April 30, 2017

Mark Rubin, "Songs for the Hangman's Daughter," now, GoFundIt!

Friends. Do you like bluegrass? (What sort of person doesn't like bluegrass?) Do you like damn good bluegrass? Do you like damn good bluegrass songs with attitude? Jewish, no less? I suggest you try Mark Rubin's recent "Songs for the Hangman's Daughter" as reviewed herein. Spread the word@mdash;and then hit his GoFundMe campaign to help get the word out further.

September 3, 2016

Two essential Yiddish Trios

Two last reviews before I hit the road to Toronto and the Ashkenaz Festival. It's been 20 years of New Jewish Music, and I'm excited—but not so excited that I want to forget to tell you about these:

cd coverI have no idea why I haven't reviewed this release yet. It is exactly the kind of music I look forward to, created by three of my favorite young-ish musicians--KlezKanada and KlezKamp alumni, hurrah!, making music for their generation, and celebrating hundreds of years of Yiddish culture: Yiddish Art Trio, 2014.

cd coverAnd, in the same vein, drawing on veterans from the former USSR, from the UK and USA, we have the holy musical trinity of: Sklamberg & the Shepherds / Aheym, 2015. Just beautiful

It's a Yiddish-lover's world. Enjoy. As for me, I'm off to my own aheym at Ashkenaz!

August 29, 2016

Catching up with five "must listen" new releases

I am once again looking for a next gig (if you know someone in the Boston area who needs a cloud computing consultant/Project Manager/Scrum Master, do contact meAshkenaz Festival in a few days:

cd coverThis is one of the most interesting and successful "re-mix" efforts I've heard. A group of musicians in Germany has pulled archival recordings and integrated into their covers. The material is wonderful and nicely extends our repertoire, and encourages more to consult the same sources: Waks / Yiddish Voices, 2015. Highly recommended.

cd coverI always look forward to concerts and recordings by klezmer flautist Adrianne Greenbaum. This new one is especially noteworthy as it brings a klezmer family repertoire back to life: Fleytmuzik / Poyln, 2016

cd coverRecordings like this remind us why we miss the late Franka Lampe (and how wonderful it is that her partner on this recording, Fabian Schnedler, is just hitting his stride—see him next weekend with Semer Ensemble in Ashkenaz!). In this case, the duo mine field recordings amongst Jewish criminals (an obvious place to look for those who know of the reputation of klezmorim back in the day). Check out Schikker Wi Lot / Ganovim-Lider, 2016 and enjoy.

cd coverLocal (to me, here in Boston) avant-garde-istas return to the recording world after an absence of several years to remind us all why we miss them and how great it is to hear new material: Naftule's Dream / Blood, 2016. Sure to bring a smile to your ears.

cd coverIf there is a better Jewish band actively creating new traditional klezmer, I don't know of them. In this new recording, they include Joel Rubin, an equally acclaimed klezmer revival pioneer and professor. Just marvellous. Polish rural folk traditions klezmerified. Veretski Pass w/Joel Rubin / Poyln, 2015. Buy a few copies—you'll be handing them out to friends and family.

June 5, 2016

Review: David Krakauer's Ancestral Groove / Checkpoint (2016)

krakauer passport photo-ish.'To the extent that I have been tweeting the last couple of months, it has been to reflect how blown away I am by the new (to the US--released in Europe 2014) David Krakauer CD. This is the sort of CD that makes me celebrate the klezmer revival: entirely new music built on not just Eastern European roots, but also infused with jazz, funk, hip hop, and even modern classical traditions. This is what originality sounds like, but only when originality is accessible, approachable, and danceable. Let me invite you to check out David Krakauer's Ancestral Groove / Checkpoint. Available wherever good music is purchased or downloaded, or via David Krakauer's website.

December 27, 2015

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

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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.

December 26, 2015

Miryem-Khaye Seigel's "Toyznt Tamen" captures Yiddish Second Ave spirit for a new generation

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It's the end of the year. It's smack in the middle of Yiddish New York. Time to catch up on some vital recordings that speak to that "new Yiddish culture."

For years, a select few of us have enjoyed the voice that reminds us most of a reincarnated Molly Picon. Now, Miryem-Khaye, whose voice has matured and taken on a strength all its own, has released a debut CD, Toyznt Tamen (a thousand flavors), celebrating Yiddish, theatre, and great Yiddish song. Joined by a stellar backup crew including Alicia Svigals, Carmen Staff, and the Yiddish Art Trio (Michael Winograd, Patrick Farrell, and Benjy Fox-Rosen), this recording is a delight—listening to Seigal let loose on the opening "New York, New York," a paean to NY yiddishkeit, quietly meditative on "Shteyner," or her and Fox-Rosen playing off each others voices in "Gikher, shvester" marks what a special recording this is. I also treasure the large number of songs written by Seigel, or gathered by her (although, in fairness, some songs also remind me of blues songs attributions: familiar as well as original verses pulled together in a new cohesive whole and credited to an author well-steeped in a deep folk tradition), as well as a fair sampler of traditional tunes. Get a copy of this one for the Yiddish (or yiddishkeit) lover in your household who loves tradition. Get your CD or download from bandcamp.

September 7, 2015

Michael Regenstreif reviews: Alpert/Kytasty, Litvakus, Henley

Just in time for Rosh Hashana, Michael Regenstreif reviews three significant and refreshing new Jewish music recordings for the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin

Music: CDs highlight cultural and musical commonalities

February 21, 2015

Mark Rubin CD released

Pretty damn fine 'Jew of Oklahoma' album artOver the years, we've seen and heard lots of musicians who blend a little of this and a little of that. Mark Rubin doesn't really mix anything. He plays the gamut of American music styles from blues to bluegrass, from Cajun to klezmer, closing out with some joyous rhythm 'n' blues. You can tell which is which. What I didn't notice, even from his Americana band, Bad Livers, is how good he is as a song-writer, singer, and fiddler. This CD should make the point.

It takes a Jew from Oklahoma to give us the folk ballad, "The murder of Leo Frank" ("Next time you're at services / say a kaddish for Leo Frank"), followed by a lovely "Rumainyan Fancy." I also appreciate the topicality, breadth, and poetry of the songwriting, from "Key Chain Blues," ("Well the boss man called me up today / Said I gotta take a key off your key chain....") to "(Why am I trying to) kill myself" to the organizing song, "No more to you."

The recording opens with Rubin leaving Texas in "Blues rides a mule," but this music is the best cure for the blues I've heard in too long. This one will be on the playlist for a long time. Best, you can get your own copy—physical CD or download—from our friends at CDBaby. Download it soon, y'all. Time to enjoy some prodigious good picking and feel good about the world again. Great album art, too.

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 13, 2014

Happy almost Khanike--more new Jewish music

Ack! It is almost Khanike and I still have stacks of CDs that you should know about in case you have made gift-giving part of your seasonal celebration of light. Okay, let's get short bits up about a few of them, at least.

hand drawn lettering reminiscent of old Yiddish sheet musicFrom the clarinet glissando that opens the first song, first echoing Gershwin, then blasting that thought out of the ears, Benjy Fox-Rosens 2011 EP Tick Tock signalled a major shift in the way we think about Yiddish songs and Mordechai Geburtig's legacy. It is totally new all over again. "Yiddish Art Song" is reborn, in a thoroughly imaginative, beautiful manner. Listen, for instance to "Grine Oygen" (Green Eyes), which quotes from several popular klezmer and yiddish cliches, turning them inside out. I can only conclude by mentioning the title of the final song on the EP: "S'iz Git"—It's Good! You can get a copy of the EP in digital or physical form via BandCamp.

lovely old world drawing--by Ben Katchor?But, I really got you here to talk about the more recent 2014 Fox-Rosen release, Two Worlds, a reflective, sad song cycle comprised of reset songs by Mordechai Gebirtig. From the opening, "When father beats me," you know that this is not a shmaltzy picture of life in the old country. What makes this essential, and I think why I can't stop listening, is how real it is. The picture is so vivid, the music so intense, that I find myself at the end and starting over. Backed by his Yiddish Art Trio bandmates Pat Ferrell on accordion and Michael Winograd on clarinet, with his brother Avi on guitar and Tyshawn Sorey on drums, Benjy Fox-Rosen's voice and bass weave the arrangements into compelling, haunting stories. His music is new. But it is new swirled with traditional Yiddish folk, theatre, and klezmer fragments, recreated to make a vanished community real again, and to tug at our hearts, to make us care about that community and their lives, anew. You can get a copy for those amazing purveyors of wonderful new sounds, Golden Horn Records.

lovely old world drawing--by Ben Katchor?Looking for something smooth, jazzy, uplifting for the holiday? David Chevan's Afro-Semitic Experience has just the thing, Souls on Fire. After several recent releases that focused on Jewish cantorial tradition, this year the band turned back to its roots, presenting songs from Pharaoh Sanders, MyCoy Tyner, Duke Ellington, along with traditional Jewish klezmer, and spirituals such as "Go Down, Moses" and "Avadim Hayinu" (We were slaves), from the Passover seder. Selections also include that gospel cantor, Sister Rosetta Tharpe's "Up above my head I hear music in the air." A perfect accompaniment to quiet evenings around the menorah or even a roaring fire. You can get your copy, digital or otherwise, from

kinda fun, and captures the CD's atmosphere perfectlyIt is the rare holiday season when you can celebrate with a new release by the punk Eastern European rhythms of "Golem." This is one of them, and Tanz is the most fun the band has had in years. A frenzied cross between the Brave Combo, Gogol Bordello, and your neighborhood klezmer band, Golem's songs are pleasantly twisted, the rhythms are propulsive, dance-perfect. There is a lounge music component that keeps us from taking anything too seriously. Whether telling a plaintive story of two sad sacks finding each other and falling in love ("Miskayt"), harking back to the old country and the many changing linguistic contexts of modern life in "My Horse" ("but with my faithful horse, I speak mameloshn") or telling the stories of recent immigrants to the USA from the former USSR (most notably, sadly, on "Poletim," story of a hijacking gone a bit awry), this is a wonderful burst of energy and fun. This, and other fine recordings by the band are available from their website:

old sepia on lovely graphics and excellent typeA surprising amount of wonderful new Jewish music doesn't come from European Jewish traditions. Likewise, some of the most striking new music is old, as in this recreated Sephardic wedding song cycle arranged by Aron Saltiel, Ensemble Saltiel / Boda. There seems to be no comparable cycle in Ashkenazic tradition. Saltiel has combined decades of field research, with singers and musicians familiar with the repertoire, and takes us from a celebration of the first glances, to arranging the engagement, completing the bridal trousseau to the groom presenting a gift on the wedding night. Gathered from former Ottoman lands in the Balkans and Turkey, the melodies, the singing, and the sense of tradition are fantastic. The singing features for individual solos and a powerful Sephardic chorus. The CD is beautifully packaged with notes (including a brief introduction by Dr. Judith Cohen) and images, as well as translations of all of the tunes. This is just wonderful, good-time music, all the more precious for being a rare recording based on a vanishing/vanished tradition. You can get your copy, digital or otherwise, from Golden Horn Records.

quiet black silhouette on bricks. Well-executed typeI saved my favorite among favorites for last. César Lerner and Marcelo Moguilevsky have been creating a wonderful fusion of Jewish and South American music together for almost as long as there has been a KlezmerShack. On their most recent (first?) trip to Boston two years ago, they brought Alef Bet, their most fully realized recording, yet. The album features their patented interplay between woodwinds and percussion/piano. Listen to Moguilevsky turn a simple "Zhok," first on flute?, and then Lerner's piano response, and then they begin improvising. "Una Luz" opens with quite, sparse chords by Lerner, and continues quietly exploring until the rapid pace of "Popurri" picks up Moguilevsky's clarinet and then the two are off, conversing wildly, excitedly, again. This is a quieter, more sure recording than their earlier efforts. It is less "klezmer-jazz fusion" and more it's own modern music in which one discerns strains of many things, but mostly, two musicians who have been sharing their conversations for decades, and who continue to find new, deeper, always-satisfying things to say to each other. Listening to Marcelo's whistling, as Lerner's piano walks quietly beside on the closing "Part of me," best expresses how far they have come, and how much richer our ears have been for the journey. Better, the days when ordering their CDs meant finding one's way in an Argentinian website and fantastic shipping charges are over. You can get this, and other recordings, directly from iTunes or

November 4, 2014

Review of Zisl Slepovitch's excellent "Litvakus" CD, from Jewcy

This past week saw the CD release of Dmitri "Zisl" Slepovitch's latest project, Litvakus. To note that the CD is an extraordinary Eastern-European-style klezmer CD would be an understatement. (We would expect no less from the person responsible for the equally lovely Minsker Kapelye CD several years ago). You'll understand why the review is so knowledgeable when you glance at the byline:

Litvakus' New Album "Raysn" is Party Music for the Klezmer Set: Ethnomusicologist Dmitri Zisl Slepovitch plays the Jewish music of his native Belarus, by Rokhl Kafrissen / October 29, 2014

October 18, 2014

Two different takes on Jewish music and Americana: Koby Israelite and Ezekiel's Wheel

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I have reviewed early Koby Israelite releases on these pages, and always with delight. But this latest, which includes some wonderful Americana, along with his usual patented remixing of world traditional music from all over (including a classic version of Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues," perhaps arranged as only an Israeli exile in London can). If you haven't heard of Israelite, or haven't yet heard Blues from elsewhere, you are in for a treat.

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The only thing sad about Ezekiel's Wheels first full-length release is that it has taken me a year to get it online. A traditional American klezmer band, the Wheels seem to infuse everything with a special energy. Their arrangements, even their newer compositions, are so much a part of the traditional approach to klezmer without foregoing what it means to be an American band making Ashkenazic Jewish simkhe music. They don't just sound special as a band, but in person they still seem special. This is the best capturing of that soul, so far, Transported

October 12, 2014

Zion80, Ichka, Lemon Bucket Orchestra, Lenka Lichtenberg/Yair Dalal - save the best for last from Ashkenaz 2014

So, we're just about at the end of my writing about the Ashkenaz 2014 fest and what I saw and heard there. Just a few more bands/releases to cover. Bear with me. I've kind of saved the best for last, so you wouldn't all go away.

The first full evening of the festival was Saturday night. As festival director Eric Stein noted, every act playing Saturday night was Canadian. That already makes Ashkenaz special. Beyond the rare incursion by some of the Montreal bands, you wouldn't think from sitting here in Boston that there was Jewish music, much less new Jewish music in Canada at all.

cd coverOne of the key ingredients of the festival is the ongoing dancing. This year, the band that did most of the playing for that dancing was a Montreal band, Ichka, that has also done some minor touring—they were even south of the border, here in Boston on a double bill with local favorites Ezekiel's Wheels last winter. They are a powerful, brassy ensemble that remind me in some ways of the venerable Dutch band, Di Gojim. Ichka is young and they play with excellence and fervor. Their first release, Podorozh, captures the contemporary North American klezmer sound: Not only familiar songs such as "Nifty's Freylakhs" or "Fun Tashlikh," but updated to include Steven Greenman's excellent "Dreaming of Goldenshteyn," a delightful "Glazier's Hora" from Alicia Svigals, and best of all, reaching across the pond to capture "the Tongue," by Merlin Shepherd (who, as already mentioned, was also at Ashkenaz with wife, singer/piano player, Polina Shepherd). Opening with a fantastic drumroll and a fantastic blaring of horns, this is both a blast from the past, and a statement about keeping the dancing speaking to us. If you were't at Ashkenaz, you can get your CD or MP3s from bandcamp.

cd coverJoining Ichka on its debut album was the Lemon Bucket Orkestra, one of Toronto's best street orchestras. You don't know from street orchestras? Somewhere, in an urban area near you there is a festival called "Honk!" featuring these popular, often-amateur ensembles from around the world. (Boston's was held this weekend, in fact!) Lemon Bucket is famed for calling out the band to play in an Assisted Living home, or to accompany a good protest. At Ashkenaz, they headlined on Saturday night, exciting the largest crowd I saw during the festival with incredible energy, precision, and a scintillating mix of klezmer, balkan, and whatever else they felt like playing. Their new recording, Lume Lume has the frenetic mix you would expect, with tunes from all over Eastern Europe, Jewish and otherwise. They close with one of my favorites, "7:40." Back towards the beginning of the klezmer revival, this was recorded by everyone. We all moved on. I am greatful to the Lemon Buckets for bringing it back, and for having so much fun playing. You can find out more and get your own copy (CD or MP3) from their bandcamp page.

cd coverAs part of my introduction to the artists playing at Ashkenaz, I mentioned Lenka Lichtenberg's recent CD, Songs for the breathing walls. She was at Ashkenaz to promote a new, just-released project, an album of lullabies which she has put together with Iraqi-Israeli artist Yair Dalal. Lullabies from Exile presents lullabies from both European and Mizrahi Jewish traditions. Featuring the gentle voices of both, as well as Dalal's wonderful oud, and backed by an excellent ensemble, this is the children's recording of the festival. Soothing and gentle, and drawing from so many Jewish traditions (and their overlap), it is a pleasure. Check out Lichtenberg's website for your own copy and for more info.

cd coverFinally, we come to my personal favorite, Sunday night's headline band, Zion 80, jazz guitarist/Tzadik recording artist Jon Madof's recent project merging the AfroPop sounds of Fela Kuti with the melodies of Shlomo Carlebach. While that original project was a wall of danceable, infectious nign, this concert highlighted material from the new release, Adramelech: The book of angels, vol. 22 featuring Madof's arrangements of John Zorn tunes from "The Book of Angels." The band isn't much smaller than the Lemon Bucket Orchestra, and took Jewish music to another continent entirely. If you don't have both of the Zion 80 releases, time to catch up. But, I also have to express my pleasure and delight especially at the new release. Available, of course, from Tzadik Records. Enjoy. Same time, same place, in two years for the next Ashkenaz Festival?

September 28, 2014

New releases for the Days of Awe

I want to take time out for a few minutes to note the current season and mention a few recent releases that may help get you in the mood for t'shuvah.

CD coverI'll first mention a new instrumental release by Tzadik saxophonist Paul Shapiro / Shofarot Verses. His 2003 "Midnight Minyan" put the daven into jazz. Here he continues that tradition, with some of my favorite Tzadik musicians, including Captain Beefheart alum Marc Ribot on guitar, Brad Jones on bass, and Tony Lewis on drums. From the opening moments of the very season-appropriate "Hashivenu" through the closing "With Reed and Skins" Shapiro manages to combine jazz and a sense of nusach (Ashkenazic Jewish cantorial modes) in ways that seek out that still small voice within us. At the same time, as on "Daven Dance," he reminds us that joy can physically move us. The shofar-like soprano sax impulsion on "Halil," with Ribot's answering guitar is one standout, followed by an actual shofar on "Ashamnu," which takes the familiar Yom Kippur melody to a new place of grace. The album's ethos is perhaps best expressed in the description of "Search your soul," "Finding solace in the house of b-flat." More info at Paul's website. The music is available from Tzadik and the usual disk and MP3 vendors online.

