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September 16, 2009

Dan Kahn & Painted Bird + Salt Wives, tonight, Lilypad, Cambridge, MA

The Salt Wives sound like a very interested local band, and Daniel Kahn just seems to get better. If I can keep my eyes open so far past my bedtime, this is where I'll be until the wee hours, tonight.

Painted BirdDaniel Kahn & The Painted Bird

Sept 16 10:00 PM
The Lily Pad
1353 Cambridge St, Cambridge, Massachusetts
With David Symons & The Salt Wives

September 13, 2009

Jo Amar, z"l, June 26, 2009

Jo Amar passed away on June 26. The news was first announced to the world in the Jerusalem Post on June 28. Haaretz captured more of the essence of the singer and his significance, with some wonderful quotes from scholar Edwin Seroussi.

The New York Times obituary also captured much of who he was: Jo Amar, Genre-Blending Jewish Singer, Dies at 79, by Bruce Webber, published Jul 9, 2009.

"Mr. Amar’s music was a hybrid, fusing Sephardic and North African-Arab songs, Jewish liturgical vocal styles and even Western-style harmonies into a kind of Middle Eastern pop. He sang in a bright, engaging tenor, recording about 20 albums, and with his crowd-pleasing manner, he performed not only in large performance halls with full orchestras but also in cabarets and at weddings and other private functions. He was often asked to be the guest cantor on Jewish High Holy Days, invitations he accepted selectively, in cities including Paris and Casablanca." [more]

Lori Lippitz, from Maxwell Street Klezmer, wrote: "I loved his singing and learned many tunes from his recordings. Very special to me is his Hamavdil with an Arabic-style chorus (French Morrocan)."

Eva Broman located several tributes to Jo Amar:

Eyal Golan & Avihu Medina in a great medley

Aviva Avidan with selections from "Taverna":

A news retrospective about Jo Amar, with clips, and with interviews of people about Amar, in Hebrew:

Ben Bresky interview of Tim Sparks

from Ben Bresky:

Can Non-Jews Play Klezmer? Tim Sparks does on his new CD

cd coverCan a Gentile play Jewish music? Which is more Jewish? Barbra Steisand's Christmas album or Tim Sparks' klezmer album? Find out in this in depth interview with non-Jewish jazz guitar virtuoso Tim Sparks on his new CD 'Little Princess', which gives Naftule Brandwein, the 1920s king of the klezmer clarinet, a smooth instrumental jazz treatment.

Click here for mp3 podcast download

Publicity on work by Greg Wall, et al, for a cure

Pioneering a cure, by Mel Bezalel, Jun 15, 2009, Jerusalem Post

When the first pioneers arrived on these shores almost 100 years ago, they carried with them numerous and varied cultural identities, a reminder of their home communities that, in many cases, had evolved over many generations.

Music was a significant facet of this, says the New York-based Rabbi Greg Wall, producer of Pioneers for a Cure (PfaC), a charity project officially launched on Yom Ha'atzmaut this year to raise funds for cancer research through re-recording and distributing pioneer songs. Thirty tracks were recorded over the past two years in a New York studio, and are now available to download. [More]

Article on Israel's "Oy Division"

Israeli radio's Ben Bresky sent me this a couple of months ago. It's still a good article about an interesting band:

Israeli Klezmer Revival Band 'Oy Division' Rocks Tel Aviv by Ben Bresky, Jun 10, 2009

If you think a club in Tel Aviv is no place to find a rocking acoustic klezmer band, then think again. On any given night, Oy Division is playing to an enthusiastic group of young Israelis. The rockers, jazz musicians, and world beat singers who make up the group have never done Jewish-oriented material before. But they’re now dedicated to the music their grandparents played, as demonstrated on their new CD which features accordions, clarinets and singing in Yiddish and Russian.

Clarinet player Eyal Talmudi talked about the group's thoughts on klezmer, Yiddish culture in Israel and their unprecedented Rolling Stones cover on Israel National Radio's 'The Beat with Ben Bresky.'

Full article including video and photos.

New video: Klezmokum on tour

From Klezmokum's Burton Greene:

Klezmokum just posted 6 video clips from our tour of synagogues and culture centers in November, 2007 on youtube…. Check it out!

