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February 29, 2008

Tim Sparks - watch out Doc Watson!

Tim SparksI had the good fortune to catch Tim Sparks last night at a short (hour and a half) concert following a guitar workshop, in Lexington, MA. Although I have been a fan of Sparks since his work in the 1970s with a jazz group called Rio Nido, I had never seen him live. I was in for a treat.

Consider that the music I love best next to klezmer is the blues. Consider that one of Sparks' early memories is of Doc and Merle Watson jamming in a parking lot at a bluegrass confab decades ago. Like my wife, he is a native North Carolinian. So, if I then tell you that the set ranged from Elizabeth Cotten's "Victory Rag" through Flory Jagoda, John Zorn (albeit, a rather melodic John Zorn), and ended with Roy Orbison, you won't be surprised if I say that I was in heaven. If you have heard any of his Tzadik recordings, several reviewed on the KlezmerShack, you know the breadth and incredible qualities of his Jewish repertoire.

We were in a small guitar shop—maybe 30 or 50 people crowded in around the corner where he performed, unamplified. We all had great seats to watch the fingers fly. Like Doc Watson and Elizabeth Cotten, Sparks has a warm, friendly guitar style that is belied by the speed with which he picks at notes, leaving the listener breathless and in awe. And then he does it some more. The patter between the songs was also lovely. At one point, following a blues by Eubie Blake he talked about Naftule Brandwein and mentioned that in 1917 you could have listened to Blake up in Harlem and then taken the subway down to the Lower East Side and caught Brandwein. Quite a neat thought. He introduced one song by talking of the Hasidic (I have always thought primarily a Lubavitch-specific tale, although a primal way that many of us now think of Judaism and of life) story about the breaking of the original light (אור) into (אֹר), and the tikun olam we do to bring those original sparks of light together. It was rather neat listening to someone non-Jewish use a Jewish creation myth to describe how the pieces of a song that he was about to play came together. On the other hand, the respect reflected in this story carried over to all of Sparks' stories about the musicians, and the music that he was playing, and was reflected by the warmth of his playing.

This was a very special concert. I'm sorry it took me 30 years to hear Tim Sparks a first time. It would be most upsetting to have to wait that long to catch him again. If you are in NYC, he's playing there tonight. He'll be in Philadelphia with Jon Madof on Saturday night.

You can also get a book of Sparks' Jewish music transcriptions and tablature, Neshamah. He also has individual pieces of music for sale on the same site.

February 24, 2008

Veretski Pass / Trafik and 3 other reviews by Keith Wolzinger

cd coverJust in time for the official release of the new, highly-anticipated Veretski Pass CD, Trafik, I have posted Keith Wolzinger's review of same. Keith also did a podcast of the band, recorded last summer.

Other new-to-the-KlezmerShack reviews by Wolzinger include:


new reviews: Deep Minor, Polina Shepherd

ick. Why benguiat gothic? Why artificial small caps?One of the themes of my recent reviewing concerns how much incredible music is coming from Eastern Europe. This week, as I double my output from last week, I have managed to tackle two of the most urgent CDs from my "review me now!" table. Alex Kontorovich was born in the former Soviet Union, but has grown up here in the States. While gathering a PhD in math in his spare time, he has also been one of the most exciting of the young musicians who have grown up since the revival. In Kontorovich's case, this means cooking up a delightful stew that melds klezmer with avant garde jazz in "born native" ways that older members of the Radical Jewish Music crowd can't do. His first solo CD, on Europe's "Chamsa" label is exciting, delightful, and features some of the other exciting leaders of this youthful surge. Check out Alex Kontorovich / Deep Minor and see what I mean.

This is rather nice! Is that 'Mezz' on the CD title?In another mode, entirely, the most recent CD by the Polina Shepherd Vocal Experience manages to use traditional (and "traditional art song") forms to set a plethora of Yiddish poetry to music for the first time. The album is a celebration of vocal pyrotechnics, and a thorough-going pleasure, and demonstrates the originality of grounding of another artists born in the former Soviet Union (now residing in the UK). It is impossible not to love this CD, The Polina Shepherd Vocal Experience / Baym Taykh. As I wrote earlier in the Alex Kontorovich review, you can't have my copy so you'll just have to get your own. (Even my wife has her own copy, despite the fact that both of us share an itunes library!)

New article on Rose/Fort/Winograd

Ayelet Rose GottliebBy rights I should ignore this rather good article in All About Jazz by Elliott Simon, our usual suspect. If I could stifle enough publicity, there would still be tickets at the box office when I roll in Monday week, hoping for a break in a long car trip from Baltimore. But that would be wrong. And the article, of course, is excellent. I long for the day when lesser-known, excellent avant garde music goes to Standing Room Only and beyond (I am avoiding the term "sell out" for obvious reasons). (John Zorn, given a small-enough venue in a major city, will always sell out. But everyone else?)

Find out what I'm talking about in this instance by reading Ayelet Rose, Anat Fort and Michael Winograd in Philadelphia, by Elliott Simon, posted 2/24/08.

February 23, 2008

CD Review: Konsonans Retro

CD coverThere are a few things that are certain in the small area of the universe covered by the KlezmerShack. One of those certainties is that if Christian Dawid is involved with a project, I am very likely to put any resulting CD on my "permanent rotation" list. I have noticed this a lot in the last few months as I struggle to find time to review CDs, any CD that I like. Over time, some CDs drop off the "immediate" table. The CD by the most recent band with which Dawid is involved is one that I continue to listen to non-stop: Konsonans Retro / a podolian affair. In this case, there is a happy end. There is a review, and the CD is even still available! Let me encourage you to get your own copy. I'm not loaning you mine.

Call for papers - "Music of America and the Sea"?

Posted to the Jewish-Music mailing list:

Below is a link to Mystic Seaport Museum's call for papers. Papers based on music of the sea, influenced by the sea or seafaring, emigration, immigration. Many ethnic groups have been represented although England tends to be favored because of all the sea shanties. There must be something Jewish that could be a good fit for the symposium and the Sea Music Festival which would include Jewish music if a relevant paper was selected.