CD coverComing from another place, entirely, (and perhaps exemplifying the difference between the gritty downtown New York scene vs. the spiritual secularism of California's Bay Area) singer/cantor Linda Hirschhorn's voice and words speak directly to those parts of us that aspire to heal and to help a world in need of healing. Her 2013 recording, "Amazed" is also an album with beautiful personal love songs. With an all-star cast, including Holly Near on the backing vocals of the opening hymn, "Amazed," this is just a wonderful album, balm for a "verbissener velt." Tunes range from the folkie to the blues, as on "Some Love," to the hum along inspirational and aspirational, as "Give it all you have." You can listen to samples and purchase the CD from Linda Hirschhorn's website and the usual online vendors.

cd coverSiach Hasadeh is a Montreal-based duo, clarinet and bass, exploring Jewish niggun. Since they also appeared at Ashkenaz 2014, I can also link this set of reviews to my continuing coverage of the standout artists at that festival. Although the music is sweet, the duo explores the rougher sides of harmony as well. There is a delightful tone poem/art song/modern classical dissonance that weaves in and out of these tunes, from the opening "R' Levi Yitzchak Berditchever's Niggun" to "Niggun firn di tsaddikim in gay eyden" or "Rabbeinu's Niggun" featuring Shtreiml masters Jason Rosenblatt on harmonica and Ismail Fencioğlu on oud. For those who enjoy digging deeper and letter ways of niggun wash over them, this is a rich recording. You can read more about the recording on the band's website or purchase it directly from

cd coverThe standout voice, the woman everyone wanted to hear at this year's Ashkenaz Festival was Polina Shepherd. Readers of these pages over the years will not be surprised—you have read reviews of her singing with choirs, with brass bands, with just her husband, Merlin Shepherd, and friends. She plays an amazing piano, but it is her voice that you notice. Amazing range. Beauty, and a force of nature. Born in the former Soviet Union, this recording is a tribute to both her Russian and Yiddish roots. She sings of love and longing, universal yearnings, whether, say, in the Russian "Silver Birch" or the more modern Yiddish of "Birch Tree;" from folk melodies, to Eastern European "scat," here a wordless prayer in "Ay Yay Yay;" whether the text comes from the Song of Songs, "Place me like a seal," her own poetry (most of these pieces), or evokes life, itself, in the Yom Kippur plea, "Avinu Malkeinu" (Our Father, Our King). Shepherd's voice is transformative. More information, and CD purchases from the artist's website.

cd coverThere has been an evolution as Basya Schechter has gone from writing Middle Eastern-inflected folksongs, to someone more involved with rethinking religious poetry. He most recent CD was a recording of her settings of love poems, both to women, and to God (and sometimes, like "Song of Songs," as easily to read as expressing love for both) written in Yiddish by Rabbi A. J. Heschel. This latest recording by Pharaoh's Daughter consists entirely of settings of traditional prayer and piyyut. The music, though, comes from around the world. The opening "Adon Olam" conveys echoes of electronica. The familiar "Maoz Tzur" is rethought with celesta-like keyboard pinpoints, as though to highlight falling snow; in the simplicity of the melody you can hear echoes of a family lighting Hanukkah candles. Likewise, "Ha-nerot Halaluh" contains elements of electronica and metallic percussion and a lively sing-along melody. The title song, for instance, "Dumiya," echoes all of the above, with hints of African rhythm and Middle Eastern flow. The closing "Shebishlifleynu" has a driving, somewhat psychedelic beat. The current season is evoked with light glissando's of sound setting "Zikaron," a poem conveying the awe of standing in front of G-d on Yom Kippur, with a quieter new melody for "P'tach lanu sha'ar" (open a gate for us). If the music of Shlomo Carlebach and Debbie Friedman simplified melodies and invited congregational participation in davenning in new ways, the music of Basya Schechter and Pharaoh's Daughter fuses Sephardic, Ashkenazic, and indeed, world music traditions for a new generation of prayers. It is good to hear such eloquent settings for songs of renewal in this season of awe. Liner notes and more info available on the Pharaoh's Daughter website. You can purchase a copy from

September 27, 2014

More from Ashkenaz 2014: Forshpil, Geoff Berner

Before memories of this year's Ashkenaz Festival totally dissipate, I wanted to continue my mentions of several notable bands and musicians encountered there.

cd coverFirst up is Forshpil, from Riga, Latvia. Although they performed a couple of traditional klezmer/yiddish sets at the obligatory "Bella Did ya eat?" brunch at the FreeTimes Cafe, the band is much more "rock-klezmer" fusion. In fact, the opening "Volekhl" on their eponymous 2012 CD immediately attracts the ears, sounding like an improbably successful marriage between Hawkwind and traditional klezmer. From there, it's on to a funk-infused "Priv Trink Oys." Despite the quite, gentle rendition of "Di sapozkelekh" or the closing "Dobranotsh," and although there are reggae and jazz influences, the dominant sound is that opening "heavy metal progrock" feel, along with a certain Dick Dale-inspired speed guitar picking, as on "Meyld in di yorn." In this, the band reminds me not a little of "Yiddish Princess." The diversity continues to good effect. Like so much good klezmer-and-more recordings these days, you can get your copy at, where you can also listen to samples of each of the songs.

cd coverGeoff Berner's 2011 "Victory Party" is a different kettle of fish. A long-time stalwart of the Canadian folkie scene, this is his sixth recording. Berner is often compared to Daniel Katz for the social commentary and (in Berner's case, relatively rare) Yiddish or klezmer inflections in his music. You can hear their similarities in songs such as "Laughing Jackie the Pimp" and in a very nicely contextualized "Daloy Polizei," also covered by Kahn (especially timely this year--and now that I think about it, all too often). At the same time, where Kahn both incites to action and expresses an ennui (this, too, will not ultimately change the world), Berner more often seems a bit more of a commentator, distant. His "Mayn rue platz" is less a call to action, than an evocation of sadness. But, we speak of relativity. "I am going to jail / to get a new pair of shoes" ("Jail") pulls few punches, despite its jaunty tune. "Oh my golem" is likewise fairly direct commentary. "Did you really think a perfect god / wants you to burn a goat / or nail the Messiah in place" from "Rabbi Berner finally reveals his true religion" may be gentle, but it's a call to action, nonetheless (smirk included).

In addition to performing at Ashkenaz, Berner was interviewed by DJ SoCalled (who also produced "Victory Party") at the Festival about his relatively recent short novel, Festival Man. Advertised as a hard-hitting satire about the Canadian Folk Festival scene, the book is actually a bit of a fond love poem to same—satire included, and a pleasure to read.

September 21, 2014

David Buchbinder's Odessa/Havana, "Walk to the Sea"

another faux deep tzadik coverOne of the highlights of the Saturday evening concerts at this year's Ashkenaz Festival in Toronto was the appearance of David Buchbinder's Odessa/Havana. Showcasing their 2013 release on Tzadik, "Walk to the sea," the music was exhilarating. The fusion of Cuban, klezmer, and jazz, and much more was seamless. Buchbinder and his bands are always excellent, but watching pianist Hilario Durán was magic. Listening to vocalist Maryem Hassan Tollar live was a revelation. I have a short review of the CD now on the KlezmerShack. Enjoy. You can get your own copy via the band's website.

April 29, 2014

CD of the day: Susan Leviton/Deep Skies

Leviton's calligraphy and typography

Susan Leviton
Deep Skies, 2013

Available from

This is a special album. It doesn't re-imagine Yiddish (mostly) standards. Rather, Susan Leviton presents them in a form that enables us to re-hear them, and re-imagine them for ourselves. In digging into the poetry of these songs, we regain insight into a particular world, but also into the human condition.... [more]

If you live in NYC, you can hear the artist tonight as part of the New York Klezmer Series, at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, 30 W. 68th St., NYC

February 7, 2014

EP of the day: Ben Holmes & Patrick Farrell / EP

CD coverI picked this up at a recent concert by the Yiddish Art Trio here in Boston. Both musicians, Ben on trumpet; Patrick on accordion, are vital members of the post-revival younger generation. Patrick released a wonderful, wildly diverse full-length CD a few years ago, Stagger Back, and I see him most often with various bands that include Michael Winograd and Benjy Fox-Rosen. I first noticed Ben as part of the legendary Princeton band, the Klez Dispensers. He is making a growing name for himself as a jazz trumpeter.

This is just a short recording, but I have been listening to it over and over. It starts with some traditional klezmer, to which the musicians have added some incisive improvisation, moves through Scriabin and Chopin, and finally ends with a Brian Wilson tune. What I like best is that the two play seamlessly, and beautifully together. I also appreciate that the music is often thought-provoking, and that I hear not just pop or classical or klezmer, but parts of something new that pulls these, and other influences, tunefully, together.

in short, just the short of recording, short though it might be, that my ears are always on the lookout for. You can get your own copy on Farrell's website. It will make for excellent Shabbes listening, good throughout the week.

September 4, 2013

Concert review: Itzhak Perlman and Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot, Boston, 2013

A highlight of the 2013 Boston Jewish Music Festival was a concert which featured violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman and Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot, backed by the Klezmer Conservatory Band and members of Boston Musica Viva.

Concert Review: Eternal Echoes: Songs and Dances for the Soul, by Dobe (Dena) Ressler

When's the last time you saw people dancing in the aisles at Symphony Hall? It doesn't happen often, but when Hankus Netsky directs a concert, even the improbable can happen. [more]

August 25, 2013

new from Auris Media in Israel, plus Tim Sparks, Freylekh Trio, and 3 Leg Torso

There is an amazing label in Israel, Auris Media, putting out delicious, noisy, mashed-up fusion music. I got my latest fix this week, so let me give you all a quick rundown as I get ready to spend more time listening. I'll also put up links as to how to get these—the Auris Media website is the latest of my favorite vendors to suffer misfortune. In their case, most of the most recent CDs are not listed (or order-able online), although there is an active concert listing for those in Israel. I should also mention that if you purchase physical media, you are getting beautiful packages. This label is a labor of love. For those of us who treasure non-commercial music, Auris Media is a treasure.

unreadable, but beautiful coverLong-time readers of this site will be familiar with "Kruzenshtern and Parohod," a punk/avant-garde-ish band from Tel Aviv. More on them, anon. Most important at the moment is that they have completed two recent EP recordings with fellow-travelers, Vialka, from France. The combined band is know as the "KiV Orchestra." I love it! another unreadable, but beautiful coverEach of these recordings contains only five songs. It's as if the US punk-klezmer-balkan band, Golem moved even more extreme (and lost the klezmer), or if soulmates "Painted Bird" likewise amped up the noise and added French and Russian. Heck. "After Hostilities Ended" from Extension could have come from Daniel Kahn if they'd only sung it in Yiddish! KiV is a noise circus coupled with the amazing vocals of Marylise Frecheville. From the press release: "… a twisted version of Berlin 1920s cabaret into broken tango chansons, outsider's music from the Balkan and traditional Russian prisoner's songs. All these different styles and flavors mixed together with tons of black humor and a tough punk attitude." Get your recordings on iTunes, or from the Vialka website: Whatever hyperbole follows about other recordings? It may be true, but this is what has captured my listening time since its arrival. Extra kudos for "This is Not Tradition" on the LaRoue EP. You can also get most of the contents of the two EPs on a new release on LP/MP3: Whole.

too damn much pinkIgor Krutogolov and his fellow Tel Aviv-niks have been busy. I captured a short set of theirs a couple years ago on the KlezmerShack channel on YouTube which contains some material ("Koshka") from the most recent release, Hidden Album. The band (the origins of whose name resides in Russian irony; no duo, no Kruzenshtern, no Parohod) is now up to four members since the addition of accordionist Boris Martinovsky, the "Michael McLaughlin of the Israeli avant garde." What they haven't lost is intensity. pleasing 'kishkushim' on the outside, inside a bit too 'heavy metal portraitureGoing back a bit further to what is new to me is Noize 2005. With one song arranged by John Zorn, and that aforementioned intensity (and even without Martinovsky's accordion) the band reminds me a lot of my local Boston homies, Naftule's Dream, with an eclectic avant garde, anarchic-sounding intricately-arranged set of boundary-pushing punk-inflected soundscapes. That may be the longest string of compound adjectives I've used in a while. This isn't simple music (nor music for simple people ;-)). But unlike a lot of such music, these guys have their instruments attuned to something special. I may be listening to KiV Orchestra more, this week, because it is entirely new, but these two CDs will stay out with their brothers for a long while. Get your copies directly from iTunes, or from band camp.

too damn much blueRussian rapper/singer Psoy Korolenko is a treasure. In his second outing with Israel's premier klezmer band, Oy Division, Psoy Division / Dicunt he spreads anarchy and good feelings far and wide. It is easy to imagine, in fact, a delightful concert featuring this lineup and the earlier-reviewed KiV Orchestra. I'd go a long way to hear them all live. This is a reasonable place to listen in the meantime. As on his earlier recording with Daniel Kahn (just a few sentences from now), Psoy is mashing up Russian, Yiddish, Hebrew, klezmer, and rap, all to wondrous effect. There is even an excellent cover of Daniel Kahn's recent "Love Lays Low." But, here he is messing more directly with traditional folk traditions, ranging from Russian to Hasidic. I have attitude. I love it when really good musicians mess with things. fun lettering, fun illustrationFor those who need their "messing" more political, I've had Daniel Kahn, Psoy Korolenko, Oy Division / The Unternationale in the "listening, must review soon" pile for a couple of years, but haven't gotten a mention online. More shame, me. From the echoes of "Sympathy for the Devil" on the opening "Rakhmones afn tayvl" in Russian and Yiddish with its brilliant klezmer sound, this recording is delightful. The irony of sitting in Jerusalem and refighting the battles between the Zionists and Bundists (exemplified by a cover of the 1931 Beregovski recording, "Oy, ir narishe tsienistn"), plus the usual counterspin on life, politics make this a recording that is not just fun to hear, but fun to listen to closely Psoy's anti-cleric rap in the middle of the traditional Russian "Ekh Lyuli Lyuli" is worth the price of admission all on its own.

another so so album cover and so so typeIf you have stuck it out this far, you must be wondering if the KlezmerShack is ever going to review, say, klezmer again. Is there something on my review pile that is just plain pleasant to listen to, but also worth listening to? So, I'll conclude today's mini-reviews with a mention of Le Freylekh Trio / featuring Goulash System". As Tim put it in his most recent nudge, "One of the coolest bands in Paris. Klezmer-Gypsy-Balkan-African... The sounds of Menilmontant and La Goutte D'Or!" Easy for him to say. He's featured on this recording. If you like Django Reinhardt and jazz that swings, if you like Gypsy and klezmer music, if you just like great guitar and playing, plus wonderful vocals, then this is the recording to listen to. On this recording, the basic guitar-fiddle-bass are joined by a host of others. You can check out the recording on soundcloud.

a photo as garish as Naftule BrandweinOkay, now I have mentioned Tim Sparks, the amazing guitarist who, among other accomplishments (more in a minute) has released several tuneful and entirely un-avantgarde Jewish music recordings on Tzadik. Listening/watching him play is one of those special pleasures. There is a warmth to his playing (and an amazing speed to his fingers) that always blows me away and makes me feel good inside. On this 2009 release, Time Sparks / Little Princess, Tim channels crazy man Naftule Brandwein. In Tim's fingers, Brandwein's emotionally complex clarinet solos become instrumentally complex guitar heaven. Ben Bresky interviewed Tim about the album back in 2009 if you want to know more. But me, I'd just get the recording. Right. I have it. Now I've told you about it and you can do the same ;-).

a photo as garish as Naftule BrandweinAs well as he plays klezmer and other Jewish music, Sparks is better known for covering early 20th century blues and jazz. As he describes in the liner notes to Tim Sparks / Sidewalk Blues, 2009, the early 20th century is when "American Roots music crystallized and was transformed by the effects of recording and radio.…" This is actually the music I loved before I encountered klezmer (and Stockhausen—but that's another story), and this recording is spankin' great. You can get your copy right off his website, along with his guitar transcriptions, books, and instructional DVDs.

Well, some of the piles are a bit shorter now. Thank you for giving me the excuse to spend the afternoon listening to some of my new, and older favorites, all of which needed to be shared.

July 30, 2013

Radical Yiddish: Another take on Daniel Kahn

Did I mention that I am not the first to review the new Painted Bird recording? Take a look at this from the summer 2013 Jewish Currents? You haven't heard of Jewish Currents? Let me be the first to introduce you.

"Radical Yiddish: Moyshe Kulbak's Minsk, Daniel Kahn's Berlin," by Joel Schechter, from Jewish Currents, Summer 2013

Soviet Yiddish writer Moyshe Kulbak, arrested and executed in 1937, could be one of the poètes maudits (accursed or outsider poets) about whom Daniel Kahn & The Painted Bird sing in their new release, Bad Old Songs [more]

Kahn, Charming Hostess, Schechter

Still pretending that I am making a dent in the piles (I count five, all labeled, "review first") of CDs and MP3s on the review tables):

cd coverWhat does a theatre major with an affinity with Yiddish do? Obviously, move to Berlin and make trouble. This latest release, "Bad Old Songs" by Daniel Kahn & the Painted Bird demonstrates that trouble is in no danger of abating.

cd coverWho can keep up with Jewlia Eisenberg? "The Bowls Project" is the most radical, revolutionary, and delightful to listen to CD by Charming Hostess, yet.

cd coverHeartstoppingly beautiful settings for equally intricate and beautiful poetry by the late Rabbi Abraham Joshual Heschel, Basya Schechter's latest solo project, "Songs of Wonder" is the closest we have to new Yiddish music to carry on the tradition of the late Adrienne Cooper.

July 17, 2013

From our overflowing stack of new klezmer releases - a sampling of recent favorites

There are new CDs arriving every week. I got an email this week from a friend who saw one band from Knoxville, TN. "I don't think you know what it's like to encounter good klezmer here in the hinterlands! The least you can do is mention the CD on your website." So, we'll get to "Dor L'Dor" in a few minutes. And, in keeping with that suggestion, today's post, long as it is, focuses primarily on Klezmer. Despite our name, that is a small fraction of the wide array of Jewish music that is sent for listening and review, so stay tuned for some variety in coming days and weeks.