Also there's a documentary about my life and involvement with Jewish music at www.justin.tv/bgreene. (It's in 4 segments.. you have to wait about a minute for the first segment to begin.)

September 12, 2009

Klezmer Podcast - Watcha Clan - no touring US

I'm a bit late in posting this, but Keith Wolzinger is now doing video podcasts. The latest, #54, covers an interesting French ensemble, the Watcha Clan

Klezmer Podcast 54- Watcha Clan In Los Angeles

New CD, songs, art songs about peace, now available on CDBaby.com

Shalom Friends and Colleagues,

cd coverWe are thrilled to announce that our new CD—Chalamti Chalom, I Dreamt a Dream—is now available for purchase on CDBaby. You can listen to samples and purchase the CD through this direct link.

Included on the CD are pieces by Morris Barash, Paul Ben-Haim, Maurice Goldman, Michael Isaacson, Marc Lavry, Alan Menken, Sergiu Natra, Moishe Oysher, Lazar Weiner, Moseh Wilensky, and Chanan Yovel.

Also on this CD are two Hebrew settings written by Paul Ben-Haim before he made aliyah in 1933. Left unpublished and unperformed in his archive, we have brought these remarkable, virtuosic pieces back to light for the first time.

We have combined our talents to create this CD of Jewish peace songs in Hebrew, English, and Yiddish. The music ranges from secular to sacred, cantorial to broadway, and from art songs to popular melodies.

We hope that you will enjoy listening to Chalamti Chalom as much as we enjoyed producing it.

To purchase your copy—follow this link.

B'virkat Shalom,
David Berger and Joyce Rosenzweig

September 10, 2009

Klezmer Ensemble open house led by Jeff Warschauer, Manhattan, NY, Sep 15, 2009

The Workmen's Circle Klezmer Ensemble will be having a free open house on Tuesday, September 15, 2009, from 7-9 PM Jeff WarschauerLed by famed klezmer musician Jeff Warschauer Play wonderful music while making new friends and having a great time! For more information, please contact Sara Lerman at (212) 889-6800 ext. 252 www.circle.org The free open house will be followed by six paid sessions Tuesdays from 7-9 PM: Sept 22 and 29 Oct 6, 13, 20 and 27
  • Open to all instrumentalists who play and read music at at least an intermediate level
  • Study with an internationally recognized master instructor
  • Learn tunes from the diverse klezmer tradition
  • Develop tools for improvisation
Single session class fee: $30. $25 for Workmen's Circle members. Sessions will take place at the Workmen's Circle, 45 East 33 Street, Manhattan (between Park and Madison). Jeff Warschauer (guitar, mandolin, vocals) Internationally renowned as an instrumentalist, Yiddish singer and teacher. He is a member of the Strauss/Warschauer Duo, and was a long-time member of the Klezmer Conservatory Band. Jeff is Artistic Director of KlezKanada, is on the faculty of Columbia University, and has just begun graduate studies in the cantorial program at the Jewish Theological Seminary. For more information, please contact Sara Lerman at (212) 889-6800 ext. 252 www.circle.org

September 7, 2009

Premiere of Theo Bikel's "Shalom Aleichem: Laughter through Tears," NYC, Nov 8 - Dec 13, 2009

