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November 28, 2012

Mazel Tov! Kocktail Hour, new wax cylinder recording

And here's the accompanying video of Mazel Tov! Kocktail Hour, recorded by a 16 year old kid (his dad is Ian Hancock, Roma professor who teaches Yiddish and works for Romany rights), with Semper Phonograph Company onto Wax Cylinder, Austin, TX, Nov 2012:

New "Zion80" video, download

Jon Madof's current project, the Fela-Shlomo Carlebach tune mashup, Zion-80 has started to hit the studio. Here is a video of them performing Tov L'hodot:

If you follow the band on twitter.com/carlebachfela or facebook.com/CarlebachFela, you can also request a free mp3 of their recording of "Pischu li."

November 25, 2012

More new releases for Hanukkah!

Here is another installment of recent KlezmerShack arrivals. The world of Jewish music just gets wider and deeper. Enjoy.

  • Itzhak Perlman and Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot / Eternal Echoes: Songs & Dances for the Soul (classical, cantorial)
  • Susan Watts / Hartsklap (American klezmer)
  • Yiddishkeit Klezmer Ensemble / A Freylekhs Far Ale (American klezmer)
  • The Amsterdam Klezmer Band / Mokum (Live in Amsterdam) (American klezmer)
  • Sarah Aroeste / Gracia (Sephardic)
  • Isra-Alien / Somewhere is here (jazz, Israeli)
  • Merlin and Polina Shepherd / A Blade of Grass (trad. Jewish, Eastern European)
  • Sephardic Music Festival, Vols. 1 & 2 (Sephardic, hip hop, Middle Eastern, Israeli)
  • Aaron Alexander / Julian Priester / Conversational Music (jazz, experimental)
  • Aaron Novik / Secrets of Secrets (jazz, experimental)
  • CD coverIt's over 15 years since Itzhak Perlman made "klezmer" a household world. His "In the Fiddler's House" recordings included some of the best bands of that period and continue to serve as an excellent introduction to an incredibly exciting time. Now he is back in the Jewish world in a delightful pairing with Cantorl Yitzchak Meir Helfgot. is Itzhak Perlman and Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot / Eternal Echoes: Songs & Dances for the Soul a harmonious invocation of synagogue favorites. Meticulously produced by Boston's own Hankus Netsky this recording comes on the heels of a growing revival of the art of nusakh and the cantorial riches of an earlier age. Available, of course, on amazon.com and wherever fine recordings are purveyed.

    CD coverSpeaking of classical sounds, fourth generation Philadelphia klezmer Susan Watts teams up with her mother, drummer Elaine Hoffman Watts, and the rest of the NYC and Philly klezmer allstars for a timely and lovely trip through the American Yiddish and Philadelphia klezmer sound. Watts' voice is in perfect form and her trumpet sings on Susan Watts / Hartsklap. Available, of course, as CD or mp3 from cdbaby.com and, as always, wherever fine recordings are purveyed.

    CD coverWestern Massachusetts klezmer Brian Bender fronts his own band, and serves in others, in between rambling off to Europe to play in bands there. One result is a rich and varied traditional American klezmer repertoire with a nice smattering of originals and the occasional farflung gem. This new recording, Yiddishkeit Klezmer Ensemble / A Freylekhs Far Ale is, indeed, a delightful collection of "freylekhs" for all of us. You can check it out and get your own copy (mp3 or CD) in time for holiday revelry at his website.

    CD coverSpeaking of rambling through Europe, The Amsterdam Klezmer Band is one of the most prolific and well-regarded bands from one of the original hotbeds of the Klezmer revival, the Netherlands. Playing a frenetic, brassy American-style klezmer this The Amsterdam Klezmer Band / Mokum (Live in Amsterdam) fits right in with the above-mentioned Yiddishkeit and Susan Watts bands. An entire dance party of new music is therefore at hand. You can get your copy at the Amsterdam Klezmerband website.

    This is a lot of music to publicize without mentioning any new Sephardic releases. Sarah Aroeste / Gracia continues the artist's continued journey as she resets traditional Ladino music into new rock and electronic settings. The melodies are derived from Sephardic and Middle Eastern melodies with an emphasis on dance. Want to liven up that Klezmer dance party? Want to suggest that there is something more lively to those Yasmin Levy songs? As with earlier Aroeste releases, but with added maturity, this new release is lots of fun, often full of pleasant surprises, and worth adding to your collection.

    You can get your copy on CD or downloadable mp3 from Sarah Aroeste's website.