In the meantime, for those of you who are curious, last week I got most of one of the simpler websites set up acceptably in Drupal! It's only been a decade or so. Expect to see some fun announcements soon. There is still some significant work I want to do before launching that website and starting to apply that knowledge to the KlezmerShack, but, thanks to the ever-useful Using Drupal, things are finally starting to fall into place.

joy with (primarily) primary colors!The first CD I have to mention was released just today. The Breslov Bar Band is a joyous melee of klezmer, hasidish, funk, rock, ska, punk, and more. I loved the first CD, but this one just hits the spot. For many Happy Hours, Check out the CD website and extended liner notes, and then order the CD or MP3. I am likely to give this a more extensive review as time permits.

trendy middle earth coverAnother arrival this week is from a Polish band, "Di Galitzyaner Klezmorim." This release follows in the wake of several other recent Polish bands such as Kroke and the Bester Quartet in that the music is klezmer-influenced jazzy world music. In this, to some extent, they are also children of the later works by Brave Old World. At a first listen, the musicians are excellent, as well. There are extensive liner notes. Check it out at

brass unleashed but held back by cheesy typeThis is the band that got me started on this post. Dor L'Dor is based in Knoxville, TN, which is also home to a dear friend. Said friend was at a concert by the band and was blown away. "Why," he lamented, "was such an excellent band not mentioned on the KlezmerShack?"dancing at the khuppah with more cheesy type אשמתי. Mea culpa. The band is a delightfully brassy concoction. Their most recent CD is a few years old, but remains a nicely jazz-inflected collection of Jewish standards, most definitely living up to its title, "Not Your Father's Klezmer Band." Their earlier release, "Dance for your Life" is more straightforward modern Jewish wedding music. Both include klezmer, Israeli standards, old favorites, familiar and less so (one number works in "Putting on the Ritz"), often arranged in the sorts of medleys you would expect (and enjoy) at your next simkha or rounding out a good Jewish dance mix tape. Available, of course, on as well as common mp3 platforms

brass unleashed but held back by cheesy typeYou'd think it would be easier to get a mention on the KlezmerShack if you live nearby and run into Mr. KlezmerShack at gigs. Hah! You get the same look of despair and "how can I keep up" that everyone else gets—just to your face, instead of via email. Having said that, Dick Schoeller, of Shpilkes Klezmer Band (note proper Yiddish transliteration of the band name) put his band's newest release, "Can't Sit Still," (2012) into my hands at the most recent Boston Jewish Music Festival. Featuring excellent instrumentals, as well as vocals by Barbara Green, Arnie Harris, and Dick, himself. This CD features mostly klezmer, with one Ladino and one Hebrew song.

fun with memorabilia of the last centuryAnd speaking of local bands that I love and don't mention often enough, it is over half a year since the KlezWoods released their second CD, "The 30th Meridian: From Cairo to St. Petersburg with love." You can get your copy either on a physical CD or from iTunes. KlezWoods have long been my favorite klezmer bar band, and this CD begins to capture them at their best, playing all manner of Jewish simkha tunes and their own originals ("Somerville Sirba," anyone? Perhaps on "January 7th Early in the morning"). If you have the pleasure of catching them live, this will help you remember the good times. If you haven't yet had that pleasure, this is close enough—get your copy soonest.

If you liked ET, you might like this coverBased up in the northwest corner of the United States, Bellingham, Washington, Millie and the Mentshn offer a surprisingly classical Jewish sound. At times, with Millie's trained voice, the band sounds more like a "chamber simkhe" band than their more common and more raucous counterparts elsewhere. Bandleader Millie Johnson is out to entertain, but also to tell the story of her family's immigration experience, as well as stories of most of us whose ancestors came from Eastern Europe a century ago. Cover not notable for design or for typographyIn "Another DiMentshn" (2008), the band opens with a song written by a Brazilian Jewish immigrant a century ago ("Tico Tico""), gives the Israeli pioneer song more often known as "Arava, Arava" a cowboy beat, and otherwise ranges wide from klezmer to Ladino to Yiddish. In a second CD from the same year, "Mentshn It" (2008) the band performs a wide array of klezmer and yiddish folk/theatre tunes, but also recounts the experience in di goldene medine with "Brother can you spare a dime.". Sound samples, and more available on the band's website.

Nice and imaginative coverI close for today with a mention of a dear recent recording by Klezmerfest accordion maestro Zevy Zions. You can hear Zevy and the rest of the gang this fall at Greg Wall's birthday bash at the NY Klezmer Series. In the meantime, on this disk (his fourth) he takes us on another solo tour of the world via accordion. Despite the presumed limitation of using his solo accordion only, this is a very sweet and varied CD. But, you can get your copy of Bolero Fantasia from and other find klezmer vendors. Check out the sound samples on and try it yourself, or reach the review at the esteemed Blog in Dm.

July 4, 2013

Three Lenka Lichtenberg album reviewed

While you're waiting for the KlezmerShack reviews of these new albums by Lenka Lichtenberg, we've been scooped by "The Whole Note". Three review covers the diversity most recent three CDs, including the newest, a complete departure, "Songs for the Breathing Walls." I say, get the word out, and enjoy.

cd coverPot pouri, Lenka Lichtenberg, by Andrew Timar, June 2, 2013.

"The deeply affecting album Songs for the Breathing Walls refers to the 12 historic synagogues scattered throughout the Czech Republic whose Jewish populations were decimated by the mid-20th century Holocaust. These settings of Jewish liturgical songs reflect the varying onsite interior acoustics of the synagogues, their outside soundscapes (on track 18 Lichtenberg remarks "...birds, cars, bells...everything...") as well as their history, intimately connected to their congregations. [more]

Bonus: The following audio links are from the CD release party:

  • Laska, boze, laska ("a Moravian song that i loved since childhood that i did on a hunch—and people just loved it. i guess something to be said for simplicity...")
  • Di Goldene Pave ("here is Di goldene pave from same concert (poem Simcha Simchovitch—who was there!) … finally i got it right i think. my fourth arrangement of it (it exists on two albums, each totally different, and there was also a never-recorded 4-part arrangement i did for the Sisters of Sheynville …) well here, i dropped all the fancy modulations, time changes and stuff. just added lots of dai dais at the end so peeps would sing along and they did … clearly it's a folk song and i was trying too hard to make it into something that it is not... :-)")

July 3, 2013

The Forward: Three Jewish Albums Channel the Black Music Experience

Jake Marmer notes three fascinating new Jewish recordings (none of which have anything in particular to do with klezmer) for summer pleasure. Highly recommended:

Three Jewish Albums Channel the Black Music Experience, by Jake Marmer, The Forward, June 28, 2013 (originally titled: The Three Must-List (Jewish) Albums for Summer, in the print edition)

"Perhaps the story of the great Jewish music in America is truly that of its encounter with African-American music. Three terrific new albums traverse the traditions of Afrobeat, jazz and reggae, while at the same time staying informed—in very different ways—by music more traditionally associated with the Jewish sound.…" (more)

June 20, 2013

Fuse interviews Ezekiels Wheel

Thanks to Joey Baron, of the Boston Jewish Music Festival for the link. As one of the judges who voted for Ezekiel's Wheel in their Klezmer Idol walk-away (we were unanimous), I hope to see a large crowd Monday night, in Brookline:

Rolling with Ezekiel's Wheels, by Debra Cash

May 25, 2013

Naftule's Dream still driving

Glenn Dickson has periodically rented the tiny LilyPad lounge in Cambridge to showcase his bands. In a hall that small, you're really talking about a chance for the band to play what most interests it at the moment, and for a tiny audience (40 people?) to listen in. It's like a slightly extended house concert, and about that formal. On the other hand, on a cold, rainy day like this afternoon, it is the perfect setting to hear hot music.

This afternoon it was the turn of Naftule's Dream, the avant garde offshoot of one of my favorite local bands, Shirim Klezmer Orchestra. With the exception of relative newcomer Andrew Stern, on guitar, this is the same ensemble that has played together for decades. They are tight, intricate, and exciting to hear. Today, in particular, I could hear their roots, less in klezmer and jazz, and then klezmer and progressive rock, with all of its classical precedents. It came as no surprise when Glenn introduced one number (Free Klez?) as the band's answer to a particularly well-known Genesis suite.

The band introduced a few new numbers, at least one each by Glenn and accordionist Michael McLaughlin, and reached back through a couple of decades for some wonderful oldies. Introductions were sparse, most often "here's a new one by XXX," with even titles left off. (One new number is called "The Butcher"?) The chatter wasn't really what the audience, ranging from high school age to folks even older than myself, came to hear. It was the music, and in that, we got a treat.

In a few cases, the band explicitly noted the klezmer roots of some tunes. Most notable was their version of the Terkisher, with drummer/percussionist Eric Rosenthal starting things off with the familiar snare marching roll, and gradually becoming more complex, moving to explore new corners of dance, perhaps in an as-yet-unfamiliar dimension. Sousaphonist Jim Gray was incendiary, as was trumpeter Gary Bohan.

I apologize for not taping the show. Sometimes it is good to just listen and watch. For your part, watch the KlezmerShack calendar and make sure you don't miss the next show.

January 22, 2013

Review of the new Michael Winograd, "Storm Game"

CD coverPoet Jake Marmer has a (deservedly) very positive review of a wonderful new album by Michael Winograd in this week's Forward:

A Klezmerizing Performer: Clarinetist Winograd Transcends Tradition, by Jake Marmer (week of January 25, 2013)

"Thirty-year-old clarinetist and composer Michael Winograd is … [t]horoughly at home with traditional klezmer repertoire, he is able to powerfully summon the wild tragicomic essence of this music in his original compositions. His newest album, "Storm Game," is a complex and not easily classifiable record that not only showcases Winograd's impressive chops, but also grapples with fundamental questions about the very nature of contemporary American klezmer." [more]

April 26, 2012

Punk Jews - sneak preview

Last night we saw a sneak preview of a new film, Punk Jews at the MFA. It was part of the film series from the National Center for Jewish Film.

Adapting a wonderfully expansive view of the concept "punk Jew" the film featured some wonderful montages, including Gay Pride events in Israel, and also included six more focused clips ranging from "Moshiach Oi," a one band that fits the more traditional hardcore definition of "punk," (but also making the connection to outliers as we realize that bandmembers are also enthusiastic follows of Reb Nahman of Breslov), to many of our friends playing at a fringe Jewish NYC gathering called "cholent," to a segment on child abuse in the Shver UltraOrthodox community in upstate New York. Other segments included Amy the Yoga Yenta, a segment featuring Y-Love and African-American Jews, and my favorite, a closing segment featuring Jenny Romaine's "Sukkos Mob," a wonderful troupe that takes to NYC's streets during Sukkos each year. If the Boston Jewish Music Festival folks are really on their toes (something I think we can take for a given), they'll find a way to bring the Sukkos Mob to Boston next year. Imagine Yiddish street theatre in Coolidge Corner or Harvard Square! (Of course, how this would happen given the mob's post-Sukkos commitments and the fact that they are pretty committed to being in NYC for the holiday, I dunno.)

The Q&A session revealed that much of the audience identified strongly with the film's themes—a surprising number of people are really Punk Jews, or have websites connecting Punks to mainstream Jews. We are all outliers. We are all, apparently, punks.

It's a very good film. Eventually it will be released and readers of this site should make a point of seeing it. You can find out more at

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 24, 2011

Music to accompany a new year

Tonight, of course, is selichot, the midnight prayers held on the Saturday night before the New Year. With that in mind, I have shuffled the mountains of CDs on the review table and come up with six especially wonderful recordings that most seemed perfect for tonight, and of course, for the new year:

cd coverFirst on the list is last year's long-awaited recording from Adrienne Cooper / Enchanted. I would have reviewed this long ago, but that would have implied that I would put it on the shelf and move on to other CDs that I need to review. No way this CD is unshuffling from the iTunes. Read more, and you'll understand why.

cd coverI couldn't stop kvelling about the Veretski Pass project, "The Klezmer Shul" back when I first saw it live over a year ago. Now the CD is out and you can hear why. A fusion of klezmer and jazz and avant garde modern music, the arrival of this CD a couple of weeks has pushed almost everything else out of mind.

cd coverThis one CD summation of three monster concerts from a year ago, "Further Definitions of the Days of Awe" is a perfect summation of both the Afro-Semitic Experience's wonderful fusion of Jewish and Black sacred music, and the art of the Cantor as mostly represented by the irrepressible Jack Mendelson, but also including several other significant names. And what better time for High Holiday nusakh than the High Holidays?

cd coverAll last year we got periodic new sounds from "The Nigun Project" by Jeremiah Lockwood, commissioned by the Forward. What is most striking is how much ground Lockwood covers in re-imagining the Nigun while also making deep music. I love this one.

cd coverI am a year late in my review, but at least I am right in time for the holidays with this return of Steven Greenman's sacred music persona, Stempenyu. This time, he captures "Stempenyu's Neshome". I typeset and laid out the CD, so it can't be all bad—actually, if I were as good a typesetter as Greenman is a violinist, this would be long out of print. Fortunately, you can still get your copy in time for the holidays.

cd coverWhy? Because if there is one thing that will ensure repentence, and get us in the frame to approach the awe of the approaching holidays, it is a reminder of what makes us happy. This loving 2008 re-release of Danny Rubinstein's original 1958 "The Happy People is all that.

September 5, 2011

Review of Yale Strom's "Dave Tarras, the King of Klezmer"

book coverI am catching up from a year of overload, it seems. Here is a review of Yale Strom's new book on Dave Tarras—if you look at the KlezmerShack calendar you'll see that Yale is doing some appearances this fall based on the book, so it is still current.

Dave Tarras, the King of Klezmer - by Yale Strom : A book review by Michael Sherman, January 2011.

Many thanks to author Michael Sherman for bringing this to my attention.

November 26, 2010

Robinson reviews new Adrienne Cooper "Enchanted" - Hanukah must have recording

cd coverStarting to worry about what you might want to hand out this Hanukah? Well, the obvious answer is the new CD by Adrienne Cooper, Enchanted. George Robinson tells us more in this review in the Jewish Week:

New Musical Life For A Supposedly Dead Language, Thursday, November 4, 2010, George Robinson, The Jewish Week

You've already read my thoughts about referring to Yiddish with the tedious phrase, "supposedly dead language" in a post earlier this evening, but George and I are in significant agreement—this is the real deal, and an amazing recording. I'd go into more detail, but it's his turn.

October 18, 2010

Review: Margot Leverett and the Klezmer Mountain Boys live at "Hardly Strictly Bluegrass" Oct 1-3

San Francisco's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, held a few weeks ago from Oct 1-3, was also notable this year from including some well-known klezmer stars. I'm not surprised. In addition to Leverett's wonderful work (have I mentioned in the last few days that Leverett's most recent CD features Jorma Kaukonnen and Hazel Dickinson?), I should remind Bay Area folks of Sacramento's Freilachmakers who have their own new Celtic-Klezmer fusion CD out. This post, however, belongs to Julie Egger of the Red Hot Chachkas who writes about Margot Leverett and the Klezmer Mountain Boys earlier this month at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass:

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is a music festival that is one of the biggest in the Bay Area. I went yesterday, once again, expecting some bluegrass, some rock and roll, Emmylou Harris and Earl Scruggs, but what I got, was Margot Leverett and the Klezmer Mountain Boys. As another Klezmer musician with The Red Hot Chachkas, I have known Margot for many years, Klez Camp, classes, etc. but to get a hit of Klezmer at Hardly Strictly was an amazing surprise. I left my husband and friends, who I had come with, at the Rooster Stage and weaved my way through the throngs down to the Porch Stage.

Margo outdid herself. Her music was amazing, and yes, it is a combination of Klezmer and Bluegrass, and that may be her in in this festival, but it was definitely Klezmer, or what we are struggling to call it these days.

My band, The Red Hot Chachkas, just got back from playing the Ashkenaz Festival in Toronto and networking with the most amazing Jewish musicians of our time, Adrienne Cooper, Michael Alpert, Alan Bern, Frank London, to name a few. It was an amazing festival and the music that is being created is, as we are struggling with calling it, New Klezmer, or Klezmer fusion, or New Jewish Music, is the next generation of Jewish music. This is not your Bubbe’s Klezmer

With access to music from all over the world, Klezmer and Jewish music is being fused with world music of all genres. This is where we are headed. We are the next generation of Jewish musicians playing New Jewish music. I feel honored to be part of this revolution.

But to see Margot at Hardly Strictly was even more amaz\ing because she is taking her music to the mainstream. I know Ashkenaz is an incredible festival , but to be part of a mainstream festival will get our music out to those who have never heard it before. There are so many times I tell people what kind of music I play and they have never heard of it. Think of the thousands now, (and there were at Hardly Strictly) that now have a new knowledge of klezmer, and with Margot’s amazing chops via Sid Beckerman she plays like the true Klezmer player she is, with a twist.

At one point, I got about 20 people to dance around the lawn, Yiddish style. I wanted to get the whole crowd up on their feet but as I went around I looked at faces, and it may be a projection on my part, but it looked like a great deal of them had never heard this type of music before. It was amazing, and they clapped and loved it. In fact, at one point, Margot got the audience to sing along with Yiddish syllables (di, di, di). They all did it.

I don’t know if others around the country or around the world have seen Klezmer in the mainstream such as this, \ but in my little neck of the woods, this is revolutionary, and will open doors for the rest of us Klezmer players. We need to get out of the ghetto.

Thank you to Margot for pursuing this and moving the revolution forward. We will all benefit, especially since her playing is of excellent caliber, so the impression to those who do not know, will get the right idea.

Mazoltov to Margot and Warren Hellman for featuring her at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

October 17, 2010

Idelsohn Society releases "Black Sabbath"

cd cover At the Ashkenaz Festival last month, one of the highlights for me was listening to a talk by Josh Kun about researching the way that Jews and Blacks; and most surprising to me in some ways, Jews and Hispanics, had mixed musically in previous decades. This goes beyond the "Yiddishe Mambo" or Nina Simone singing "Eretz Zavath Halav u'dvash" (which, I'll grant you, has been fun to rediscover on YouTube every few months).

Having said that, I need to mention that Kun is both a wonderful writer about Hispanic culture here in the US, and more rarely, Jewish culture. One of his many projects is something called the Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation (once known as "Reboot"), which has been responsible for some amazing clearing out of the vaults, such as the Fred Katz classic, "Folk Songs for Far Out Folk."

So, the latest release of the Society is something they call "Black Sabbath," which ranges from the aforementioned Nina Simone cut, to Johnny Mathis singing "Kol Nidre." This is seriously beyond Cab Calloway or Slim Gaillard singing "Dunkin' Bagels" (covered wonderfully by the Australian band, Klezmania, on their debut album, or the jive spirit captured by the last two musicians (among others) brilliant captured on Paul Shapiro's "Essen" show.

I mention all of this because of the strange article in Tablet a couple of weeks ago in which the normally astute Alex Gelfand trashes the liner notes for going over territory that is "well-known." Except that (a) it isn't well-known outside of circles consisting of people like Paul Shapiro, Josh Kun, Alex, and me. And, at least in my case, there's a lot here, starting with Billie Holliday singing "My Yiddishe Momme" that I had never imagined, and which points to musical sharing far more intense than I had assumed.

