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December 29, 2007

new Veretski Pass CD, Trafik available now; official release Feb 22, 2008

Veretski Pass / TrafikI am sitting here listening to my new favorite CD, the latest release by those hutsul-trafficking masters of traditional music, Josh Horowitz, Cookie Segelstein, and Stu Brotman: Veretski Pass. The official release claims:

"A true collage of Carpathian, Jewish, Rumanian and Ottoman styles, the suites contain dances from Moldavia and Bessarabia; Jewish melodies from Poland and Rumania, Hutzul wedding music from Carpathian-Ruthenia, and haunting Rembetic aires from Smyrna, seamlessly integrated with a large number of original compositions.

"In TRAFIK, this trio of virtuosic klezmer veterans delivers 30 tracks of musical “contraband”. The pieces are titled with slang from all over the world and across time; e.g. klezmer loshn, the secret language of the klezmorim (east European players of Jewish instrumental music), blatnyak: Russian mob slang and Victorian thieves’ slang, and then grouped into 9 suites with such headings as 'Roadside Wedding,' 'Seed' and 'Darkmans Daughter.'"

That Horowitz, Segelstein, and Brotman are transgressive, we always knew. How else would we be such good friends? Hence the reliance on outsider slang to label the pieces. That they are brilliant musically (and even moreso, together) we also knew, from the first album. Here is more of the same, but different. This isn't pop music or reified tradition-in-amber. Change is good. All I know is that it is clearly by the same folks who made the first album, but it sounds refreshing, different—as did the first in its day (and still does, when I go hours without listening to it). More, once I get a chance to get to know the new recording. In the meantime, if you weren't one of the lucky folks who grabbed copies at KlezKamp, you can order it from the publisher, Golden Horn Records:


KlezKamp 2007 Blog

klezKamp 2007 logoNot all of us made it to KlezKamp this year. To get a sense of the what we missed (and to memorialize it for those who were there), Mark Rubin has sent the URL for this year's KlezKamp blog:

image by Bob Blacksbergklezkamp.blogspot.com

You can also view Bob Blacksberg's photo gallery for KlezKamp at rblacksberg.com/ KlezKamp2007/

To get a sense of what KlezKamp sounds like, try the new Podcast. klezkamp. mypodcast.com There's a 13 minute excerpt from the KlezKamp staff dance band featuring Joshua Horowitz, Mike Cohen, Henry Sapoznik, Mark Rubin and the inimitable Cookie Segelstein. Much more to come....

Enjoy! Time to start making plans for next year.

Basya Schechter at Heschel Symposium, Dec 9, 2007

Abraham Joshua Heschel and daughter SusannaEarlier in December, Judy and I were in town for the Yiddish Dance Symposium. The same day, a symposium honoring the centenary of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel's birth was held a few blocks away at the Center for Jewish History. Judy and I caught the evening session in part to finally get to see Basya Schachter who opened the session with a short set, playing some Yiddish poems written by Heschel that she had set to music. The material ranged from Heschel's love poems to deeply religious poems.

Basya SchechterBasya was accompanied by piano, cello, and violin. She introduced the pieces, sang, and played guitar. The music was a smooth blend of Middle Eastern, classical, and American folk/pop phrasings, creating a rhythmic artsong/cabararet feel. We were entranced. I hope that the series will be made available publicly. As did Jewlia Eisenberg on her Walter Benjamin recording (Trilectic, 2001—settings of the writings between Walter Benjamin and Asja Lacis), Basya has captured the feel of the words and set them wonderfully to music. Coming on the heels of her recent Pharaoh's Daughter recording, Haran, and her solo album of middle eastern music, "Queen's Dominion, this is further proof that Schechter is an artist to watch. In our case, and to our pleasure, literally.

The rest of the evening was less musical, but quite meaningful. That night, speakers from the current JTS chancellor, Arnie Eisen (Heschel's reception at the Jewish Theological Seminary in his day was less than glowing) to Ruth Messinger (currently, the transformative head of the American Jewish World Service) spoke to Heschel's life, his writings, and his example. As she closed, Messinger related:

Dr. Heschel was asked once what advice he had for young people. I would leave out "young". He said that we should understand that every word matters, every deed matters, and we must build our lives as if they were works of art.

'nuff said. |

December 16, 2007

Yiddish "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"

The greatest klezmer Christmas song ever! The biggest Jewish contribution to solstice celebrations since Irving Berlin penned "White Christmas"! A Yiddish "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," performed by San Francisco's Kugelplex. Vocals by Jewlia Eisenberg of Charming Hostess.

More at www.kugelplex.com and www.charminghostess.us

Winter Yiddish classes to begin at Montreal Jewish Public Library - sign up now

Yiddish I & Yiddish II Language Classes at the JPL

Registration now being accepted for Yiddish language courses at the Jewish Public Library:

  • Yiddish I taught by Lorna Smith: Mondays, January 14-March 3, 2008 at 7:00 p.m. and

  • Yiddish II taught by Naomi Tencer: Tuesdays, January 15-March 4, 2008 at 7:00 p.m.

