September 9, 2016

11th European Cantors Convention, Prague, 17-20 Nov, 2016

I am late to post this

The European Cantors association is happy to announce that booking is open for the 11th European Cantors Convention taking place in Prague from Thursday 17 to Sunday 20 November 2016.

Guest lecturers will be Cantor Naftali Herstik and maestro Raymond Goldstein as well as a choir from the Tel Aviv Academy of Cantorial studies

All those interested in Jewish prayer music based on the orthodox tradition are welcome to attend. As well as lectures and masterclasses there will be a gala concert on one of the most beautiful synagogues in Prague and a tour of Jewish Prague. And best of all cantos and choir will illuminate two beautiful Prague synagogues with memorable music and prayer over Shabbat.

More details, a flyer that you can download and print off and the registration form can be found on the website

December 27, 2015

The blues and North African polyrhythms meet Khazones: The Sway Machinery/Purity and Danger

cd cover

Few bands have pushed the boundary of Jewish music as hard as Jeremy Lockwood and The Sway Machinery. 2011's The House of Friendly Ghosts was a collaboration between the band and North African Rai singer Khaira Arby. The opening horns in this new release, Purity and Danger reflect that collaboration, still. The album also reflects Lockwood's background as a street blues musician ("My dead lover's wedding," with its echoes of "St. James Infirmary" or the Hound Dog Taylor-inspired distorted guitar meeting North African music and jazz in "Longa"), and the cantorial legacy of his grandfather (including very new settings to Cantorial gems ranging from Ben Zion Kapov-Kagan's "Rachamana D'Onay" and Leib Glantz's "Al Tashlicheini." This is fertile territory, and at its best, this is a fusion as astonishing as the discovery of how well Arabic music fits piyyut 1500 years ago. Available as CD or digital download from 3rd generation recordings.

Want another view? Check out Adam Kivel's review on the "Consequences of Sound" website: The Sway Machinery - Purity and Danger

I should also mention that The Sway Machinery has a new cassette EP coming out. Those interested, should check out on 3rd Generation Recordings website.

April 3, 2015

Cantor Yanky Lemmer, Frank London & Michael Winograd - Project Ahava Raba - Studio Session

Posted by Michael Winograd to Facebook

Cantor Yanky Lemmer, Frank London & Michael Winograd - Project Ahava Raba - Studio Session A prayer, a Nusach and most importantly an invocation of the the abundant love between man and his Creator. It is through this project that Cantor Yaakov Lemmer, trumpeter Frank London and clarinetist Michael Winograd elicit these emotions. The project was conceived while touring Europe and performing at various Jewish Culture festivals. It is a marriage of Klezmer, Chazzanut, with an old school feel yet a refreshening energy and vibe.

January 13, 2015

Jeremiah Lockwood, "Songs of Zebulon," singing and writing about khazones

interesting collage of musicians and disksJeremiah Lockwood is the long-time frontman for one of the most interesting young Jewish bands, The Sway Machinery. He is creating some of the most interesting new Jewish music today. The grandson of a cantor, he has been musing about khazones in several recent forums. This blog post from Jewish Currents is one facet of that engagement:

Legendary voices: The education of the great cantors, by Jeremiah Lockwood, posted Dec 2, 2014.

This is no casual interest. Lockwood has recently released an album of works inspired by the music of Cantor Zebulon Kwartin, Songs of Zebulon, with help from several luminaries of the NY music scene: Frank London, Ron Caswell, Brian Drye, and Shoko Nagai. The album is on the "Blue Thread" label (an imprint of Jewish Currents and is both a Lockwood original, and to a lesser, but still significant degree, Frank London's ongoing exploration of khazones. The voice is the voice of a khazan, but the music pulls in sounds from the blues, from North Africa, from spirituality around the world in an exciting, not always easy, mix. For people like me, this is the sort of music we keep waiting for—something that listens to tradition from other ears, and with an exciting patchwork of twentieth century identities. For one hint of how that all pulls together, listen to the slide on "B'rach Dodi" (I assume it is Lockwood's blues slide.) There are also flashes of familiarity, as with the album's closing "Od Ha-Pa'am" ("Once again"). You can find out more about Cantor Kwartin and his time, and listen to samples, from the project website, or get your own copy directly from Blue Thread.

December 1, 2014

Five excellent mostly new recordings for holiday gift-giving

It is already after Thanksgiving and I haven't had time to make any additional dents in the pile of CDs that you =should= be considering for holiday gifts. Okay, I'll try to give some brief reviews of some of the essential new (mostly new) recordings:

cd coverI used to think of Isle of Klezbos as the lesser cousin of Metroplitan Klezmer, both anchored by drummer Eve Sicular, and both featuring many of the same musicians. But Live from Brooklyn shows that Isle of Klezbos is one of the premiere purveyors of that American form of klezmer: jazzy, brash, full of yiddish theatre songs and great dance music. This one is for the dancer in the house. You can get your copy right on Bonus: Order this between now and 12/3/14 midnight, and shipping is free.

cd coverFolklorist, singer, dancer Michael Alpert has been sharing a stage with Julian Kytasty for many years. One sings in Yiddish. The other in Ukrainian. Together they weave together two folk cultures in a beautiful acoustic set, Night songs from a neighboring village. Appropriately timed, given Ukraine's prominence in recent news, this one will leave you feeling all sweet inside—except for "Homebrew," which will encourage you to eschew the store-bought stuff and drink local. I remember the tune as Irish, but what do I know. What a great way to celebrate 20 amazing years of music from Oriente records.

cd coverI first noticed Zisl Slepovitch because of his brilliant "Minsker Kapelye" CD. But, that was back in the old country. Arriving here in the US, he formed a new ensemble, Litvakus, and presented the unique repertoire of Belarusian Jews as a thing of beauty. This is a pre-American jazz form of klezmer, along with nign and folksong. Raysn is a recording of unadorned beauty. I am in awe. Available online from Bandcamp.