    CD coverTwo Israelis, now living in the United States, get together to perform energetic accoustic-guitar-based jazz incorporating lots of traditional Israeli and Jewish melodies. Isra-Alien / Somewhere is here is their second outing and it is quite pleasant on the ears. They are in the middle of their CD release tour, so if you keep your eyes open (and pay attention to the KlezmerShack calendar you may get to hear them live. In all cases, do check out the sounds at cdbaby.com

    CD coverMerlin and Polina Shepherd are two of the most accomplished musicians in the klezmer world. We don't hear much of them in the United States—they reside in the UK. A significant loss. Fortunately, they periodically issue new recordings to document their musical travels. This year, that recording is Merlin and Polina Shepherd / A Blade of Grass, in which they play "original compositions for clarinet, piano, electric guitar, whistle and voic … drawing influences from the Pale of Settlement, Russia, Tatarstan and Turkey. including new settings of Liturgical texts in Yiddish. Songs in Russian, Yiddish and Hebrew." CD coverI could listen to either of them for hours. Together, they play off each other marvelously. Before I close out, I also need to mention Polina's brass recording from last year with the Brighton, UK brass band, Fanfara. Polina Skovoroda & Fanfara / Civilisation is an extraordinarily delightful mix of "Romanian Gypsy Brass tunes with new material that pushes the boundaries of traditional Russian and Yiddish song." Find out more and get your copies of each from Polina Shepherd's website.

    CD coverIn recent years, December is the time that the folks at Shemspeed put on an amazing and broad festival in NYC. This year, the Sephardic Music Festival happens from Dec 8-14. CD coverThere will also be a second volume of festival recordings released on Dec. 11. But why wait? The 2010 release of Volume 1 covered ground from Matisyahu to Yasmin Levy to Pharaoh's Daughter. It is killer—one of my favorite compilations. I'd make sure a copy (or digital download) is part of the soundtrack to your Hanukkah party, and you can get it off the festival website. You can also pre-order volume 2 from Shemspeed.

    CD coverIt is easy to forget, when listening to drummer/percussionist Aaron Alexander make so much klezmer sound so good, that he is perhaps better known in the jazz and experimental music worlds. In this set of delicious duets with trombonist Julian Priester, Aaron Alexander / Julian Priester / Conversational Music we get a reflective, often quieter, sense of percussive questing and mastery. But, don't get all gooey. One piece is named after the master of Yiddish satire, Michael Wex. You can get your copy on cdbaby.com, and hey, let's keep talking!

    CD coverLast week, in mentioning the Mexican band, Klezmerson, I talked about "guy music." This week's last entry falls into the same category—wonderful, exploratory, often loud and intricate music that seems to appeal mostly to us guys. A recent release by San Francisco-based composer Aaron Novik / Secrets of Secrets is based on Novik's reading of kabbalah, Jewish mystic lore, but I think that, overall, that is the rationalization after the fact for an intriguing and interesting, often minimalist, music disk. Participating friends include Ben Goldberg, Carla Hihlstedt, and Fred Frith. The recording is available, of course, from our friends at tzadik records. Enjoy!

November 22, 2012

NYTimes on new Judith Berkson opera, 'The Vienna Rite' on Salomen Sulzer

As far as the KlezmerShack is concerned, Judith Berkson is one of the most creative people doing new Jewish music (and old) today.

"Mash-Up of Schubert and Synagogue Tradition" Judith Berkson’s New Opera, ‘The Vienna Rite’, Allan Kozinnn, Nov 1, 2012

'Ms. Berkson’s latest project — “The Vienna Rite,” a chamber opera that will have its premiere at Roulette on Friday and Saturday — mashes up and amplifies those interests even further. The work’s hero is Salomon Sulzer, a 19th-century Viennese cantor and composer whose settings of Hebrew prayers are still used in synagogues, and the plot is, basically, Sulzer’s creation of the modern synagogue service in 1828. “We’re looking at a specific window in which Sulzer is putting together the Vienna rite,” Ms. Berkson, a soft-spoken 35-year-old, explained in an interview last week in the back room at Barbès, a Park Slope, Brooklyn, club where she often performs. “We’re looking in on his creative process, so we see him working with his friend and teacher, Ignaz von Seyfried, who was a friend of Beethoven’s, and Joseph Drechsler, who helped him and contributed pieces. We see his boys’ choir bringing the music to life. And Schubert is always in the mix.”' [more]

November 20, 2012

Celebrate Adrienne Cooper and fund her work in the future, NYC, Dec 22, 2012

concert posterEverybody who is anybody in the world of Yiddish culture (or so it seems) is gathering in NYC this coming Dec 22 to celebrate the life of Adrienne Cooper, co-founder of KlezKamp, teacher of thousands, beloved singer, and all around person you'd rather hang out with than just about anyone else.