Mystic Seaport Seeking Paper Proposals for "Music of America and the Sea", Symposium to be part of the Museum's 29th Annual Sea Music Festival

Songlines gives four stars to "Baym Taykh"

CD coverSonglines Magazine, one of the remaining primarily-print music magazines (the refusal to get all content online and accessible is all the more puzzling with the announcement this week that No Depression is giving up the print ghost), gives The Polina Shepherd Vocal Experience / Baym Taykh a "4 star" review, in an article by Helen Beer. This is frustrating, of course, because we can only link to the magazine and encourage you to find a copy. But here is a paragraph from the review:

Polina Shepherd is a formidable all-round musician: a composer, pianist, singer and Yiddish choir leader from the former Soviet Union, who now resides in the UK. Baym Taykh (By the River), featuring the vocal quartet Ashkenazim, is innovative in its enormous range of musical expression. This CD explores tightly arranged four-part singing, voice styles which mirror instrumental ornamentation alongside more fluid choral experimentation. Solo voices and vocal duos weave in and out of the quartet, with or without accompaniment (piano, saxophone, clarinet, guitar, double-bass). Shepherd's compositions are highly original and sensitive musical settings of interesting, lesser- known Yiddish poems.

Abe Cahan's articles on Yiddish Dance available

The indefatigable Helen Winkler posted this announcements to the Jewish-Music mailing list:

Cantor Joseph Levine has translated excerpts from Cahan's Yiddish articles about the Yiddish dance songs and you can read the English translation at:


or via the dance-song page, www.yiddishdance.com/tantslieder.html (original Yiddish can be accessed from this page).

OySongs: Dan Nichols & Eighteen sheet music catalog added

oySongs is proud to announce the addition to our catalog of DAN NICHOLS & EIGHTEEN'S ENTIRE SHEET MUSIC CATALOG. Rick's immensely popular music is now available in Scorch format - in the key of your choice, right out of your printer!

Eighteen is Modern Jewish Rock. For centuries, Jewish themes and values have been communicated through music. Today's Jewish youth hunger to hear those themes through music that speaks directly to them. Eighteen answers this need uniquely by setting the joy, wonder and excitement of Judaism to Modern Rock sound (think Third Eye Blind, Barenaked Ladies, etc.) with which today's Jewish youth identify … MORE

logo"Songs of Life" Festival commemorates Bulgarian rejection of Nazi antisemitism during WWII

"The Songs of Life Festival" will be held in Israel and Bulgaria from Nov 21 - Dec 1, 2008. The festival will feature Sacred Service by Ernest Bloch.

The festival marks the 65th anniversary of the heroic rescue of 50,000 Bulgarian Jews during World War II and serves as a celebration of the preservation of life.

Individual performers as well as choirs are invited to perform in the festival. Performers will sing Bloch s Sacred Service in Bulgaria and Israel. The 12-day itinerary also allows for individual presentations by guest choirs and opportunities for sightseeing and guided tours. Auditors are also invited to attend the festival and participate in the tours.

Please join us in this celebration of thanksgiving that will impact generations to come. www.SongsOfLife.org

Lots of interesting articles in this week's "Forward"

Most weeks, the English-language, Forward resembles nothing so much as one's local Jewish newspaper, albeit allegedly national or international in scope, and mostly aware of New York City. It eschews controversy, espouses political opinions that would have been safe 50 years ago, and one is continually reminded in reading it that Abe Cahan was a social democrat, not actually a socialist.

Some weeks, however, the newspaper covers an unusual amount of significant cultural activity, and the past two weeks have seen a series of stories worth reading, both expected and unexpected. This week in particular sees a plethora of Yiddish-related features in the "Arts and Culture section. Among them:

  • In "Beatle Mania: British Invasion Gets a Yiddish Translation," Josh Richman features Bay Area-based Yiddish singer and educator Gerry Tenney. Known for years (among more significant accomplishments like always having a sound system we could use for benefits) for his Yiddish translations of rock 'n' roll standards (my favorite, "in der shtill fun dem nacht"), someone recently posted to YouTube video clip of the Beatles singing "A Hard Days Night," but replaced the original soundtrack with Tenney's Yiddish version. So, now Tenney gets some deserved recognition. This is a good thing.
  • "Songbook Recaptures Lost Melodies, by Alexander Gelfand, publicizes the recently-released Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archive.
  • Gelfand makes it a double-header with his article on December's Yiddish Dance symposium finally seeing print: "Symposium Seeks to Save Yiddish Dance
  • In "Yelling Melodiously, Rachel Ament does a lovely article on the "Shondes," who have recently released a CD, "The Red Sea."

Zeek issue on Jewish music

magazine logoA few months ago I got the then current (Fall/Winter 2007) issue of a new, relatively edgy Jewish cultural magazine called "Zeek." Featuring photography, poetry, and both a CD and several articles on "Music, Art, and the World," the magazine provided a window onto new Jewish music, most of which I had, at best, vaguely heard of. There was an article by Basya Schaechter, of Pharaoh's Daughter, and the words to the Tipex Eurovision entry, "Push the button" (along with an article about Israel, Eurovision, and this particularly controversial entry). Another article claimed, "Piyyut is Jewish Soul Music." The CD (what an anachronism for an online magazine!?!), curated by Jew*School founder Mobius and others, contained cuts by rappers Y-Love and Sagol 59, along with cuts by Pharaoh's Daughter, Juez, Roberto Rodriguez, the aforementioned Tipex (oops, after legal threats, that is now "Teapacks" in transliteration), as well as Silver Jews, Chana Rothman, and others about whom I know next to nothing.

It's sort of humbling to have spent a decade or so claiming to be writing about cutting edge Jewish music and then see someone else not just have a different take on bands that are significant, but present so many bands about whom I know nothing. (The reverse is also true. I would have valued this CD more if there were some Deep Minor, or Later Prophets, or Rashanim, or Hazanos, or Strauss-Warschauer or any of a host of bands/musicians that are neither Israeli nor NewYorkish, but are blowing away old ideas of what "Jewish Music" means.). But then, if you went over to the hasidish Jewish-Music list (not the older list of the same name that I host) you'd find yet another repertoire and list of cutting-edge musicians. If we can't even bring the musics together, what are we to do about the rest of our lives?

In the meantime, hie to the Zeek website, www.zeek.net and sample the articles, catch the latest from the magazine, and help keep them going by ordering your own copy of this rather marvellous collection—it may be as new and wonderous to you as it largely was to me.

