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October 30, 2008

My bubby is voting for Obama

I really do not like to let my political sentiments leak onto pages that are focused only on the diversity of Jewish music—regardless of the politics (or lack thereof) of the performers. But, this one echoes some of my own sentiments, and, hey, it's "Romania, Romania."

Long-time readers of this site will recall the very old, "Seattle, Tacoma" from the Mazeltones, and the Australian-tinged, didgideroo-enhanced version from Klezmania. Here, for your viewing and listening pleasure, "Oy, Mcainia":

And, remember, regardless of your political affiliations or leanings, you have just a few more days to dig into the issues, make informed decisions, and get your tuches to the polls on Tuesday (by Tuesday if your state allows early voting)—remember, man proposes, G-d laughs—don't leave voting for the last minute if you don't have to.

October 28, 2008

Palin comes out against Klezmer Fiddling. Feh.

I have to thank Bob Cohen, whose band, Di Naye Kapelye is about to release a new CD featuring SoCalled, Michael Alpert, yet another hutsul band... right. I have Bob to thank for this choice tidbit. I'll give ya'll the start, but to read the whole thing, check out his own blog post:

I found this bit of ignorant Republican wingnuttery on the morning news surf today, which I present as an example of the level of intelligence that the GOP campaign offices are able to attract these days. Last week Republican talking points included attacks on Saul Alinsky (1909-1972) who is generally considered to be the founder of modern community organizing in America, the political practice of organizing communities to act in common self-interest. Alinsky was active in Chicago during the 1950s and 60s, mainly working in civil rights issues. So of course, he's a terrorist, even though he's been dead since the Nixon era. What is fun, however, is the not so surprising fact that Republicans can't spell...

sign captured by Bob Cohen. Who is 'Solinski'?Oh, yeah. My stepson used to play with Alinsky's grandson, as sweet a kid as you could ask to know. Slandering Alinsky is slandering my son's friends. Feh. If your state allows early voting, get your rear in gear and vote so that you can spend nov 4th helping get out the vote and getting people to the polls. Me? I'll be helping said stepson, who is running a campaign for state senate for a mensh of a candidate. I guess that Alinsky stuff wore off on him. He can do a decent freilach on the sax when pushed, too.

October 22, 2008

Nat Hentoff on David Chevan's "Yizkor"

YizkorJews and Blacks Join in This 'Yizkor', by Nat Hentoff, Oct 7, 2008

'There is now a recording, "Yizkor: Music of Memory" by David Chevan and the Afro-Semitic Experience—original, resonantly melodic jazz settings of Jewish prayers and psalms -- that Mingus and I, if he were still here, could rise and share. The hazzan here, often improvising with the soul-stretching intensity of John Coltrane, is the internationally renowned Alberto Mizrahi, described by the BBC as "riding the notes [like] the Jewish Pavarotti."'

Judy Wachs, 70, founder of Voice of the Turtle, z"l

Judith T. Wachs, from RootsWorldJudith Cohen writes to the Jewish-Music mailing list:

I was terribly saddened to read of Judy Wach's death [on Oct 9, 2008]. There is a place to sign a condolence book here.

The Founder and Artistic Director of the Sephardic music group, Voice of the Turtle, Wachs will be very much missed.

An article in the Boston Globe, Judith Wachs, 70; brought new life to Sephardic music, by Bryan Marquard on October 19, 2008, begins:

The epiphany came in the late 1970s when Judith Wachs heard someone sing the Sephardic folk song "Skalerika de Oro." It was as though she had been searching for this kind of music, and the songs were seeking her.

"Whenever I tell this story, I still feel the shock of hearing that piece for the first time," she told the Globe in 1997. "It was entirely Spanish, unlike anything I had ever heard, and yet it was unmistakably Jewish and totally reminiscent of everything I had ever heard. My first reaction was, 'How can there be a Jewish music I've never heard before? I've been listening to Jewish music from all over the world all my life.' "

rest of article

A discography of her work with Voice of the Turtle is available on Joel Bresler's new www.sephardicmusic.org site

There is a wonderful 2000 interview with her from RootsWorld, Judith Wachs of Voice of the Turtle talks with Aaron Howard about 'creative conjecture' and the re-creation of Sephardic music in modern America., as well as a small live jounal entry by JWG.