To my extreme surprise, Gelfand then goes on to note what he claims is revelatory—the mixing between Jewish and Roma music communities a century ago. Except that to people like Zev Feldman, or Bob Cohen (whose lecture Gelfand applauds—like Kun, Cohen gives great lecture and even plays better violin), or, um, me, have known or suspected this since Feldman's seminal paper a decade ago about the "Bulgar." Those of us who have followed Alan Bern's "Other Europeans" project from its inception three years ago were thrilled to learn from Feldman's renewed research of how deep the communities mixed, to the point of intermarriage. But, no, this, too, is not news to those of us who have been lucky enough to be following it as it developed. To the rest of the world? It's as shocking as listening to the late German Goldenshteyn explain that "Avinu Malkenu" was an often-requested tune at non-Jewish weddings that his group played back in the former Soviet Union.

All of this is a very long-winded way of introducing Mike Regenstreif's review of "Black Sabbath," originally airing in the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin, which he has graciously allowed the KlezmerShack to put online: African American artists perform Jewish music. Enjoy!

October 16, 2010

New reviews by Michael Regenstreif

Jewish-Music mailing list regular Mike Regenstreif has begun writing reviews of new Jewish music for the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin. He has graciously begun sending the columns to the KlezmerShack for publication online here.

In his first reviews, published last month right after the most musically diverse Ashkenaz Festival yet, he covers a couple of artists about whom I know nothing, and a couple that have been very high on the "get a review onto the KlezmerShack soon" list. Not a bad way to start:

cd cover You may have heard Israeli-born cellist Maya Beiser on NPR a few weeks ago. Here, Mike reviews her excellent new album, Provenance.

cd cover Bassist Jim Guttman has been the rock holding Boston's own Klezmer Conservatory Band together since the band's formation these many decades ago. It's taken him a long time to release a CD under his own name, and we've put up with it because his "day band," is, after all, pretty spectacular. This CD, he says, is the one he's longed to create for years, and Mike discusses what makes Bessarabian Breakdown.

cd cover Mike notes the Ashkenaz Festival debut by the Red Hot Chachkas with admiration—and well he should. I was sitting with Philadelphia drummer Elaine Hoffman Watts while they were doing their set, and Elaine was pretty admiring, herself. I've reviewed previous CDs with great pleasure. Their newest, Beats without Borders deserves everything nice that he says about it.

cd cover I've never heard of jazzman Benny Sharoni until I read Mike's review of Eternal Elixir. I would be very surprised if jazz fans don't really enjoy what they hear when they check out the bebop and ballads on the new CD.

September 1, 2010

Blown away from "The Other Europeans" in Somerville, MA last night

An amazing show by "The Other Europeans" in Somerville, MA last night. The place was packed on a Tuesday night, much to everyone's astonishment and delight. (Well, the dancer's might have wanted more room)

The band plays a mix of lautari and klezmer music with an intense energy level, and with an ability to improvise together that continually blows me away. So many members of the band are famous in their own right, from Kalman Balogh, king of the Hungarian tsimbl, to Matt Darriau, best known as the reed player for the Klezmatics.

The killer moment in a killer evening, for me, came on a duet featuring Matt and bassist Mark Rubin (perhaps best known for his band, the Bad Livers). I have simply never seen anyone attack a standup bass with such ferocity such that Darriau pushed his own clarinet faster and farther than he may have known he could do (Rubin's playing, and his effect on his bandmates are well-known--a performance a couple of years ago with Andy Statman at the Ashkenaz Festival was my personal highlight of that festival). But the whole damn band was like that--14 people at times, crowded on a bandstand that seems crowded with half that number.

It was the sort of concert so transforming that people took a very long time to leave. We all had to stand around talking about what we'd just heard, and sharing the joy of being at a concert so intense and wonderful. And, of course, this was also the sort of event that turns into a social occasion—everyone who loves this kind of music was there, it seemed, so a lot of fun catching up happened in the afterglow of the fiercely great music.

At our tables we just enjoyed the concert—we didn't do any filming or recording. But you can catch last week's concert at the National Yiddish Book Center on YouTube (clip below)

August 8, 2010

Nat Hentoff reviews Mayrent release in WSJ

Bert Stratton spotted this one and posted to the Jewish-Music list:

Time-Travelers From a Golden Age—'Cantors, Klezmorim and Crooners 1905-1953,' a 3-CD set of U.S. recordings, brings the past to vivid life, by Nat Hentoff, Wall Street Journal, Aug 7, 2010.

"At last, … from Klezmer clarinetist Sherry Mayrent's collection of Yiddish 78s—as far as I know the largest in the world—there now comes a gloriously wide-ranging compilation from those golden years: "Cantors, Klezmorim and Crooners 1905-1953" (JASP Records, available on ). There are 67 tracks in this three-CD set, including 42 never before reissued. Because of the extraordinary skills of engineer Christopher King, all of them bring you into the very presence of these carriers of the Yiddish ethos. At home in the Boston ghetto, I had grown up with a few of these, but they didn't sound as if the performers were actually in the room with me. They do now." [more]

July 1, 2010

From Cooper and Lerner to Ezekiel's Wheel - a week of good music and not done yet

This past Sunday I found myself in New York City. I did the obvious and caught Adrienne Cooper and Marilyn Lerner at the City Winery brunch, way off on the West Side of town where I hadn't been since visiting a college friend at her father's print shop--Varick Street was once the center of printing in Manhattan.

Not only did I run into several friends, but the music was superb. The repertoire was a varied as one would hope for—older, less-well-known Yiddish songs, new ones, and a taste of Cooper and Lerner's settings of the poetry of Anna Margolin. I could listen to Adrienne Cooper sing for hours and days. I have to say likewise for listening to the improvisational piano playing of Marilyn Lerner, here extending from the instrumental music recorded on her most recent Jewish music CD, Roumanian Fantasy, to her incredible interplay with Cooper. Watching them both was a treat.

Brunch at City Winery is a major step up from the tiny old Tonic (which wasn't even offering food in the last years of its Sunday brunch series). The space is huge, and clean, and the waitstaff are attentive. But, I gotta say that Sunday brunch needs to feature food that is better than "okay." It is not painful to eat there, and the coffee is good, but I can't imagine anyone waking up and saying, "I can't wait to eat at the City Winery again, and boy, wouldn't it be great to take the family out and listen to XXX." For the music, you can't do better. But for the food, you'll always be thinking, "couldn't I be eating someplace else?"

I was sorely tempted to stay in NYC to catch Mycale that night, and really, really wanted to hear Greg Wall's Ain Sof Arkestra Monday night. Too bad on my part, as Greg writes:

The Ayn Sof Arkestra and Bigger Band played Monday night to a packed house and kicked hard! The Jewish Week wrote a nice preview and that helped. Interesting mix of folks in the audience—young, older, secular, frummies, and a bunch of musicians as well.

My consolation? I was back here in time to attend the first gig by the KlezWoods at Johnny D's. I've written about this band a few times—usually I see them at Atwoods Tavern in Cambridge at one of their Sunday night gigs. Dana Westover, who has a great Sunday afternoon world folk show on WUMB interviewed them last week, and got them this gig. It was smoking. If ever there was a band ready to be playing to people who are actually paying attention and are ready to dance, it's KlezWoods.

There were 10 people on stage, including Grant Smith, drummer for the Klezmer Conservatory Band and a wide range of projects including balkan and other world music; and Michael McLaughlin—Dr. McLaughlin to most of us—who plays accordion and keyboards for Shirim, Naftule's Dream, and some wonderful avant garde-ish bands. Joe Kessler, the band instigator was there hopping around and playing his battered electric teal violin. There was electric guitar and stand-up bass and trombone and trumpet and Becky Wexler on clarinet, Alex Spiegelman (sp?) on sax, all playing this wonderful soup of klezmer/balkan/funk/jam band music that was so perfect for dancing that you had people bopping around in usual north american style on stage while others were carefully weaving a line of Balkan steps.

'Nuff said. The band has a CD out in a couple of months. It may or may not be great. They appear around town. Time to catch them live.

And finally, the week not being over yet, I expect to see the same faces at the Lily Pad, in Inman Square, on Saturday night at 10pm when Ezekiel's Wheels hold forth. Big fun expected.

June 26, 2010

Three new reviews - recordings with attitude

I didn't realize until afterwards that there was a strong theme to today's reviews—these are all CDs that marry really, really good playing with really, really strong attitude. God bless every one of them.

Interesting type and graphics w/homage to wooden type.First up, Daniel Kahn and his Painted Bird ensemble have made a sort of hipster antiestablishmentarian "Yiddish as implicit protest" statement from the beginning. With this 2009 recording, I think the ensemble is coming into its own as a powerful voice for activism. I was corresponding with someone on Facebook last week and he mentioned this recording as one of his favorite recent recordings, so I knew it was time to actually tell people about Parasites & Partisans.

I saw Yiddish Princess in concert last week and haven't had such a good time in a long time. So, with unseemly haste and a lack of reflection, I provide a quick review of their extraordinary debut CD.

And now for an entirely different sort of attitude, perhaps appropriate for posting on a Shabbes before I hit the road to visit friends, we have the aptly named Breslov Bar Band / Have no fear with some of my favorite young New York musicians. Barroom rock 'n' roll meets Breslov to wonderful effect. Enjoy!

June 17, 2010

Yiddish Princess!!!!

band logoWhat a concert! Yiddish Princess is my new favorite band. To my intense pleasure Sarah Gordon sounds like a Yiddish-singing Kate Bush; indeed, her singing on band's hard rockified version of "Oy Avram" is instantly recognizable from "Hounds of Love" or LP of similar vintage.

I have to say that this is a good thing. It's like Yiddish folk song of the 1880s (okay, most of this material is much later--some written in Yiddish by Gordon and set to music by Michael Winograd and the rest of the band, one by contemporary Yiddish songwriter Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman) meets hard rock of the 1980s. Pop meets pop, as it were. And the band has so much fun playing--Avi Fox-Rosen and Yoshie Fruchter have more fun playing guitar than should be legal. Winograd has the synths down, and both Chris Berry on drums and Ari Folman-Cohen on bass are perfect.

If I have a single complaint about the concert, it was that Gordon's voice was too far back in the mix. Despite the Kate Bush influences so clear on the new EP (buy a few! they make great gifts), in concert it was more like watching Molly Picon meets hard rock. A couple songs were already familiar to me from Winograd's arrangements on the more traditional jazz-klezmer album, Khevre. This isn't how they sounded a few years ago. Time passes.

Along with "Oy Avram," there were a few other traditional songs: "Yash," and "Vilna;" the latter was sung traditionally, accompanied only by Winograd on the keyboard for the first verse or so, until with a great clash the drums kicked in and Yoshie Fruchter crashed in with his guitar and once more we were back in the 1980s.

A select audience of Workmen's Circle friends and local klezmorim danced to the music, grabbed hula hoops and cavorted as the band played. Such an excellent time was had by all. I'm considering skipping work and heading up to Vermont for tomorrow night's gig. If you are in the vicinity, you owe it to yourself and your ears to do likewise. You can follow the whole tour from the band website, or for that matter, on the Klezmershack calendar. If nothing else, you have to catch the band live to stock up on the new EP, which I suspect will be the best-selling CD of the summer.

March 28, 2010

Review of new Moshe Berlin CD

CD coverReview of the new Moussa Berlin CD, just in time for Pesakh, "זמירות וניחוחות מבית אבא" ("Psalms and scents from the house of father"). Review is in Hebrew:

ניחוחות וזמירות מבית אביו של מוסא ברלין, March 2, 2010.

March 19, 2010

Review of Klezmatics in Somerville, MA

Attending my long-standing March "must-see" Balkan night last weekend, I not only missed the last events of the Boston Jewish Music Festival, but also missed one of my favorite bands in the world—

It was still a terrific show. I brought my 10 year old son, who had a blast. Despite the loss of someone apparently close to them all, they performed with humor and energy. It was not quite up to the MFA show of a couple of years back, but it was still among the best performances I have seen.

Two of the highlights of the concert were "Ki Loy Nue" and a rousing version of "Ale Brider." Joshua Nelson did a funny and original piece called "I Want to Be a More Observant Jew" during the encore. If there was a featured player during the evening, it was Matt Darriau, who played alto sax most of the time and soloed with Joshua Nelson on two different pieces. He was on. As I wrote before—it was a terrific concert—the melodies are still running though my head, and the energy from Saturday night still puts a spring in my step.

December 15, 2009

Levi and Dardashti wow the audience at 5th Sephardic Fest

Forwarded to me by a friend:

The 5th Annual Sephardic Music Festival, sponsored by NYC's 92nd Street Y Tribeca location, got off to a roaring start with a performance by Galeet Dardashti's group, "The Naming". Dardashti mixes English, Hebrew, Arabic and Persian in original musical compositions and songs about women. Her subjects range from the matriarchs to her Teheranian great-aunt Tova who was childless and therefore put on tefillin every morning since she felt she had no excuse for slacking, given that women are generally excused from the compulsory execution of this mitzvah by dint of needing to take care of their children. 'The Naming' has good electronics which help visualize the biblical or midrashic texts from which Dardashti crafts her songs. The musicians are more than competent; they are clearly interested in using traditional Persian Jewish music in a respectful way when it gets fused into more western traditions. Themes include Sarah and Hagar, the Queen of Sheba's riddles and hairy legs, childbirth, and a beautiful song about the city of Shusan which is also a paean to Vashti (today's demonstrators in Teheran and Jewish women are all seen as Vashti's offspring).

Smadar Levi was uplifting ; her band had a lot of good energy and she genuinely knew how to work the crowd in a mix of English and Hebrew. The emphasis was on Moroccan music that was clearly suffused not only with Jewish and Moroccan themes but also with Sufiism. She had just come back from the music festival at Fez where she apparently did a command performance for the Moroccan king. Her mix of languages in original songs set usually in both Hebrew and Arabic worked well. Her band felt like an updated version of HaBreira HaTivit and people by the end of the set were clapping and dancing since she clearly invited audience participation.

—Esther Malka

November 26, 2009

"Rejoicing" - a recording worth mentioning on Thanksgiving Day

cd coverI try not to let visitors see my office, where the piles of CDs awaiting review stun me. But, today is Thanksgiving. We've set the table, Judy is working on some pies with a niece, and it's time for me to express holiday feelings by catching up with a few of the recordings that have been on my "this is wonderful. spread the word." list for a while. Foremost among these is this stunning 2005 recording by Deborah Strauss and Jeff Warschauer: "Rejoicing: Yiddish Songs & Klezmer Music." If you do not have a copy, you will want one now, and you'll probably want to get copies as Hanukkah gifts. In that case, don't let me stop you from ignoring my review and ordering directly from I'll encapsulate what I said in a few words: "Never miss a chance to hear Strauss-Warschauer Duo perform. Never be without their CD. It's as important as chicken soup."

October 19, 2009

"Girls in Trouble" captivates

Updated to include current contact/purchase information, 21-Nov-2015. This CD was originally released on the wonderful and much missed JDUB label. The label may be gone, but the musicians continue to make wonderful music.

Girls in Trouble CD coverNobody who knows fiddler & poet Alicia Jo Rabin's first, pre-Golem release, Sugar Shack (2003) will be surprised to hear that her latest project, "Girls in Trouble" is amazing, tuneful, poetic, and just damn impossible to walk away from.

The album's concept is simple: while procrastinating about writing a thesis to complete her Jewish Studies degree at the Jewish Theological Seminary, Rabins wrote poems about several Biblical "women in trouble" and set them to music. Then they took on a life of their own. The subjects range from the obscure (Yiftah's daughter—the one example of uninterrupted human sacrifice in the TaNaKh) to the familiar—Miriam and Ruth. Part of the fun is trying to connect the story as told in Rabins' wonderful poetry, to the actual Biblical event. But the songs are balm. Even when the tales are chilling, her ability to tell a story and set it to wonderful, quiet music, is healing.

I wasn't going to mention this CD until it's release next week, but I can't stop listening to it. Like Rabins, I have to stop procrastinating and get back to work, so let me at least pass on the word about this recording—and suggest that you get your own copy.

For more information about Girls in Trouble, visit the Bandcamp page.

You can also catch an article by Alexander Gelfund, Art Pop Indie Rock Meets Midrash from the Forward, July 1, 2009.

September 7, 2009

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

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

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

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.

June 17, 2009

Minsker Kapelye blows me away with "Tutejsi" (The Locals)

the locals - the minsker kapelyeHere's another case of a CD arriving in today's mail. I put it on the turntable to listen to while I study a bit. Never open the books. Just keep listening. From the opening "street sounds" featuring the electronic bells of the Minsk city tower to the closing Nign sung by Samuil Linkovskiy in his 80s, this is exquisite, intricate klezmer music and yiddish song introducing an unfamiliar klezmer sound—recreated from wax cylinders in many cases; from recordings of elderly Jews in Belarus made from 1997–2008. Who knew? Much of the field research was done by Dr. Slepovitch and the late Dr. Nina Stepanskaya to whom the CD is dedicated.

The Minsker Kapelye consists of just three musicians: Dmitri Slepovitch on clarinet and other woodwinds, vocals; Tatsiana Kukel on tsimbl; Hanna Kharchanka on cello—a remarkably traditional ensemble playing traditional music as it may have been heard prior to the Holocaust and Soviet antisemitism, now revived and, at least on this recording, very lively and enlivening. The quality of the playing is extraordinary. the Belarusian alto cymbalom in the hands of Ms. Kukel is a revelation, but none of the playing is less than excellent, ranging from a classical formality to swinging dance music as the music demands.

In terms of repertoire, many of these melodies are recently recovered from wax cylinders recorded by Sophia Maggid in the '30s (1928–1938); others come from relatively modern sources, including a rousing "Ot Azey!" credited to the late German Goldenshteyn (Moldavia, Belarus, what's the difference :-)) and some brilliant rap & reggae improvisation in a lovely folk poem recorded from Hirsh Reles, the last Belarusian Yiddish writer, and, um, improvised here. It is touches like the rap, and the occasional interjection of the Minsk streetscape that help make this recording special. It is traditional music, yes, but traditional music as I enjoy it best—lovingly sung in the here and now. The title of the CD, "Tutejsi,"—The Locals, is derived from the name of a classic Belorusian novel by Yanka Kupala (so claim the liner notes—I am sadly ignorant on this score). It feels appropriate in terms of making a local (Belarusian) klezmer repertoire available to the rest of us, but also in terms of the neighborhood feel of the material. If only all neighborhood bands played this well.

The album closes with the singing of the father of Slepovitch's late research partner, singing words written by Slepovitch (from the translation in the liner notes):

I am strolling on the streets of the ghetto, / Over there, there are modern houses and new people. / And here inside and under my feet, there lives my lineage, the poets, / Who bless us with their soundless verses and songs.

The CD is lovingly produced with copious liner notes in Polish and English. You can get copies from the band's website. It's a keeper.

