songs. They are also a trove of Woody Guthrie's Jewish works (with Yiddish poet Aliza Greenblatt as a mother-in-law, and settled in immigrant Coney Island, there should be no surprise that Guthrie's imagination found fertile ground). Nor should it be a surprise that the Klezmatics, with imaginations ranging as wide as Woody's, should be the perfect ensemble to set these to music and perform them. It's a Happy Joyous Hanukkah, indeed.

CD Preview: A Chanukah Feast, Vol. II

A Chanukah Feast, Vol. II coverLast year the "hungry for music" folks in DC (they raise money to purchase musical instruments for local schools) released a lovely Chanukah compilation. This year they've released a second volume. There are some real gems, starting with the title track from the new Klezmatics' "Woody Guthrie's Happy Joyous Hanukah" (although surely you'd rather have the whole CD), a rather wonderful, parent-friendly song about the dreidl song ("the Dreidel Song Song") from Klezmos (last heard recorded on the "Celtic Klezmer Concert), some great instrumentals by Alan Oresky (a Fabrangen Fiddler), and then by Phil Mathieu and Bruno Nasta, and a rather nice, if also unduly short "East(ern) Village Hanuka" from Metropolitan Klezmer, one of the few bands for which I'd drive to New York City for the evening. For my Bostonian homies, there's even someone named "Dr. Louie," recording in Vancouver, BC, Canada, with "Hanukah in Boston," and my favorite Texas klezmer, beneficent boss of the bass and terror of the tuba, the ubiquitious Mark Rubin inflicts "The Dreydl Song, Texas style," (you can find more like this on his "Hill Country Hannukah" collection) on my more than willing ears.

More info, and further variants of the English spelling of the work "Hanukkah" may be found at www.hungryformusic.org

December 2, 2006

CD Review: Klezmatics / Wonder Wheel

Woody Guthrie-style naive art with bad letteringKlezmatics / Wonder Wheel. JMG Records, JMG 18033-02, 2006. CD available everywhere. Start at the Klezmatics website, www.klezmatics.com.
Seth Rogovoy about the Klezmatics' Woody Guthrie project
There are few concerts I have enjoyed as much as the Klezmatics' debut of Woody Guthrie songs that they had set to music a couple of years ago. (They are on tour with this music now, so check out their website or the KlezmerShack calendar for concerts near you.) The band has captured the spirit of Woody without ever sounding like anyone but the Klezmatics. Now, two years later I am listening to the actual music captured on CD with tears in my eyes. It's just that good*.

I haven't been able to get "Mermaid Avenue" out of my mind since I first heard it, and it still captures the spirit of Coney Island as it was (and is):

...Where the lox and bagels meet
Where the halvah meets the pickle
Where the sour meets the sweet;
... Where all color of goodfolks meet;...

Those lyrics describe the album, from the pain of the counting song, "Come when I call you" and "Orange blossom ring" to the child's lullaby, "Heddy down" to Matt Darriau's psychedelic Beatles-esque "Pass Away," to the klezmer-influenced feel of "Wheel of Life" to the South-American flavor of "Condorbird" and the wonderful world-pop intro to "Heaven".

Everything about this album is exciting, including the possibility that it might finally get the band heard by a wider audience. As much as I loved what Billy Bragg and Wilco did with Woody's material, this recording proves two things: First, that the Klezmatics, collectively, represent deep and talented American music roots, and as much as I love Wilco (and Billy Bragg even more), they got nothing on this band. Second, that Woody Guthrie wrote some powerful, wonderful songs, and musicians continue to find the words relevant and good music with which to sing them. Okay, we already knew the latter and suspected the former. Now we know it all. [GRADE: A+]

*Note that there is a companion to this CD derived from Woody's Jewish material—"Woody Guthrie's Happy Joyous Hanukkah" about which I will be writing soon! You needn't wait on the review. Pick up the pair and have a happy, joyous, Hanukkah (or help create one for someone you love).

CD Preview: Art Bailey's Orkestra Popilar / Branch from the Tree

nice tree graphic, lovely english and yiddish letteringArt Bailey's Orkestra Popilar / Branch from the Tree. HRL Records, RAT-001, 2006. CD available from www.artbailey.org.
This week brought a long-sought CD from Art Bailey's Orkestra Popilar. The band features Klezmer Conservatory Band accordion player Art Bailey as well as KCB bassist Jim Guttman The ubiquitious plucked string wizard Brandon Seabrook (Naftule's Dream, Paul Brody), as well as relative youngsters Jake Shulman-Ment and Jeremy Brown on Violin. The goal is to recreate the ambience of the recordings by American tsimbalist Joseph Moscowitz—traditional klezmer and luscious, long sets. There is no tsimbl player credited, but I could swear that I hear just that on several numbers. In any event, Seabrook's mandolin and Bailey's accordion capture the feeling of Moscowitz' music, plus other traditional tunes and originals, in our time. What I've heard so far succeeds gracefully and delightfully. From the delightful lettering and graphic on the cover, the the music inside, this one is likely to stay on the changer for some time to come. [GRADE: A]