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September 29, 2008

Isa Kremer CD!

cd coverOver on the Mendele list, Leonard Fox writes:

For Yiddish music fans, a new CD containing recordings from the 1930s by Iza Kremer, titled "Evrejskie narodnye pesni,"is available from www.russiandvd.com at $14.99 (with free shipping). You need to enter a search for it in the appropriate search box, but since the search engine is not very accurate, the best thing to do is enter "Iza," rather than "Kremer." It's a great collection, with many old favorites and some songs that are rarely heard.

Photos from KlezKanada 2008

The man with the camera eye, Bob Blacksberg uploaded a heap of photos, and you'll find others from anyone who uploaded to flickr.com and remembered to tag them, "klezkanada08". Enjoy!

KlezKanada 2008
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September 28, 2008

Leverett and her Klezmer Mountain Boys … with Jorma Kaukonen, Hazel Dickens and more!

who knew the classy Traditional Crossroads could produce such an appalling cover?At last I can spill the beans! I've been biting my tongue to keep from kvelling about this recording for ages. I should have realized that if anyone could bring Jorma into the klezmer fold, it would be the persuasive, astonishing, and ever klezmerdich Ms. Leverett. (My very first CD review was about Jorma's "Hot Tuna/Burgers" release, for a Dallas underground paper that had the good sense to reject it on the grounds of bad writing.) This is a CD that brings out the best in klezmer, bluegrass, and all the colors in between. The vocal by Hazel Dickens is wonderful. Guest appearances by the whole gange of Tony Trischka, Darol Anger, David Grier, Mike Marshall—and David Licht on drums and Hankus Netsky on piano…. Whew! I'll let Margot take over—but look for me at the party; I so want to be there:

Announcing the release of the new CD by Margot Leverett and the Klezmer Mountain Boys—"2nd Avenue Square Dance" on Traditional Crossroads.

Our CD RELEASE PARTY will be Tuesday, October 7, at 8pm at DROM, 85 Ave. A (between 5th and 6th streets), NYC. Featuring guest artists Jorma Kaukonen (hot tuna), Dave Licht (klezmatics), Jen Larsen (straight drive) and hopefully even a few more! (212) 777-1157

www.dromnyc.com Tickets are already on sale.

The new CD, entitled "2nd Avenue Square Dance" will be available from our website www.KlezmerMountainBoys.com in the very near future. In addition to our trademark klezmer/bluegrass fusion, now polished and matured after 7 years together as a band, the new cd features a room full of guests—all our friends and their friends—joining us to stretch out a little into rock, jazz, latin and American folk music.

You'll hear Jorma Kaukonen, Hazel Dickens, Tony Trischka, Darol Anger, David Grier, Mke Marshall, David Licht, Hankus Netsky, Carlos Oliviera, Dudley Connell, Ronnie Simpkins, and Bobby Shankin. Watch our website for upcoming shows www.KlezmerMountainBoys.com

Cancelled: Danube Klezmer Cruise, May 15-24, 2010

This has been cancelled. Consult the website www.klezmercruise.ca for further info

cruise ship

While moving to the Klezmer beat, the experience will be enriched by the music of the Roma and Balkan people in their traditional lands. An exclusive adventure aboard the chartered Viking Neptune cruise ship, the project will be energized by a team of outstanding experts and first-rank Klezmer musicians, including Michael Alpert, Cookie Segelstein, Joshua Horowitz, Michael Winograd, Richie Barshay, Susan Watts, Bob Cohen, Eric Stein, Josh (SoCalled) Dolgin, venerable Jewish music archivist Arkady Gendler of Zaporozhye, and McGill Jewish Studies Professor Eugene Orenstein.

For passengers with roots in the region, the project will again be a uniquely convenient opportunity to search out and visit ancestral communities.

For more information and links to photos and videos from the Dnieper, consult the website www.klezmercruise.ca. Early bookings will enjoy a discount until November 15, 2008.

NEC courses on Jewish and Russian Music

New England Conservatory, 241 St. Botolph Street, Boston, will host two ten week courses with Instructor Yelena Neplok. 'Eastern European Jewish Musical Traditions' runs on Wednesdays, October 1-December -17, 2008, from 7:00-8:30 p.m., and 'The Art of Russian Piano Music' runs on Tuesdays, October 7-December 16, 2008, from 7:00-8:30 p.m.