April 25, 2009

Cleveland - Eastern European music nirvana

Harmonia soundcheck, Hiram, OHSpent much of yesterday touring around Cleveland with Steven Greenman. We had a great time at the West Side Market, then walked the beach on the east side. In between we passed over the Mordor Bridge a couple of times, caught sight of the Rock and Roll Museum (but had no time nor sufficient boredom to enter) and assorted ballparks. In the evening we repaired to Hiram, OH, where Steven's main group, Harmonia, was to appear at the local college. I've known Steven for over a decade, and I've know the Harmonia band-leader Walt Mahovlich almost as long, but this was the first time I saw the full band, complete with singer, Beata, plus flute player Andrei, Mr. Bass, and the fabulous Alex Fedoriuk on cymbalom. What an amazing group! (You can view photos from my entire trip, including the rest of the soundcheck, on Flickr.

Harmonia, with Beata on board, reminds me a lot of the Hungarian band, Muzsicás—amazing, non-brass-centric, music from Eastern/Central Europe. Beata's voice is a revelation. It is very much worth getting their CD, Music of Eastern Europe. Walt took us on a tour of various ethnic song and dance styles, with a dance group of Hungarian Scouts providing frequent accompaniment.

In a way, seeing this music on the concert stage reminded me of the contradiction faced by klezmer bands--how to represent a folk tradition on the concert stage. The sad difference, however, is that the music Harmonia is playing represents living traditions. At best, klezmer bands, especially when appearing with folk dance instructors, are helping to recreate an older tradition and return it to the world of modern evolving traditions. (At worst, klezmer is heard as some sort of nostalgia for a world never experienced by the ancestors of many American Jews, but which we all imagine must have existed in some personal, remote, Anatevka.)

Better than all of this, Harmonia is just an excellent, exciting band that swings wildly. I already knew Alex's playing from his cymbalom CDs. Steven is justifiably famous as one of the foremost klezmer fiddlers. Walt I have heard in several contexts over the years and he is always exciting. The rest of the band—and their interplay, was the exciting revelation.

Tonight Steven, Alex, and Walt appear at Temple Tifereth Israel as part of "Klezmerpalooza" with Yiddishe Cup and other fine bands. If you are in the Cleveland Area, I recommend that you stop on by. Music starts at 7pm.

April 19, 2009

KlezKamp Roadshow sells out in Madison, WI

I am the sort of person who is well known for occasionally dropping from Boston to New York for an evening, so it came as no great surprise when, finding myself in Indianapolis yesterday I drove over to Madison, WI to catch the opening concert for the KlezKamp Roadshow. Today and tomorrow the roadshow will be featuring FREE workshops with some of the best teachers to be found anywhere. I hadn't been in Madison since the last time I drove cross country, and it was an enormous pleasure to hear Yid Vicious, still a kick-ass klezmer band, punkish only in name. Their set came after a lovely performance by the Madison Yiddish Choir and included the title track off their last CD, a klezmer tribute to Balkan music (sort of—they explain it better, live) called "The Seventh Shlemiel."

This was just forspeis. Henry Sapoznik was his usual welcoming self, and the KlezKamp regulars had a grand time on stage. Michael Wex opened with one of my favorite monologues. Susan Levitan gave a too-brief taste of her Yiddish singing (which I could hear more of—I am more familiar with her work in Yiddish folk arts—I have fond memories of a paper-cutting workshop at Ashkenaz, for instance). Mr. Sapoznik, accompanied by Cookie Segelstein and Mark Rubin delivered some favorites from his "Youngers of Zion" CD, including my favorite, "I am a boarder by my wife." Sherry Mayrent played an awesome set. These days, you have to go to KlezKamp to hear her, so this was a rare, and much appreciated treat.

But these were mere distractions. Welcome, distractions, true. Had there been nothing else, I could have heard these pieces and felt the trip well-repaid. But the larger ensemble, which also featured Michael Winograd on clarinet, Dan Blacksberg on trombone, Rubin on both bass and tuba, Segelstein on fiddle, Josh Horowitz on accordion, and the incredible Aaron Alexander on poyk, rocked big time. This was a traditional klezmer show, but much of the music came from the repertoire of the late German Goldenshteyn. In my mind's eye, I can see each of the musicians add solos or fills that reminded me of why I go such distances to hear them. Watching Mark Rubin's fingers as he plays, or listening to Alexander turn a short solo into an awesome transition to the next number are the equivalent of watching a skilled set of trapeze artists as they skillfully move back and forth, now airborn, now holding up the others, always in rhythm, with an "ooh" or "ahhhh" every second.

The evening had one further bonus. The last time I was in Madison, a band member loaned me a cassette copy of the sessions of their first recording to help me finish my trip cross country. By entirely pleasant coincidence, the band has just released their latest, Dollars to Doinas, and I now have a copy to help me finish my trip cross country. Some traditions are worth repeating.

If you are near Madison, and haven't signed up for the FREE workshops, let me encourage you to do so. Space is limited. And I've got to hit the road. This is, after all, not KlezKamp, but the KlezKamp Roadshow :-).

April 4, 2009

The Sway Machinery and Balkan Beat Box stupendous

So, what is new Jewish music? Wednesday night a friend and I treated ourselves to one memorable, delightful, loud, rocking, beat-ful snapshot. Whilst I exchanged text messages with a friend who had seen BBB the night prior in DC, The Sway Machinery came onstage 45 minutes late, but proceeded to create an exciting aural explosion. I was unable to make out specific words, but I could catch familiar nusakh complemented exquisitely (that may be the wrong word for high-energy intense dance beats) by the hyperactive rhythm section. Featuring players from several of NYC's best-known underground bands, The Sway Machinery made clear what I had hitherto suspected from video and mp3. They rock. The energy was addictive and entrancing.

Ah, but that was just the warm-up. After a short break to set up for Balkan Beat Box, Lockwood was back with the beats and I was further blown away. Jumping around on stage, going through bottles of water as though they were drugs, pulling in beats, rap, and again, an incredibly tight rhythm section, BBB featured a lot of material new to me, presumably from the new CD, and many more pieces from their last two CDs.

The dance floor was incredibly crowded. It was hard to take my eyes off the performers on stage. It has been a long time since I have seen a band give so much, so intensely. But when I looked around me, I could see that I wasn't the only person in the nicely diverse audience enjoying myself and moving frenetically (okay, most people were in their 20s or 30s, but there were a few alte kakers like me—and even a few in between, like a friend from work—not Jewish, just very much into dancing and beats, and, as he put it later, "sweatier than you will likely see me ever again.").

I hope it isn't the kiss of death that people in my advanced middle ages can enjoy a band this loud and this young. I can't wait to see them again.

This period between Purim and Pesakh has been incredibly rich for Boston audiences. From Israeli traditional Ladino/Yiddish singer Betty Klein at Workmen's Circle (favorite moment: listening to Tufts University professor Gloria Asher read a poem that she had written in Ladino, and then hearing Betty's setting of the poem), to the Three Yiddish Divas (such a stupendous show, and so much new Yiddish music, along with the standards, and in a political statement that I wish more were listening to, closing with the Hebrew/Israel song, שיר השלום (Shir Ha-Shalom). Somewhere in there was Balkan Night, and just last week, Israeli/Ethiopian Idan Raichel with his rhythmic "Project," tighter even than the stupendous band they were a year ago and the year before that. Last weekend we were treated to KCB founder Hankus Netsky w/Dobe Ressler accompanying KCB former lead singer Judy Bresler teaching a crowded room Yiddish dance (co-sponsored by Workmen's Circle), with several of us running out after the music stopped to hear a revived and thoroughly exciting Shirim Klezmer Orchestra in Cambridge. From klezmer, to Satie, to Pakistani Brass music, Shirim at the LIlypad is one of the city's special treats. I am happy to report that this concert, like all of those I mentioned in this brief summary, was crowded, if not quite sold out. There is still room for you, dear reader—at least, a few of the more fortunate of you ;-).

February 9, 2009

Yiddishe Cup Ann Arbor performance reviewed

The lucky Jack Zaentz catches Yiddishe Cup in their annual foray to Ann Arbor, MI and writes a wonderful, detailed review.

January 25, 2009

Five new reviews from Keith Wolzinger: from a jazzy Yizkor, to New Jewish dance music from France

I am still months behind in posting reviews from Keith Wolzinger's Klezmer Podcast blog. Here are some exciting recordings as I slowly catch up (and yes, there are a host of my own reviews to come soon, I hope):

Interesting use of b/w sans serifFirst, I have to mention David Chevan's most recent recording for the High Holidays, this one featuring Hazzan Alberto Mizrahi, as well as his Afro-Semitic Experience. Each time Chevan undertakes this sort of project, he finds new ways to explore, and incredible partners, and this recording from Mizrahi is no exception. But don't take my word for it. Check out Keith's review of David Chevan / Yizkor.

cd coverMany of us have been noticing that there is a plethora of exciting new Jewish-derived hip-hop, rock, world beat. From my vantage, I can also testify that an awful lot of it is getting to Paris, which has turned into the latest hotbed of new Jewish music. It's about time, then, that JuMu, the main Parisian agent of new music should put out this recording. This isn't just a chance to hear more familiar names like David Krakauer, Sophie Solomon, SoCalled, Hip Hop Hoodios, Oi Va Voi, or the Frank London Klezmer Brass Ensemble. There are also the French bands that haven't been heard in this country at all. Check out JuMu Presents Nu Jewish Music Vol. 1 and see if we're not in agreement.

CD coverWhen friends and I went to view Ladino rockers DeLeon at a local club several months ago, there was little other than the novelty of Ladino to perk up our ears. Now, Keith listens to their CD and comes away quite excited about where the band is now, and where they may go: DeLeon.

nice script faceI had an entirely different experience last year when in Toronto (one of my favorite cities, and an incredible Jewish music—or world music in general—town). Fern Lindzon was holding court at a local jazz club. Here was a chance to hear an anchor of both The Lithuanian Empire and Sisters of Sheynville playing straight-forward jazz (with some much-appreciated personal twists) with some friends. It was a delightful evening, and Keith gets the same buzz from her solo album, Fern Lindzon / Moments Like These.

cd coverAnd, speaking of Jazz, along with Eastern European folk music, we have the STriCats, an innovative ensemble from the Netherlands. This could take some explaining (or you could just listen), so I'll let Keith do the honors: STriCat / rates & good people.

January 21, 2009

Judith Pinnolis review: Rebecca Teplow's "Kaveh / Hope"

cd coverOver at the Jewish Music Web Center, Judith Pinnolis has a short review of a new CD by Rebecca Teplow, "Kaveh / Hope". The recording features Teplow's lovely, Joni Mitchell-ish voice and liturgical texts and folky-to-rock-ish music. The CD is available from

January 18, 2009

Another view of John Zorn

Well, here's a take on John Zorn that sees him in a context that I would never have imagined. There is some interesting thinking happening, and I'm always pleased to promote good writing about someone as significant as Zorn. Check out new KlezmerShack author Carl Packman's John Zorn: The Paul of Klezmer Music

Some recent reviews of interest by Elliott Simon

While I am catching up, it is long past time to note several new posts of interest by Elliott Simon, from All About Jazz:

Nicely done!Let's start with a review of David Buchbinder's brilliant collaboration with Cuban musician Hilario Durán, Odessa/Havana.

… Partnering with Cuban pianist Hilario Duran, Buchbinder has created more of a symphonic statement that extols the best of both genres [Cuban/Jewish]. While some pieces clearly ring more Latin than Jewish and vice versa, others blend aspects of both musics into a holistic experience that highlights the commonalities while celebrating the differences….

CD coverIf, like me, you are as captivated by Balkan brass rhythms as by klezmer, you will be very interested in Simon's review of this new entry from Seattle: Orkestar Zirkonium.

… This is great "tukhes" shaking music with a depth of composition and style that keeps it from becoming cartoonish—Orkestar Zirkonium is the real deal.

cd coverFinally, and sticking closer to home, Simon catches the latest of a series of Israeli jazz artists who have come to call New York their home, Introducing Omer Klein

… an Israeli-American jazz connection … has produced a culture of premier artists who have gone on to influence the broader jazz community. Pianist Omer Klein is part of a second wave of these musicians who mix virtuosity, world music sensibility and melodic flair to affect a global sound….

New Wolzinger reviews, from Polish Klezmer to Canadian Yiddish Art Song

I am so very behind in posting reviews by Keith Wolzinger, who continues to release new podcasts and reviews, regardless. Let me start to catch up with some very special ones:

I'm not happy with that Hebrew font used that way, but otherwise a nice coverIt's hard for me to imagine a more pretentious name for a Yiddish art song CD than "A Song is Born," especially when the haunting sound of didgideroo is heard in the opening bars. But Mitch backs it up. The former director of Toronto's acclaimed Ashkenaz Festival got some of his (and mine!) favorite musicians from around the world, including trumpeter Paul Brody from Germany, and the incomparable Moguilevsky and Lerner from Buenos Aires. The result is the most exciting, inventive, beautiful, and just plain interesting Yiddish album in years. Songs range from traditional, to Yiddish folk & theatre hits, to the always-interesting Lazar Weiner, and new tunes by Marcelo Moguilevsky. But, read what Keith has to say, in his review of Mitch Smolkin / A song is born / אַ ניגן איז געבוירן

nice woodcut drawing and well-rendered letteringFor those lucky folks who live in Toronto, tonight is the CD release of the first solo release by talented Jazz musician Lorie Wolf: The Lithuanian Empire, as well as the award-winner Sisters of Sheynville.

cd coverDrummer Matt Temkin goes in a different direction, entirely. To those who know him, this is no surprise, nor is the delicious serving of older-style klezmer-jazz á la Epstein Brothers, with welcome side trips to Second Ave. and to the music of the late German Goldenshteyn. Anchoring it all in "today" is the way he transposes the concept of "jam band" to klezmer, and how obvious and delightful it all sounds together. Check out Keith's review of Matt Temkin's Yiddish Jam Band / Poykler's Shloft Lied.

cd coverFinally, Keith introduces a band that is entirely new to me, the high-energy Polish ensemble, Klezmafour. Sounds like I need to pick up some new music.

More coming soon!

December 17, 2008

Di Naye Kapelye/Traktorist - what a treat!

cd coverI had other plans this evening. I might happily have caught up with a review of a very, very nice klezmer flute CD that is having a CD release party in New York City even as I write this. But then the package from Hatikvah Music arrived....

cd coverThe new CD is called "Traktorist." It features Bob Cohen, Yankl Falk, and the rest of Di Naye Kapelye. Michael Alpert shows up, as does Josh Dolgin. At one point they run out of musicians, so they dragoon a semi-anonymous crowd of extras called the Técső village band. The music runs a gamut from hutsul and other Carpathian wonders to Abe Schwartz, Hasidic nign, and those folky things that you collect when you've wandered around in them thar hills a few decades. In short, if you were hearing real bands worth hearing playing the mixed up, all fits together, dance your socks off usual repertoire, it might sound this good. I might have more refined things to say as I listen to this a few more times (It's been on steady repeat since I got home a few hours ago), but I already know that this is the gift. (Well, this and the other ten or so recordings on my Hanukkah List. I may be passionately in love with music, but I share.)

Available exclusively in the US from Hatikvah Music. Email Simon and tell him that Ari sent you! Available in Europe and elsewhere from Oriente.

December 14, 2008

Atzilut's concert for peace

cd coverSeveral years ago I received the latest recording from the Middle Eastern / nign / fusion band Atzilut. I love it. I wrote a review of it almost immediately. And then I'd periodically ping the band saying, "okay, when is this going to actually be available? How do people get their hands on this amazing recording?" For years it was "jam tomorrow, but never jam today," and then I forgot. Tonight I was given the go-ahead to spread the word, and with great pleasure I make this review live. The recording has the awkward title, Enjoy.

Three must-have CDs, reviewed by Keith Wolzinger

cd coverLet's see. Suppose you took one of my favorite old-time singers, Hazel Dickins, and had her sit in with the amazing Margot Leverett and the Klezmer Mountain Boys. Then suppose you invite some of the best bluegrass musicians--oh, Mike Marshall, Tony Trischka ... then suppose you rope in the guitarist whose work in the Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna made my high school years almost bearable. Even in my imagination, I didn't dream of something this good. Check out Keith's review of the Klezmer Mountain Boys' latest, Second Avenue Square Dance. I'll say just one more thing. Jorma co-wrote one of the songs with Margot. It's good.

cd coverLike fellow trumpet genius Frank London, David Buchbinder is never still, and he is always involved in something special. Problem is, he's from Canada—a Torontan, for goodness sake, so we never hear of him in this country. Bad move. In this project he got together with Cuban musician Hector Durán and they decided to see what they could come up with. The results first hit the performance waves at Ashkenaz two years ago. They waited to bake the CD until the songs were ready. It is outstanding. Check out Havana/Odessa and you'll hear why I love this CD.

cd coverThis is Yale's umpteenth CD. It's a good one. It features music from all over Eastern Europe that he's gathered in his travels, the drumming of David Licht (among other stars), and the voice of his wife Elizabeth Schwartz. Check out what Keither has to say about Borsht with bread, brothers.

As you get ready for your final holiday purchases, I will be trying to catch up with reviews of the latest Jewish music. Some by me, many by Keith and other reviewers. Stay tuned.

Two for Chanukah

With the Chanukah season upon us, I want to make sure that KlezmerShack readers are aware of two relatively new Chanukah releases—one just out from our talented friends at Maxwell St. Klezmer (with their friend, Joe Black), and another from the amazing Lori Cahan-Simon.

CD coverJudith Pinnolis has an excellent review of this new CD, Eight Nights of Joy by old friends Lori Lippitz and the Maxwell St. Klezmer Band. This time, the band teams up with Rabbi Joe Black for a wonderful family recording. You can get more information (and your copy of the CD) at

cd coverKeith WolIzinger's review of Lori Cahan-Simon Ensemble / Chanukah is Freylekh! A Yiddish Chanukah Celebration highlights a lovely album, and one that will also bring a bit of the mame loshn to your Chanukah gatherings. You can support the KlezmerShack by purchasing the CD from CDBaby using our link.

December 7, 2008

Cookie Segelstein on the cover of Hadassah Magazine

Yes, that's our own Cookie Segelstein on the cover of the current Hadassah Magazine. Her photo is featured to highlight a delightful article by George Robinson on the Eastern European roots klezmer popularized by Cookie's bands < a href="/contacts/klezbands_v.html#band.vpass">Veretski Pass and Budowitz. (Okay, the latter was founded by partner Josh Horowitz.) Other featured artists include Alicia Svigals, Steve Greenman, Michael Winograd, Joel Rubin, and Yale Strom.

This is not new stuff—I remember writing about the radical edge of new klezmer over 10 years ago, having met Josh, and Bob Cohen during a jaunt through Eastern Europe in 1996. I can still taste the food, and still hear them telling stories about finding local musicians and learning from them. I can still hear the music, but that's easier. Both Veretski Pass and Budowitz have released their best yet CDs this past year (which is to say, the best klezmer CDs of the year by anyone), and the new Di Naye Kapelye CD should be arriving shortly (available now in Europe?). Michael Winograd's recent "Bessarabian Hop" is also garnering deserved attention.