cd coverAlthough you are less likely to hear cantorial music, much less good cantorial music in the synagogue today than even when I was young, one compensation is the myriad of ways in which cantorial music is being recontextualized. Some stylings are more tuneful and gentle, as in Frank London's cantorial music albums. Other artists, like Jeremiah Lockwood of The Sway Machinery have been louder and more discordant. Here, Tzadik recording artist, guitarist Yoshie Fruchter (also the grandson of a cantor) has reimagined and recontextualized some cantorial gems. Some are rendered as instrumentals, with his searing guitar replacing the cantorial sobbing of a hundred years ago. I find myself, in particular, drawn to his reimagination of the "Rosh Hashanah"" plea.In a few cases, he mixed original recordings in with his new musical settings, or sings the music, himself. The result is a loud, discordant, and ultimately immensely spiritual CD. Check out Schizophonia / Cantorial recordings reimagined and get copies for the musical explorers on your gift list. Available from Bandcamp.

cd coverThis last mention for tonight is from a recording that has been sitting on the review shelf for too long. I was reminded of it with a pang last night when I listened to Andy Statman play at a local club. Statman is famous for mixing klezmer and hassidic music and bluegrass so seamlessly that it isn't so much a melding of genres, but a fluency so natural, that all genres sound like facets of the same universal harmonies. That's what the Freilachmakers do with their blend of various Jewish music, starting with klezmer, and with Irish music. Intriguingly, this third recording, Klezmer at the confluence by the ensemble is all Jewish in source: klezmer, yiddish, ladino. But, I am happy to say that the Irish is also still present. Another very special recording from a very special band. This one goes to the persons on your list who don't yet know that klezmer is another way of speaking Irish. Get your copy(ies) from

November 3, 2014

Academic Conf on Jewish Liturgical Music, Leeds, UK, Jun 2015

Academic Conference on Jewish Liturgical music

University of Leeds, UK
Tuesday 16 - Friday 19 June 2015
AHRC "Care for the Future" Theme, Performing the Jewish Archive

For the first time in Britain an International Academic Conference is being devoted to the music of Jewish prayer. Internationally acclaimed scholars in Jewish liturgical music will lead the programme presented jointly by the School of Music, University of Leeds and the Academic Wing of the European Cantors Association.

The conference is organised in association with the international research project Performing the Jewish Archive, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

May 22, 2014

Cantorial recordings re-imagined

This latest Yoshie Fruchter project needs help on Kickstarter. I'm in. How about you?

Schizophonia is an exploration of cantorial music found on 20th century recordings and re-imagined through a contemporary lens.

May 15, 2014

JewJamSouth, Aug 10-13, 2014

From our friends Jeff Warschauer and Deborah Strauss:

festival logoJEWJAM SOUTH!

Join us for JewJamSouth, a four-day celebration of Jewish choral music, Yiddish song and klezmer music this August in Clayton, GA!

JewJamSouth will take place on August 10–13, 2014, at Ramah Darom's campus in the beautiful North Georgia mountains. The event is designed for passionate Jewish choral singers, klezmer instrumentalists, Hebrew and Yiddish singers and their families. Whether you are an experienced practitioner or a newcomer, this four-day festival will offer a feast of musical inspiration, ideas and fun.

JewJamSouth is open to people of all levels and backgrounds, and no previous experience is needed. Beginners are welcome.

Throughout the four days, you'll have a chance to participate in a hands-on ensemble program and study, perform and be mentored by world-renowned faculty:

Hazzan David Tilman, Program Director
"Hazzan David Tilman is Adjunct Associate Professor at the H.L. Miller Cantorial School of the Jewish Theological Seminary and the choral director at Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. He also serves as Hazzan Emeritus of Beth Sholom Congregation, where he created a nationally recognized five choir program.Hazzan Tilman is an award-winning, life-long conductor who has traveled around the world and received numerous awards, including the first Moshe Nathanson Award in conducting and the the Samual Rosenbaum Award for lifelong achievement from the Cantor's Assembly. His travels have included trips to Germany, Havana and Chile, but he is also well-loved right here at home, as he has been the music director of Camp Ramah in Wingdale and Nyack, as well as at the Brandeis Bardin Institute in Simi Valley, California.
Jeff Warschauer, Co-Director
Jeff Warschauer is a Founding Artistic Director and Senior Artistic Advisor of the KlezKanada Institute for Yiddish/Jewish Culture and the Arts, is on the faculty of Columbia University in New York, and is a graduate student in Cantorial Music and Modern Jewish Studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary.
Deborah Strauss, Co-Director
Deborah Strauss is an internationally acclaimed klezmer violinist, an award-winning children's educator and a highly-regarded Yiddish dancer and dance leader.
The Strauss/Warschauer Duo
For over 25 years, Deborah Strauss (violin, accordion, vocals, dance) and Jeff Warschauer (guitar, mandolin, vocals) have been at the forefront of the international klezmer and Yiddish music scene. They were both long-time members of the Klezmer Conservatory Band, one of the premiere groups of the klezmer revival, and have performed with legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman on film and in concert. They are renowned worldwide for their depth of experience and knowledge, and for their innovative performances, residencies and workshops.

The event will culminate in a one-of-a-kind joint choral/klezmer gala performance.

  • Come enjoy a breathtaking view and gourmet Kosher cuisine among new friends;
  • Experience formal and informal Hebrew, Yiddish and Israeli singing and dancing;
  • Participate in choral and klezmer ensembles formed by JewJamSouth participants;
  • Enjoy a full klezmer concert and dance party with the world-famous Strauss/Warschauer duo, pioneering performers of the klezmer revival; and
  • Learn new musical skills and repertoire to bring back home with you.
  • Email Bennie Cohen with any questions, and register now, as spots are filling up quickly!