The obvious way to do this is to hold a monster concert and invite everyone we know. One goal of the concert is to create a new fund in Adrienne Cooper's memory. So, she'll live on not just in our memory, and not just in recordings, but to help continue to fund her work.


Sat Dec 22 2012, 8 pm
Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College
East 68th Street between Park & Lexington Avenue

Tickets: $18, $36, $54
(212) 772-4448

Find out more on Facebook or on Adrienne's website

November 17, 2012

More Hanukkah presents - what I saw/heard at Ashkenaz

Every two years on Labor Day weekend we fill up the car with friends and make a pilgrimage to Toronto to see old friends and enjoy one of the best Jewish music festivals around. This year Ashkenaz continued a trend away from "Ashkenaz" and continued its quest to represent new Jewish music from around the world. Klezmer was featured primarily around the central dancing/listening area, with Avia Moore acting as the primary dance teacher. There was non-stop great dance music, a bit of which I took home on CD. Otherwise, the festival was diverse. I'm not sure it was always successful in presenting music that was relevant and/or new in a Jewish context, but I'd rather attend a festival that takes chances than one in which I only hear the same old stuff. I do wish there was more experimental music, but I managed to be so busy that I really didn't get enough time to catch up with friends. That says something about how much we were listening. Here are the CDs that I took home with me and some quick thoughts

CD coverThis second outing from the Toronto Middle Eastern-sounding jamband seems more coherent than the first release a couple of years ago. Singer Aviva Chernick's voice, melds with an eclectic, talented band. They remind me a bit of Pharaoh's Daughter, but more ethereal. Jaffa Road / Where the Light Gets In is available for download or purchase on bandcamp.com. Note that singer Aviva Chernick also has a solo album that will release on Dec. 5. More on that, anon.

CD coverLegendary pianist Pete Sokolow has taught a couple of generations of young klezmorim since the revival began in the 1980s. Lately he has teamed up with some of the hottest young (or not so young) revivalist in a band appropriately called Tarras Band. Members include youngsters like Michael Winograd (who also has a new CD just out) and Ben Holmes, and revival masters David Licht (Klezmatics) and Jim Guttmann (KCB). As a dance band, these guys rock. The CD captures that intensity and includes a couple of short clips of Pete talking. You can get your own copy at cdbaby.com

CD coverClarinetist Christian Dawid was everywhere at Ashkenaz, most prominently with an elegant setting of singer Arkady Gendler's songs (which I have yet to receive). But in the souvenir stand I was able to snag the latest recording by him, Sanne Möricke (accordion), and Guy Schalom (percussion), Yas Trio / Live. This is easily the most energetic and fun of the klezmer recordings I picked up, and the most-played since. You can check out the band and get your copy on Mr. Dawid's website

CD coverI have no idea who this band is—I didn't see them on the program, although the website says that they are related to an earlier Toronto all-women's band, The Pomegranates. Be that as it may, I loved the cover and the name, The Horables / No Shirts No Shoes No Tsuris, and I'm glad I picked this up. It seems only appropriate that I spread the word. This EP features several klezmer and yiddish tunes, well-played, entirely enjoyable, typified by a raucously-enjoyable version of "The Money Song." Check them out at their website www.thehorables.com/.

CD coverThis wonderful goodie helped compensate for the lack of avant garde or experimental music that I encountered at Ashkenaz this year. Ellie Shapiro, the same person who introduced me to Balkan village music and the Red Star Singers, Queen Ida, and so much more 30 or 40 years ago is now Director of the Jewish Music Festival in Berkeley. Back in 2008 she got together some of the most amazing musicians around, starting with Frank London who directed the whole thing, but including percussionist Aaron Alexander, singer Jewlia Eisenberg, bassist Stuart Brotman, etc.—all people at the top of my "whatever they're playing, I want to listen" list, and in this case, from all over the world. Funded by a Jewish Music Festival grant they created an amazing piece of music which is finally available, Art Ensemble / Might Be. This reminds me a bit of "Accordion Tribe" in the way that it mixes Jewish and Eastern European folksong and melody with a no-holds-barred sense of 21st century experimentation. You don't have to believe me—you can check it out and get your own copy on CDBaby.com. Along with the Trio Yas recording, mentioned above, this is my favorite recording of the festival.