Di Grine Kuzine get silly

I can't resist. Here is the German klezmer band, Di Grine Kuzine doing a brassy sounding, visually thoroughly cheesy version of "Popcorn" from way, way back in 2003 (gee, that's generations in Internet years):

"Tanzhoyz" movement spreads to Chicago

From Eastern European Jewish dance powerhouse Steve Weintraub:

Chag Sameach everyone. I'm very happy to announce that Chicago now joins NYC and the Bay Area in what I may dare to call the "Tanzhoyz Movement". (Who's next, I wonder) I'll be hosting monthly Yiddish dance parties with live music! Here's to getting those dances back into the community. Wish us luck!

Join us at the HOPKELE
Chicagoland's NEW monthly Klezmer Dance Party
Led by Internationally renowned Yiddish DanceMaster STEVE WEINTRAUB
With LIVE music provided by KURT BJORLING and Members of CHICAGO KLEZMER ENSEMBLE

Last Wednesdays of the month (mostly)
October 29, 7:30pm to 9:30pm
303 Dodge Avenue
Evanston, Illinois

$8 / $5 JRC members and students

October 18, 2008

New release from Ljova & the Kontraband

CD cover

Inna Barmash, author of the Zemerl Yiddish song database, writes the Jewish-Music list:

I wanted to let you all know about the new record we just released with my husband's band, Ljova & the Kontraband - "Mnemosyne". Here's a page with all the info, some samples, and ways to buy the album.

There is something for everyone on this album - lyrical melodies, hiccupping rhythms, virtuosic improvizations, songs sung by yours truly (including a song in Yiddish). The music is sort of an organic delicious intersection of klezmer/gypsy/tango/latin/blues—but don't take my word for it :)

The band is:

  • Ljova Zhurbin (viola/famiola)—dubbed "the world's hottest violist" by George Robinson in the pages of the Jewish week (and I can't disagree ;)
  • Patrick Farrell (accordion)
  • Mathias Kunzli (percussion)
  • Mike Savino (bass)
  • and I sing :)

Several tracks on the recording ("Mnemosyne", "Koyl") also feature *Frank London* on trumpet (who needs no introduction on this list) and *Uli Geissendoerfer * on piano.

Enjoy the music, and I'd love to hear from you! Press release for the album below.

MNEMOSYNE is the debut release of LJOVA AND THE KONTRABAND, a new ensemble project dedicated to original music that washes away distinguishing lines between chamber music, jazz, contemporary global folk music. The ensemble was founded by violist and composer, Lev 'Ljova' Zhurbin, an active collaborator of Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, the Kronos Quartet, composer Osvaldo Golijov, as well as a growing list of independent filmmakers. (Among them, Francis Ford Coppola, who used Ljova's composition "Middle Village" in his latest film, "Youth Without Youth"; and "Man on Wire" director James Marsh, for whom Ljova scored the BBC documentary "The Team", co-directed with Basia Winograd.)

Ljova explains: "Mnemosyne is the Greek name for the goddess of memory, and in a way, this is a tribute to our collective experience. In the past few decades, there have been massive revivals in almost every genre and region of music. While a major part of these revivals has been to rediscover the proverbial "Golden Era", we've concentrated on trying to take these directions further, freeing our musical influences from their historical characteristics and context."

As a classically-trained violist and composer, in leading an ensemble of jazz- and folk-trained musicians for the first time, Ljova found great new creative freedom in rehearsal and performances. The Kontraband never performs the same set twice, and Ljova constantly adds new pieces to the repertoire, each one unique, challenging and yet instantly accessible.