George also gives a nod to the post-revival kick given klezmer by the arrival of the late German Goldenshtayn to Brooklyn too few years ago with an amazing songbook and so much wonderful music.We'll post more once Hadassah posts the current magazine to their website. Right now, it features October 2008.

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."'

October 12, 2008

A beautiful afternoon at the Rose Kennedy Greenway

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

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

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

September 28, 2008

Praise for "Isle of Klezbos"

Eve Sicular writes:

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

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


September 1, 2008

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

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

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

The food was very, very good.

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

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

Quick report from Ashkenaz

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

So, here are some quick high points:

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

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

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

July 6, 2008

Catching up: Michael Winograd Ensemble at NYBC

It was mother's day. In our family, that meant an opportunity to gather the youngest son and travel out to the National Yiddish Book Center, where this year, the featured band was Michael Winograd's Klezmer Ensemble. The weather was perfect. In fact, it was tempting to sit out in the orchard and watch the birds, enjoy the sun. But, inside we went.

CD coverIt was my first chance to hear Winograd perform material from his latest CD, Bessarabian Hop. For the occasion he also brought in a singer from New York City, a cantor named Judith Berkson. Amazing voice. As was the case with Winograd's earlier band, Khevre, the songs he chose are newer ones, not the usual golden oldies. We started off with Josh Waletzky's "tantsn kales" (Brides are Dancing). By the time the afternoon was over, my notes show songs by Arkady Gendler and Beyle Schaechter Gottesman, as well. As Winograd said about Gottesman (which could have been applied to any of the material), "wicked in a good way, if you know what I mean."

The music was superb. Patrick Farrell's accordion went from Irish to French to New Orleans in seconds. It's rare to see musicians having as much fun playing such complex, sometimes serious music. We also got the real test. Would an audience consisting primarily of older people dig the new stuff? I guess so. In the middle of one of Winograd's introductions, one visitor exclaimed that he had to bring the band to her town, Saratoga Springs. And, at the conclusion of the concert as we drifted out, with the band, to enjoy the sunshine, it appeared as though almost everyone in attendance had lined up to purchase a CD. (It's an excellent CD, by the way. And, I forgot, the reason I bring all of this up months later is to announce that I finally have a simple review of the CD up, myself, to help spread the word. "Bessarabian Hop." It's the new dance/CD craze and a must-have.

June 29, 2008

Y-Love / This is Babylon

Not bad!My knowledge of rap and hip-hop is extraordinarily limited. Many years ago there were some awful shtick bands replicating every possible to-be-forgotten bad Jewish stereotype using rap. Then we crossed some barrier and it seemed to be part of the vocabulary of Jewish music-makers. We not only got Jewish rappers in the mainstream media, but groups like the Hip-Hop Hoodíos, and Matisyahu, and SoCalled started doing something that sounded like the rap I hear elsewhere, but it had this Jewish content infusion. One of the most fascinating, so far, is a black kid, a convert to chasidism named Y-Love, who has been appearing all over the country, and who seems to have gotten the attention of anyone who pays attention to rap. Now a CD is out and I can hear why. Check it out yourselves, This is Babylon.

Three new reviews by Keith Wolzinger

CD coverWhile my back was turned, Keith Wolzinger has zipped out three more reviews which are now copied here to the KlezmerShack. First, he beat me to the punch and reviewed the most recent Metropolitan Klezmer CD, the deliciously live, "Traveling Show." For hard-driving, enormously fun, American-style klezmer, this band cannot be beat (nor, given Eve at the drumkit, can they lose the beat!)

CD coverNext up is singer Lori Cahan-Simon's latest collection of lesser-known Yiddish songs that, had we been luckier, our bubbies would have taught us. When Chanukah rolls around again this winter, we'll be ready, because she has assembled her usual amazing team and recorded some very special songs in Chanukah is Freylekh! A Yiddish Chanukah Celebration. Songs My Bubbe Should Have Taught Me: Volume Two

CD coverFinally, what Keith calls "neo-klezmer," Toronto's klez-jazz fusion band, Klezfactor releases its second smash album, Klezmachine.

Enjoy! And many thanks to Keith.

Fresher Reviews from Professor Robinson: Israel at 60

CD coverI entirely overlooked this set of even newer reviews by George Robinson featuring new Israeli music, ranging from Yeminite Diwan to modern Jazz. Take a gander at A 60th Sampler, June 29, 2008, again, from the Jewish Week by the esteemed musicator.

For the curious, the featured CD, “With Songs They Respond: The Diwan of the Jews from Central Yemen”, is available from our friends at Hatikvah Music International. E-mail Simon@Hatikvah right away and enjoy!

A fresh set of reviews from George Robinson

CD coverOkay, these have been online for a few months—catching up means that I get to post a lot of stuff that some people will have already seen. But, this is an incredible set of reviews, covering almost everyone on my own current listening list, and on the "must review very soon or I will be depressed at not getting the word out: Michael Winograd's "Bessarabian Hop," David Buchbinder's excellent "Odessa/Havana," cd coverthe hot new Veretski Pass, "Trafik," and that's just a few of the gems reviewed here. Check out The Jewish-Latin Connection, published, as usual, on the Jewish Week. This one from March 26, by George Robinson, of course.

June 23, 2008

"Essen" sticks to my ribs

CD coverSuppose Mickey Katz were alive today. Not alive in tribute. Not alive as a mere incredible clarinet player, but suppose someone could play like Mickey Katz, someone who got how Mickey would sound today and made his music sound like today's hip R&B. Then suppose that this person could convey the craziness of Katz, even better, could channel the earlier craziness of Slim Gaillard, Cab Calloway, the Barton Brothers, even add to it….

Continue reading ""Essen" sticks to my ribs" »

"Shmoozin'" down under--a new "must have" CD from Klezmania

CD coverOh, man. A new disk from Australia's answer to the Klezmer Conservatory Band crossed with digideroo arrived today, and this one doesn't even feature didgideroo (although ears better than mine will catch it's use on a couple of cuts). I should wait and listen to Klezmania's new "Shmoozin'" a few times before writing anything, but I can't wait. The disk is a perfect blend of klezmer and jazz, but damned if I can easily separate one from the other, and all held together by the sensuous voice of Freydi Mrocki.

Continue reading ""Shmoozin'" down under--a new "must have" CD from Klezmania" »

April 5, 2008

Good food in Beer Sheva

One of the reasons I haven't been posting lately is that I am in a different country with intermittent internet access (and other things, like vacation and family on my mind). But, I feel obliged to mentioned some excellent eats in Beer Sheva. Tonight, we struck gold at a place called Beit Ha-ful in downtown Beer Sheva. It's at 15 Histradrut St., c. Smilansky.

We are talking about the kind of meal you get only in Israel--a huge assortment of incredible salads, ranging from coleslaw to the house special french fries, ful, humous, harif, eggplant, lemon-this, tomato-that, all incredible, with great pita, accompanied by huge skewers or platters of meat and incredible service. This is one of those down home corner places where they don't have fancy napkins or serve imported beer. The TV above our heads was apparently showing the Israeli version of "Survivors". But, incredible service and delicious food.

Of course, I warmed up by listening to Michael Winograd's new album all afternoon—this place needs some klezmer—but otherwise, a total gas.

Later this week, if all goes well, I sense the possibility of Anat Fort in Tel Aviv and some (allegedly) amazing Kurdish singer in jerusalem later in the week. We'll see.

March 16, 2008

"Early Recordings of Jewish Music in Poland," now available online

From the Jewish-Music list, by Helen Winkler:

"Early Recordings of Jewish Music in Poland" by Michael Aylward, with accompanying introductory remarks is now available for download on my website, courtesy of Michael Aylward.

You can access it from my opening page: Or directly via: (article)

Introductory remarks are available at

This article originally appeared in Polin Volume 16, 2003. Thanks to Michael Aylward for providing this article offprint.

March 8, 2008

New Keith Wolzinger reviews of Brian Bender, Hilda Bronstein

album coverKeith Wolzinger has been reviewing prolifically, again. This is a good thing. He covers a fascinating disk put out by local (well, Western Massachusetts) musician Brian Bender, featuring some of my all-time favorite accompaniests (you know, folks like Alicia Svigals, Frank London, Stu Brotman, KCB's Grant Smith, NY percussion wizard Raquy Danziger, …): Brian Bender & Little Shop of Horas / Eyn Velt, 2008. Not content to stop there, Keith crosses the pond and discovers Hilda Bronstein / Sings Yiddish Songs Old and New, 2007. Hilda is accompanied by that wizard of UK klezmer, Merlin Shepherd, and his quartet. Not a bad pair of CDs to hear, at all. Read all about them here, or on Keith's blog

"Jewgrass" featured in the Forward

In a wonderfully well-written article, the Forward's David Kaufman covers "Jewgrass," from Margot Leverett's Klezmer Mountain Boys, to the Orthodox Sinai Mountain Boys, to the recently-reviewed-on-these-pages, Mare Winningham.

Check out O, Landsman, Where Art Thou? from Wednesday's paper.

February 29, 2008

Tim Sparks - watch out Doc Watson!

Tim SparksI had the good fortune to catch Tim Sparks last night at a short (hour and a half) concert following a guitar workshop, in Lexington, MA. Although I have been a fan of Sparks since his work in the 1970s with a jazz group called Rio Nido, I had never seen him live. I was in for a treat.

Consider that the music I love best next to klezmer is the blues. Consider that one of Sparks' early memories is of Doc and Merle Watson jamming in a parking lot at a bluegrass confab decades ago. Like my wife, he is a native North Carolinian. So, if I then tell you that the set ranged from Elizabeth Cotten's "Victory Rag" through Flory Jagoda, John Zorn (albeit, a rather melodic John Zorn), and ended with Roy Orbison, you won't be surprised if I say that I was in heaven. If you have heard any of his Tzadik recordings, several reviewed on the KlezmerShack, you know the breadth and incredible qualities of his Jewish repertoire.

We were in a small guitar shop—maybe 30 or 50 people crowded in around the corner where he performed, unamplified. We all had great seats to watch the fingers fly. Like Doc Watson and Elizabeth Cotten, Sparks has a warm, friendly guitar style that is belied by the speed with which he picks at notes, leaving the listener breathless and in awe. And then he does it some more. The patter between the songs was also lovely. At one point, following a blues by Eubie Blake he talked about Naftule Brandwein and mentioned that in 1917 you could have listened to Blake up in Harlem and then taken the subway down to the Lower East Side and caught Brandwein. Quite a neat thought. He introduced one song by talking of the Hasidic (I have always thought primarily a Lubavitch-specific tale, although a primal way that many of us now think of Judaism and of life) story about the breaking of the original light (אור) into (אֹר), and the tikun olam we do to bring those original sparks of light together. It was rather neat listening to someone non-Jewish use a Jewish creation myth to describe how the pieces of a song that he was about to play came together. On the other hand, the respect reflected in this story carried over to all of Sparks' stories about the musicians, and the music that he was playing, and was reflected by the warmth of his playing.

This was a very special concert. I'm sorry it took me 30 years to hear Tim Sparks a first time. It would be most upsetting to have to wait that long to catch him again. If you are in NYC, he's playing there tonight. He'll be in Philadelphia with Jon Madof on Saturday night.

You can also get a book of Sparks' Jewish music transcriptions and tablature, Neshamah. He also has individual pieces of music for sale on the same site.

February 24, 2008

Veretski Pass / Trafik and 3 other reviews by Keith Wolzinger

cd coverJust in time for the official release of the new, highly-anticipated Veretski Pass CD, Trafik, I have posted Keith Wolzinger's review of same. Keith also did a podcast of the band, recorded last summer.

Other new-to-the-KlezmerShack reviews by Wolzinger include:


new reviews: Deep Minor, Polina Shepherd

ick. Why benguiat gothic? Why artificial small caps?One of the themes of my recent reviewing concerns how much incredible music is coming from Eastern Europe. This week, as I double my output from last week, I have managed to tackle two of the most urgent CDs from my "review me now!" table. Alex Kontorovich was born in the former Soviet Union, but has grown up here in the States. While gathering a PhD in math in his spare time, he has also been one of the most exciting of the young musicians who have grown up since the revival. In Kontorovich's case, this means cooking up a delightful stew that melds klezmer with avant garde jazz in "born native" ways that older members of the Radical Jewish Music crowd can't do. His first solo CD, on Europe's "Chamsa" label is exciting, delightful, and features some of the other exciting leaders of this youthful surge. Check out Alex Kontorovich / Deep Minor and see what I mean.

This is rather nice! Is that 'Mezz' on the CD title?In another mode, entirely, the most recent CD by the Polina Shepherd Vocal Experience manages to use traditional (and "traditional art song") forms to set a plethora of Yiddish poetry to music for the first time. The album is a celebration of vocal pyrotechnics, and a thorough-going pleasure, and demonstrates the originality of grounding of another artists born in the former Soviet Union (now residing in the UK). It is impossible not to love this CD, The Polina Shepherd Vocal Experience / Baym Taykh. As I wrote earlier in the Alex Kontorovich review, you can't have my copy so you'll just have to get your own. (Even my wife has her own copy, despite the fact that both of us share an itunes library!)

New article on Rose/Fort/Winograd

Ayelet Rose GottliebBy rights I should ignore this rather good article in All About Jazz by Elliott Simon, our usual suspect. If I could stifle enough publicity, there would still be tickets at the box office when I roll in Monday week, hoping for a break in a long car trip from Baltimore. But that would be wrong. And the article, of course, is excellent. I long for the day when lesser-known, excellent avant garde music goes to Standing Room Only and beyond (I am avoiding the term "sell out" for obvious reasons). (John Zorn, given a small-enough venue in a major city, will always sell out. But everyone else?)

Find out what I'm talking about in this instance by reading Ayelet Rose, Anat Fort and Michael Winograd in Philadelphia, by Elliott Simon, posted 2/24/08.

February 23, 2008

CD Review: Konsonans Retro

CD coverThere are a few things that are certain in the small area of the universe covered by the KlezmerShack. One of those certainties is that if Christian Dawid is involved with a project, I am very likely to put any resulting CD on my "permanent rotation" list. I have noticed this a lot in the last few months as I struggle to find time to review CDs, any CD that I like. Over time, some CDs drop off the "immediate" table. The CD by the most recent band with which Dawid is involved is one that I continue to listen to non-stop: Konsonans Retro / a podolian affair. In this case, there is a happy end. There is a review, and the CD is even still available! Let me encourage you to get your own copy. I'm not loaning you mine.

Songlines gives four stars to "Baym Taykh"

CD coverSonglines Magazine, one of the remaining primarily-print music magazines (the refusal to get all content online and accessible is all the more puzzling with the announcement this week that No Depression is giving up the print ghost), gives The Polina Shepherd Vocal Experience / Baym Taykh a "4 star" review, in an article by Helen Beer. This is frustrating, of course, because we can only link to the magazine and encourage you to find a copy. But here is a paragraph from the review:

Polina Shepherd is a formidable all-round musician: a composer, pianist, singer and Yiddish choir leader from the former Soviet Union, who now resides in the UK. Baym Taykh (By the River), featuring the vocal quartet Ashkenazim, is innovative in its enormous range of musical expression. This CD explores tightly arranged four-part singing, voice styles which mirror instrumental ornamentation alongside more fluid choral experimentation. Solo voices and vocal duos weave in and out of the quartet, with or without accompaniment (piano, saxophone, clarinet, guitar, double-bass). Shepherd's compositions are highly original and sensitive musical settings of interesting, lesser- known Yiddish poems.

Zeek issue on Jewish music

magazine logoA few months ago I got the then current (Fall/Winter 2007) issue of a new, relatively edgy Jewish cultural magazine called "Zeek." Featuring photography, poetry, and both a CD and several articles on "Music, Art, and the World," the magazine provided a window onto new Jewish music, most of which I had, at best, vaguely heard of. There was an article by Basya Schaechter, of Pharaoh's Daughter, and the words to the Tipex Eurovision entry, "Push the button" (along with an article about Israel, Eurovision, and this particularly controversial entry). Another article claimed, "Piyyut is Jewish Soul Music." The CD (what an anachronism for an online magazine!?!), curated by Jew*School founder Mobius and others, contained cuts by rappers Y-Love and Sagol 59, along with cuts by Pharaoh's Daughter, Juez, Roberto Rodriguez, the aforementioned Tipex (oops, after legal threats, that is now "Teapacks" in transliteration), as well as Silver Jews, Chana Rothman, and others about whom I know next to nothing.

It's sort of humbling to have spent a decade or so claiming to be writing about cutting edge Jewish music and then see someone else not just have a different take on bands that are significant, but present so many bands about whom I know nothing. (The reverse is also true. I would have valued this CD more if there were some Deep Minor, or Later Prophets, or Rashanim, or Hazanos, or Strauss-Warschauer or any of a host of bands/musicians that are neither Israeli nor NewYorkish, but are blowing away old ideas of what "Jewish Music" means.). But then, if you went over to the hasidish Jewish-Music list (not the older list of the same name that I host) you'd find yet another repertoire and list of cutting-edge musicians. If we can't even bring the musics together, what are we to do about the rest of our lives?

In the meantime, hie to the Zeek website, and sample the articles, catch the latest from the magazine, and help keep them going by ordering your own copy of this rather marvellous collection—it may be as new and wonderous to you as it largely was to me.

February 19, 2008

Amazing music performances documented on KlezmerShack

I've already written about my frustration at not being able to get to NYC Sunday night for the Michael Winograd concert. But even if things had gone perfectly, I still would have missed Cantor Sam Weiss with Pete Rushefsky and Steven Greenman. Happily, Alan Watsky caught both gigs and in his write-up, reinforces my jealousy. It was a great day for music in NYC: Yesterdays, Cantoral Inspiration Concert at Eldridge and Mike Winograd with Bessarabian Hop at Workmans Circle, Feb 17, 2008, by Alan Watsky

Did I mention Steven Greenman? I'm glad I did, because I am much belated in posting this review by the Klezphonics' Marc Adler of another great concert I missed, this one last summer: Steve Greenman and Moldovish Ensemble at the Lowell Folk Festival today!, by Marc Adler, July 29, 2007

Enjoy. And when you catch a great concert, write it up, post to the Jewish-Music list, and share the word. Many thanks to Marc Adler and Alan Watsky.

Shirim still putting on a great show, 25 years on

shirimI had big plans this past Sunday. I was going to catch Shirim here in Boston for their 25th Anniversary, and then hightail it down to NYC for the young Michael Winograd CD release party. I got into the car and turned the key and nothing happened. Dead battery. AAA came right out, charged me up, and the car seemed fine, but I felt a bit leery of running down to NYC and possibly coming out of the Workmen's Circle around midnight to discover the battery dead, again.

It was a good enough afternoon, anyway. Shirim were excellent, and the crowd was perfect—a very fine mix of folks my age and older, plus younger people and their kids. It was a very Sunday afternoon friendly-for-kids concert.

