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March 20, 2008

Purim? It's time for the "Big Megillah"

It was only about 20 years ago, that the Austin Klezmorim recorded the definitive hipster take on tonight's story, The Big Megillah. If it's been even a year since you first heard this gem, time to listen,again. Many thanks to the band's Bill Averbach for the link.

March 16, 2008

"Early Recordings of Jewish Music in Poland," now available online

From the Jewish-Music list, by Helen Winkler:

"Early Recordings of Jewish Music in Poland" by Michael Aylward, with accompanying introductory remarks is now available for download on my website, courtesy of Michael Aylward.

You can access it from my opening page: www.yiddishdance.com. Or directly via: www.yiddishdance.com/aylwardEarly%20Recordings.PDF (article)

Introductory remarks are available at www.yiddishdance.com/aylwardIntroduction.pdf

This article originally appeared in Polin Volume 16, 2003. Thanks to Michael Aylward for providing this article offprint.

Purim coming! CDs and music available online

album coverWith Purim due this week, it is time to mentionBinyomin Ginzberg's Purim CD, a very yeshivish, bouncy combo of songs appropriate to any Purim Party. The music is among the large selection available on the Jewish music download site, OySongs.

Likewise, the Jewish Music Distribution in the UK announces several new releases for Purim and the fast-approaching Passover holiday.

Samy al-Maghribi 1922-2008, z"l

From Judith Cohen:

Samy MaghribiI just learned that on March 9, Samy Al-Maghribi, as Salomon Amzallag was known, passed away. He was my oud teacher in Montreal in the early 1980s. Born in Morocco in 1922, he soon became a well-known figure in Andalusian music and after emigrating to Canada, served for many years as the Cantor of Montreal's Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue. After retiring, he spent several years in Israel where he worked with the Israeli Andalusian Orchestra and eventually returned to Canada. He was a very fine singer, instrumentalist, and composer, highly appreciated in both the Jewish and the Muslim worlds, and a great person. Some information about his life and music can be found here: www.wikimusique.net/index.php/Sami_El_Maghribi

From Hélène Engel:

The music lovers lost a great artist with Samy El-Maghribi. Fortunately we have great memories and a lot of recordings of him. On radio-shalom Montreal there was a special show on wednesday 12th and there will be another one on March 18th, at 8PM. Just google radio-shalom Montreal and you will be able to hear it.

In the future, there will be a couple of shows (2 or 3) going in depth into his work, actually into the different sides of his work : the popular singer, the classical singer, the cantor … and the person, also. His younger daughter, a friend of him and myself will be working on this very soon. If you have any memory or comment, you are welcome to send them directly to me, mentioning "SEM" in the title. I will gather all of them and use them for the shows.

Thank you to Judith Cohen who kept you posted about him. I was struggling with the English to announce it to you when I saw that she had done it already in a much better way than what I was doing.

Fwd: Marty Levitt 1931-2008, z"l

Dan Peck wrote to the Jewish-Music list for Henry Sapoznik:

Marty Levitt LP coverKlezmer Friends,

Marty Levitt, klezmer clarinetist and a one time popular Jewish band leader in New York in the 1960s died today. He was 77 and lived in Brooklyn, New York.The cause of death was lung cancer and lymphoma. Levitt came from a long line of professional Jewish musicians; he was the son on of famed klezmer trombonist Yankl "Jack" Levitt a noted Yiddish theater musician and member of the famed Boibriker Kapelle. During the 1950s and 1960s Marty Levitt together with his wife, vocalist Harriet Kane, had one of New York's most popular Jewish wedding orchestras regularly featuring an eight musician bandstand. The several LPs he recorded at this time for Tikva, Fiesta and other indie labels, picture a tuxedoed Levitt all pencil thin mustachios and horn rimmed glasses holding his clarinet at a rakish angle. Though not one of the best of the old line klezmer clarinetists, Marty Levitt commanded a unique and atypical repertoire and had a surprisingly literate knowledge of the history of klezmer music and its folklore. It was only his continual resistance to becoming part of the klezmer revival which kept him from being celebrated by a new generation of klezmer afficianados.

He is survived by a son, David, himself an outstanding jazz and klezmer trombonist.

From Hankus Netsky:

So sorry to hear about Marty—he was truly one-of-a-kind. When the "Klezmer Revival" started, he was one of the last guys on the New York scene actively playing the old repertoire—mostly because of his extensive contacts in the survivor community. His recording, "Wedding Dances," is a true standout among klezmer LPs, and he continued to record and perform throughout the 1970s, 80s, and early 90s, until a calcium deposit in his fourth and fifth finger on his left hand made it impossible for him to play the clarinet. As he used to say to me, "For most musicians, their dream was to play on Broadway or at Carnegie Hall. For me, my dream was to play on Pitkin Avenue." That was a dream he more than realized—no one knew as much about the Brooklyn Jewish music scene as Marty. He will truly be missed.