posterNEW YORK PREMIERE November 8th - December 13th Tickets now on sale! Click here to purchase tickets for THEO BIKEL in SHOLOM ALEICHEM: LAUGHTER THROUGH TEARS Written By Theodore Bikel Music Direction by Tamara Brooks Tamara Brooks, Piano Merima Kljuc(o, Accordion Directed by Derek Goldman Presented by Special Arrangement with National Jewish Theater Arnold Mittelman, Producing Artistic Director Originally developed in 2008 by Theater J, Washington, DC Ari Roth, Artistic Director and Patricia Jenson, Managing Director THIS SHOW WILL BE PERFORMED MOSTLY IN ENGLISH WITH YIDDISH AND RUSSIAN SUPERTITLES A PLAY WITH MUSIC CELEBRATING THE GREAT YIDDISH WRITER Regular Ticket Prices: Orchestra $55, Balcony $45, Students $25* *Student tickets can only be purchased at the box office, student ID required BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW Folksbiene logo Critically Acclaimed NEW YORK Premiere This great theatrical legend returns to New York to unveil this movingly delivered, beautifully sung show about the pioneering 19th - century author Sholom Aleichem. This is a tour de force one-man homage to a writer who was hailed as the Jewish Mark Twain. Told with warmth, humor and a rich catalogue of Yiddish music this major event will be enjoyed by all generations. Sholom Aleichem’s stories introduced the world to Tevye the Milkman and inspired the landmark Broadway musical, “Fiddler on the Roof.” Theo Bikel played Tevye more than 2,000 performances onstage… Now as playwright and star, Bikel brings back to life one of literature’s most beloved authors and a bevy of the unforgettable characters he created. He tells their stories… he sings their songs… he magically melds times long gone with matters that tug at our heartstrings even today. Singing in English and Yiddish, Bikel captivates his audience with an enchanting trove of music from Eastern Europe played live onstage by world-renowned musical director Tamara Brooks and acclaimed accordionist Merima Kljuco. Sholom Aleichem’s last will and testament implored that we remember him only with laughter… and laugh you will as Theo Bikel’s heartfelt creation touchingly fulfills that wish.

2nd Argentinian KlezFiesta, Buenos Aires, Nov 7-15, 2009

Ya esta llegando la 2º Edición de la Klezfiesta, y esta año llega recargado!!!
Próximamente recibirás información de los lugares y horarios de las presentaciones.

Buenos Aires
Del 7 al 15 de Noviembre de 2009

Website: www.klezfiesta.com.ar

Pix from First Jerusalem Klezmer Fest at beginning of August

Posted by Binyomin Ginzberg to the Jewish Music list last month—I'm just catching up now:.

[H]ere are some pictures and video from the first Jerusalem Klezmer Festival Itzik posted about. The accompanying text is in Hebrew.

More about the event (also in Hebrew).

There was also a book of Klezmer sheet music "Nishmat Haklezmorim—The Soul of Klezmer" released to coincide with the festival. I don't have much information about the song contents, but I do know that it includes the repertoire of the Jerusalem klezmorim and contains traditional dance melodies for the Bottle Dance, Tkhias Hameysim Dance, and more.

It has many photos and the text in translated into six languages. I did some of the English translations including forewords by Mousa Berlin and Giora Feidman.

I haven't seen the book yet—I wasn't at the festival—but I anticipate getting one soon, at which point I'll have more information about the contents, should anyone be interested.

Hot Damn! Ribs & Brisket Revue coming to Boston Oct 24-25

Ribs & Brisket RevueKlezmerShack favorites: Ribs & Brisket Revue
New England premiere! (If you don't count a wonderful show at the 2008 Paper Bridge fest in Amherst)

Saturday, October 24, 2009 8pm
Sunday, October 25, 2009 2pm

Ribs & Brisket Revue has been serving up heaping helpings of '40s & '50s-style Jewish jazz, Yiddish swing, and various kosher-style blues to fans everywhere. Ribs & Brisket Revue both entertains and impresses: chicken soup for the weary, postmodern soul. The most fun you’ll have at a concert this year!

Tickets: $25 General; $23 JCC members and seniors

Related events

Pre-show talk: Sunday, October 25, 2009 12:30pm
”Roots: Klezmer Meets Jazz—Exploring Jewish and African-American musical traditions” Hankus Netsky
Faculty, New England Conservatory; Founder and director, Klezmer Conservatory Band
Free with ticket to either show or $8 General / $5 JCC members

Ribs and brisket bake-off: Enter your favorite brisket recipe!
A panel of culinary judges, including Firefly’s chef, Steve Uliss and PBS Cookbook authors Sheila and Marilyn Brass, will select the best recipes. Winners will be announced at the Saturday evening show and a taste of the winning recipe will be served.

Winner receives

  • Gift Certificate to Firefly Restaurant
  • Free tickets to selected JCC events
  • JCC gym bag
  • Bragging rights!

new release of Sophie Tucker recordings

From Alex Lubet and Marvin Margoshes on the Jewish-Music list last week:

Big article on Tucker in yesterday's NY Times. This is the centennial of her recording debut and there's a cd re-release of her earliest sessions that was highly praised. The article is great, too.