When Shirim play concerts these days, they focus more on the theatricality of the music. This can make for some great dancing, but it also means that as the band dips into Jewish jazz greats like Artie Shaw, or "klezzifies" the theme from "Psycho," what we're hearing is slightly transformed from plain dance music. This is music for the sheer fun of it.

I have known the band for only about half their tenure. Glenn and Dave have a few more lines on their faces, but otherwise look an awful lot as they did the first time I saw the band play at Club Passim back in '95 or '96. They are still amazing musicians. In particular, in a world filled with trombone players I could watch all night (and a very few I don't need to hear at all), Dave is still special. I know Eric's drumming better than I did then, and I appreciate it more. His hair has receded a bit. I enjoy watching him as he plays the drums closely, often back straight, just the wrists flashing; sometimes leaning into the kit as though playing percussion. Jim took a couple of years off somewhere in the middle. These days he looks like he's lost some significant weight. Doesn't affect his playing one bit. It still thumps amazingly along.

Michael plays these amazing keyboard and accordion riffs, and seems to be having a lot of fun while he does it. The youngster, and the newest member of the band, is Brandon Seabrook, on banjo. He's the big hair—the Lyle Lovett hair—guy. A keeper.

The band runs through some klezmerized classics, some jazz, lots of American klezmer … despite spinning off originally from the Klezmer Conservatory Band (is that true? Dave was in KCB. The others?), Shirim, in many ways, carries on the tradition of those loud, raucous, joyous guys who kicked off this whole revival in the first place, The Klezmorim.

After the Artie Shaw suite, the kids, dancing in the aisles, shout, "encore," so the band comes back with one of their signature oldies, "Oy tate, s'iz gut" (oh daddy, that's good). And, indeed, one could say that about the entire performance.

An excellent way to spend the afternoon, and still one of my favorite bands.

February 16, 2008

"Sabbath in Paradise" released on DVD

DVD coverElliott Simon reviews the recent DVD release of Claudia Heuermann's Sabbath in Paradise, an excellent (and, as near as I can tell, singular) documentary of New York's "Radical Jewish Music" group. The original was released almost 10 years ago and played on German TV. Until now, I have never been able to find a way to purchase the video in any form. But I babble. You can read Elliott's full review, Sabbath in Paradise, release Oct 10, 2007, on the All About Jazz website.

While you are there, don't forget to check out his reviews of recent work by Irving Fields and Fred Katz.

New Wolzinger review: Sheynville Express

nice duotoneOh, I am so excited about this one. Keith reviews the new album by Toronto's Sisters of SheynvilleSheynville Express. This is one of the sweetest albums of the year. Imagine the Barry Sisters if they were singing today. The repertoire gets some updates, but the oldies sound as though they have to be this year's hits. And the harmonies? We haven't heard harmonies this sweet in many years.

February 14, 2008

Afro-Semitic splash in Boston

band photoDespite a decade of mixing Jewish and African-American sacred music with jazz, David Chevan and Warren Byrd—now wonderfully expanded as the Afro-Semitic Experience have still only played Boston twice. And last night, at Simmons College, was the closest they've come to a regular club gig yet.

It was a miserable time of day for a gig (5pm) and the weather was miserable (icy rain) so I drove the half-hour walk in my car. It only took 45 minutes. But it was worth it.

With two drummers, one of whom is a Yoruba priest, an excellent reed player, the surprising Stacey Phillips on Hawaiian steel guitar & violin, plus Chevan on bass and Byrd on keyboards, the band was comfortably tight and kept the audience thoroughly engaged. This was sort of music as dialogue. Sometimes the dialogue was with the audience, sometimes between the musicians, always in the music. There is a lot good that can be said about a set that can go from South African Abdullah Ibrahim, to cantorial music, to getting the audience up and trying to dance to a straight-forward freylekh and then closing with one of my favorite Mingus numbers, "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting." I mean this short review to say those good things.

I was too sick to hang out afterwards, and my nose was threatening to drain faster than the rain outside. But it was also nice to see the students at Simmons, and a few other bystanders, mix with the band. The concert was a thoroughly pleasant experience, with a melding of sacred traditions that made it something more. This is one that I'll happily see again. What I really don't understand, though, is how in a town with as much live jazz as happens in Boston, neither the Afro-Semitic Experience, nor Greg Wall's "Modern Prophets" are making inroads. Aye, thar's the rub. Time to change that.

Hadag Nakhash somewhat disappointing in Boston

Ever since their oddball hit, the "Sticker Song," an amalgamation of Israeli bumper sticker slogans penned by the brilliant novelist and journalist David Grossman, I have been curious about הדג נחש. I got a CD and it sounded like pretty mainstream hip-hop pop, but what do I know? So, when I heard that they were coming to Brandeis, I wasted no time in getting tickets.

Sad to say, this concert was a reminder that I am no longer 15 (the age of a friend's son who loves the band), nor am I part of the crowd of Brandeis students that could enjoy the music simply because it has a beat and is in Hebrew. The evening began with an opening band, Nanuchka (sp?) from Brooklyn. Not a terrible band. Excellent stage presence. Then, after a very short 10-minute stage change, the main band appeared.

They feature an okay horn section. Well, one trombone and one sax. The trombonik was okay. The sax wasn't bad. The beat was pretty reasonable. The acoustics in the hall were such that anyone who hadn't already memorized the lyrics was out of luck. The voices sounded reasonably good. But after an incredibly repetitive refrain on the first song of מה שבא בא, and an incredibly repetitive refrain on the second song that seemed to be "oh yeah, oh yeah," I began to sense a certain sameness. Somewhere in there the band did a wonderful spoof on California surf bands as transmogrified by Israeli hip hop sounds, but even that eventually went on for too long. Then, the bass player, not one of the more capable members of the band, did an exceptionally long, wankerish solo. Then the band kicked up the volume and Judy and I realized that we had enjoyed as much as we were going to enjoy.

This was not a bad concert by any means. It just wasn't a good enough concert for people of my advanced age. It's not new to me any more, and it wasn't a special social event for us. I think I've heard enough. I wanna hear the really exciting edgy Israeli bands like Boom Pam or Kruzenshtern & Parohod. Maybe we'll get a chance in April when we hit the oft-promised land. But I think I've gotten enough of this one for now.

Thanks to Andy Tannenbaum for correcting my spelling of the band's name and pointing out that it is a pun on the near-ubiquitous notices on Israeli buses for נהג חדש. Not so clever a pun as Tipex (now spelled "teapacks" in english after the Israeli makers of "white-out" objected, which obscures the original idea of the band represented people who had been "whited out" from the national discourse), but a pun, nonetheless. Check out Wikipedia for more info.

February 11, 2008

New reviews by Keith Wolzinger

CD coverI have been slowly gathering in reviews written by Keith Wolzinger over the last few months. There are many more to come, but in the meantime, check out his wide-ranging examination of the post-klezmer sounds of The Lithuanian Empire, country-Jewish Mare Winningham / Refugee Rock Sublime, Yiddish folk and theatre songs from Hy Wolfe / Yiddish Songs for the Soul, world Jewish music by Montrealer Hélène Engel Trio / Voyage, and new Jewish sounds of another Montrealer, Shelley Posen / Menorah.

February 10, 2008

Two more reviews: London's "A Night in the Old Market" and Brave Old World, "Lodz Ghetto"

cd coverWhile I'm busy promoting reviews on other websites, I should mention a new review put up just last week by first-time KlezmerShack reviewer Anna Torres. Of course, it helps to work with great material, and I think you'll agree that Frank London's latest, the soundtrack to his new opera, "A Night in the Old Market" is outstanding.

cd coverIn the belated reviews and even more belated notice, let me mention an actual review written by yours truly. I've been listening to Brave Old World's "Songs of the Lodz Ghetto" for so many years. First it was live, then, I was listening to the CD and still catching the performances whenever possible (here in the Boston area, that will be in just a couple of weeks). I've been too wrapped up in it. This is one of the most powerful CDs ever recorded, and one of which I never tire. It's about time I passed on the word to others.

George Robinson reviews: Polina Shepherd, Metropolitan Klezmer, Blue Fringe, Romashka video, and more

CD coverAlong with Elliott Simon, George Robinson is the one other reviewer of new Jewish music who continues to publish about a wonderful gamut from the avant garde to klezmer to music from the newer Orthodox-based jam band sounds. Catching up to links that ya'll should have seen months ago, I present: Chanukah: For listening, for giving—klezmer and its cousins, by George Robinson. There are video clips from several bands, as well as reviews. Enjoy!

Elliott Simon reviews: Metropolitan Klezmer, Red Hot Chachkas, Lori Cahan-Simon

CD coverWith great frustration, I look at reviews and tips that I wanted to get online two months ago. Hold them for next year? Present them now? The latter wins. After all, these are great CDs, reviewed by Elliott Simon, which means that the reviews are thoughtful, insightful, and intelligent. So, travel back a skip in time and consider Simon's article, Happy Chanukah 2007, from All About Jazz, Dec 8, 2007.

Two Yale Strom reviews in "All About Jazz"

CD coverGifted Jazz/Jewish music reviewer Elliott Simon does a two-fer on recent Yale Strom albums in last month's All About Jazz. He discusses Strom's most recent klezmer effort with his New York band, Hot Pstromi, and a different effort with several of the Radical Jewish music crowd, Dveykes:

Trailblazing with Tradition, by Elliott Simon, Dec 12, 2007

December 29, 2007

Basya Schechter at Heschel Symposium, Dec 9, 2007

Abraham Joshua Heschel and daughter SusannaEarlier in December, Judy and I were in town for the Yiddish Dance Symposium. The same day, a symposium honoring the centenary of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel's birth was held a few blocks away at the Center for Jewish History. Judy and I caught the evening session in part to finally get to see Basya Schachter who opened the session with a short set, playing some Yiddish poems written by Heschel that she had set to music. The material ranged from Heschel's love poems to deeply religious poems.

Basya SchechterBasya was accompanied by piano, cello, and violin. She introduced the pieces, sang, and played guitar. The music was a smooth blend of Middle Eastern, classical, and American folk/pop phrasings, creating a rhythmic artsong/cabararet feel. We were entranced. I hope that the series will be made available publicly. As did Jewlia Eisenberg on her Walter Benjamin recording (Trilectic, 2001—settings of the writings between Walter Benjamin and Asja Lacis), Basya has captured the feel of the words and set them wonderfully to music. Coming on the heels of her recent Pharaoh's Daughter recording, Haran, and her solo album of middle eastern music, "Queen's Dominion, this is further proof that Schechter is an artist to watch. In our case, and to our pleasure, literally.

The rest of the evening was less musical, but quite meaningful. That night, speakers from the current JTS chancellor, Arnie Eisen (Heschel's reception at the Jewish Theological Seminary in his day was less than glowing) to Ruth Messinger (currently, the transformative head of the American Jewish World Service) spoke to Heschel's life, his writings, and his example. As she closed, Messinger related:

Dr. Heschel was asked once what advice he had for young people. I would leave out "young". He said that we should understand that every word matters, every deed matters, and we must build our lives as if they were works of art.

'nuff said. |

December 8, 2007

"Shtreiml," live at Common Fence Music, RI

Okay. By now you'll have gathered that I am infatuated with Shtreiml. I contend that it is with good reason. Listen to their CDs and read the concert review that follows and decide for yourselves. And, for now, no more features about them for a little while. Even though, a week later, I can still see Lemisch's trombone and hear Arsenault's incredible drumming and all the rest....

On a lucky break, I discovered that there was going to be a Shtreiml concert last Saturday night down in Portsmouth, RI. As folks who caught my write-up of the band's appearance with Golem and SoCalled last year will know, I find their performances quite exciting. The only thing better, perhaps, than their CDs. This particular set was sponsored by an organization called "Common Fence," which sponsors a whole series of excellent folkies/blues/traditional music groups ranging from (looking at what's on tap over the next few months) the blues of Roy Bookbinder to the excellent folk of Patty Larkin and Catie Curtis. The events take place is a lovely meeting hall seeming out in the middle of nowhere to a Boston driving trying to find the place at the last minute, just off the highway in the dark.

Continue reading ""Shtreiml," live at Common Fence Music, RI" »

October 22, 2007

CD Review: The Lithuanian Empire

interesting printOne of the most exciting discoveries at this past summer's KlezKanada was a new-to-me band of KK participants called The Lithuanian Empire. When I first heard them at one of the late night cabarets I was awe-struck. Judy, my wife, had a similar reaction. Now, Eric Zaidins digs their CD and comes to a similar conclusion. Check out his review of the Lithuanian Empire, get a copy yourself, and try to disagree.

March 25, 2007


video coverWe just saw a rather amazing, transgressive movie called "Mendy." Released in 2003, it is about a young man who leaves the Satmar community and must figure out who he is. He must also figure out how to survive in a world where he has no skills—no knowledge of the world outside of studying in the yeshiva—no geography, no math, nothing. The movie touches on the usual religious transgressions (including a sexual scene involving t'fillin), but it is in the thoughtfulness with which the main character makes the transition from his familiar, beloved former life of prayer and devotion to G-d that the movie's impact is greatest.

Continue reading "Mendy" »

March 22, 2007

New Klezmer Reviews by George Robinson

George Robinson posts to the Jewish-Music list:

Thought you'd be interested in my latest record column, which toasts several frequent contributors to this list (you know who you are):

Long Time Coming: Budowitz and the Joel Rubin Ensemble are back after long hiatuses (and more!)

March 13, 2007

Recent Reviews and Interviews

CD coverYou can get a non-klezmer take on Klezmerfest stalwart Zev Zion's new CD from the Let's Polka blog. The CD goes far beyond polka and klezmer, of course.

The english-language Forverts gives a lovely review of Yale Strom's latest, "The Absolutely Complete Klezmer Songbook,” by Alexander Gelfand, in their Fri. Mar 02, 2007 edition.

The "Jewess," one of the hottest new Jewish bloggers, does a great interview with Galeet Dardashti, of Divahn.

Joel Rubin announces a recent review essay, Rubin, Joel E. with Rita Ottens. Review, Georg Winkler. Klezmer: Merkmale, Strukturen und Tendenzen eines musikkulturellen Phaenomens, in: Lied und populaere Kultur/Song and Popular Culture. Jahrbuch des Deutschen Volksliedarchivs 49 (2004): 285-321. It appeared (in English) at the end of 2005 and can be downloaded from

February 25, 2007

New CD reviews by Günther Schöller: "Trumpets for Di Fidl-Kapelye" and Eastern European brass klezmer field recordings

well, it's different, and seems to include a closeup of some tsimbl stringsGünther Schöller, who also reviewed the first Fidl-Kaplye / Live CD for the KlezmerShack is back with a review of their excellent new recording, this time with trumpets!—Trumpets for Di Fidl-Kapelye. Our favorite Dutch all-woman klezmer band is still in excellent form.

this is not an interesting cover or interesting typeSchöller also catches us up with some excellent European klezmer field recordings, undertaken by thnomusicologist Isaak Loberan—originally from Moldova, now living in Austria. Read all about them in his review of Frelik, Sher un Khusidl … Brass bands from Podolia, Klezmer and other Jewish Music

January 28, 2007

HaZamir uninspiring in "Jews and Blues"

After reporting on so many excellent concerts over the last month or so, it seems appropriate to mention one that didn't work well for me—this afternoon's concert by HaZamir Chorale and a local Boston soul/funk band, Earthkwake.

Titled "Jews and Blues", the concert followed a theme similar to last year's combination of the Workman's Circle Chorus and a Black Gospel group. This year, the chorus was the often-excellent Hazamir.

Continue reading "HaZamir uninspiring in "Jews and Blues"" »

December 28, 2006

Humongous Jewmongous - shout out to Sean Altman

What I Like About Jew album cover'Okay, I'm exhausted and I have to be up at 6:30 to look at database schema for work. I should not be sitting here writing about weird holiday shows, but I so enjoyed Sean Altman's "Jewmongous" review that I have to put in my short "shout out."

Continue reading "Humongous Jewmongous - shout out to Sean Altman" »

December 11, 2006

CD Preview: A Chanukah Feast, Vol. II

A Chanukah Feast, Vol. II coverLast year the "hungry for music" folks in DC (they raise money to purchase musical instruments for local schools) released a lovely Chanukah compilation. This year they've released a second volume. There are some real gems, starting with the title track from the new Klezmatics' "Woody Guthrie's Happy Joyous Hanukah" (although surely you'd rather have the whole CD), a rather wonderful, parent-friendly song about the dreidl song ("the Dreidel Song Song") from Klezmos (last heard recorded on the "Celtic Klezmer Concert), some great instrumentals by Alan Oresky (a Fabrangen Fiddler), and then by Phil Mathieu and Bruno Nasta, and a rather nice, if also unduly short "East(ern) Village Hanuka" from Metropolitan Klezmer, one of the few bands for which I'd drive to New York City for the evening. For my Bostonian homies, there's even someone named "Dr. Louie," recording in Vancouver, BC, Canada, with "Hanukah in Boston," and my favorite Texas klezmer, beneficent boss of the bass and terror of the tuba, the ubiquitious Mark Rubin inflicts "The Dreydl Song, Texas style," (you can find more like this on his "Hill Country Hannukah" collection) on my more than willing ears.

More info, and further variants of the English spelling of the work "Hanukkah" may be found at

December 2, 2006

CD Review: Klezmatics / Wonder Wheel

Woody Guthrie-style naive art with bad letteringKlezmatics / Wonder Wheel. JMG Records, JMG 18033-02, 2006. CD available everywhere. Start at the Klezmatics website,
Seth Rogovoy about the Klezmatics' Woody Guthrie project
There are few concerts I have enjoyed as much as the Klezmatics' debut of Woody Guthrie songs that they had set to music a couple of years ago. (They are on tour with this music now, so check out their website or the KlezmerShack calendar for concerts near you.) The band has captured the spirit of Woody without ever sounding like anyone but the Klezmatics. Now, two years later I am listening to the actual music captured on CD with tears in my eyes. It's just that good*.