Speaking about the arch of the album, Ljova talks about the album having an upswing at both ends, "but in the very center of the album, there is a feeling of loss and sadness," he says. The album begins quite innocently with a gentle rustle of percussion and found toys in MATHIAS, a tune Ljova wrote to celebrate the hyper energy of his percussionist, Swiss-born Mathias Kunzli, and also one for which Ljova has asked a young electronica producer, EmiKa, to re-space and re-interpret the original composition in the digital domain, re-sampling the instruments to create alternate atmospheres and beats, striving to create a new kind of upbeat dance music, in 5/8 time, and also featuring a fearless solo by accordionist Patrick Farrell. It is quickly followed by MNEMOSYNE, the title track, from a completely different sound world, a tango-influenced setting of a hundred year-old poem by Trumbull Stickney, featuring the vocal of Ljova's wife and the lead vocalist of the gypsy band Romashka, Inna Barmash, and Grammy-winning trumpeter Frank London of the Klezmatics. The track was mixed by Anibal Kerpel, whose work with Oscar-winning composer, guitarist and producer Gustavo Santaolalla and his group Bajofondo has continuously pushed Tango – and indeed a whole generation of Latin music—further.

Next follows WALKING ON WILLOUGHBY, an elegant bittersweet composition that is inspired by the streets of Brooklyn by the group's accordionist, Patrick Farrell; Ljova's frenetic LOVE POTION, EXPIRED jump-cuts between Brazilian and Balkan influences, all the while blasting through an accelerating tarantella. Things take a sad turn in KOYL, Ljova's arrangement of a song found in the Moshe Beregovski collection of Old Jewish Folk music, featuring once again the voice of Inna Barmash and Frank London, this time on flugelhorn; but optimism shines again in the tranquil HOW EASILY I GET LOST, a composition by the ensemble's bassist, Mike Savino, who uses wrapper from a bag of potato chips to create a gently fuzzing effect on his solo, recalling his bass's African counterparts.

Midway through the album comes LESS, a composition Ljova recorded by multitracking his viola to create a quintet of searching voices for the soundtrack of the poetic short film "Un Peu Moins". It is followed by CRUTCHAHOY NIGN, a Klezmer-inspired piece alternating between melancholy and celebratory dancing, which Ljova penned to console his mother when she fell in an accident, and had to walk on crutches for several weeks. UNTANGO and SZEKI are two compositions from the soundtrack to the independent film "Serpent's Breath", keenly influenced by the music of Tango Nuevo and Astor Piazzolla. UNTANGO features the soulful performances of guest accordionist William Schimmel, of the Grammy-nominated Tango Project, and pianist Uli Geissendoerfer; SZEKI is a crossroads of Tango harmonies with the rhythmic inspiration from the folk dances from the Transylvanian town of Szek.

As the album draws towards its end, the Kontraband offers GONE CRAZY, the humorous end-title song from the short film "Cupcake," which premiered at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival, featuring guest pianist Alon Yavnai, tubist Marcus Rojas, and the voice of Inna Barmash. At last, the band performs Ljova's BAGEL ON THE MALECON, a signature tune made popular on his debut recording, and numerous concert performances by the Enso String Quartet, Brooklyn Rider, and others.

The album's cover art features work by Rena Effendi, an Azeri photographer living in Baku. The two booklet photographs feature mysterious female figures, perhaps alluding to modern expressions of Mnemosyne, the Greek Goddess of Memory, while the interior tray image of a deserted stove makes sure that the CD is always kept at proper heat. LJOVA AND THE KONTRABAND (formerly Ljova & the Vjola Contraband)—is chamber-jam music for the "remix generation". As if by alchemy, Eastern-European and Gypsy melodies, Latin rhythms, Jazz-inspired improvisations, and deeply rooted Classical forms are given new meanings in original compositions that fearlessly forge a new direction, with a nostalgic gaze towards the past. Members of the Kontraband have performed on stage and in the studio with Yo-Yo Ma, Moby, the Panorama Brass Band, Kate Havnevik, Lauryn Hill, the Klezmatics, and others.

Since making its debut at the Om Factory Yoga Studio in June 2006, the ensemble has performed at venues such as the New York's Museum of Modern Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where it was the opening musical guest of the Sundance@BAM Film Festival. The Kontraband is also a mainstay at New York's legendary venue Joe's Pub, and the Brooklyn-based club, Barbes.

Founded by the maverick film composer, arranger, and violist Lev 'LJOVA' Zhurbin—hailed by Billboard magazine as "one of New York's fastest rising composers and instrumentalists"—the ensemble also features his close collaborators on vocals, accordion, bass and percussion. Inspired by his collaborations with Yo-Yo Ma, Osvaldo Golijov, the Kronos Quartet, the rapper Jay-Z and others, Ljova's compositions dazzle with intricate textures, odd rhythms and lilting melodies, creating music that is both fresh and timeless.