A Century Later, She’s Still Red Hot, by Jody Rosen, Aug 28, 2009

You can find out more about Sophie Tucker on the Jewish Women's Archive, or see her live as part of the JWA film, Making Trouble, now available for home purchase. (Disclaimer: I am an employee of JWA and pretty damn proud of it because of materials like these. ari)

Zahava Seewald video

Oh, this is delicious—from Alain Mihaly :

Extrait du concert Jacques Franck en juin 2008. Zahava Seewald et Zohara interprètent : la chanson "Abulafiah, I would Lay down my life" compositeur J. Zorn sur un thème de Samuel Hanagid Extrait du concert Jacques Franck en juin 2008. Zahava Seewald et Zohara interprètent : la chanson "Abulafiah, I would Lay down my life" compositeur J. Zorn sur un thème de Samuel Hanagid

Good listening from KlezKanada

Every year I end up leaving KlezKanada with a bit more music than I arrived with. This means that the trip home in the car is especially fun. This year, there were few new CDs, but what was there represented, I think, the diversity and depth of this "Naye Dor" (new generation) that was on display at the great concert at camp.

cd coverThe hit of the pack is clearly this new CD by violinist Jake Shulman-Ment. Called אַ רעדעלע / A Wheel, his violin work is superb as he plays fairly traditional klezmer, with a few Yiddish vocals, all with a very pre-America European feel that is nicely complemented with tsimbl work by both NY's Pete Rushefsky and Cleveland's Alex Fedoriouk. Will this setting of Linestski's poem replace the Jerry Garcia song of similar name? Perhaps! In songs, as with life, the wheel keeps turning. This album? I'll be listening to it for a while. Pick up your copy at cdbaby.com.

cd coverShulman-Ment is involved in several bands. It is rare to see a klezmer- or Yiddish-related concert of interest in NYC that doesn't feature him, these days. One of his many side projects is a "transylvanian" folk band called "Metrofolk." Not knowing what I had in hand, I happened to swap it out in the car's CD player with an early Muzsik´s CD. For a few seconds I wondered if I had mistakenly left the first CD in place. Billed as "Traditional Gypsy, Hungarian, Romanian, and Jewish folk music and songs from Transylvania, freshly interpreted on the streets and subways of New York City," this first release, "Renegades of Folk" is a delight. Vocalist Kata Harsaczki is a lovely find. Shulman-Ment fiddles like a soul on fire. Pete Rushefsky makes a cameo on tsimbl, er, cimbalom. The repertoire includes some specificly Jewish songs from the region along with a host of other songs and tunes. The literal translation from Hungarian, "I smoked and burned my mouth" and "My heart aches inside and out" add piquancy. This is a fun album, and also available from CDbaby.com

cd coverAnd now for something completely different. Fans of New Orleans' Panorama Jazz Band have long been aware of Patrick Farrell's accordion playing. A recent transplant (except for during mardi gras season) to NYC, he is also a stalwart of the ever-amazing Frank London's Klezmer AllStars and Michael Winograd's klezmer ensembles. Now he has his New Orleans-style brass band, Stagger Back Brass Band and it rocks. This is the band you want to invite to your street party—to any party. It's a romp through world music as interpreted by New Orleans-style brass and it is as good as it sounds. Better. You can check out samples and pick up your own copy (and support the KlezmerShack by using this link) from the usual cdbaby.com.

cd coverOne of the elemental recordings of the Klezmer Revival was this 1978 recording by Dave Tarras, modestly titled, "Music for the Traditional Jewish Wedding," and originally released as a cassette from New York's Balkan Arts Center (now the Center for Traditional Music and Song headed up by the ubiquitous Pete Rushefsky). The recording was rereleased last year? on CD, and I now have a copy that I can easily listen to on my computer. It's not that I have forgotten how good Dave Tarras is, it's that I hadn't thought about this recording for a while and was surprised how often I found myself preferring familiar songs his way. We have created new "classics," but Dave Tarras was the Master of the Jewish Clarinet. It's worth the reminder. Get your copy from the CTMD and help support Pete! Your ears, your feet, and all but jealous clarinetists within range will thank you.