Registration is now available. Tuition for the NEC School of Continuing Education is $375, and financial aid is available.

For more information and registration, contact: 617-585-1125 (NEC) or call the instructor at 617-566-7969 or e-mail the instructor.

NEC Web: www.newenglandconservatory.edu/continuinged

Eastern European Jewish Musical Traditions

This course introduces unique musical heritage stemming from Jewish composers and their communities in pre-war eastern Europe.

Students will become aware of the uniqueness of Jewish folk music, connection between Jewish traditional and art music, Russian Jewish musical culture, famous cantors of the “Golden Age”, and great East European Jewish performers.

Students have the opportunity to perform in class and participate in a closing concert. Vocalists, instrumentalists, and all interested public are welcome.

The Art of Russian Piano Music

This course will describe Russian musical culture and piano music from the end of the 18th century through the middle of the 20th century.

I: Late 18th century–second part of 19th century: Bortniansky to Tchaikovsky
II: Late 19th century–mid-20th century: Liadov to Prokofiev

Jewlia Eisenberg's busy summer

I am so jealous. Eisenberg is one of the most creative people working with Jewish music (and just about everything) today. A query about a Ladino version of "Miserlu" (fielded by the always-knowledgeable Sephardic music maven Judith Cohen netted this wrapup of how she's spent her summer, none of it I might add with a bit if truculence, in Boston. (I did catch Basya Shaechter at Ashkenaz, so it was't a summer without creative highlights on this coast.) At least it's documented!:

… in other news, everything well here. played in the krakow jewfest this summer, that blew my mind. lots of amazing musicians, no sleep. here's a clip:

bowls project almost finished recording, it's coming out on tzadik in february. sketches here: www.charminghostess.us/projects.html

below on that page is this side project i'm doing on the intersection of rebetika and salonikan jewish folk music. kinda cool. doing it with the guys from kugelplex as you can see. it's pretty fun, sexy.

frank london was in town and we did a bunch of khassidish and roma tunes with him, it was fun, here's a little bit of one:

i think that's everything. …

Praise for "Isle of Klezbos"

Eve Sicular writes:

Here's a link to the NYC.com blog about our Isle of Klezbos 9/16 show in the East Village, a good time was had by all. Isle of Klezbos was grateful for beautiful weather this time too! The photo here remarkably shows all six of us in action

"soulful artistry … a beautiful summer night's evening in the park by ladies who know their craft."


new Klezmer Fiddle Book from UK's Ilana Cravitz

Klezmer Fiddle coverIlana Cravitz writes:

’m delighted to be able to let you know that my new book on playing klezmer music is now available.

The book contains 16 tunes in treble clef with chords above the stave for easy accompaniment. Each has a ‘workshop’ on playing in traditional style. There’s a CD with a complete set of backing tracks you can play along to, as well as two pull-out booklets with bandstand-style parts for sekund and bass players.

For more details about Klezmer Fiddle – a how-to guide (Oxford University Press, 2008) and a special introductory offer, visit www.ilanacravitz.com/bookoffer.html.

I hope you enjoy using the book, and look forward to your comments and feedback!

new Yale Strom children's book

The Wedding that saved a town

Yale Strom writes:

For those who love klezmer. A true klezmer story I researched in Poland turned into a children's story. It makes for a wonderful gift for your children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces and friends. Enjoy!

Find out more at Kar-Ben books

Happy Healthy New Year - A Zis un Gezint Naye Yor!
Yale Strom

Austin Klezmorim bring klez to "Festival Institute @ Roundtop"

Ya'll remember the Austin Klezmorim, one of the oldest klezmer revival bands, presenters of my favorite retelling of the Purim story, etc., etc., etc. Bandleader Bill Averbach writes of a new achievement, coming up this Oct 12:

I wanted to mention that we are preparing to do an historic concert in Texas. We're a good group to do historic Texas things in the Klezmer world. We are playing at the Festival Institute in Round Top, TX. This is the first time ever that they have had music other than symphonic performances. And, yes! The Austin Klezmorim are there to blaze new trails into the Vild Vest! EEEEEHAH!

We'll be playing a wide range (no pun intended … yeah, sure, why not a pun) of music starting with the most traditional through to the most contemporary (our stuff).