February 22, 2008

Eleanor Reissa in San Jose, CA this Sunday, Feb 24, 2008

I just got word of this late last night, and reservations have to be made today (or presumably, at the door on Sunday, but this is a fantastic event!

Eleanor Reissa. NY Times PhotoHOT, HIP AND HEYMISH
with the Queen of Yiddish Soul
Congregation Sinai presents
Piano Accompaniment by GRANT STURIALE

Sunday, February 24th at 2:00 PM at Congregation Sinai, 1532 Willowbrae Avenue in San Jose

Tickets for 2pm Eleanor Reissa performance are $36. each, in support of her brother's San Jose shul. For reservations and more information, please contact the Sinai office (1532 Willowbrae Avenue, San Jose or 408-264-8542). CDs will be available for purchase at the concert as well. Reservations required by February 22nd.

Join Tony Award Nominee Eleanor Reissa for a celebration of the vitality of Yiddish music and humor. You don't need to understand Yiddish to appreciate the joy and warmth of this unique soulful language. The show seamlessly blends passionate folk songs, classics of the Second Avenue Theater, and stirring expressions of love, piousness, and protest.

Tickets are only $36.00 $25.00 for Seniors 65 and over $18.00 for Kids 18.00 and under $75.00 for Supporters (includes a CD and preferred seating) $500.00 for Patrons (includes a CD, preferred seating, and a party at the home of Maureen Ellenberg with a performance by Miss Reissa in a warm, intimate setting)

For reservations please call (408) 264-8542

"A JOYOUS EXPERIENCE!" —Sheldon Harnick, lyricist of Fiddler on The Roof



­Congregation Sinai, a Jewish synagogue located in the Willow Glen neighborhood, announced that Eleanor Reissa will bring her highly-praised Off-Broadway show, Hot, Hip, and Heymish directly from a sold-out run at the Houseman Theater in New York to Congregation Sinai on Sunday, February 24th at 2:00PM.

Eleanor Reissa is one of the world s most renowned interpreters of Yiddish music, as well as a Tony-nominated director, and award winning theatre artist. Born and bred in Brooklyn, Eleanor is a proud product of the New York City public school system. Eleanor s parents were Holocaust survivors, which accounts for Eleanor s fluency in Yiddish and love of Yiddishkeit.

Join Eleanor and her piano accompanist, Grant Sturiale, for a delightful afternoon celebrating gems of Yiddish music and humor. You don't need to understand Yiddish to appreciate the joys and warmth of this unique, soulful language. The program seamlessly blends passionate folk songs, classics of the Second Avenue Theatre, and touching expressions of love, piousness and protest. You'll laugh, cry and realize you understand more than you thought. Those who attended her previous concert here raved about her singing and comedy.

Steven Dick, current president of Congregation Sinai, who does not speak or understand Yiddish, said, "I had a wonderful time. The concert was filled with great music and a lot of funny moments. I highly recommend this concert to anyone regardless of their Yiddish background."

For concert admission fees, reservations and more information, please contact the Sinai office (1532 Willowbrae Avenue, San Jose or 408-264-8542). CDs will be available for purchase at the concert as well. Reservations required by February 22nd.

February 19, 2008

Vote for SoCalled!

Ezra Glinter sent this post to the Jewish-Music list:

Hi folks -

Our friend SoCalled is up for a Montreal International Music Initiative award, and you can influence the results by voting online at www.mimimtl.com.

I say, vote early, and vote often! Voting ends Mar 1, 2008.

Play along with the Austin Klezmorim and learn some klezmer

From the people who gave us an amazing latke recipe (don't worry; I'll repeat it come Hanuka again), the world's best version of the Purim story, and the Flounder Blues, comes a new video series on YouTube: Play along with the Austin Klezmorim (complete with music on your computer screen). Here's the world-famous Zeltser Vasser:

Catch the whole series, or subscribe to it on Bill Averbach's YouTube channel, youtube.com/user/billaverbach

Amazing music performances documented on KlezmerShack

I've already written about my frustration at not being able to get to NYC Sunday night for the Michael Winograd concert. But even if things had gone perfectly, I still would have missed Cantor Sam Weiss with Pete Rushefsky and Steven Greenman. Happily, Alan Watsky caught both gigs and in his write-up, reinforces my jealousy. It was a great day for music in NYC: Yesterdays, Cantoral Inspiration Concert at Eldridge and Mike Winograd with Bessarabian Hop at Workmans Circle, Feb 17, 2008, by Alan Watsky

Did I mention Steven Greenman? I'm glad I did, because I am much belated in posting this review by the Klezphonics' Marc Adler of another great concert I missed, this one last summer: Steve Greenman and Moldovish Ensemble at the Lowell Folk Festival today!, by Marc Adler, July 29, 2007

Enjoy. And when you catch a great concert, write it up, post to the Jewish-Music list, and share the word. Many thanks to Marc Adler and Alan Watsky.

Two interesting articles

Snagged these from Jack Zaentz' blog, Teruah Jewish Music:

A rather nice article on Basya Schaechter, of Pharaoh's Daughter: From niggunim to Led Zeppelin, by Leah Hochbaum Rosner, of World Jewish Digest

From the Forverts, an article about that surprisingly hip band with the outlaw name, Yelling Melodiously, by Rachel Ament

Shirim still putting on a great show, 25 years on

shirimI had big plans this past Sunday. I was going to catch Shirim here in Boston for their 25th Anniversary, and then hightail it down to NYC for the young Michael Winograd CD release party. I got into the car and turned the key and nothing happened. Dead battery. AAA came right out, charged me up, and the car seemed fine, but I felt a bit leery of running down to NYC and possibly coming out of the Workmen's Circle around midnight to discover the battery dead, again.

It was a good enough afternoon, anyway. Shirim were excellent, and the crowd was perfect—a very fine mix of folks my age and older, plus younger people and their kids. It was a very Sunday afternoon friendly-for-kids concert.

When Shirim play concerts these days, they focus more on the theatricality of the music. This can make for some great dancing, but it also means that as the band dips into Jewish jazz greats like Artie Shaw, or "klezzifies" the theme from "Psycho," what we're hearing is slightly transformed from plain dance music. This is music for the sheer fun of it.