March 7, 2014

ECA Budapest Cantor's Conf, July 10 - 14, 2014

From Geraldine Auerbach:

Booking is now officially open for the ECA Budapest Cantors Convention
July 2014: Thursday 10 - Monday 14th.
Guest teachers: Asher Hainovitz and Yaakov Motzen
Subject the High Holydays

Convention includes Shabbat Services in the Hungarian tradition, a concert by world class cantors and an evening for young talent to perform. It also includes a Tour of Jewish Budapest and a personal tour of the Dohány Street Synagogue on Sunday afternoon.

Fees: full fee is £245 and for students it is £145. Some scholarships are available particularly for Eastern European delegates. There is a £15 discount on all bookings before 30 April.

This year the prices include (as well as breakfast and light lunches) Shabbat lunch and dinners on Thursday, Friday and Sunday for delegates. Accommodation is not included, but for early bookers there is a special discount price at the Convention Hotel: The Golden Park, which is near the synagogue. (See below for details)

Accompanying guests may to join us for evening meals and entertainment as well as Shabbes lunch and the Tours for reasonable prices. Please book these on the Registration Form.

Details and registration form from the ECA website

September 28, 2011

Afro-Semitic Experience, "Further Defintions...." featured on NPR

From Davido Chevan, about the new a href="/bands/chevan/further/">Afro-Semitic Experience CD:

A story about the new CD on the NPR News Show, "Tell Me More," aired today. Samples of four tunes from the new CD are being aired along with an interview of Alvin and David by NPR’s Jacki Lyden. I know we cannot get that show anywhere around here but there is a pod cast that you can stream or download (for free!):

And if that was not enough NPR has chosen “Adoshem, Adoshem,” one of the tracks on the album to be today’s SONG OF THE DAY!! Here’s a link to that site:

September 26, 2011

Cantor Sam Weiss: "Carlebach, Neo-Hasidic Music, and Current Liturgical Practice"

It is a measure of my distraction these years, countered by Sam's patience, that this is finally available. Heavily illustrated and footnoted, a version first appeared in "Journal of Synagogue Music," Vol. 34, Fall 2009, published by The Cantors Assembly.

"The 50th anniversary of the release of Haneshomoh Loch, the first record album by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, is an opportune time to assess his musical and liturgical legacy....." [more]

You can read all about it at

and a very happy rosh hashana to all....

September 9, 2011

This week's hot CD releases--Klezmatics, Afro-Semitic Experience, Yaeko Mirando Elmaleh, Roger Davidson

CDs sometimes come in far faster than I can review them. I am going to try to at least get the word out on these with release dates in the coming week, and hope to catch up with reviews as I can.

cd coverI have already mentioned this new Klezmatics release celebrating their 25th anniversary. The main CD release party is on September 14th in NYC. Let me also repeat that when I first saw the band 15 years or so ago. At that time, as on this CD, the band came out and Lorin launched into a cut off their breakout CD, Jews with Horns, "Man in a Hat." Well, same cut, same energy—or more, and the broadest repertoire of new and traditional Jewish music and Americana played by anyone. You need this CD, and you can get it by doing good: In five days, on September 13th, the Klezmatics either reach their Kickstarter goal of $15,000 to pay for this tour and CD—or they don't. Then what? The band sets up shop as housepainters? That would be bad. Check out the Klezmatics Kickstarter campaign and pledge until it hurts. Make this happen.

cd coverDavid Chevan has been exploring Jewish and Afro-American spiritual music through the lens of jazz, for years. As I love mentioning, my first date with the person who is now my wife was at the CD release of one of his first efforts. The music gets better. David writes: "For most of the past decade the Afro-Semitic Experience has played the midnight Selichot service with Cantor Jack Mendelson at his synagogue in White Plains. We have, in the process, created a new way to accompany cantorial music and we decided to document it. We recorded three concerts in August, 2010 just before the High Holy Days, one in New York City, one in New Haven, Connecticut, and one in Greenfield, Massachusetts. And now that music is ready for you to hear. The new CD is called Further Definitions of the Days of Awe and it features the band with special guests Cantor Jack Mendelson, Cantor Lisa Arbisser, Cantor Erik Contzius, cantorial soloist Danny Mendelson, and trumpeter Frank London. The CD officially drops on Tuesday, September 13, but it is already on sale at iTunes and —if you want to hear the music first you can listen to three tracks for free at this website:

cd coverIf, like me, you have noticed that the fiery new violinist in the Klezmer Conservatory Band these last few years also seems to be a favored accompaniest and band-member on other Hankus Netsky projects, you won't be surprised that the classically trained violinist's first CD, Yaeko Miranda Elmaleh features a broad spectrum of underplayed, but very traditional klezmer tunes, ranging from the "Philadelphia Sher" (from whom could you have learned that?) to "Meron" and "Kaddish" (okay, this is Ravel), to some Carlebach tunes and "Waltz from the Hills of Manchuria." The CD release party is this Tuesday, Sep 13, in Boston at Club Passim, one of my favorite venues.

cd coverJazzman Roger Davidson explores klezmer with some of my favorite musicians, including Frank London, Josh Horowitz, Khevre graduate and current Klezmatics drummer Richie Barshay, the great Pablo Aslan on bass … and Andy Statman. The territory is relatively familiar, but this is an all-star cast. The CD, On the Road of Life . The release party is September 17th, at Drom, in NYC.

September 5, 2011

Welcome to Elul - Free High Holiday music downloads

From Craig Taubman. This download is available for free only in the United States:

We put together a free High Holy Day Music sampler for Amazon. Until Rosh Hashana (Tishrei 1), in honor of Jewels of Elul ( you can download all of the songs for free (Alas, limits this to US visitors only). There is an amazingly eclectic mix of music from Josh Nelson, David Broza, Basya Schecter, Alberto Mizrahi and a handful of other artists.