CD coverKlezmerson was one of several "guy bands" that I saw at the festival—heavy on loud and often interesting sounds which seemed to interest none of the women in our party. On the other hand, we also saw them in a quieter setting, at the amazing Free Times Cafe Sunday Brunch where they focused on the Jewish side of their sound. Their flute player was most amazing. The band does mix an exotic (to us) mix of Mexican son and other musical traditions with Jewish and other sounds which makes them worth listening to. Taking a chance on one of several recordings at the festival, I picked up their Tzadik release, Klezmerson / Siete which features the loud and interesting, despite a gentle and more traditional recording, sung by Cantor Moshe Mendelson, "Zuntik." Find out more on the Tzadik website.

November 16, 2012

Six new CDs for Hanukkah

As Hanukkah approaches, the KlezmerShack mailbox overflows with the sorts of recordings that will make perfect holiday gifts. To help get the word out, here is some info about recent arrivals. Stay tuned for the word from the Ashkenaz Festival, and other catching up, to come:

CD coverJane Peppler has been playing for years with a band down in Durham, North Carolina called Mappamundi. In the last few months, she has released several CDs, the first one of which is a delightful collection of new Hanukah Songs. This is a fun combination of popular tunes repurposed, klezmer, and fun. Sure to be a hit with celebrants of all ages: Jane Peppler+Aviva Enoch & Mappamundi / Mrs. Maccabee's Kitchen. You can pick up your copy from Bandcamp.com.

CD coverBut wait, you say, what I am really looking for this season isn't more Hanukkah songs. I'd rather listen to some new and old Yiddish song! Jane and Aviva have you covered: Jane Peppler & Aviva Enoch / I can't complain ^… but sometimes I still dostrong>. This one is just Jane, accompanied by Aviva on piano. And, of course, it is available on … Bandcamp.com.

CD coverBut what about Mappamundi, you say? What happened to them? Aha! They are taking us back to the golden age of Mappamundi / Cabaret Warsaw: Yiddish & Polish hits of the 1920s–1930s. Songs include hits by both Jews and Gentiles, and of course, you can pick up your copy (and listen to a song sample) at Bandcamp.com.

CD coverJews and Gentiles, you say? This makes for a holiday CD? If you have been reading the KlezmerShack you know that the answer is Yes!. Today I received my very own copy of 'Twas the Night Before Hanukkah: The Musical Battle Between Christmas and the Festival of Lights. This two disc compilation of Hanukkah and Christmas songs sung (and in many cases written) by Jews features performers from the 1930s to the present, from a wide array of genres. In real life, this means version of "Dreidl" from both Jeremiah Lockwood, of the Sway Machinery, and Don McLean. It means standards from Flory Jagoda and the Klezmatics and Debbie Friedman and Mickey Katz! It gives us Danny Kaye singing "O Come All Ye Faithful" and Richard Tucker crooning "O Little Town of Bethlehem." Elsewhere, Lou Reed, The Ramones, Bob Dylan. I say, this is an "only in America" delight. Order your copy now.

CD coverAre you looking for something a bit more … Jewish? But, perhaps adult? The mastermind of the Montreal klezmer jamband Shtreiml, Jason Rosenblatt has gotten together with his klezmer bandmates and other friends to take on reggae and rock music in a new band, "Jump Babylon." This is an exciting new album reflecting Israel, traditional Judaism, and the Rosenblatt's Montreal roots. If these concerns speak to you, or if you just enjoy dub, this is the perfect holiday gift. Check it out at www.jumpbabylon.com where you'll find samples, and a link to download your own copy(ies). For a physical copy, don't forget to visit CDBaby.com.

CD coverI saved the best for last. I've been writing for years about Boston's best klezmer bar band, the Klezwoods, and how much I enjoy their shows with a perfect mix of klezmer, Israeli, and balkan music. This is dance music for the current century, and they finally have a CD that captures that magic. Klezwoods / The 30th Meridian: From Cairo to St. Petersburg with love is on heavy rotation here at the Klezmershack house. You may not want to wait long to get it into your house Download the tracks, or order the CD at the Klezwoods website. Enjoy. Tell 'em that the KlezmerShack sent you.