I have known the band for only about half their tenure. Glenn and Dave have a few more lines on their faces, but otherwise look an awful lot as they did the first time I saw the band play at Club Passim back in '95 or '96. They are still amazing musicians. In particular, in a world filled with trombone players I could watch all night (and a very few I don't need to hear at all), Dave is still special. I know Eric's drumming better than I did then, and I appreciate it more. His hair has receded a bit. I enjoy watching him as he plays the drums closely, often back straight, just the wrists flashing; sometimes leaning into the kit as though playing percussion. Jim took a couple of years off somewhere in the middle. These days he looks like he's lost some significant weight. Doesn't affect his playing one bit. It still thumps amazingly along.

Michael plays these amazing keyboard and accordion riffs, and seems to be having a lot of fun while he does it. The youngster, and the newest member of the band, is Brandon Seabrook, on banjo. He's the big hair—the Lyle Lovett hair—guy. A keeper.

The band runs through some klezmerized classics, some jazz, lots of American klezmer … despite spinning off originally from the Klezmer Conservatory Band (is that true? Dave was in KCB. The others?), Shirim, in many ways, carries on the tradition of those loud, raucous, joyous guys who kicked off this whole revival in the first place, The Klezmorim.

After the Artie Shaw suite, the kids, dancing in the aisles, shout, "encore," so the band comes back with one of their signature oldies, "Oy tate, s'iz gut" (oh daddy, that's good). And, indeed, one could say that about the entire performance.

An excellent way to spend the afternoon, and still one of my favorite bands.

February 16, 2008

new dance documentary released

Eva Broman found this one, The Land of Milk and Honey:

The original concept was to introduce to the world a man we believed was lost to history. From childhood on, we all sang and danced to the song “Eretz Zavat Chalav u’Dvash”, but like most, we believed the song was one passed down from generation to generation, a traditional song written eons ago, another song of the collective Jewish experience. But through a chance encounter a few years back, we learned that the composer, Eliahu Gamliel (now in his 80’s), was indeed alive and still teaching dance and music in Israel.

For more, check out the website for the documentary.

"Sabbath in Paradise" released on DVD

DVD coverElliott Simon reviews the recent DVD release of Claudia Heuermann's Sabbath in Paradise, an excellent (and, as near as I can tell, singular) documentary of New York's "Radical Jewish Music" group. The original was released almost 10 years ago and played on German TV. Until now, I have never been able to find a way to purchase the video in any form. But I babble. You can read Elliott's full review, Sabbath in Paradise, release Oct 10, 2007, on the All About Jazz website.

While you are there, don't forget to check out his reviews of recent work by Irving Fields and Fred Katz.

Fraidy Katz and Polina Shepherd on Montreal Radio

If you didn't catch Hélène Engel's radio show, in Montreal live, you can now listen to the January 28 show featuring Fraidy Katz and Polina Shepherd. The show is in French, of course. The music, in Yiddish ;-). Other recent entries include "Guitare, oud et mandoline," Maria Krupoves, Kleztory, and "Voix de femmes."

You can read more about Ms. Engel in a recent article in Montreal's Suburban, Voyage to the musical world, by Julia Gerke. And, of course, you can read Keith Wolzinger's recent review of her most recent CD, Voyage here on the Klezmershack.

A review of Polina Shepherd's recent Baym Taykh should appear here soon.

Pro Musica Hebraica launched

PMH LogoJames Loeffler announces this new organization, of which he is the Research Director, and the groups' inaugural concert on April 10.

Pro Musica Hebraica is a new organization devoted to presenting Jewish classical music—much of it lost, forgotten, or rarely performed—in a concert-hall setting.

We launch our ongoing concert series at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. on April 10, 2008. This inaugural concert celebrates the 100th anniversary of the St. Petersburg school of Russian Jewish composers who a century ago began their own quest to create modern Jewish music. In homage to these musicians, our logo is a reproduction of one of their early concert programs.

The concert series is the result of a unique partnership between The Juilliard School and the Kennedy Center, featuring the musicians of the Juilliard Chamber Music Program together with special guest Itzhak Perlman.

Yiddish Romantic Mush

Every year around this time, secular and Christian culture in this country sell lots of chocolate and roses in memory of an alleged saint. In our house, worry about the saints of other cultures is a strong negative, but we are not necessarily free of the need for occasional romantic mush, so I put the question to the Jewish-Music mailing list. Folks came up with suggestions that should be on anyone's list of songs appropriate to this (or similar) occasions:

  • Dance leader Steve Weintraub, for instance, suggested: Leonard Cohen's Dance Me to the End of Love recorded by KCB (a recording that was on my own honeymoon soundrack), and "El Ginat Egoz," with the beautiful voice of Guela Gil and all of Gan Eden going on in the background (harp, flute, oboe, etc), and Veretzki Pass's Yussels Terkisher.

  • Lori Cahan-Simon focuses on songs, rather than versions, and starts off with a killer: "Sheyn vi di levone," continuing with "Oy, mame, bin ikh farlibt," "Dance Me Till the End of Time,", and her favorite, "A tremp bisti, gey vayter, gey".

  • From Eric Eric Myrvaagnes, we have "Bai Mir Bistu Shen" and "Sheyn vi di Levone"

  • Winnipeg Radio host Rochelle Zucker did a whole show on the subject: "Here was the playlist: A Program Lekoved Valentine's Day (Vos far a Yiddisher Yom Tov iz dos Epes???) Songs about Love, Love is Universal!!! Songs and Artisits featured:

    • Shir Ha Shirim - Ben Zion Witler and Shifra Lerer
    • Shoyn Fir Yor - Rebecca Kaplan and Peter Rushefsky
    • Shayn Vi di Levone/Bay Mir Bistu Shayn - Der Faier (Argentina)
    • Ikh Hob Dikh Lib - Jacob Sandler
    • Papir Iz Dokh Vays - Abigail Rosenblatt
    • Libst Mikh Golde (from Fidler Oyfn Dakh - Do you Love Me?) - Shmuel Rudensky and Lea Dulutskaya (Israel)
    • Neshumele - Zully Goldfarb (Argentina)
    • Gedenk - Fraidy Katz and Wolf Krakowski
    • Yankele un Rukhele - Henry Gerro and Rosita Londner
    Lots more - to mention a few
    • Libste - Karsten Troyke and others
    • Ikh hob dir Tsu Fil Lib
    • Ikh Zing
    Ben Zion Witler has lots of songs about love like "A Geshikhte fun Libe"

  • And from someone (Rokhl Kafrissen?), one last: Fyvush Finkel- "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" I HEART FYVUSH.