Cost for all eight sessions: $65 full-time students, $75 Jewish Public Library members, $85 non-members.

All classes at the Jewish Public Library, 5151 Côte Ste-Catherine Road, Montreal. For information, please call (514) 345-2627 ext. 3006 or visit www.jewishpubliclibrary.org.

December 13, 2007

Blast from the past, that ol' "Violin in the Home"

Ellen Kushner's "Sound and Spirit" program has long been one of my favorites. This past weekend they re-broadcast one of her old shows, "The New Klezmorim" (as of this past weekend, I now know, by the way, that klezmer experienced a 'revitalization' not a 'revival'—but more on that when I get my Yiddish Dance Symposium notes online).

You can read listener's reactions to Itzhak Perlman on Ellen's blog. Read the entry Is there a Fiddler in the House? (you needn't stop there!)

December 9, 2007

Yiddish Dance Symposium, Welcome

Welcome: Michael, Zev, Barbara
Notes are much paraphrased. So, what I write is what I interpret and may not be quite what the speaker's intended. Apologies. Where the mistakes are egregious, I hope people will let me know so that the record can be corrected.

BKG (moderator): A landmark day focused entirely on Yiddish Dance

Zev: It is not easy being a self-researcher--studying the tradition that you, yourself practice. When I started studying klezmer music 30 years ago, we were sceptical. Then Mark Slobin, with whom I studied, spoke of revivalization, not just revival--that klezmer music was meeting some needs within the Jewish community and wasn't just reviving for a short time, but was becoming an evolving part of the Jewish community again. Now, I look at Yiddish Dance I wonder if the same may be true. [Gives example from his own research with the community we know as "whirling dervishes" in Greece.]

Meyshke: This event began as a gleam in the eye of myself and Erik Bendix 10-15 years ago. Today is an attempt to raise questions and see where we are. [repeats in Yiddish, then breaks into song to convey the excitement and ceremony.

Yiddish Dance Symposium, NYC, Dec 9, 2007

setting upI won't have time to do much synchronous blogging, but wanted to convey a bit of the excitement of this first-time event by getting a first post online as final setup happens here at NYU's Bronfman Center, in a tiny room that may hold 50 people. But, what 50 people? Pete Rushefsky, of the Center for Traditional Music and Dance is here, as are Zev Feldman and Michael Alpert, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Helen Winkler, PhD candidate Jill Gellerman who is doing such neat research on dance, and a host of onlookers like me and other klezmer folks about town, including Mark Slobin, Nahma Sendrow, youngsters like KlezKanada's Avia Moore....

For years I have contended (and others, more effectual—they've even gotten this symposium together) that reviving klezmer without reviving the dance makes incomplete sense. Dance music without dancers is decontextualized in the extreme.

Despite being in NYC, the center of the world's second-best (and most well-known) bagels (the best bagels, of course, come from Montreal), this event serves Dunkin' Donuts bagel-shaped bread. But, what's to complain? We've gotten a full room of Jews together, and after a day of talking, we'll all be heading to the Ukrainian East Village Restaurant (140 2nd Ave btw 8th and 9th St.) for a full-bore dance party.

One of the nifty oddities of being in NYC in a relatively small community is that a couple of today's attendants—Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Jill Gellerman—were at a talk I gave Friday morning on "the KlezmerShack as an archive."

More as it develops. I see Pete peering intently at the computer as though he is ready to begin....

December 8, 2007

"Shtreiml," live at Common Fence Music, RI

Okay. By now you'll have gathered that I am infatuated with Shtreiml. I contend that it is with good reason. Listen to their CDs and read the concert review that follows and decide for yourselves. And, for now, no more features about them for a little while. Even though, a week later, I can still see Lemisch's trombone and hear Arsenault's incredible drumming and all the rest....

On a lucky break, I discovered that there was going to be a Shtreiml concert last Saturday night down in Portsmouth, RI. As folks who caught my write-up of the band's appearance with Golem and SoCalled last year will know, I find their performances quite exciting. The only thing better, perhaps, than their CDs. This particular set was sponsored by an organization called "Common Fence," which sponsors a whole series of excellent folkies/blues/traditional music groups ranging from (looking at what's on tap over the next few months) the blues of Roy Bookbinder to the excellent folk of Patty Larkin and Catie Curtis. The events take place is a lovely meeting hall seeming out in the middle of nowhere to a Boston driving trying to find the place at the last minute, just off the highway in the dark.

From the band's opening klezmer funk riffs, right into the first tradeoff leads between Winograd (clarinet) and Rosenblatt (mostly diatonic harmonica; occasional keyboard) the band burned the house down bouncing back and forth between traditional klezmer and some new prog-rock influenced jam band fusion. In the middle of the 2nd or 3rd number, for instance, the band broke into an a capella nign for several minutes. Then Adam Stotland's bass picked up that prop rock riff and the band was back, burning, playing something else. The band is so tight, I sight tapping my feet, in awe. By the time they start the first set they are already in a groove that usually comes only later.