Paula Teitelbaum adds the last note:

He played at our wedding in November 1985.

According to the Discographie of the German book/cd on the Klezmer Revival, von der Khupe zum KlezKamp at least a couple of his LPs, including "Bar Mitzvah Favorites" have been on CD at least at one point.

March 9, 2008

Herbie Mann's Eastern European Roots

According to Wikipedia, this was the last Herbie Mann recording made. Britt, of the Nefesh Klezmer Band, spotting this back in 2001.

cd coverChaverim,

pardon my enthusiasm, but …

I'm in love with a new CD and I just had to share it with the list. It's Herbie Mann's "Eastern European Roots". Yes, it's the same jazz flute I've loved since I first heard it as a teenager, but there is something more, a soulfulness. Mann explains in his liner notes that a brush with death made him re-examine his musical life, and he realized he had explored many other types of music but not his own Jewish musical roots—his mother is from Bucovina, Romania.

When he recovered, he traveled to Eastern Europe and this CD is the result. He's joined by other exemplary musicians, most notably Gil Goldstein on accordion (sounds to me like a chromatic button accordion) played with a moody musette sound. And Alexander Fedoriouk on cymbalom, my current instrument of choice. His style ranges from a dark, old time klezmer- sound to a jazzy gypsy swing (a la Kalman Balogh). However you classify this album (jazz, klezmer), I'm sure many list members will also enjoy it.

Origins of "Miserlu," the melody

A couple of years ago, someone posted to the Jewish-Music mailing list asking about a version of "Miserlu" played at a football game at Foxboro Stadium. I gave the stock reply about the origins of the Miserlu dance, and dutifully guessed that the version played was that classic of California surf rock, the Dick Dale "Miserlu." So far, so good. But this morning, following another excellent Balkan night (more, anon, time permitting, in another post), I noticed a rather excellent email that one of Balkan Night's organizers, Henry Goldberg, wrote explaining the origins of the tune, itself. It seems worth presenting to a larger audience:

… Agreed, the song does not have Klezmer origins, but, not to put too fine a point on it—that posting on EEFC provided by Ari describes how the DANCE was invented in 1945 in Pittsburgh and spread from there.

The music had been recorded earlier. There are many other informative posts on this topic to the EEFC mailing list (which can be searched from that same link) but Wikipedia more efficiently says:

[added 3/16/08] And I covered this in even more detail last year, with information supplied by Andy Tannenbaum. Take a look at The roots of the tune, Miserlu

"The song's oriental melody has been so popular for so long that many people, from Morroco to Iran, will sometimes claim it to be a folk song from their own country. In fact, the song was first performed by the Michalis Patrinos rembetiko band in Athens, in 1927. As with almost all early rembetiko songs (a style that originated with the Greek refugees from Asia Minor), the song's actual composer was never identified, and its ownership rested with the band leader. The melody was most likely composed collaboratively by the group, as was often the case at the time; the initial lyrics were almost certainly by Patrinos himself. In Patrinos' heavy Smyrniot accent, the song's title was pronounced "Musurlu".

Initially, the song was composed as a Greek zeibekiko dance, at a slower tempo and a different key than the orientalized performances that most are familiar with today. This was the style of first known recording by Michalis Patrinos in Greece, circa 1930; a second recording was made by Patrinos in New York, in 1931."

[NOTE - this version was reissued on "TO ELLINIKO TRAGOUDI STIN AMERIKI" on the Lyra label.]

"In 1941, Nick Roubanis, a Greek-American music instructor released a jazz instrumental arrangement of the song, crediting himself as the composer. Since his claim was never challenged, he is still officially credited as the composer today. S. Russell, N. Wise and M. Leeds later wrote English lyrics to the song. Roubanis is also credited with fine tuning the key and the melody, giving it the oriental sound that the song is associated with today."

This page has a fun discography: www.spaceagepop.com/misirlou.htm

Of course, for me (and to bring it closer to home), the "authoritative version" of my youth is the one by Geula Gill on Elektra EKS7206.


Why Klezmer? by Inna Barmash

In Why Klezmer?, then college-student Inna Barmash, co-founder of the Klez Dispensers wrote an article describing her attraction to the music form. This article was originally published in Princeton University's Nassau Weekly in 1999. What's especially neat is that here it is, almost a decade later. Barmash has extended her reach from klezmer to other Eastern European music, but she is still involved and still a klezmer.