  • Sylvia Schildt adds: How about "Ikh Hob Dikh Tsu Fil Lib" for starters, a very sexy tango. Or the Yiddish American "I Like She".

Of course, Israelis don't care. Saint, shmaint they say, as they shamelessly buy in to the commercial treacly stuff, "just like in America." So it goes.

New Wolzinger review: Sheynville Express

nice duotoneOh, I am so excited about this one. Keith reviews the new album by Toronto's Sisters of SheynvilleSheynville Express. This is one of the sweetest albums of the year. Imagine the Barry Sisters if they were singing today. The repertoire gets some updates, but the oldies sound as though they have to be this year's hits. And the harmonies? We haven't heard harmonies this sweet in many years.

February 14, 2008

Afro-Semitic splash in Boston

band photoDespite a decade of mixing Jewish and African-American sacred music with jazz, David Chevan and Warren Byrd—now wonderfully expanded as the Afro-Semitic Experience have still only played Boston twice. And last night, at Simmons College, was the closest they've come to a regular club gig yet.

It was a miserable time of day for a gig (5pm) and the weather was miserable (icy rain) so I drove the half-hour walk in my car. It only took 45 minutes. But it was worth it.

With two drummers, one of whom is a Yoruba priest, an excellent reed player, the surprising Stacey Phillips on Hawaiian steel guitar & violin, plus Chevan on bass and Byrd on keyboards, the band was comfortably tight and kept the audience thoroughly engaged. This was sort of music as dialogue. Sometimes the dialogue was with the audience, sometimes between the musicians, always in the music. There is a lot good that can be said about a set that can go from South African Abdullah Ibrahim, to cantorial music, to getting the audience up and trying to dance to a straight-forward freylekh and then closing with one of my favorite Mingus numbers, "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting." I mean this short review to say those good things.

I was too sick to hang out afterwards, and my nose was threatening to drain faster than the rain outside. But it was also nice to see the students at Simmons, and a few other bystanders, mix with the band. The concert was a thoroughly pleasant experience, with a melding of sacred traditions that made it something more. This is one that I'll happily see again. What I really don't understand, though, is how in a town with as much live jazz as happens in Boston, neither the Afro-Semitic Experience, nor Greg Wall's "Modern Prophets" are making inroads. Aye, thar's the rub. Time to change that.

Hadag Nakhash somewhat disappointing in Boston

Ever since their oddball hit, the "Sticker Song," an amalgamation of Israeli bumper sticker slogans penned by the brilliant novelist and journalist David Grossman, I have been curious about הדג נחש. I got a CD and it sounded like pretty mainstream hip-hop pop, but what do I know? So, when I heard that they were coming to Brandeis, I wasted no time in getting tickets.

Sad to say, this concert was a reminder that I am no longer 15 (the age of a friend's son who loves the band), nor am I part of the crowd of Brandeis students that could enjoy the music simply because it has a beat and is in Hebrew. The evening began with an opening band, Nanuchka (sp?) from Brooklyn. Not a terrible band. Excellent stage presence. Then, after a very short 10-minute stage change, the main band appeared.

They feature an okay horn section. Well, one trombone and one sax. The trombonik was okay. The sax wasn't bad. The beat was pretty reasonable. The acoustics in the hall were such that anyone who hadn't already memorized the lyrics was out of luck. The voices sounded reasonably good. But after an incredibly repetitive refrain on the first song of מה שבא בא, and an incredibly repetitive refrain on the second song that seemed to be "oh yeah, oh yeah," I began to sense a certain sameness. Somewhere in there the band did a wonderful spoof on California surf bands as transmogrified by Israeli hip hop sounds, but even that eventually went on for too long. Then, the bass player, not one of the more capable members of the band, did an exceptionally long, wankerish solo. Then the band kicked up the volume and Judy and I realized that we had enjoyed as much as we were going to enjoy.

This was not a bad concert by any means. It just wasn't a good enough concert for people of my advanced age. It's not new to me any more, and it wasn't a special social event for us. I think I've heard enough. I wanna hear the really exciting edgy Israeli bands like Boom Pam or Kruzenshtern & Parohod. Maybe we'll get a chance in April when we hit the oft-promised land. But I think I've gotten enough of this one for now.

Thanks to Andy Tannenbaum for correcting my spelling of the band's name and pointing out that it is a pun on the near-ubiquitous notices on Israeli buses for נהג חדש. Not so clever a pun as Tipex (now spelled "teapacks" in english after the Israeli makers of "white-out" objected, which obscures the original idea of the band represented people who had been "whited out" from the national discourse), but a pun, nonetheless. Check out Wikipedia for more info.

David Krakauer live on the Internet Archive

The Internet Archive is the home to the "Wayback machine" and a host of other imperfectly-maintained archives. So, don't rely on the IA for the long-term preservation of your precious tapes. What you can rely on is that there are millions of digital recordings, from web pages to audio and video, available. Sadly, there is virtually no klezmer (and no much more Jewish music in general). The only thing I could find that was longer than a single clip was this performance/interview by David Krakauer (with SoCalled and the rest of the band circa "Bubbe Meises"). I'd say that this recording, alone, is worth exploring further for. Check it out at www.archive.org/details/KEXPKEXPLivePerformances_23

I, myself, have a very few live recordings of various bands created over the years. If you know that I have a recording of your band, and I haven't yet asked, please feel encouraged to email me and let me know that your recordings can be uploaded. It's a great option for me—I have no time to create podcasts, and don't record much because I never have time to listen to the recordings once I've made them. Even getting the recording from DAT or Digital Memory card takes time and energy that I often can't find. But, there should be good, interesting Jewish music that can be found online. I'm happy to help, and even more, I encourage others to participate here, or elsewhere.

February 13, 2008

Klezmer Podcast, "Yiddishe Cup"'s Bert Stratton

If there is a band that successfully channels the spirit of the late Mickey Katz, it has to be Yiddishe Cup. Now Keith Wolzinger catches bandleader Bert Stratton in this latest Klezmer Podcast (#29 for those who are counting).