I sat mesmerized by drummer Thierry Arsenault's rhythms. Like Khevre alumnus Richie Barshay who now tours with the Klezmatics, Arsenault is a "klezmer native" in the sense that he not only gets klezmer drumming deeply, but also in the ways that he integrates that prog rock/jazz rock background with his current love of klezmer and balkan rhythms.

[Musing while listening to Rachel Lemisch, descended from a long line of Jewish musicians, hold forth—my two favorite young trombonists—her and Dan Blacksberg, are both from Philly.]

[More musing. If the first generation klezmer revivalists were somewhere between the Clancy Brothers and the Irish Rovers, trying to figure things out, trying to figure their audience out, Shtreiml represents what happens when musicians have grown up with this music and mixed it in with everything else that they love. This is one of the really hot hot young bands--maybe the one stretching the envelope the most. Listening tonight I am reminded a bit of the way my synapses exploded the second time I saw the Klezmatics, at a club in downtown San Francisco, and suddenly realized that we weren't looking for bands to figure out what Dave Tarras might have sounded like if he had started playing in the 1980s instead of almost a century earlier. Shtreiml are that good.]

What is most gratifying is the way that the audience, as friendly a group of folkies as ever crowded into Cambridge's Club Passim, or Berkeley's Freight and Salvage, are drinking in the music. This is not traditional klezmer at all. In fact, with guest guitarist Andrew Stern filling in for saz or oud on "Fenci's Blues,"—to the extend that fuzzy, heavily effected guitar substitutes for traditional Turkish instrumentation and playing—this is an entirely new dimension. If Shirim once made me think of what the Grateful Dead might have sounded like, had the Dead played klezmer; Shtreiml sounds suspiciously like Phish, had Phish had the sense and ability to use klezmer as one important component of their music.

Stern switches to banjo for a very jazzy, Americanized bit of traditional klezmer, and then the clarinet/harmonica intro to "Howard's Serba" carries us forward. Cognizant of the season, Jason breaks into "O Hanukka" during his solo. Winograd, in response, slips in a bit of "I have a little dreidl."

Opening the second set with some more traditional klezmer, Mercury writer Janine Wiesman leads a line of women dancing around the hall. Jason introduces a new number, "Serba a la Oscar," a name that seems sufficiently innocuous until he explains that it is named for the eponymous family pet rabbit, Oscar. They roll into their Bo Diddley-inflected cover of Shloimke Beckerman's "Galitzianer Tantz," a throwback to the days when Blues Traveler was a heavy influence.

I've seen Shtreiml at a hassidic wedding sneaking in Celtic music during the breaks; I've seen them play in entirely traditional mode at KlezKanada. But seeing them on stage in native mode, playing the music that comes out when they can play whatever matters most to them is best. Just a year after their last Boston-area gig their sound has changed to thoroughly, moving from strength to strength. I can only dream that enough people will hear them play, giving them the audience they deserve so that they can tour steadily, giving me the chance to hear them oftener than once a year.

December 7, 2007

Rosenblatt & Lemisch @ Stanton St. Synagogue Honors Luncheon

reading from the TorahThe only thing that could pull me away from the Yiddish Dance confab this Sunday is a differently amazing event happening nearby. Jonathan Boyarin and Elissa Sampson are old friends who have spent much of the last 20 or 30 years working to preserve synagogues on the Lower East Side. I have davened in firetraps up and down the area, and a couple of them are actually rebuilt or being rebuilt, largely as a result of Sampson's and Boyarin's efforts.

If you wanted to honor them, the best way to do it would be to invite some damn fine musicians (2/5 of Shtreiml is one excellent choice), which is what the Stanton St. Synagogue is doing this Sunday, 12/9/07.

At my request, Sampson has gotten the synagogue to offer some limited discounts to the luncheon (which, in addition to honoring her and her spouse, is also trying to raise funds for the synagogue):

First 20 people to go to the Stanton Street website (www.stantonstreetshul.com) and sign up, can get the half price student rate to hear top klezmorin Jason Rosenblatt and Rachel Lemish at the Orensanz Center do a benefit for another historic shul, namely Stanton Street. They get lunch and chanukah gelt money goes to a good cause. To create a discounted reservation, at the half price rate of $60, in addition to following the website instructions, they should also cc: teshuvah [at] stantonstreetshul.com.

You heard it here first. Yiddish Dance? Historic synagogue honoring two of the hardest working and nicest organizers on the Lower East Side and hear Jason Rosenblatt & Rachel Lemisch? The choice is yours. Both matter!

December 1, 2007

Shtreiml to appear tonight in Rhode Island

Shtreiml photo by Jacob AsplerWho'd a thunk? Shtreiml will be appearing tonight in Rhode Island. There is a great interview with them in the local weekly, the Mercury: Bring in di funk: A band with unorthodox harmonica playing under its furry hat, by Janine Weisman.