"I am simply in awe of Lev's talents. He is one of the outstanding exponents of a new generation of musicians that I consider, in a good sense, mutants. Equally at home in a chamber group or symphony orchestra playing the canon of the literature or the most complex modernistic settings, or imaginatively improvising on folk melodies with musicians from around the world, Lev proves that an integration between seemingly different cultures is possible, inevitable, and fruitful." —OSVALDO GOLIJOV

Hailed by Billboard Magazine as "one of New York's fastest-rising composers and instrumentalists", LJOVA (Lev Zhurbin) stands at the forefront of his generation as the premiere bridge between the world's musical cultures. Ljova was born in 1978 in Moscow, Russia, and moved to New York with his parents, composer Alexander Zhurbin and writer Irena Ginzburg, in 1990. He divides his time between performing as a violist in diverse groups ranging from his own LJOVA AND THE KONTRABAND, to string quartets, jazz combos and Gypsy bands; studying and arranging music for Yo-Yo Ma, the Kronos Quartet, Jay-Z and others; and composing original music for film, TV, theatre and the concert stage.

Ljova is the author of more than 70 compositions for classical, jazz, and folk ensembles, as well as scores to three feature and over a dozen short films. He is co-founder of Mediant Music, a new company specializing in music for advertising and media. In 2005, Ljova was one of six composers invited to participate in the Sundance Institute's Film Composers Lab. In 2007, Ljova worked as assistant to composer Osvaldo Golijov on his score to Francis Ford Coppola's film "Youth Without Youth", to which Ljova also contributed an original track, "Middle Village". Most recently, Ljova was as guest faculty at the Banff Centre in Canada.

As an arranger, Ljova has completed dozens of musical arrangements for Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, the Kronos Quartet, the rapper Jay-Z, Bond, Matmos, and others. Resulting from these collaborations are arrangements of musics from Azerbaijian, China, India, Iran, Japan, Russia, Tanzania, as well as gypsy music from Romania and France.

Ljova has recently released his acclaimed debut recording, VJOLA: WORLD ON FOUR STRINGS, featuring original and traditional music, on Kapustnik Records. Previously, he has recorded with Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble on the bestselling Sony Classical CD "Silk Road Journeys: Beyond the Horizon", and with The Andalucian Dogs on the Deutsche Grammophon CD "Ayre", featuring the music of Luciano Berio and Osvaldo Golijov. He has performed on tour with Savion Glover, and recorded with composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, producer Guy Sigsworth and the Electric Light Orchestra. Ljova grew up in a household filled with music, books and an unquenchable hunger for culture. His father, Alexander Zhurbin, is Russia's foremost composer for film and musical theatre; his mother, Irena Ginzburg, is a distinguished poet, writer and journalist. He began violin lessons at age four with Galina Turchaninova, a celebrated pedagogue who also taught violinists Maxim Vengerov and Vadim Repin. When not practicing, the pre-teen Ljova regularly overran his record player and played street hockey.

Ljova is a graduate of The Juilliard School, where he was a pupil of Samuel Rhodes (violist of the Juilliard String Quartet). He has won numerous prizes as a composer, and appeared several times as soloist with orchestras, including as a winner of the Menschenkinderpreis from RTL TV (Germany).,/p>

In addition to a busy career as a composer and arranger, Ljova maintains a rigorous performing schedule as a violist. He can be heard most often his ensemble LJOVA AND THE KONTRABAND, the Gypsy party band ROMASHKA, the viola/cello duo JOINT CUSTODY, with Walter Thompson's SP4TET, as well as many other freelance groups and projects. Ljova performs on a viola made by Alexander Tulchinsky, and a six-string hybrid made by Eric Aceto.