Ashkenaz Festival videos online

Let's start with this clip of the Flying Bulgars!

I think that we can think Jewish-Music list-member Leon Balaban for these, but the uploads are all made by someone named rwgould

You can find them all by searching on the tag "ashkenaz08"

"Signs of Peace" set to Susan Watts / Frank London's Klezmer Brass Allstars

Don't know anything about this, although I applaud the effort: Someone named "Barak Kassar" has created an interesting video ראש השנה card at rassak.com/5769/

Eli Herscovitch: Working on new project, "When Bialystock came to Montreal"

This sounds like a potentially interesting project. Anyone able to help Eli?

Hi Ari,

I just happened to come across your article about Finjan and it's never to late to say thank you for such a positive view. I was an original founding member of Finjan and played with them for 15 years!

I'm good friends with Sid Robinovitch, an accomplished composer who wrote "Suite for Klezmer Band and Orchestra", with Finjan in mind. Sid's five movement suite opened many doors for Finjan and lifted the band to new artistic heights.

These days I'm developing my own original project called, "When Bialystock Came To Montreal". I'm working with Danny Koulac (still a member of Finjan) and Jeff Preslaff.

Years ago when living in Montreal, I was fortunate to know Solomon Ary. At the age of 19, during the Great Depression he came to Canada from Bialystock. He was one of the lucky ones who "got out" shortly before the Nazi invasion.

In Montreal Ary was involved in literary and artistic groups and became personal friends with Bashevis Singer and Itzak Manger among others, but he didn't start writing until he was 65, at which point all his memories of Bialystock and his early days in Montreal came to life.

Although Ary started his literary career at an older age, he was immediately sought after for readings at cultural events.

A year ago I got an idea to create a performance that would blend story telling with music and in Ary's memory I named it "When Bialystock Came To Montreal".

I'm good friends with Ary's family and they sent me all his stories that were translated from Yiddish to English. Recently Ary's daughter translated two Yiddish stories at my request, with the plan that they will bearranged with music or join the others into a book of stories.

Recently I received a generous grant from the Manitoba Arts Council to develop my "Bialystock" project with the Trio and now I'm looking for venues to perform at. Can you suggest any ideas that might stear me in the right direction?

If you're interested to know more, I would be happy to 'get together and talk' or send you a sample of what I've been working on.

all the best,

p.s. By the way, the family also sent me tapes and cassette recordings that Ary made using just his voice, of about 50 "old" Jewish songs. I don't understand Yiddish well but I suspect there are some rare gems just waiting to see the light.

New Jazz Yizkor recording

This was sent by David Chevan in time for the Sept 11 remembrance, but has sat, like too many other entries, awaiting time. As we approach the High Holidays (and the election season), it still seems very relevant. Don't forget to check out his new CD of this recording. [ari]

“There are three ways to mourn. The first is to cry. The second is to grow silent. The third is to transform sorrow into song.” —Abraham Joshua Heschel

"Our friend, videographer Jay Miles, recently completed a film he made of The Afro-Semitic Experience and Hazzan Alberto Mizrahi recording the Yizkor prayer for Martyrs. He posted it on YouTube. I mention this only because today, September 11, you might want to take a moment to reflect and listen to a memorial prayer instead of listening to politicians mouth empty phrases and even emptier promises.

"If you are so moved, please share this music with your friends and family."

Klezmer Orchestra forming in London, UK

Just to let the on-line klezmer world know about a klezmer orchestra I am busy forming in the London UK area. The rehearsals for the orchestra will begin on Monday 13th of October at:- The Inn on the Green 3/5 Thorpe Close Ladbroke Grove London W10 5XL Website for more info on the location: www.iotg.co.uk The rehearsals will be every 3 weeks from 19.30-21.30 on 13th Oct.; 3rd Nov.; 24th Nov.; 15th Nov.; & led by the the very wonderful Ilana Cravitz. We want musicians, singers & dancers..! Do let the klezmer world know abou this special shtik!! for more info contact E-mail William Millis

September 27, 2008

The more-or-less 25 essential klezmer recordings

My wife is putting together a list for librarians of essential Jewish recordings—everything from classical to cantorial to Ashkenazic and Sephardic folk traditions. I tend never to make lists, never to recommend music. Sometime in adolescence I got tired of the "who is the best rock guitarist of all time" conversations. Best at what? Best when? Would I really want to be stuck on a desert island with this wanker? So, with the exception of the occasionally updated "10 CDs I'm listening to now" list, I stay clear.