Cantor Sam Weiss, has once again put up a recording of us own:

This one's totally free, all over the world, and available till after Hoshanah Rabbah!

A song for the High Holy Days season based on the Yiddish-Hebrew song "A Mayseh" attributed to the son of Reb Levi-Yitzchak of Berditchev. Complete description, translation and transliteration with the download:

February 14, 2011

Sway Machinery on NPR

This happened last week. There was a wonderful NPR story about a new release by Jeremiah Lockwood's The Sway Machinery (I have always considered the name to be a sly reference to both Hasidic-style nign and William Burrough's name for the human body, "The Soft Machine."). The interview covers a new release with Mali singer Khaira Arby:

The Brooklyn band the Sway Machinery formed five years ago around a particular notion: Take traditional Jewish music and make it funky enough for a nightclub. About a year ago, the Sway Machinery received an invitation to play for an audience its members probably never imagined at the Festival of the Desert in Timbuktu, Mali....

The Sway Machinery: Finding Inspiration in the Desert

December 15, 2010

Jeremiah Lockwood, of The Sway Machinery sends this update:

I just recorded a track with Jordan McLean's DROID...extremely lovely experience...listen here:

"This is the last installation in my ten month long NIGUN PROJECT for the Forward...all ten collaborations (including work with Khaira Arby, Sahr Ngaujah, Brian Chase and other wonderful friends) based on old nigunim are now up online and can be heard here:"

You can also hear the first single from The House of Friendly Ghosts, Vol 1 on iTunes.

January 30, 2010

Best historic Jewish music recording release yet - now available!

Mark Rubin puts it much better than I can:

CD coverYou checked this out? It's friggin' AWESOME. No foolin'. Best sounding and curated Jewish release I've yet encountered. Belf sounds like he's playing in your front room.

… They've already moved 5000 copies and are headed to a second pressing, which is a pretty big number for a box set especially these days. I think Henry just did the track annotations on it, with Chris King doing the clean ups and Sherry Mayrent writing what could be the best introductory notes I've seen in a good long while. It's her baby as far as I know. And I hear there's already talk of a second volume. Seriously holmes, this is a must have set even if you think you've already heard it before, you ain't heard 'em like this.

Pick up your copy from and help support the KlezmerShack.

September 12, 2009

New CD, songs, art songs about peace, now available on

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

May 30, 2009

Sway Machinery "EP of the month" project

Jeremiah Lockwood, of The Sway Machinery, sends this recent email. If you have caught the band live recently taking cantorial music to primal therapy places it may never have gone before, you'll know why this is such an appealing idea:

For years now I've holed up in a basement in Greenpoint that I rent from my friend Veronica. It's in this space that I write new material for The Sway Machinery, practice the band, do my research and development and generally hide away from the world and delve down into the gutter of my subconscious.

It's been a bit quiet with the band lately (although we will soon be starting up playing a bunch of exciting summer festivals). I've been thinking that I would like to invite the world down into my basement to hear the work I'm doing developing new sounds.

I am going to record an EP length CD of new music every month for six months--demos of new songs, solo blues performance, research into Classics of Chazzanus, experimentation of various stripes and colors. These EPs will be available to the public on a sunscription basis: for 50 bucks a subscriber will receive a limited edition EP-length CD with hand made cover in the mail every month for six months, June through December.

Drop me a line if you are interested in becoming a subscriber!

April 4, 2009

The Sway Machinery - interview in the Forward

I was forced to get my thoughts down about The Sway Machinery because I want to tell you about an excellent interview with band founder/leader Jeremiah Lockwood in this week's Forward. The web version has the longer interview and some mp3s:

Cantorial Blues: The Age of Myth Returns The Sway Machinery Frontman Jeremiah Lockwood on His Musical Development. By Hillel Broder. Published April 02, 2009.

February 14, 2009

Cantor Susan Wehle, z"l

Alan Sisselman writes to the Jewish Music list on Friday:

I was saddened to learn that Cantor Susan Wehle of Temple Beth Am, Amherst NY was listed as a passenger on the Continental Airlines flight out of Newark that crashed in Clarence, NY near Buffalo last night.

She produced a CD entitled "Songs of Healing and Hope" inspired by her visits to the sick and dying. She had beautiful voice, performed at many community functions and was very active in the interfaith community. I am sure that an appropriate and complete summary of her accomplishments will be published. She will be greatly missed by many in the Buffalo community as well as Jewish music circles throughout the world.

It is truly amazing to see the human cost of this mishap as it has taken from us people who have influenced many facets of life ranging from music to human rights in Rwanda to keeping the memories of 9/11 victims alive. There may have been other artists lost but I don't have adequate information to verify anything further.

Alan Rubin adds this information from CNN:

CNN is reporting that Cantor Susan Wehle of Temple Beth Am (Williamsville, NY) was among the 50 people killed in last night's plane crash in Buffalo—

Alan Sisselman notes this lovely memorial in the Jewish Week:

A Voice For Healing, by by Rabbi Irwin A. Tanenbaum, Feb 18, 2009

January 17, 2009

New Debbie Friedman CD, "Shacharit"

cd coverAs 2008 comes to a close, we find ourselves living amid much uncertainty. So many of us are worried; about our finances, our security, our future. From the beginning of my career, I have tried to help people see how prayer can be a source of comfort in both good times and bad. This is particularly the case with my latest CD, As You Go On Your Way: Shacharit - The Morning Prayers (available at, which I hope will give people the opportunity to pray in an intimate and personal way with the goal of helping them get through these difficult times.

I want to help people to begin their day with an open heart; to learn to pray in a comfortable, non-threatening way. Maybe, they'll first experience the CD as music but, over time, they may learn the prayers. Now, when so many are feeling anxious and stressed, the comfort and sense of peace that prayer brings can be a wonderful experience; the perfect way to begin the day.