15th International Association of Yiddish Clubs Conference in Pittsburgh, PA, April 26-29, 2013

The theme of the conference "Feast of Yiddish Language and Culture" covers the cultural role of East European Jewish community up to the Holocaust. As the list of speakers lengthens, you will be told of them and their topics. Just to name a few now: Prof. Yoshiji Hirose who will speak on Yiddish in Japan. He is an English professor at Notre Dame University in Japan and has written two books on Yiddish topics. Boris Sandler and Dr. Itzik Gottesman, the editor and associate editor of the Forverts will be keynote speakers. The opening keynote speaker will be Naftali Ejdelman, Educational Director of The Yiddish Farm. These regular updates will give us the opportunity to speak about the over 30 other speakers of the conference in which we shall be stressing the increasing role of Yiddish translators. You can print the registration form and receive information about the opportunity to honor and recognize friends and family in the journal: www.derbay.org/pittsburgh

November 14, 2012

New Yale Strom book: "Shpil: The Art of Playing Klezmer"

From Yale Strom:

book coverEdited by Yale Strom
Published by Scarecrow Press

Shpil: The Art of Playing Klezmer is both a history of this popular form of traditional Jewish music and an instructional book for professional and amateur musicians.

Shpil offers an expansive history of klezmer, from its medieval origins to the present era, and its contributors encompass a cast of world-renowned musicians who have recorded, performed, and studied klezmer for years. Individual chapters concentrate on the most common instruments found in a klezmer ensemble—violin (Yale Strom), clarinet (Norbert Stachel), accordion (Peter Stan), bass (Jeff Pekarek), percussion (David Licht), and voice (Elizabeth Schwartz) — and conclude with a selection of three songs that illustrate and exemplify the history and techniques of that instrument. Shpil includes a glossary and a discography of both classic and new klezmer and Yiddish recordings, all designed to guide readers in an appreciation of this remarkable musical genre and the art of playing and singing klezmer tunes.

Shpil: The Art of Playing Klezmer is ideal for amateur enthusiasts, musical scholars, beginning artists, and professional musicians, both solo and ensemble—indeed, anyone who wants to experience the joy of listening to and playing this thousand-year-old folk music. Original art work for the cover by Emil Fur.


The Klezmatics to receive Tenco Award in Italy, November 16, 2012

Lorin Sklamberg writes to the Jewish-Music list with good news about the Klezmatics, who have won Italy's songwriting award:

"We are honored to be this year's recipients of Italy's annual Tenco Award for songwriting. Past recipients include Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Elvis Costello, and Jacques Brel.

"While in Italy to pick up the award, we will be playing two concerts:

  • November 15 Turin - FolkClub Torino
  • November 16 San Remo - Teatro Ariston, Premio Tenco

"The Premio Tenco night is dedicated to Woody Guthrie. Joining us in the musical line-up will be Sarah Lee Guthrie, and celebrated Italians Francesco De Gregori, Luigi Grechi with Orchestra Popolare Italiana di Ambrogio Sparagna,Giovanna Marini, and Davide Van De Sfroos."

November 10, 2012

'Twas the Night before Hanukkah!

CD cover

From the Idelsohn Society:

We're proud to announce our latest album release: 'Twas the Night Before Hanukkah: The Musical Battle Between Christmas and the Festival of Lights. This two disc compilation of Hanukkah and Christmas songs sung (and in many cases written) by Jews features performers from the 1930s to the present, from a wide array of genres.

The album features our usual extensive liner notes, plus essays from noted critic Greil Marcus and George Washington University historian Jenna Weissman Joselit.

The album comes out November 13—just in time to be placed under the Hanukkah Tree. Pre-order your copy now.

Preview "Dreidel" from Jeremiah Lockwood, Ethan Miller, and Luther Dickinson here: Dreidel

This TWO DISC set is the first-ever history of the duel role of Hanukkah and Christmas music in the 20th century. It’s a musical songbook highlighting both rare and iconic holiday music across both faiths. The 34-tracks feature songs written and performed by Woody Guthrie, The Ramones, Bob Dylan, Dinah Shore, The Klezmatics, Don McLean, Sammy Davis Jr., Mickey Katz, Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt, and many more.

The collection tells a uniquely American story: once Christmas was declared a national holiday in 1870, the competitive campaign to beef up Hanukkah began. The obscure, minor Jewish holiday rapidly elevated: not only will we celebrate Christmas, we will create a rival holiday of our own to celebrate as well! You have one day of presents, we will have eight nights. But Jews could not resist the allure of Christmas, and for reasons of money-making, sentimentality, or a simple love for the music, every major Jewish performer cut a Christmas track. The result was a truly American phenomenon: a category of Christmas music, as sung by Jews, became a vital part of the holiday fabric.

DeLeon offers AfroBeat(?) version of "Ya Ribon Olam"

This is from their new release, Tremor Fantasma, described as "DeLeon takes their mission of modernizing Sephardic folk music one step further: for the first time in the 500-year life span of the genre, the music of the Jewish communities expelled during the Spanish Inquisition got crowdsourced."