Here's the problem. First, we all hear with different ears and for different reasons. Some recordings are simply great, but if I used greatness as a criterion, I'd have to include everything by Brave Old World and the Klezmatics and dozens of others. That's not a top-25 list. I'd also have to include scores of CDs that move me greatly, or that are my idea of "comfort food", and I'd have to include merely "good" CDs by bands that I would go a long way in a snowstorm or across the desert to hear, because when I hear the recordings, I hear them live, again, and it feels so good.

But this is a different exercise. Suppose you wanted to express the breadth of klezmer—just that one bit of Jewish music? Suppose you wanted to ensure that people understood that there was amazing klezmer coming from places many of us aren't conscious of there being Jews, to being with? Suppose you had to give people a sense of the history of klezmer recordings and the ways the music is changing? In this case, I also tried to emphasized a few of the most promising young musicians.

So, finally, I made an arbitrary list of just a bit more than 25. In many cases I included "significant" CDs by a group, even though I might listen more to others. In a couple of cases I included more than one CD by an artist, but mostly, the rule was "if you appeared on one CD, that's all I was going to mention". I ended up barely mentioned European klezmer bands, which is quite painful and unfortunate. But I had to stop winnowing somewhere. And heaven help me from the rightful wrath of many friends whose bands could of/should have been on this list—and would have been included on a different day with the stream of my thinking going in a different direction. At best, all I can say is that this is a good place to begin, but not the only place to begin.

What I will say is this. If you email me your suggestions about who I left out, and if you include a few lines about why, I'll add those posts. (Any year I'll figure out how to re-code this blog and put back in the tools for comments (sans spam), but I have another year for my master's, it's an election year, and I'm working full-time, so it probably won't happen in time for this discussion.)

Here's the list:

  1. Moshe Berlin & Sulam / Klezmer Music from Tel Aviv, 1992 (Israeli "Meron" klezmer traditions—my favorite of his recordings, but there is also one from the Israeli national library, and heck, just about any recording would do)
  2. Naftule Brandwein / King of klezmer clarinet (reissue, 1996) (if Dave Tarras was "the Beatles," Brandwein was the "Rolling Stones")
  3. Brave Old World / Beyond the Pale, 1992 (this is the album where everything changed; still intense—but, heck, you really want all of their records)
  4. Flying Bulgars Tsirkus, 1999 (Canadian band as inventive as the Klezmatics, if you can find "Agada" or "Fire," those are just as essential and so very different)
  5. German Goldenshteyn / In the Tradition, 2006 (maybe the last of the old masters; immigrated from the former Soviet Union to Brooklyn in the 1980s; also check out his nephew Arkady Goldenshtein)
  6. Steven Greenman / Stempenyu's Dream 2004 (new klezmer)
  7. Klezmania / Shmoozin' 2008 (Australia—but, again, they produced no CDs that haven't been incredible)
  8. Klezmatics / Rise Up, 2003 (their best klezmer/Americana CD, I think, but to not also have at least "Jews with Horns" and "Brother Moses" (with Joshua Nelson) and Grammy-winning Woody Guthrie CD?)
  9. Klezmer Conservatory Band / Dance me to the end of love, 2000 (or any CD they've released, really. I was tempted to put their first, "Yiddishe Rennaissance" on the list because it was such an incredible jolt of energy, but that was nothing compared to what they've done since....)
  10. Klezmer Plus / featuring Sid Beckerman and Howie Leess 1991? (last recording by some of the American greats accompanied by Pete Sokolow and Henry Sapoznik)
  11. David Krakauer / Bubbemeises (klezmer-jazz-hip hop—who could have too many Krakauer recordings, or see him too often? Just because I haven't reviewed this yet, don't let it pass)
  12. Mikveh, 2001 (klezmer and Yiddish by an all-woman band of the best)
  13. Lerner Moguilevsky Dúo / Sobreviviente, 2003 (Argentinian klezmer-jazz. This is their live recording, and perhaps their most accessible CD)
  14. Margot Leverett & the Klezmer Mountain Boys / 2nd Ave Square Dance (klezmer+bluegrass. Still not officially released. You do have all of Margot's recordings, right?)
  15. Frank London's Klezmer Brass Allstars / Carnival Conspiracy, 2005 (world music klezmer brass under direction of Frank London. Another person whose work any klezmer afficionado—or fan of excellent, interesting, always different music—should know intimately)
  16. Itzhak Perlman / In the Fiddler's House, 1995 (you get the Klezmatics, Brave Old World, Klezmer Conservatory Band, Andy Statman … and Perlman. What's not to treasure?)
  17. Joel Rubin / Midnight Minyan (most recent, and an excellent representative of his music. A review is due.)
  18. Shirim Klezmer Orchestra / Naftule's Dream, 1993 (another album that just changed everything; still great; you must also have their most recent, "Mayses")
  19. Shtreiml / Spicy Paprikash, 2003 (Canada, new generation of klezmer. They have three albums; don't miss any)
  20. SoCalled / GhettoBlaster (Canada—yiddish and klezmer as re-imagined as hip hop; don't miss his CD with Sophie Solomon, "hiphopkhasene," or his work with David Krakauer)
  21. Andy Statman and David Grisman / Songs of our Fathers, 1995 (perhaps the best yiddish/klezmer/bluegrass fusion)
  22. Andy Statman & Zev Feldman / Jewish Klezmer Music 1979? (one of the CDs that kicked off the revival)
  23. Strauss/Warschauer Duo / Rejoicing (klezmer-chasidic; new Jewish music and one of the most amazing recordings of recent years; a must-have for Yiddish, Chasidic, new Jewish music, or klezmer)
  24. Alicia Svigals / Fidl, 1997 (the CD that made klezmer fiddle matter by the original Klezmatics fiddler and an amazing teacher)
  25. Dave Tarras / Yiddish-American Music, 1925-1956 (reissued 1996?) (the master)
  26. Veretski Pass / Trafik, 2008 (the most recent by the best of Eastern European roots klezmer; see the larger "Budowitz" ensemble, as well as anything by "Di Naye Kapelye" or that features Christian Dawid)
  27. Michael Winograd / Bessarabian Hop 2007 (new traditional klezmer by one of the most interesting young klezmorim)


The series curated by Rita Ottens and Joel Rubin is essential. I mention here the first four that I encountered, available on Wergo.

  1. Patterns of Jewish Life (Brave Old World, Epstein Bros, Seymour Rexsite & Miriam Kressyn, et al) (2x) (An amazing snapshot assembled by Joel Rubin & Rita Ottens; includes a disk's worth of Ashkenazic and Sephardic cantors)
  2. Doyres (Generations) Traditional Klezmer Recordings 1979 - 1994
  3. Shteygers (Ways) New Klezmer Music 1991 - 1994
  4. Yikhes (Inheritance) Klezmer Recordings from 1907 - 1939

28 Sep—Howard Wolfson provides one example of other excellent choices for this list: Desert Island Klezmer Discs

September 26, 2008

Paul Brody's Sadawi in Lithuania

Here's a nice Rosh Hashana treat, as it were—interview with Paul Brody, with clips from a performance by his band "Sadawi," in Vilnius, Lithuania. Treat it as a counter to this summer's antisemitic incidents in that once-very-Jewish town.


And, of course, German-based trumpeter Paul Brody's bands are worth listening to regardless, or from wherever.

September 6, 2008

Zev Feldman at Music Mountain, CT, today

I have to call your attention to an extraordinary event happening today that most people wouldn't otherwise notice: The Alexander Fiterstein Trio: Music of the European Jewish Wedding.

Walter Zev FeldmanIt is at Music Mountain in Falls Village, CT, on Saturday, Sept. 6 at 6:30pm. and features clarinetist Alexander Fiterstein along with the maestro of the tsimbl, Zev Feldman, and the avatar of the accordion, Christina Crowder. Ignore the rain, I say. This is not to be missed if you are anywhere within a few hours of the event.


Andy Statman blows Ashkenaz away

There is so much more I could write about the Ashkenaz festival that ended on Monday night. Time is already intervening. But I can let other impressions pass except for this: Andy Statman at the finale. I tend to avoid Statman when he is playing with his trio because, brilliant as he is, he still manages to sound noodly and phoning it in—to me, at least.