March 8, 2008

New Keith Wolzinger reviews of Brian Bender, Hilda Bronstein

album coverKeith Wolzinger has been reviewing prolifically, again. This is a good thing. He covers a fascinating disk put out by local (well, Western Massachusetts) musician Brian Bender, featuring some of my all-time favorite accompaniests (you know, folks like Alicia Svigals, Frank London, Stu Brotman, KCB's Grant Smith, NY percussion wizard Raquy Danziger, …): Brian Bender & Little Shop of Horas / Eyn Velt, 2008. Not content to stop there, Keith crosses the pond and discovers Hilda Bronstein / Sings Yiddish Songs Old and New, 2007. Hilda is accompanied by that wizard of UK klezmer, Merlin Shepherd, and his quartet. Not a bad pair of CDs to hear, at all. Read all about them here, or on Keith's blog

Max Romeo, Tel Aviv

Glenn Tamir posts this clip to YouTube, with this explanation:

Just went to a great show at a club called Barbi in Tel Aviv. Max Romeo ("War Inna Babylon") played a great show.

Here's a little clip of "Ska Ska Ska" into "Wings of a Dove"


New klezmer podcasts and blog entries

Keith Wolzinger announces Klezmer Podcast 30, featuring an interview with Eric and Mindy Zaidins, and Kenny Green, of the Westchester Klezmer Program, www.klezkidz.org. There are also new reviews, which will be up on the KlezmerShack soon.

You can also catch Keith's MySpace blog where he posts about the cancellation of the Balkan Beat Box U.S. tour. He was planning to see their concert and interview them for the Podcast. He has also posted an upcoming concert by Odessa/Havana.

Flory Jagoda in benefit for Sarajevo Holocaust victims, Arlington, VA, Apr 6, 2008

From Flory Jagoda:

Please join me for a splendid afternoon of Jewish Sephardic music on

Sunday, April 6, 2008 at 4:00 pm.

The one hour concert will be at Congregation Etz Hayim, the synagogue that has been my religious home since I first came to America in 1946.

I was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Before the madness of the Second World War, 14,000 Jewish people called Sarajevo home and it was known throughout Europe as /Chico Yerushalayim/ (Little Jerusalem) for its thriving Sephardic community. Today, sadly, there are only 160 Jewish survivors living there and most of them are elderly and ill.

They need our help and I am committed to sending them the help that they need.

To Buy Tickets and/or make a donation, please contact:
Congregation Etz Hayim, 2920 Arlington Blvd, Arlington, VA 22204
703.979.4466 / fax: 703.979.4458

Checks can be made to: Congregation Etz Hayim - Sarajevo Benefit Fund
Tickets are $20, with a discount of $5 off for seniors and students.
Children 12 and under are free. Please reserve your tickets in advance by March 31st .

We are appealing to you and our entire community to come together and aid a desperate community that deserves a "/buen Pesah/". Your ticket to this benefit concert is just $20.00. 100% of the proceeds will go directly to the Sarajevo Jewish Center Community.

Joining me at this concert will be my talented and gracious friends who are donating their beautiful music and time to this cause, so dear to my heart. The performers include: The Altaras Ensemble, (featuring apprentice Susan Gaeta, Joel Leonard, Linn Falk, Joanne Stefanick, Margee Jervis, Betty Jagoda Murphy, Lori Jagoda Lowell, Tina Chancey, Chazan Ramon Tasat, Rabbi David Shneyer, Chazan Henrique Bass, Larry Robinson, Howard Bass and Alen Oresky. While this concert will be fun for all ages, there is complementary babysitting for our youngest guests.

Come, enjoy our music, and sing with us. If you cannot come, please consider making a contribution to Congregation Etz Hayim's Sarajevo Benefit Fund so that our friends can have the holidays be a true season of celebration.


Flory Jagoda

To Buy Tickets and/or make a donation, please contact:
Congregation Etz Hayim, 2920 Arlington Blvd, Arlington, VA 22204
703.979.4466 / fax: 703.979.4458

Checks can be made to: Congregation Etz Hayim - Sarajevo Benefit Fund
Tickets are $20, with a discount of $5 off for seniors and students.
Children 12 and under are free. Please reserve your tickets
in advance by March 31st .

"Jewgrass" featured in the Forward

In a wonderfully well-written article, the Forward's David Kaufman covers "Jewgrass," from Margot Leverett's Klezmer Mountain Boys, to the Orthodox Sinai Mountain Boys, to the recently-reviewed-on-these-pages, Mare Winningham.

Check out O, Landsman, Where Art Thou? from Wednesday's paper.