February 11, 2008

New reviews by Keith Wolzinger

CD coverI have been slowly gathering in reviews written by Keith Wolzinger over the last few months. There are many more to come, but in the meantime, check out his wide-ranging examination of the post-klezmer sounds of The Lithuanian Empire, country-Jewish Mare Winningham / Refugee Rock Sublime, Yiddish folk and theatre songs from Hy Wolfe / Yiddish Songs for the Soul, world Jewish music by Montrealer Hélène Engel Trio / Voyage, and new Jewish sounds of another Montrealer, Shelley Posen / Menorah.

Panorama Krewe at Mardi Gras

It's Mardi Gras time in New Orleans and that means that our favorite tuba-playing bluesman, Mark Rubin is hanging out with Ben Schenk and the Panorama Jazz Band. Mark provides a bunch of fine photos on his blog, and I've borrowed the YouTube video from the same source:

February 10, 2008

Two more reviews: London's "A Night in the Old Market" and Brave Old World, "Lodz Ghetto"

cd coverWhile I'm busy promoting reviews on other websites, I should mention a new review put up just last week by first-time KlezmerShack reviewer Anna Torres. Of course, it helps to work with great material, and I think you'll agree that Frank London's latest, the soundtrack to his new opera, "A Night in the Old Market" is outstanding.

cd coverIn the belated reviews and even more belated notice, let me mention an actual review written by yours truly. I've been listening to Brave Old World's "Songs of the Lodz Ghetto" for so many years. First it was live, then, I was listening to the CD and still catching the performances whenever possible (here in the Boston area, that will be in just a couple of weeks). I've been too wrapped up in it. This is one of the most powerful CDs ever recorded, and one of which I never tire. It's about time I passed on the word to others.

George Robinson reviews: Polina Shepherd, Metropolitan Klezmer, Blue Fringe, Romashka video, and more

CD coverAlong with Elliott Simon, George Robinson is the one other reviewer of new Jewish music who continues to publish about a wonderful gamut from the avant garde to klezmer to music from the newer Orthodox-based jam band sounds. Catching up to links that ya'll should have seen months ago, I present: Chanukah: For listening, for giving—klezmer and its cousins, by George Robinson. There are video clips from several bands, as well as reviews. Enjoy!

Elliott Simon reviews: Metropolitan Klezmer, Red Hot Chachkas, Lori Cahan-Simon

CD coverWith great frustration, I look at reviews and tips that I wanted to get online two months ago. Hold them for next year? Present them now? The latter wins. After all, these are great CDs, reviewed by Elliott Simon, which means that the reviews are thoughtful, insightful, and intelligent. So, travel back a skip in time and consider Simon's article, Happy Chanukah 2007, from All About Jazz, Dec 8, 2007.

Two Yale Strom reviews in "All About Jazz"

CD coverGifted Jazz/Jewish music reviewer Elliott Simon does a two-fer on recent Yale Strom albums in last month's All About Jazz. He discusses Strom's most recent klezmer effort with his New York band, Hot Pstromi, and a different effort with several of the Radical Jewish music crowd, Dveykes:

Trailblazing with Tradition, by Elliott Simon, Dec 12, 2007

February 9, 2008

The Harlem Experiment's "Reefer Man" gets political animation on YouTube

CD coverIt's Black History month. On a site that talks mostly about Jewish music, there isn't a lot of intersection once I get through with the bittersweet way in which Rabbi Heschel's yahrzeit and the Reverend King, Jr's birthday come at the same time, just before the month begins. (Bittersweet because both are missed.) But there was a fascinating place where "black" and "Jewish" intersected in a fascinating way, and that was Harlem. A couple of months ago Grammy-winning producer Aaron Levinson got folks ranging from Taj Mahal to Don Byron to celebrate that shared history in a remarkably wonderful CD, "The Harlem Experiment. You first heard about it here back in October, and then I found a great review and other info. Now, I offer a wonderfully tasteless political cartoon animating "The Reefer Man" from that self-same CD.

I confess. I'd be tempted to eschew the video and get a few copies of the CD.

"A Cantor's Tale," now available on DVD

If you read this site regularly, you will remember me kvelling about a wonderful documentary a couple of years ago about Cantor Jack Mendelson. Now the movie's Director/Producer Erik Anjou writes that it is available on DVD from Ergo Media.

For those wondering what Anjou will do to follow up the movie, I have had the opportunity to view some clips from a new documentary about The Klezmatics. Should be very exciting.

new CD of meditative Jewish music

CD coverI am an Israeli musician living in Boulder Colorado. I recently released a CD of Hebrew Chanting with my wife Danya Uriel. It is a very unique project in that it is a very relaxing almost meditative musical joirney using ancient Hebrew texts. We've been getting incredible reviews world wide. You can learn more about us at: www.HebrewChanting.com

Mattisyahu article in NY Times, Dec 23, 2007

From my synagogue's email list, Steve Hassan posts:

The Hasidic reggae star Matisyahu, who said he felt “boxed in," For a Singer and a Sect: A Rift Amid the Riffs?, By Alex Mindlin, Dec 23, 2007.

The article describes the singer as having distanced himself from Lubavitch and davenning, instead, at Karlin. It doesn't mention why we haven't heard much from him since he abandoned the label, JDUB, on which he first became famous, for Sony a year or two ago. For background, see a link I posted last year.

February 8, 2008

KlezKanada scholarship forms now available

KlezKanada logoKlezKanada Winter may seem long… but summer is almost here! Registration forms and Scholarship applications for the 2008 KlezKanada Summer Institute of Yiddish/Jewish Arts and Culture are now available on the main page of our website. www.klezkanada.com Looking forward to the summer.... The KlezKanada Team

Veretski Pass interview from Oct 2007

Ates Temeltas, who run's the band's label, sent this Veretski Pass interview to me month's ago, but it's still good video. It also includes footage of the band playing:

Prior to their concert at California State University, Sacramento [in October 2007], members of Veretski Pass were interviewed by the producers from MusiqBase website. Here is the link to the first part of that interview in which Cookie, Josh and Stu talk about the background of music performed by Veretski Pass.