But this was different. Usual drummer—Larry Eagle—an excellent drummer, even better. But the bass part was played by Mark Rubin of the Bad Livers, Frank London's Klezmer Brass Allstars, the "Other Europeans" project, and anywhere else that the bass gods are needed. My God it was awesome. The two of them, Rubin and Statman, were trading runs and pushing each other in some insane bluegrass klezmer apocalypse. Statman was on his usual clarinet and mandolin. At one point, towards the end of a 45 minute set, Eagle left his drum kit and began drumming along the bottom of Rubin's bass while Rubin used his fingering to play with Eagle's drumming and still managed to keep a counter-rhythm going. Fucking unbelievable. This is the of those lifetime concert moments. And Statman? Statman blew and plucked like his life depended on it. It felt like the two of them (Statman and Rubin) were just in their own world and determined to make a mark and then couldn't stop.

Awesome, in the original meaning.

Rubin notes, in private email, that he and Andy practiced hard to get that good together, but also notes that they remain excited. If this leads to a tour—Statman, Rubin, and Eagle—I could be tempted play groupie and tag along night after night.

As for Ashkenaz? The next one is due in 2010. Sign up for the email list at www.ashkenazfestival.com or check out the Ashkenaz Foundation and Festival group on Facebook.

September 1, 2008

Jewish Music Brunch in Toronto - Bella, did you eat?

Before I forget, I must kvell about this weekly Jewish brunch in Toronto. It happens every Sunday. There is always a band, although mercifully for our large crowd, we managed to get in and talk talk talk before the music started.

Such a brunch. I felt like the guy in the Mickey Katz number, "Essen." There were a couple types of scrambled eggs, there were latkes and fishcakes and a dozen types of fish from gefilte to white fish there were bagels and breads and cakes and salads and felafel and humus and fresh fruit and more. I think the ad claimed 40 different kinds of food. I think that was an understatement.

The food was very, very good.

Every Sunday at the Freetimes cafe, freetimes.sites.toronto.com, 320 College St., Toronto. Mon-Fri 11:30am- 2:00am, Sat 11:00am- 2:00am, Sun 11:00am- 1:00am (although I think the brunch ends earlier in the afternoon). Tel: (416) 967-1078, Fax: (416) 967-0853.

We'll be back next time we're in Toronto. Tell Judy I sent you.

Quick report from Ashkenaz

I have good intentions to write more about the festival once I get back to the States (and dread that drive). Those intentions may end up with my notes from Israel last spring.

So, here are some quick high points:

Basya SchaechterFirst, kudos to Eric Stein for bringing in a diversity of traditional Jewish cultures in flux—not being stuck on just Yiddish and klezmer. Pharaoh's Daughter last night was one proof of how much interesting music is coming from outside our Eastern European cultural world. Bandleader Schachter was so grounded and comfortable, and the band, supplemented by sax maven Alex Kontorovich, was so tight, even in the longer improvisations. The material focused largely on traditional Ladino, Yiddish (including a rousing "Shnirele Pirele"), and liturgical Hebrew—I didn't notice any of the new Heschel material (Schaechter has set several love poems by the late AJ Heschel to music.) It was easily the best concert in the large stage all day—although Streiml were in excellent form, themselves, and "Sisters of Sheynville" were sheer delight.

Saturday night, Konsonans Retro blew the stage away (okay, that was an easy statement), which isn't to say that the Klez Dispensers were less than superb, either. Many indoor concerts were over-subscribed, so I'll be cutting out of the parade early today to ensure that I see the new Marilyn Lerner-Adrienne Cooper piece.

Dancing on the lawn with Konsonans Retro at Ashkenaz 2008The other thing to note is how much Eastern European folk dancing is happening. There are at least three hours a day, converting the main lawn of the event area into a place where traditional klezmer, accompanied by primo dance instructors including Toronto's own Helen Winkler, keeps people moving in circles (sometimes twining lines, or couples) throughout the day. This should become sine qua non for all Jewish music festivals—it's important for learning/remembering basic dance steps, and it matters that people see other people having fun dancing to traditional Eastern European simkhe music. In that sense, this festival is still very much "Ashkenaz."