I hope that 2009 brings all of you much joy, peace and good fortune….As you go on your way,

January 1, 2009

Alas, some things (low pay for cantors; low pay for Jewish musicians) don't seem to change

Marvin Margoshes posts to the Jewish-Music list:

There was some discussion recently of ways that makers of Jewish music are being squeezed financially. Those on this mail list may want to read about the abuse of cantors by synagogues in New York in 1917-1918.

My uncle, Samuel Margoshes, was one of the authors of a study called "The Jewish Communal Register of New York City, 1917-1918. The whole book can be read at A chapter, starting on p. 301, "The Cantors and Their Problem", is by N. Avromson, the President of the Jewish Cantors Association. It describes how congregations in New York City used a series of trial performances to get cantors to lead services without pay. Avromson also describes how short term contracts were used to keep cantorial pay low. According the Avromson, the old tradition was for cantors to have life-time appointments, with a pension for their widows. Also, if a son was qualified, he would have first claim to replace his father.

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."'

February 9, 2008

"A Cantor's Tale," now available on DVD

If you read this site regularly, you will remember me kvelling about a wonderful documentary a couple of years ago about Cantor Jack Mendelson. Now the movie's Director/Producer Erik Anjou writes that it is available on DVD from Ergo Media.

For those wondering what Anjou will do to follow up the movie, I have had the opportunity to view some clips from a new documentary about The Klezmatics. Should be very exciting.

October 23, 2007

Shalshelet deadline next week: Nov 1

Shalshelet Logo, 2007GOT MUSIC ? November 1 DEADLINE for submissions to Shalshelet's Third International Festival.

Shalshelet: The Foundation for New Jewish Liturgical Music is currently accepting submissions for its Third International Festival of New Jewish Liturgical Music. Guidelines and applications are available at

November 1, 2007 is the postmark deadline. The Shalshelet Music Review Committee will announce results on March 1, 2008. The Festival takes place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, June 13 to 16, 2008. Questions: E-mail Shalshelet

May 14, 2007

David Chevan's "Yizkor" on YouTube

About two weeks ago, on Monday, April 16, I had the opportunity to premiere Yizkor: Music of Memory and Mourning, a memorial concert I composed for cantor and jazz ensemble. The lyrics for the pieces all come from the Yizkor service (the Jewish memorial service) and the music that I composed is a mixture of jazz-inflected melodies and rhythms and chazzanut-the often highly melismatic and distinctive traditional singing style used by cantors-a style that dominated their singing more in the late 19th and first half of the 20th century. One of my compositional goals was to reinvigorate this now less commonly used singing style by putting it into a new context. The other was to create a modern Jewish memorial work.

Continue reading "David Chevan's "Yizkor" on YouTube" »

March 15, 2007

New CD: "Journey to Shabbat"

ensemble from 'Journey to Shabbat'

I got this e-mail from Cantor Rita Glassman in San Francisco. It sounds like it could be quite extraordinary:

"I am the Cantor of Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco. I have just finished a CD of contemporary Jewish prayers entitled, "Journey to Shabbat". A small but high quality ensemble and I recorded this album in my 102 year old sanctuary with its amazing acoustics and historical associations (it is one of the few houses of worship to survive the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco). I wonder if you might consider reviewing the CD for Jewish communal readerships and/or sharing any advice about ways I can get this CD out. A project that was 2 years in the making. I poured a lot of heart and soul into this-my first Jewish recording after doing four other more univeral/spiritual albums."

You read more, listen to samples, and order the CD from—this could be the West Coast answer to "With Every Breath" (recorded a few years ago in NYC's Bnai Jeshurun).

February 17, 2007

Cantor Erik L. Contzius makes music available for online sale

Cantor Erik Contzius writes the Jewish-Music mailing list:

Dear friends in song,

I'm proud to announce my first foray into self-publishing. I have opened an on-line store for my sheet music. I encourage you to visit, look around, and listen to some of the music samples (all as mp3's). Of course, if you're so inclined, please feel free to purchase a piece or two! I believe you'll find some things you will not have found elsewhere, such as:

Continue reading "Cantor Erik L. Contzius makes music available for online sale" »

October 4, 2006

Changing High Holiday liturgy

There has been a nice discussion of nusakh and its relative absence in current American services. Professor Marsha Edelman pointed out that Jewish liturgy has always freely borrowed from surrounding cultures and that Ashkenazic cantorial traditions are relatively late. Eva Broman posted this:

Concerning the influences of the surrounding musical culture on Jewish liturgical music, here is something I found in a scholarly article on the influence of Turkish Ottoman music on Greek rebetika(!):

As we know, Ottoman society was a multi-national society in which the cultures of various ethnic and religious communities existed side by side. Each community preserved its religious music in its place of worship, and its folk music within its customs and mores. The music of various ethnic or religious communities formed the peripheral musical culture of the Empire, while the music of the Ottoman élite constituted the central culture (urban light music was a branch of the classical tradition). The Ottoman central music was cherished not only by Muslim musicians but also by non-Muslims: Greek, Armenian, Jewish and other communities. The interesting point was that a great number of non-Muslim musicians were active both in their own religious milieux ­ in church, in the synagogue, etc. ­ contributing to their local or folk music, and also in the sphere of the central music. This peculiarity led to musical exchanges and borrowings. A very typical example of this process is observed in Jewish liturgical music: Jewish cantors singing in Istanbul synagogues borrowed many Ottoman secular or classical songs and performed them in their liturgical ceremonies, on Hebrew sacred texts. One can still hear religious songs or hymns in Istanbul synagogues that maintain their traditional components. Here's the whole article.

Edwin Seroussi has written several articles on these "borrowings".