February 7, 2008

Two generations of klezmorim

An lovely person who was trying to "friend" me on YouTube sent me this video of Jason Rosenblatt and his niece Neshama Rosenblatt enjoying some quality harmonica time together. Another klezmer generation gets its licks in on "Bei mir bistu shein". Indeed!:

The weirdest klezmer review so far

So, what happens when a deep south wanna be literature major (or something) meets klezmer for the first time? Joel Rubin posts this link to a review of a concert he gave with Pete Rushefsky down in Charlottesville, VA.

oel Rubin and Pete Rushefsky, Gravity Lounge; Tuesday January 29, by Brendan Fitzgerald

Mickey Katz' descendents endow Jewish Music chair

Rokhl Kafrissen blogged this one on her גלות ײד blog

UCLA receives $1 million to establish chair in Jewish music: UCLA alum and wife make gift in honor of Yiddish entertainer Mickey Katz, By Carolyn Campbell and Eleanore Reznikoff

While I'm at it, read down on recent blog entries and you'll find a link to video of KlezCalifornia way back when—When KlezKamp was a baby. Such young looking Hank Sapoznik, Adrienne Cooper, Margot Leverett, and Joel Rubin, among others. I can even swear I caught Jim Rebhan at one of the jam sessions.

February 5, 2008

JMI Conf, "The Impact of Nazism on Musical Development in the 20th Century," UK, 8-11 Apr 2008

Music, Oppression and Exile: The Impact of Nazism on Musical Development in the 20th Century
International Conference, Senate House, University of London, 8–11 April 2008

Hitler tore a gaping hole in European culture and the damage has not yet been repaired’. Nick Kimberley, The Observer, 2002.

With four days of papers from across the world this conference is set to be one of the most significant symposia ever held on the subject. It will also include sessions with families of the composers affected and presentations from archives where their material is housed. There will be films introduced by the makers We Want the Light on Music in Germany by Christopher Nupen and Music in Terezin by Simon Broughton.

The conference at the University of London will be followed on 12 and 13 April by two days of concerts, films and public lectures on Music in Exile, presented by the Artists of the Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto at the Cadogan Hall.

To see details of Conference fees, speakers and to register on line music.sas.ac.uk/imr-events or the JMI Website www.jmi.org.uk

February 3, 2008

Klezmer Podcast: Oy Division

The prolific Keith Wolzinger writes to the Jewish-Music list:

I have posted Episode 28, featuring an interview with Assaf Talmudi of Oy Division, and check my MySpace Blog for a review of Hodu by PHP. You can now find the Podcast on my new Jewish Arts and Culture Station on the Podango Network, as well as at the Klezmer Podcast website and iTunes.


"Papirosn," tango-style

On the Jewish-Music list, that subset of participants, the guardians of all that is proper Yiddish kulchah (not necessarily the people promulgating such culture) have been having a field day emphasizing how much they despise an especially shmaltzy version of the song by a Russian singer. It is sufficiently gruesome to my ears that I will not repeat the link on this page. But Radio host Rochelle Zucker has dug up a tango version of the song, beautifully sung by Argentinian singer Zully Goldfarb (whose "Makh tsu di eygelakh" came in for criticism, itself, a few months ago):

Here is another Youtube version of the same song by Argentinean Tango/Yiddish singer Zully Goldfarb. She performs in the Tango Clubs in Buenos Aires and always includes several Yiddish songs in her show - and always explains what they are and where they come from and also about her own life as a daughter of Polish Immigrants to Argentina

Something is going on in Argentina. There is some fascinating Jewish culture happening there, ranging from this singer, to the klezmer/Yeshivish band, Orkestra Kef, to the brilliant improvisationists, the Lerner Moguilevsky Dúo. |

Klezmerola - Klezmer piano roll recordings released on CD

Klezmerola CD coverCleveland native ‘on a roll’ with new klezmer piano CD, by Vivian Witt, Special to the Cleveland Jewish News.

“Klezmerola,” a brand-new CD created by native Clevelander Bob Berkman, makes it possible for the first time ever to hear Jewish recordings from a long-neglected source: old player piano rolls.

Included in the CD is the only Jewish roll by George Gershwin, recorded in 1916 and long thought lost. There is also music from the world of klezmer, highlighting Russian-born Samuel A. Perlstein. … [The CD] comes with a 16-page booklet. For information, visit wwwklezmer ola.com.

For more, read the article in the Cleveland Jewish News

New Klezmer Clarinet forum

Internationally acclaimed mensh (and incidentally, acclaimed klezmer clarinetist) Merlin Shepherd writes the Jewish-Music list to note a new klezmer clarinet forum, nestled among other forums dedicated to the clarinet in other world music settings. Shepherd's most recent CD, last year's Intimate Hopes & Terrors, is an excellent example of the clarinet in such a setting, so his advice to check out the new forum should be heeded:

Just to let any clarinetists amongst us know that there is a brand new section of the Greek and Turkish clarinet forum dedicated to Klezmer clarinet. I'm moderating it, so you'll be on friendly ground straight away!


If any of you want to go there then we can all discuss the various issues involved … subjects currently under scrutiny include: Ornamentation, Phrasing, Tonality, Timbre and general technical section Vocal Ornaments transferred to instrumental playing Repertoire, Genres and Crossover. There's also a category dedicated to Jewish cooking!

February 2, 2008

KlezKanada Winter Session, Feb 21-24, 2008

KlezKanada logKlezKanada Winter Session Winter Session Events Workshops with our internationally acclaimed Faculty! February 22, 23 and 24, 2008. Small classes, private coaching Held right in the heart of Montreal, our Winter Session will bring you 4 days of workshops, master classes, jam sessions, klezkabarets and world-class performances! Don't miss the chance to be a part of this amazing weekend! Please forward this email to anyone who you think might be interested! Workshops include: Frank's Ensemble, Strings Masterclass with Deb and Cookie, Yiddish Pronounciation for Singers with Michael, If You Wanna Play Klezmer You Gotta Dance Klezmer with Avia and Michael and a stellar dance band Rhythm 101 with Thierry, Makeover Masterclass with Josh and Cookie, Songs of Reverence, Irreverence and Revolution with Michael, Nigunim with Frank, Jeff, Deb and more, Ask Drs Klez with Josh, Cookie and others, .....and more...! Participants must register for workshops in advance. PLUS... Jam Sessions, KlezKabarets and Concerts! Snow Fiddler DATE: February 21-24, 2008 TIME: Various LOCATION: Montreal MORE: $85 for the whole weekend or pay by the event. Register Now For more information, contact Avia Moore by email or by phone 514.993.2842. www.klezkanada.com