cd coverOne of the pleasures of KlezKanada was sitting across the table from Toronto's Yiddish scholar, Anna Sternshis, and her kids (did we talk about the explosion of babies at KlezKanada?) and discovered that she is married to Dan Rosenberg who is responsible for several of my favorite "Rough Guide" compilation CDs. (He is also responsible for the excellent Rounder set, "The Hidden Gate: Jewish Music From Around The World"). His guide to Israeli music was reviewed on the KlezmerShack a few years ago. I thought he juggled an impossible task and caught an incredible slice of what has been interesting and innovative in that country's music. I felt that his guide to the Klezmer Revival missed some critical bands (nothing from Australia's Klezmania and, I think nothing from Canada—not even the Flying Bulgars from his own town. There were also a few cuts I would probably not have put on my own compilation. On the other hand, had I realized that there was another volume coming, the "Rough Guide to Klezmer Revolution" I might have been more excited, because this CD does capture much of the breadth of what is new and exciting in klezmer-based new Jewish music. From the Klezmatics singing "I Ain't Afraid" to South America's Moguilsevsky & Lerner—and yes, the Flying Bulgars are here, along with SoCalled and Mikveh, Margot Leverett, and Shtreiml, and David Krakauer, and Wolf Krakowski, and Oi Va Voi, and lots more from around the world. In short, pretty much everyone I was pissed at him for leaving off the first CD! This is the best sampler of what's new in the Klezmer world since last year's KlezKanada compilation. As was the case with the Israeli music CD, it isn't that I can't think of incredible artists or bands who aren't represented, but that the geographic and music span of the diversity is so well represented. If you can't have everything, this is a good starting point. Hey, it's got Dan Kahn on the cover. It's got to be good. Pick up your copy today.

cd coverI mention one last recording, from 2003, because it kept coming up in conversation. Klezmania's Freydi Mrocki was at KlezKanada this year and kept kvelling about the soundtrack to this remarkable book by someone "down under" named Arnold Zable. It's called "The Fig Tree" and features music by Klezmania, Klezmeritis, and several Greek bands from the same neighborhood. It is such a delight that it is already part of my car-driving music repertoire. If you can figure out how to get a copy from down under, you'll thank me for it. I just have to get a copy of that darn book and see what the real fuss is about.

September 6, 2009

Audition for the Harvard Yiddish Players' Fall Prod. of "Shulamis"

Audition for Harvard's landmark production of the most popular Yiddish play of all time—Shulamis: a timeless Biblical operetta of love and deception, of the price of revenge and the power of forgiveness.

Our production will feature a new translation, a new musical score, a live orchestra, masks, avant-garde design elements, and innovative choreography. Songs will be performed in Yiddish (with supertitles), while the dialogue will be in English. NO PREVIOUS KNOWLEDGE OF YIDDISH REQUIRED. Actors and singers, please come prepared with a song (ideally a musical theater or opera selection). Dancers are encouraged to audition for our dance-only corps.

We are looking for actors, dancers, and singers of all ages and backgrounds for a large ensemble cast. Come audition to be a part of this historic, professionally guided project that will breathe new life into a Yiddish theatre classic!

Performance dates are December 2-6 at Harvard's historic Agassiz Theater in Radcliffe Yard. Rehearsals will run mid-September through early December. No rehearsals will be held on Saturdays or on Jewish or secular holidays.

Auditions will be held through Harvard Common Casting:

Tuesday, Sept. 8: 9 PM - Midnight
at the Agassiz Theater in Radcliffe Yard

Wednesday, Sept. 9: 9 PM - Midnight
Thursday, Sept. 10: 6-9 PM
at the New College Theater (10-12 Holyoke Street, Cambridge) in Harvard Square

For further information click here and click here, too!

Folksbiene: Calling All Kids

The National Yiddish Theatre - Folksbiene is casting its upcoming 2009-2010 production of Kids & Yiddish our annual family musical. We are seeking children (13 and under) and one young adult (16-25) union or non-union with an outgoing personality, excellent report with children, acting and movement skills, strong vocals and a working acquaintance with Yiddish or a great ear for language.

The show is presented primarily in English, however there is significant Yiddish content.

Actors wishing to be considered for Kids & Yiddish should prepare an up tempo song and present any other skills which would appeal to an audience of 4–10 year old children (juggling, magic, joke telling, puppetry, etc). Proficiency with one or more musical instruments a plus.