And in connection to Marsha's comment "Moses' Shirat HaYam probably sounded like an Egyptian pop song" here is an interesting tidbit I found on

>In the Bakkashot services of the Aleppo Jews in Jerusalem, New York, and
>elsewhere, sacred poems are sung to the latest tunes of Arabic popular
>singers as heard on radio and television.

June 5, 2006

Nine Luminaries Of Jewish Liturgical Song

Regular readers of this page have noticed that I am paying increasing attention to Cantorial music. I can't help it. Now, Cantor Sam Weiss, himself one of the prime luminaries of the Jewish-Music list (in my never humble opinion), has taken the resources on these pages a step further. In 2003 nine biographies of (primarily) American Cantors were commissioned for inclusion in a Biographical Dictionary of World Jewish Music, a project which did not come to fruition.

The luminaries profiled don't just include people we traditionally think of as "Cantors": Yossele Rosenblatt, Mordechai Hershman, Leib Glantz, Jan Peerce, Moishe Oysher, Shlomo Carlebach, Ben Zion Shenker, Alberto Mizrahi, and Avraham Fried. Note, instead, the title of the article. Together, the biographies tell the story of how the role of cantor in American public life has changed over the century, and of the new musical influences on the Shaliach Tsibur leading traditional prayers.

I am most pleased to announce the availability of this material here on the KlezmerShack: Nine Luminaries Of Jewish Liturgical Song.

January 28, 2006

The Rabbi Basement Tapes

Elliott Simon writes to the Jewish-Music mailing list:

Hi all....Much to my surprise I saw an article in the Forward today regarding the famous/infamous Rabbi Basement Tapes that were recorded 1953-1954 by ethnomusicologist/filmmaker Harry Smith and are Yiddish songs sung by Rabbi Nuftali Zvi Margolies Abulafia...these have never been released...see Forward article here

I remembered enjoying a program on WFMU (a free form radio station in NJ that I have listened to since the 1960s) that played many of these songs..all told there is a 15 Lp unreleased can hear that program here on

December 31, 2005

George Robinson: Best Jewish Music Recordings of 2005

album coverGeorge Robinson writes frequently for the Jewish Week. He listens to an incredible diversity of music. Take a read of Five Stars All Around: From chasidic reggae to Golden Age chazanut, the best recordings of 2005, Jewish Week, 12/30/2005 (could this really be? Posting a new review in a timely fashion! I'll try to keep up for a while! Since several of the CDs I've been meaning to review are on this list, I even resolve to catch up here at home!)

December 19, 2005

New Cantorial CD: The Spirit of Hanukkah

album coverHere's a hot tip. Cantor Sam Weiss posts to the Jewish-Music list that "The latest CD in the Cantors Assembly/United Synagogue series is now available, 'The Spirit of Hanukkah: Voices of the Conservative Movement'. Liner notes by yours truly."

Knowing Sam, if he's written the liner notes, the CD is very much worth listening to. See

It turns out that the sister of Lori Lippitz (Maxwell Street Klezmer Band) is also on the CD. Kvell! Kvell! Check out Cantor Riki Lippitz of Oheb Shalom in South Orange, NJ, singing the solo on Ocho Kandelikas.

June 6, 2005

HaZamir reaches new heights in 36th anniv. gala

Judy and I went to see Boston's HaZamir last night. For those who don't know, the first HaZamir was part of the Jewish Nationalist flowering back in Lodz a century ago. There are two related choirs in the US - the one in NYC is the first, and is currently led by Matthew Lazar. Boston's is also highly regarded by afficionado's of Jewish choral music. The couple of previous times I saw HaZamir I felt very frustrated. The choir has been relatively small, and the material bounces from popular Israeli folk ditties to new classical compositions such that the result is nice, but not compelling.

But last night was the 36th anniversary concert (36 is a significant number is Jewish folklore, being both 2 x 18 where 18 symbolizes life, and significant on its own because reputedly there are 36 holy people—the "lamed-vavnikim" on earth by whose merit the world continues).

The first half of the concert contains commissions, old and new, and they ranged from "okay" to "pretty good" - a Benji Ellen Schiller piece was quite nice, as was an Israeli commission that followed.

But the second half was the most amazing performance of Bloch's "Sacred Service" I have ever heard. More significant, it's was the best performance that Judy, who has performed the piece, had ever heard. It wasn't just new melodies to which the Reform Friday night service of 1929 (when this was premiered) was set. Bloch entirely rethought how each prayer should be arranged and sung, and in so doing, created a spiritual work of enormous power. After a long, wonderful service, Bloch ended with a rethinking of Adon Olam that will probably change how I hear that prayer (no longer, in my mind, the ditty with which we end the service) from this point forth.

I feel as I did when I saw King Crimson about 30 years ago—this is not music that I thought interested me, but damn, how amazingly powerful. And, for once, HaZamir was better than ever. This is the way to celebrate a significant anniversary. Josh Jacobson, the co-founder and director should feel very proud of himself, as should all of the participants.

November 21, 2004

Yossele Rosenblatt re-issues

Cantor Sam Weiss posts to the Jewish-Music mailing list:

The Cantors Assembly has recently released a 6-CD set of digitally remastered recordings of Yossele Rosenblatt (including his Yiddish recordings). The set comes with Hebrew and English texts, and indications of original recording dates. In addition, the out-of-print Rosenblatt biography by his son Samuel Rosenblatt has been reprinted.

Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt re-issues

This announcement prompted an immediate reply:

...Which reminds me of the one about the cantor who bragged that he was "the third Yossele Rosenblatt."

"And who is the SECOND Yossele Rosenblatt?" asked one member of the congregation.

"There could BE no second Yossele Rosenblatt!" scowled the cantor.