Ray Musiker CD released by Living Traditions

CD coverRay Musiker: A Living Tradition was released at this last KlezKamp with a release concert. The band, led by pianist/arranger/co-producer Pete Sokolow and Ken Maltz on tenor sax, Mike Cohen on alto sax, Jim Guttmann on bass, Aaron Alexander on drums and Henry "Hank" Sapoznik on guitar, swinging through some of the great performances featured on the recording. This CD, along with all releases from Living Traditions, is available through our office and at our online EpesCenter webstore: www.livingtraditions.org/docs/store.htm

On the same bill was the subject of our next issue, pioneering drummer Elaine Hoffman Watts, the 2007 winner of the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship. With a terrific band headed by Elaine's daughter Susan Watts on trumpet, Mike Cohen on clarinet, Ken Maltz on tenor sax, Mark Rubin on tuba, Dan Blacksberg on trombone and Henry "Hank" Sapoznik on tenor banjo, the new CD, produced by Aaron Alexander, will showcase the klezmer music played in Elaine's childhood Philadelphia including the mythic and never before fully recorded "Philadelphia Sher."

In order to insure the release of the new Elaine Hoffman Watts CD recording, we look for support from our Living Traditions/KlezKamp community. The Living Traditions CD series documents and celebrating our living klezmer masters—something commercial labels no longer do—and helps support the positive and growing role of women in Yiddish and klezmer music. Please consider supporting the recording, production and release of this new CD which we plan to have out in time for KlezKamp 24. All donors, no matter how modest their support, will be listed proudly in the CD credits. You may contact us for further information via our website.

KlezKamp blog, podcast, Zhurnal

Klezkamp Zhurnal 2008Over 400 people joined us to celebrate Yiddish culture at KlezKamp 23. If you were not able to be there this year, don't worry. We've made it possible for you to experience KlezKamp online.

The KlezKamp blog features accounts of KlezKamp activities, photos, links to clips of KlezKamp concerts and personal reflections about the KK experience, as it happened.

The KlezKamp podcast: You may now subscribe to the KlezKamp podcast. We intend to add new episodes to the podcast offerings on a regular basis. They will reflect not only this past KlezKamp 23, but gems from our sound archive of 23 years of KlezKamp concerts and, more recently, Radio KlezKamp, the in-house radio station run at KK by Mitch Mernick.

Podcasts available at this time include interviews with Elaine Hoffman Watts, Andy Statman, Judith Bro Pinhasik, Ray and Julie Musiker, and Pete and Vera Sokolow. Also available are music from the KlezKamp Youth Orchestra, the Staff Dance Band and the "Philadelphia Shers" by the Elaine Hoffman Watts Ensemble.

You may download these podcasts individually or you may subscribe to the podcast and have them delivered automatically to your computer at www.klezkamp.mypodcast.com. We are thrilled to be able to share these treasures with you. It is just one of the ways that Living Traditions is fulfilling its mission to bring Yiddish culture to new generations in ways both inspiring and relevant to contemporary Jewish life. Fortunately, there is much more to come.

The KlezKamp Zhurnal: Download and read this year's KlezKamp Zhurnal, the beautiful KlezKamp magazine, edited by Faith Jones, with articles, wonderful photos from the Forward Archive and even a even a crostic puzzle created especially for KlezKamp. There are articles on the Mame Loshn: Women in Yiddish Culture theme by Eddy Portnoy, Michael Wex, Henry Sapoznik and Faith Jones, an Artist Portfolio of the work of artist Toby Knobel Fluek and appreciations of KlezKamp faculty members we lost this year: Dovid Rogow z"l and Sidney Beckerman z"l. There are also links to previous years' zhurnaln.

Return of "Gershwin the Klezmer" to S. Florida

logoIt’s been five years, but “The Soul Of Gershwin” (formerly “Gershwin The Klezmer”) is back!

Vocalists Bruce Henry, Prudence Johnson, and Robert Marinoff, the band Klezmerica and Michael Paul Levin as George Gershwin join forces once again to bring to life the hit musical “The Soul Of Gershwin: The Musical Journey Of An American Klezmer.” This is a limited one-week eight-show engagement at the Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Tuesday, March 4 through Sunday, March 9.

"A treasure-laden musical review … the sheer musicality is unbeatable … an incandescent tribute to the music of George Gershwin," —Jack Zink, Sun Sentinel.

"… works on so many levels one might have to see it twice," —Howard Cohen, Miami Herald

"… a rich discovery for us all" —Hap Erstein, Palm Beach Post.

You may know someone in Southern Florida who’d love to see this show, or to see it again. For more information, people are invited to visit soulofgershwin.com or call (954) 462-0222.

Joe Vass

Konsonans Retro and others in Helsinki Jam

For those (myself included) who can't get enough of Konsonans Retro, here's a jam session from the Helsinki Klezmer Fest with members of that band, Kharkov Klezmer (another set of amazing folks) and more, forward to the Jewish-Music list by usual provocateur, Christian David:

Christian continued, "Here's another groovy Moldavian tune from the same session:"

February 1, 2008

Sponsors sought for Annette Brodovsky memorial benefit, Davis, CA, Feb 10, 2008

A 3-part concert to benefit the family of the Freilachmakers' former fiddler, Annette Brodovsky, will take place on Sunday February 10th, 3 pm, in the sanctuary of Congregation Bet Haverim, 1715 Anderson Road in Davis. As you may remember, Annette was tragically killed by a drunk driver on the eve of Pesach, just this past April. Three top Northern California klezmer bands, including the Davis Klezmer Orchestra, The Freilachmakers Klezmer String Band and the Red Hot Chachkas (from Marin County), will be participating. Details and contact information appear in the press release reprinted below.

Please note that we are actively seeking sponsors. Sponsors can choose donation levels ($50, $100, $500, $1000, $2500), which entitles them to concert tickets ($20 each) equivalent to their contribution. They will also have their name published in the program unless they specify not. Checks should be payable to Congregation Bet Haverim, with a notation on the check that the donation is for the Annette Brodovsky fund, and sent to the congregation at 1715 Anderson Road, Davis, CA 95616.

For more information about the concert, see the KlezmerShack calendar