Kids & Yiddish has been presented annually since 1999. This show is a great way for parents and grand-parents to introduce children to Yiddish language and culture. Each year, Kids & Yiddish features new songs and sketches on relevant topics from popular culture and current events. This year's 10th anniversary edition is titled "Happy Birthday Kids & Yiddish!" A Perfect Tsen.

Written & Directed by Joanne H. Borts
Principal Songwriter Menachem Mike Fox
Musical Supervision by Zalmen Mlotek

Equity Principal Auditions will take place on Thursday September 10, 2009 from 2 PM to 6 PM.

No appointments are needed to be seen at the Equity Principal Auditions. Please note, that Actors' Equity Association members will be seen before non-members.

If you are not able to drop by during these hours, please call Julie at 212-213-2120 x211 to make an appointment for later that evening.

Auditions will take place at The Workmen's Circle Building, 45 East 33rd Street (between Park Ave. and Madison Ave.)

Director and/or Artistic Director and/or Associate Artistic Director will be present at auditions.

Beyond "Oy Vey": Yiddish Classes at The Workmen's Circle

Come learn some mameloshn! Choose from three levels: Beginners, Advanced Beginners, and Intermediate. The Beginners course provides an introduction to the Yiddish language, with a focus on basic conversation skills and elementary grammar. In Advanced Beginners, students will build their conversational vocabulary, strengthen grammar and further develop reading skills. In the Intermediate Level Yiddish Reading Circle, students will read and discuss stories in Yiddish by authors such as Sholem Aleykhem and I.B. Singer.

Classes begin on October 6th and run for 10 consecutive Tuesday evenings, 7:30 - 9:00 p.m at the Workmen's Circle, 1762 Beacon St. in Brookline. Tuition is $165 for Workmen's Circle members, $210 for non-members, with special rates for folks under 30: $90 for members, $125 for non-members. Call 617-566-6281 to register or go to www.circleboston.org.

From Joel Rubin

Pete Rushefsky pointed out that my klezmer dance set at KlezKanada with an all-star band incl. Jake Shulman-Ment, Josh Dolgin, Susan Watts, Dan Blacksberg, and Stu Brotman, has been posted to youtube in 3 parts. Here's pt. I, which will lead you to the others:

A good day for music / reconnecting with Danny Kalb

Danny KalbYesterday was a wonderful music day, full of contrast and interconnection. Early in the afternoon I wandered over to Club Passim, in Cambridge, where they have been holding an annual "campfire" series--continuous music, mostly by younger artists, non-stop from noon to midnite, over the whole weekend. It's an interesting mix of bands that looked like a lot of Celtic music and singer-songwriters. This is not a bad thing at all, but it contrasted bluntly with the recent Old Town Folk Fest I attended in Chicago in which the Old Town Music School hosted a lively festival in a local park with the staff bands (just considering the staff bands) ranging from hillbilly to African drumming. I adore Club Passim and have attended some of my favorite shows of all time there. For 50 years (not always under the same name) it has been a place to find good traditional music and the excellent things that come therefrom. The campfire festival may not fairly represent the span of the club and it's associated school's offerings. But I did note the difference from Old Town.

In this case I was alerted to the one overtly Jewish music band of the series--appearing, of course, on Shabbes, in the early afternoon, to ensure that nobody too strongly tied to Jewish religious practice could attend--even attendees of Reform of New Age services would have had to skip the Oneg and dash down to the club to get there in time. The band is called Ezekiel's Wheels, and it consists of some excellent young musicians--fiddle, trombone, accordion, clarinet--playing (mostly) traditional klezmer with great verve and skill. A good time was had by all, even if I had to rush off to attend to the day's chores. (I am not particularly tied to formal Jewish religious practice, as it happens. But I do have to get the chores done.) Two of the band's members have been in the Brown University klezmer band, Yarmulkazi, since 2004. Most recently, they are just back from KlezKanada, so you know that their musical minds have been imprinted by a slightly different sense of "tradition" than friends in the klezmer revival encountered 30 years ago. It showed in the playing. Nice! (I recognized neither of them, which says a lot for how isolated I can be running in my own circles at KlezKanada. I suspect that the reverse was also true.)