October 4, 2004

Cantor Sam Weiss on "Teshuva"

album coverIn this case, it's an album by Ramón Tasat, César Lerner and Marcelo Moguilevsky, reviewed by Cantor Sam Weiss for the KlezmerShack. It was Cantor Weiss' goal to make this available during the High Holiday period. Happily, the review is none the less interesting and pertinent for the delay.

April 11, 2004

3-CD set of American synagogue music review

Judith Pinnolis, who maintains the Jewish Music Web Center, has recently inaugurated a new section of CD reviews:

"There is a new, "new CD Reviews" section on the Jewish Music WebCenter. So far, only the first one is on the new page, but it's about the 3-CD set of music released by Shearith Israel in honor of the 350th in America celebration. The old pages are still there too, (so far)."

Other pages relevant to lovers of new reviews include her other reviews and review sites page, and CD announcements -- the 'blog')

November 23, 2003

New KlezmerShack reviews

There never seems to be time to review everything I'd like to write about. When music this good arises, I find myself listening over and over and forgetting to move on. That's okay. That's why I listen and write in the first place. So, from Australia to Ireland via California and Salonika via NYC, here are the latest. If you are getting an early start on your Chanuka shopping this coming weekend, pay good attention - these are the new musics that folks will be wanting:

a ripe fig. deliciousThe Fig Tree, 2003
This is a delightful collection of Greek, Jewish, and other music, accompanying a book on immigrants to Australia by Arnold Zable. Don't let the distance from Australia stop you from listening to this, hearing the latest from our favorite Australian klezmer bands, and hearing some wonderful other music, as well.

the green of ireland seen through a deep stone windowCeiliZemer / Shalom Ireland, 2003
Continuing the international tour, this soundtrack to a documentary about Jews in Ireland fuses the two musics delightfully. Yes, indeed, think of what hasidic music (and klezmer) might have been like if the uillean pipes had been available in Eastern Europe. There's still time to add them here.

Helvetica. Sheesh. and bits of time and musicDavid Chevan / Days of Awe, 2003
Chevan has gathered his Afro-Semitic Experience, including guitar wizzard Stacy Phillips, and added Frank London. The result is exquisite jazz versions of music from the High Holy Days. If you like this sort of thing (I do), this is definitely the sort of thing that you will like.

The high lonesome wooden synagogueMargot Leverett & the Klezmer Mountain Boys, 2003
Today's theme seems to be fusion music. You got yer Greeks and Klezmers; you got yer Irish and Klezmers. And when you're especially lucky, you got your bluegrass klezmers. But, it's a Margot Leverett album, so you already knew that it would be on your "essential klezmer" list, anyway. I think of Leverett the way I think of Jeff Warschauer and Deborah Strauss - if she's involved, it's not only amazing, but it's comfort music - the perfect accompaniment for when you feel great, and an even better accompaniment for when you need a lift.

  • interesting letter on desert backgroundSarah Aroeste / A la una, 2003
    Mobius, of my favorite Jewish weblog, Jew*School suggested that I write something about these new Sephardic artists. Some I knew. Aroeste's name was unfamiliar. It shouldn't be. This is extraordinary Ladino music, set with contemporary instrumentation and sounds by someone who has worked with good avant garde musicians and knows what good music should sound like. But the critical part is how seamlessly she has kept the feel of traditional Ladino song. This is one of our favorite albums this year. Who knew?

    interested hip hop khasene sceneSolomon & Socalled / HipHopKhasene, 2003
    As much fun as I had writing about everything else, this is my favorite of the bunch. Witty, brilliant, funny, and great music. The album features not only the amazing Socalled, but Oi Va Voi's Sophie Solomon. Guests include David Krakauer, Zev Feldman, Frank London, Michael Alpert, Elaine Hoffman-Watts and daughter Susan... even Jewish-music mailing list regular, Cantor Sam Weiss. Essential for all but the humor-impaired.

  • November 3, 2003

    New reviews by George Robinson

    George Robinson announces a slew of new music columns published almost all together in New York's Jewish Week:

    Five-Star Klez: From New Orleans and Odessa, fusion and traditional approaches.

    A Fall Sampler: From Solomon Rossi to Michael Strassfeld.

    Heard Around The World: From Turkey to London to the Lower East Side.

    August 10, 2003

    2000 sheets of Cantorial music online

    Ladies and Gentlemen!

    It gives me the greatest of pleasure, after more than 7 years of travail, to announce that over 2,000 sheets of shul music have now been scanned and put on the site.

    Stephen Simpson
    Moderator, Shul Music List

    Continue reading "2000 sheets of Cantorial music online" »

    June 17, 2003

    Cantors retreat to the Catskills, Aug 10-13

    lots of cantorslots of cantorsThis event may be of interest to musicians and enthusiasts who wish to explore the art and repertoire of classic East-European Hazzanut "from the inside".

    Kutshers Country Club, New York

    The "Rozhinke Retreat" is an effort to preserve and continue the great Cantorial art tradition of yesteryear. At the turn of the Millenium, we have seen many Jewish cultural revivals: Yiddish, Klezmer... and Hazzanut is due a revival of its own.

    This retreat has its roots in the great Cantorial stylings of such renowned Hazzanim as Yossele Rosenblatt, David Kousevitsky, Zavel Kwartin and many others--with an emphasis not on historical examination, but rather living reproduction of an art form which is so intrinsically Jewish, and so passionate, so filled with pathos and sweetness, that it can only be described as "Rozhinke" --the sweet sound of raisins and almonds.

    • Faculty to include world-class Cantors
    • Workshops with hands-on singing
    • Nightly Cantorial Concerts
    • Late Night Sharing Sessions

    For further info:

    June 3, 2003

    New at "Chazzanut Online"

    Irwin Oppenheim's "Chazzanut Online" is such a wonderful site. He has updated it with loads more material - do take a look!