For the latest news, downloadable mp3s and CD releases, please visit Ljova's website at Ljova.com

Abraham Inc., Live at Ashkenaz, on CBC radio

From the Ashkenaz Festival folks

Undoubtedly one of the highlights of this past Ashkenaz Festival was the Canadian premiere performance of Klezmer-funk supergroup Abraham Inc., featuring David Krakauer, Socalled, and funk legend Fred Wesley. The performance for a near-capacity crowd at Harbourfront thrilled young and old alike, and was recorded by CBC Radio for broadcast on the program "Canada Live." If you missed the show, or simply want to relive the moment, the show will be broadcast nationally on CBC Radio Two (94.1 fm in Toronto) tonight Wednesday October 15 at 8pm. The show will also be available online, for free on demand, from the "Canada Live" website.


Shemspeed celebrates first anniversary, Nov 18


Mark your iCals! On November 18th Shemspeed will be taking over the hottest new club in town, Le Poisson Rouge for the Shemspeed One Year Anniversary Party! The night will feature Shemspeed's favorite artists including, Electro Morocco, Piamenta, King Django, Diwon, Smadar,, Y-Love, Avi Fox-Rosen, KoshaDillz, Blue Fringe and special guests... Definitely pass this on to your fam/friends/fiends. This is an event that you do not want to miss!

Nov 18th 2008
Doors at 6pm | Show at 7pm
158 Bleeker St, NYC
Buy Tickets at http://lepoissonrouge.inticketing.com/evinfo.php?eventid=29252

To ensure a spot and get in for only 10bux, purchase tickets now.

Come celebrate the Anniversary of Shemspeed and the launch of The Shemspeed Daily @ www.shemspeed.com/daily

New website on Sephardic music discography: www.sephardicmusic.org

From Joel Bresler, the go-to person on Sephardic discography:

Dear Friends:

Sephardic Music Site logoI am very pleased to announce the launch of my site, www.sephardicmusic.org. The site chronicles the first 100 years of commercial Sephardic recordings. It includes survey articles on the 78 and modern eras, a comprehensive discography of Sephardic 78s, and a sample of what a future discography of modern-era recordings could look like.

I have tried to take advantage of the web's multimedia capabilities to expand well beyond the normal contents of a discography (artist, title, place and date recorded, etc.) Wherever possible, I include label graphics and sound samples. A Union Catalog feature shows which public institutions own a particular recording, and I have normalized the songs' titles so that users can find all versions of any given song. Last, I have included information on the labels that published these recordings, the artists that made them, and the stores that sold them. I would welcome your comments.

Thank you for your help and support over the past decade.

Joel Bresler

October 12, 2008

A beautiful afternoon at the Rose Kennedy Greenway

Little Shop of Horas on the GreenwayIt was a beautiful afternoon on the cusp between summer and fall. In typical Boston fashion, this meant that one minute the sun was shining and warm; the next it was overcast. Children played leapfrog on the lawn. Adults danced. The occasional handstand or game of catch took place on the sidelines. Given no choice as to date (one hopes that a new Jewish Center for Art and Culture would voluntarily have chosen to celebrate during the Sabbath between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, with an event starting around the time religious Jews would be heading into musaf services), the New Center for Arts and Culture brought Brian Bender's delightful "Little Shop of Horas" out at noon, where they started off with a nice version of Flory Jagoda's "Ocho Kandelikos" and then favored the international music theme of the day by moving into a Latin-American flavorted "Papirosn," followed by a host of world music ranging from reggae to Turkish. The band stretched and hit some excellent grooves under the afternoon sun.

For dessert, we had David Buchbinder's crisp, intense "Odessa/Havana" project. Buchbinder was straight from a two-day Jewish-Palestinian cabaret run in Toronto, and the change of pace was sharp and delightful. At one point, a street marching band came by. The band didn't miss a beat and started jamming with the street band. Anyone who hasn't heard the ensemble's CD should do themselves a favor and order up a copy right away.

All in all, a nice taste of what might be coming once the New Center opens on the Greenway in 2011.

Pete Sokolow with the Tarras Band

Michael Winograd posts this video in which Pete Sokolow talks about Dave Tarras with the Tarras Band—contemporary musicians playing Dave Tarras' music:

October 5, 2008

More from Krakow Jewish Music Festiva, 2008 - the finale

Christian Dawid sends in these two clips from the festival finale. The first is general chaos. In the 2nd, Jewlia Eisenberg appears to be leading an American gospel song?….