Later yesterday evening, I found myself with Judy and friends in Woonsocket, RI, at a Chinese restaurant that doubles as a jazz club--Woonsocket's "Johnny D's," as it were. The occasion was the first appearance of Danny Kalb's band this far north of New York in my recent memory. He was playing with his brother, a talented bassist and harp player, Jonathan Kalb, and drummer Mark Ambrosino. They were excellent. After a first set in which we most noted that his ability to sing has not improved with age, and on the side noticed that his fingers still remembered how to play the guitar with astonishing fluidity and vigor, if somewhat diminished speed, we were lucky enough to stay for a last set in which he first performed one of his former signature songs, "Alberta" as well or better as I have heard it, and then jammed with the show openers, leaving the singing to the local blues musician and focusing just on his playing. You could see the face, deep in thought, sometimes seeming even puzzled, and then the fingers hitting just the right notes in bursts at just the right times. It was clear that the Danny Kalb, peer of Eric Clapton and Michael Bloomfield, was still present almost 50 years after his first recordings.

Danny Kalb is one of a remarkable generation of Jewish blues musicians who came of age in the 1960s. Unlike people like Steve Goodman or Bob Dylan for whom the blues was one part of their musical identity, Michael Bloomfield (Paul Butterfield's Blues Band, SuperSessions, Electric Flag), Siegal & Schwall, Al Kooper (Blues Project, Blood Sweat and Tears, SuperSessions), Danny Kalb (Blues Project) bonded with the blues and pretty much never left. Bloomfield's first solo album, "It Ain't Killing Me" was the most Jewish-sounding blues album I have ever heard. I've never been able to describe why that was so—the subjects of his songs? his vocabulary? The gestalt of titling a blues album, "It Ain't Killing Me"? (Sadly, the blues may not have killed him, but the drugs he took did.)

In Kalb's case, he learned the blues from everyone passing through New York City at a time when the old-timers who defined blues as we know the tradition today was being "re-discovered" (and new opportunities opening for others, like the Chicago scene, just as the rest of the world was following Chuck Berry and Bo Diddly into rock 'n' roll)—everyone from Little Walter to the Rev. Gary Davis, Big Bill Broonzy, Josh White, Mississippi John Hurt … a panoply of amazing musical people as amazing and defining as the oldsters who helped define the klezmer revival a few years later: Sid Beckerman, Leon Schwartz, Bronya Sakina, the Epstein Brothers, and so many significant others.

His band, the Blues Project, took it's name from an "urban blues" CD recorded in the early '60s to which he contributed a couple of cuts. He and his mostly-Jewish buddies rocked things up and for about two and a half years were the US equivalent of the Rolling Stones—or perhaps the better equivalent was Fleetwood Mac, whose Peter Green, another Jewish blues boy who has gone through travails similar to those of Kalb. Towards the end of the Sixties Danny had a breakdown and spent a while out of sight, institutionalized. It wasn't drugs or drink. Just humdrum breakdown. He's been on drugs to keep his body and mind stabilized ever since.

In 1978 I moved from Israel back to the States and spent a few months living in New York City. The first blues show I saw was Danny Kalb with a small combo at one of the clubs in the Village where he had started 20 years earlier. It was wonderful. I had idolized the Blues Project, and it was grounding to hear the band's guitarist "still" playing heartfelt, fluent blues. A decade later, at a fundraiser for New Jewish Agenda, in Berkeley, I ran into him again. Both of us were now residents of the San Francisco Bay Area and for a while, my life as a late-night typesetter always ready for a few hours of shmoozing, and his as a late-night musician, occasionally meshed. Eventually, I took a daytime job and he moved back to New York City. I hadn't seen him since.

I was apprehensive going to the concert and let my friends know that this could be an incredible concert. But even twenty years earlier, Kalb had not been in good physical shape. Who knew what he'd be like now? As it happened, he has lost a lot of weight and looks great. You can still hear the pharma mediating as he talks or sings live. He never had a great voice, but it is still one that speaks the blues. But his fingers? Danny Kalb still plays the blues better than almost anyone I know. He has promised to make it to Boston soon. I can see him packing Club Passim, for instance. Let's hope it happens soon.

In the meantime, he has a new CD out (on Neshama Carlebach's label, Sojourn Records), I'm Gonna Live the life I sing about in my song." Check it out.