    Continue reading "New at "Chazzanut Online"" »

    May 7, 2003

    Review: Duo Controverso / Gedanken

    album coverMy first conversation with Kurt Bjorling took place almost ten years ago and had much to do with the difficulty of being the "other" Chicago klezmer band (Kurt co-founded the Chicago Klezmer Ensemble), and a lot to do with the tapes of Naftule Brandwein that he was passing around to fellow musicians who had no access at the time to Brandwein's amazing and influential repertoire.

    Bjorling's exploration of klezmer, and then beyond, all of Eastern European Jewish music has been profound and influential. On this newest recording, he and his wife, harpist Annette Bjorling, take all of that: klezmer, nusakh, nign, and meld it into a delightful, thoughtful, articulate and gentle album of clarinet-harp duos.

    Although many klezmer fans will enjoy this album, I think the people who will most enjoy it are those who have been more interested in classical music, or cantorial music or hassidic nign. There is less of the dance party here and more of a spiritual journey. You can read the entire review at

    April 7, 2003

    Websites on Jewish Liturgical Music

    An exchange between Joel Bresler and Sam Weiss on the Jewish-Music list last summer elicited some excellent items about Jewish Liturgical music:

    First, Joel posted the following link to a site with a good, articles on Jewish liturgy and liturgical music:

    I found that I had to search on "Jewish Liturgy" to find the wealth of articles on the site--I didn't find a table of contents. But there are some very interesting-looking articles, for sure.

    Sam Weiss, responded to Joel's post, noting: ... The article by Eliyahu Schleiffer [in three parts on this site. ari] is an excellent "thumbnail course" on Jewish liturgical music.... I'd like to return the favor by pointing out the following wonderful website on cantors of Alsace-Lorraine, with some great sound files:

    Italian Jewish musical traditions, article

    book coverWe were distracted last summer and almost missed this wonderful article about Italian Jewish Musical traditons, by Ruth Gruber (whose most recent book is the rather amazing "Virtually Jewish: Reinventing Jewish Culture in Europe"). In particular, she highlights work done by Francesco Spagnolo, one of my favorite Italians, who seems to be single-handedly responsible for growing awareness in the field:

    Centuries-old liturgical tradition comes alive on CD of Jewish tunes.

    April 3, 2003

    E. Euro Ashkenazi Nusach online

    Irwin Oppenheim writes to the Jewish-music mailing list:

    I've just become aware of an amazing project by Josh Sharfman.

    He has recorded an Eastern European Ashkenazi nusach of more or less the whole year and made it available on his website in no less than 725 MP3 tracks!

    This is the url:

    March 22, 2003

    Review of Laura Wetzler CD

    Looks like kabbalah to meIt's about time, but we finally have a short review up of the marvellous recent CD by Laura Wetzler, Kabbalah Music

    February 17, 2003

    Best of 2002, from George Robinson

    Every year, George Robinson pegs the best of the albums that he has reviewed. The Klezmershack is months behind, so I'm just getting this up now. Still, the choices are excellent, so any time is the right time to read them:

    December 20, 2002

    New American-Jewish Music for Prayer CD

    OPEN THE GATES! is a representative sampling (or as representative as one CD can be)--18 selections, by 18 different composers and performers--of contemporary American-Jewish religious folk music, reflecting the inclusive, intimate, and lyrical style of contemporary Jewish prayer music--and incorporating various American folk and popular styles (bluegrass/country/world music/a cappella/"light" jazz; guitars and fiddles, pianos and flutes) in the characteristic manner of Jewish musical fusion. It is unusual--and perhaps unique--for including under one virtual roof the music of almost every segment of the American Jewish community--from the more-or-less yeshiva world to Jewish Renewal, and many in between. The compiler is Robert Cohen.

    March 9, 2002

    Cantor Isaac Algazi: Sweet Singer of Israel

    New release Rubin/Ottens Jewish Music Series Wergo:

    Cantor Isaac Algazi: Sweet Singer of Israel Ottoman Jewish Music from the Early 20th Century, SM 1622-2, Available on 6 May, 2002; probably will be available 8 weeks later in US. Rabbi Isaac Algazi (b. 1889 Izmir/Turkey, d. 1950 Montevideo/Uruguay), the "Sweet Singer of Israel", was one of the most outstanding cantors of the Turkish-Jewish synagogue. One of the leading Turkish-Jewish intellectuals of his time, Algazi was the first to establish the art of solo cantorial singing in the public prayer of Sephardi Jews, influencing 20th century Sephardi cantorial music throughout the world.

    Continue reading "Cantor Isaac Algazi: Sweet Singer of Israel" »

    February 10, 2002

    New book on Synagogue Music

    "The Musical Tradition of the Eastern European Synagogue: History and Definition by Sholom Kalib." Publication date: March 2002. Publisher: Syracuse Univ Pr. Binding: Hardcover. Subjects: Music; Ethnomusicology; History & Criticism.

    January 13, 2002

    Katz Cantorial manuscript available online

    I am delighted to announce that the musical heritage of the Dutch/British chazzan Abraham Katz (1881-1930) is finally accessible by the public at large. His manuscript (83pp, 1915) is browsable through my home page. It is a treat to look at! I sincerely hope that this web site, will enable many people to share the joy with me of using the compositions of chazzan Katz.

    December 30, 2001

    The Soul of Klezmer: Last reviews of 2001

    Capsule reviews of music by San Francisco Klezmer Experience, Channe Nussbaum & Spielniks, Jack Kessler, Bang on a Can, Abby Rabinowitz, Klezmerica, Musa Berlin, Di Gojim, Jamie Saft, Jeremy Brown, and compilation 'The Soul of Klezmer'

    November 30, 2001

    A New liturgical voice, by Cantor Sam Weiss

    A New Liturgical Voice, a , by reviewer Cantor Sam Weiss, Sept. 2001. This page is based on an article in Volume XXVIII of The Journal of Synagogue Music, published by The Cantors Assembly.