Continue reading "CD Review: Klezmatics / Wonder Wheel" »

CD Preview: Art Bailey's Orkestra Popilar / Branch from the Tree

nice tree graphic, lovely english and yiddish letteringArt Bailey's Orkestra Popilar / Branch from the Tree. HRL Records, RAT-001, 2006. CD available from
This week brought a long-sought CD from Art Bailey's Orkestra Popilar. The band features Klezmer Conservatory Band accordion player Art Bailey as well as KCB bassist Jim Guttman The ubiquitious plucked string wizard Brandon Seabrook (Naftule's Dream, Paul Brody), as well as relative youngsters Jake Shulman-Ment and Jeremy Brown on Violin. The goal is to recreate the ambience of the recordings by American tsimbalist Joseph Moscowitz—traditional klezmer and luscious, long sets. There is no tsimbl player credited, but I could swear that I hear just that on several numbers. In any event, Seabrook's mandolin and Bailey's accordion capture the feeling of Moscowitz' music, plus other traditional tunes and originals, in our time. What I've heard so far succeeds gracefully and delightfully. From the delightful lettering and graphic on the cover, the the music inside, this one is likely to stay on the changer for some time to come. [GRADE: A]

November 27, 2006

More Jewish music reviews in "All About Jazz"

No sooner did I post about my recent reviews to the Jewish-Music mailing list, but Elliott Simon 'fessed up about some of his own recent writing:

Hi all and best of the holidays...after Ari's recent post I felt compelled to send in some CD reviews of potential interest that have recently appeared in the pages of AAJ-NY.... Mayim Rabim/ Ayelet Rose Gottlieb, The Absolutely Complete Introduction to Klezmer/Yale Strom & Hot Pstromi, Live @ The Fat Cat/ The Sheryl Bailey 3 (guitarist with Klezmer Madness in her B3 group), Andy Statman: Blue Grass and Black Hats, Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble / Reflections of the Road

December's issue is just out with our Best of listing.....and I am pleased to say that the very cool collaboration between Irving Fields and Roberto Rodriguez, Oy Vey Ole, garnered a best Latin/Jazz mention...January should also include a review of the KM! show at Merkin, Statman, Afro Semitic Experience and other goodies...I also have a "diaspora" themed piece coming out in the journal Ethnomusicology that looks at both the collaboration, "Maurice El Medioni meets Roberto Rodriguez Descarga Oriental: The New York Sessions" and Gilad Atzmon's "musiK", best of the holidays to all...Elliott

CD Review: Andy Statman / East Flatbush Blues

nice image of Andy; the type does nothing for meAndy Statman / East Flatbush Blues. Shefa Records, HORN-3001, 2006 .
CD available from Elliott Simon has also reviewed this CD for All About Jazz.
The Klezmershack received two new CDs by Andy Statman, recorded contemporaneously, each featuring a different side of the artist. This is the bluegrass CD, and on it Statman is backed by Jim Whitney, and one of my favorite Americana drummers, Larry Eagle. Eagle I last heard propelling Bruce Springstein's "Pete Seeger Sessions" show. Statman I last saw playing with one of my favorite bluegrass bands, Wayfaring Strangers. But standing there, Statman merged bluegrass with klezmer and hassidic music. On this CD, he pays tribute to Bill Monroe and to his bluegrass roots only. I gotta say: when you're Andy Statman, that's enough.

Continue reading "CD Review: Andy Statman / East Flatbush Blues" »

CD Review: Marilyn Lerner / Romanian Fantasy

understated and interesting, like the albumMarilyn Lerner / Romanian Fantasy. ML-001, 2006 JD003, 2005.
CD available from CD
I am at the point that if Marilyn Lerner breathes on a piano, I am already giddy. Here, on the first solo outing in a few years based on traditional Eastern European Jewish music, I am doubly ecstatic. Her improvisational playing is as inventive as ever. From the explorations and chording the forms the bones of the "Yismekhu", there is something magical about her sense of sound and tone and music. As Michael Wex notes in the liner notes, this isn't klezmer, or Eastern European Jewish folk music, nor classical nor jazz. It's the Jewish music about which I once wrote, "I can see the Shekhinah sitting up in the heavens, listening to this music performed, smiling to herself and saying to the assembled angels, 'Finally, we can listen to it in its true time and place.'"

Continue reading "CD Review: Marilyn Lerner / Romanian Fantasy" »

CD Review: Balkan Beat Box

nice chicken!Balkan Beat Box JDub Records JD003, 2005.
CD available from
If there is an album that I like as much as Frank London's Klezmer Brass All-Stars, this is it. Balkan Beat Box provides a wonderful fusion of sounds from balkan brass to rai to international hip hop. Like their label-mates DJ SoCalled (but entirely different in sound), BBB pull together a new world folk dance gestalt. Favorite cuts? The incredible middle eastern weave around Victoria Hanna's chant, "Adir Adirim" or the amazing harmonies on "Bulgarian Chicks," the unstoppable beat and cheer of "Sunday Arak," the growling bass and kaval of "Hassan's Mimuna," or the bluesy intro to the "La Bush Resistance" rap ... Stop me before I kvell over each track. If you ask me, world hip hop like BBB and Idan Raichel, SoCalled's new album, and Frank London's (okay, not hip hop) that define the exciting dance music this last couple of years, and I expect, the next years to come. Stay tuned—the band is doing a lot of Hanukkah tours. Could be coming to a town near you real soon. [GRADE: A]

Preview: Merlin Shepherd Kapelye / Intimate Hopes & Terrors

I love this cover, but for the subtitle set in something nondescript at the bottomMerlin Shepherd Kapelye / Intimate Hopes and Terrors: Tales from the Kishkes. Oriente Musik, RIEN CD 58, 2006. Available from Oriente Express
I met Merlin Shepherd about ten years ago at KlezKamp. He was an awesome clarinet player then. He has gotten scarily better. On this outing he gathered up a posse of so-far-unknown-to-the-west klezmer players of the former Soviet Union. The ones you find jamming non-stop at the Klezmer festivals and blowing everyone's minds. These guys already knew the repertoire from KlezKamp, so Merlin wrote new stuff. This is the sort of CD I've been waiting for, for years. New klezmer music. But, at this first listen (the CD only arrived today), it's klezmer that manages to sound both traditional, but also as though it were written this year (which it was). This isn't the worshipful, "I can write like the old guys" klezmer. This is the "okay, the old folks stole all our best ideas. let's work on some new ideas" klezmer. Must get the word out now. May have more to say once the CD has sunk in. You can catch some tracks at Merlin's MySpace page.

November 26, 2006

CD Review: Frank London's Klezmer Brass All-Stars / Carnival Conspiracy

what you see is what you get - this is amazing musicFrank London Klezmer Brass All-Stars / Carnival Conspiracy. Piranha Records CD-PIR1902. Delightful notes by Frank London are available on the Piranha website. CD available from
It's been over a year since Frank handed me the pre-release CD of this album so I'd have something to keep me awake during an early-morning airport run at KlezKanada. I was immediately blown away by the incredible vocals and insane brass wall-o'-joyous-sound on the opening "In Your Garden Twenty Fecund Fruit Trees" and never looked back. I'm still awake and still tapping my toes. Of all the Frank London projects, the one I love the most unceasingly is the brass band, and so far, each new CD has been mind-blowingly good, and still different from the one preceding. While writing about the KlezKanada Faculty CD a couple of days ago I got that guilty feeling. I had never reviewed this CD on the KlezmerShack. A shande!.

Continue reading "CD Review: Frank London's Klezmer Brass All-Stars / Carnival Conspiracy" »

November 22, 2006

CD Review: Judith Cohen / Sefarad en Diáspora

uninteresting, but at least on subjectJudith R. Cohen / Sefarad en Diáspora, Pneuma, 2006 PN-780.
Ordering information: Karonte Distribution, Avda. Alfonso XIII Nr. 141, E-28016 Madrid. Fax: +34 91 350 3358. Available from Casa de Jacob's (they're in alphabetical order by CD title - scroll way down, or, apparently from HMV in the UK
A new CD from Judith Cohen is always a treat. Her recent albums have been primarily, but never exclusively, Sephardic folk songs. In this latest outing she has assembled a wonderful ensemble featuring Wafir Sheikh and Bill Cooley. Her daughter, Tamar Adams, has also matured vocally, and is a greater delight with every recording. The call response on "Romance Hermanas Reina y Cautiva," accompanied by solitary kanun(?) is wonderful.

On this CD, Cohen is focused on the Sephardic diaspora, and the way that songs and melodies travel. Sometimes one changes, sometimes the other; sometimes all that is left is the theme. What unites them on this recording is wonderful singing and playing. We hear two variants on the shabbes song, L'cha dodi. And then there is "Romance de la Vuelta", the familiar story of the faithful woman awaiting her soldier, gone for seven years. In the seven very different variants here (Moroccan to French to Italian to Turkish...), as, here, in "John Riley", after testing her faithfulness, he reveals that he has returned. In other variants, she is told that he is dead. A very gloomy song in some versions, but the singing and instrumental playing make them all worth hearing, whether it is the supposedly happy ending of damsel first tried by her alleged lover, or the sadder versions. [GRADE: A]

CD Review: KlezKanada Faculty Anthology 2006

nice try, but too dark to readKlezKanada Faculty Anthology. KKCD-01, 2006. Available from
[Updated from the KlezKanada newsletter, 24 Aug 2006] KlezKanada faculty include not only the most amazing musicians playing traditional music from Yiddish-speaking cultures of the last century. Faculty also include some of the most amazing musicians playing entirely new types of Jewish music grounded in those cultures. Produced by former KK scholarship kid Eric Stein, this CD is a fundraiser for KlezKanada. All faculty contributed tracks free of licensing charges (and got their record companies to do the same). It not only includes the sorts of things one would expect: tracks by Elaine Hoffman Watts, Steven Greenman and the Chicago Klezmer Ensemble, but also tracks that push the edges from David Krakauer's Klezmer Madness with DJ SoCalled, still-unreleased material from Alex Kontorovich's new band, D Minor, a cut off the brand new Susan Hoffman-Watts CD, and a first recording by an amazing new collaboration by Marilyn Lerner and Adrienne Cooper, amazing material from Shtreiml (hint, they aren't "just" a klezmer band any more) and Frank London's Klezmer Brass All-Stars (personal favorites of the KlezmerShack). I haven't even mentioned the revolutionary (a strong word for such traditional-sounding music, until you think of what has just come together and how well it was done) work by the Strauss/Warschauer Duo. Other artists include Khupe, Beyond the Pale, Pete Rushefsky/ Elli Rosenblatt, and Brave Old World—if you haven't heard them and made up your own mind, you know them from the aforementioned KlezmerShack and general media already.

The CD production was underwritten by the Tauben Family Fund of Irwin and Sara Tauben. Says Stein, summing up succinctly: "I've seen a million klezmer sampler CDs. I think this is the most interesting—top artists performing a veritable cross section of the contemporary klezmer scene." You can read more about this CD in a longer KlezmerShack review, with links to more info about each of the featured artists. [GRADE: A+]

CD Review: German Goldenshteyn / A Living Tradition - A+!

Continuing my series of quick reviews for those wondering what to get for the holidays....

cover art as practiced in the former soviet union?German Goldenshteyn / A Living Tradition. LTD 1803, 2006. Available from
[Updated from the KlezKanada newsletter, 24 Aug 2006] Nothing makes up for the sudden loss of German Goldenshteyn this past summer, but for those who remember him and his music, Living Tradition records has released a CD recorded last year at KlezKamp. (There will be a second Goldenshteyn CD, probably in Winter 2007. One track from the second CD is available in the KlezKanada Faculty Anthology now.)

KlezKanada regular Alan Sissel calls it "the only CD I’m listening to right now." Goldenshteyn is backed by some of the best klezmorim around, from Josh Horowitz to Michael Alpert. The real star, however, is German Goldenshteyn, whose songs and whose clarinet are, as the label says, a Living Tradition. This is traditional klezmer as no one knew it was played any more until German arrived in the US and demonstrated the music that he had been playing all of his life. a bisl of the music that formed his living tradition is now passed on to us.

The money from the sale of the CD is going to a special fund set up to support his family. [GRADE: A+]

November 15, 2006

Start your holiday shopping with the new Brave Old World DVD

Brave Old World / Live in Concert dvd coverIt isn't even Thanksgiving yet and I'm already in a panic about how few reviews I've written and how much I want to be sure that the people who make the music I love get the word out in time for the holiday.

So, I'm going to do my best to mention at least one recording each time I sit down at night to work on school or do some programming between now and Hanukkah-ish.

I could begin this series in many, many places, but there is only one new Jewish music DVD. There are movies about klezmer, or other Jewish music, or even about the downtown radical Jewish music scene, but no concert movies of great (or even mediocre) bands until now. And it couldn't be more appropriate than this: Brave Old World, nor could it sound much sweeter—this is a monster concert, featuring much of the music from their "Royte Pomerantsn" and "Bless the Fire" CDs, in front of a friendly audience (Montreal, at a fundraiser for KlezKanada), with the band as tight as one can imagine, playing as if their very playing would bring the Messiah here and now. Indeed, after watching the DVD, one wonders how the Messiah is able to stay up in the heavens rather than come join us already.

When I watch Brave Old World in concert—in real life, and here, as well, I am always struck by how intense their playing is. Sometimes I hark back to myself as a teenager watching King Crimson thinking, "wow, I really don't get this music, but these guys are wonderful." Except that I do get this music, and thought it wonderful even before seeing the extra dimension of watching them play. Some pieces that never turned me on, on record, like the Itzik Manger poetry recited in "Der mentsh trakht un lakht" and reset on "Yankl Dudl" make perfect, ethereal sense here, live (oh, for joy, watch Stu's fingers with the tsimbl hammers while the band plays "Yankl Dudl"). Then, listening to Michael introducing the band before breaking into "Royte Pomarantsn," one of my favorite all-time songs here performed with the zest and life that it demands, I smile so happy.

Sure, the hits are here (hits? brave old world? Is it my fault that there isn't new Jewish music radio, or that the rest of the world prefers the silliness of Britney Spears or Eminem?). You got yer "Uncle Elye." You gotcher 'Still Happy." You gotcher Kurt Bjorling wailing away 90 miles and 50 souls away, "Reb Velvl, may his fingers live and be well". You gotcher "Ladder" with its reset "Shalom Aleichem" and gou gotcher "basarabye". You got Michael Alpert totally transforming the art and role of the badkhn in "The Band", here, as in every performance. But it's not just hearing it, the joy is in being able to see it—the band performing—as well (with subtitles, even, should you be Yiddish-disabled like me) that makes this so remarkable. [Disclaimer: I typeset the Yiddish text that is used in the DVD liner notes. And despite spending months pinning down one special band member to get it proofread, I'm still excited about this project!]

Where can I purchase this gem, you ask? Once again the band eschews the practice of putting the music where the people are. Fuhgedabout amazon or your local Judaica store. But, that's okay, this is the internet. Your browser can take you anywhere. In this case, visit videographer David Kaufman's website (he that produced this masterpiece), Tell 'em I sent you. Order a dozen. They're cheaper that way, and with a DVD this compelling, you can easily give out that many over the holidays.

P.S. Did I mention that you can play this puppy on your PC so that you can have it right there while you're working like I'm doing now? Go ahead, order another one for the computer station:

June 4, 2006

New reviews on the KlezmerShack start with Israel music

CD coverIt started with a new Rough Guide release, this time, the Rough Guide to the music of Israel. It is really good. I don't mention it very often, but I first began writing about Jewish music as a reviewer for the Jerusalem Post back in the late 1970s. By then I had spent years doing community theatre and hanging out with musicians in Israel. I didn't write for the Post long—it was difficult to focus on a gig writing for a newspaper that I shunned reading—but I have never lost my love for Israeli music and its diversity. This recording captures a good slice of that diversity, as updated and compiled just a couple of months ago. There is also an interview with the compiler on the CD, playable on a computer via webbrowser. Although a Jewish lad growing up in a Zionist home, the compiler seems ignorant of most details of modern Jewish history. But he has enough generalities generally right that this, too, forms a good introduction to Israeli music, overall. Those who let their ears get them into trouble will dig more deeply.

CD coverThe problem was that I got so wrapped up in the first CD, that I had to spend time with that Idan Raichel CD that I've been meaning to write about for years: 2002's Idan Raichel Project. I find this the most mind-blowing Israeli CD in years. In some ways, it reminds of of Ofra Haza's early work, an explosion of traditional sounds transformed for this time and place. It also reminds me of my favorite Israeli band of the '90s, the Ethnix. But it's also it's own original sound, building on Israeli and world music, with everything from reggae to hip hop, inflected by Raichel's Ethiopian roots. Wonderful.

CD coverBy now I was in trouble, so I also polished off a review of the relatively recent release of the final album by Israeli jazz masters, The Platina: Platina / Girl with the Flaxen Hair. Released back in 2003 as part of tributes to bandleader Roman Kunsman who had just passed away, this is material that was original recording in 1976 and then lost. The studio mangled most of the original tapes, then the band broke up. And we all moved on, remembering the concerts and the transformed Debussey of the title track. I have tried to begin to describe how good it sounds, even now, 30 years later. This is a must-have CD for anyone remotely interested in jazz or jazz-rock or Debussey.

CD coverThere is something about Philadelphia Jews. I've said this before, but with the release of Klingon Klezmer / Blue Suede Jews, it bears repeating. This is, after all, the home of Benny and the Vilda Chayas. But it's also Hankus Netsky's home turf. It's the city that gave us not only Anthony Coleman, but also nth generation straight-ahead klezmorim like Rachel Lemish and Susan Watts. This latest excursion by the Klingons is a delightful, zany, and damn fine exploriation of the psychedelic side of klezmer.

CD coverThe 10th Anniversary of the first Masada material has prompted a wonderful re-examination of that work by a wide variety of artists. I confess to being among the few who find Zorn's Masada okay, but don't have a great need to own each volume. On the other hand, listening to Jon Madof and his noisemakers, er, Rashanim, transform some of the material is entirely different. 2005's Rashanim / Masada Rock, Vol. 5 is going to be part of your essential Masada collection.

CD coverLadies and gentlemen, for another take on the extraordinary John Zorn/Masada material, may I offer you the totally flipped, amazing Koby Israelite / Orobas: Book of Angels Vol. 4, 2006.

CD coverAnd, finally, in a nod to everything that I didn't have time to listen to today, all of which is at least htis good, I offer one last fusion, the world music band Asefa, house band to Sam Thomas' Brooklyn-based "Jewish Awareness through Music" organization. Samuel Thomas / Asefa, 2005. Same bass-player, incidentally, as with Jon Madof's Rashanim. These folks get around!

I can't believe how many CDs are crying out for attention and didn't get any today. Stay tuned. I'll try to do this again, real soon now. I have to. The pile fell over last week. Everything is confused, and until I get some reviews written and some CDs put away, I've lost use of my favorite reading chair.

April 10, 2006

A new Flory Jagoda album: this review and others from Judith Cohen

Inspired by Flory Jagoda's wonderful new album, Sephardic music expert and performer Judith Cohen has sent us a slew of reviews about recent significant recordings:

album coverThis is the one that started the recent round of writing: Flory Jagoda / Arvoliko. Cohen says that it is very, very good. Jagoda, of course, is a national treasure (and has the medal to prove it ;-)). Here she shows that she is still engaged with writing new songs about current life and politics. No "Ocho kandelikos" here. That's already been done.

album coverHere's another recent Jagoda release, this one with under-rated Argentinian singer, Ramón Tasat: Flory Jagoda and Ramón Tasat / Kantikas de amor i vida: Sephardic Duets. Another Tasat album, "Teshuva," by Tasat with César Lerner and Marcelo Moguilevsky was reviewed in 2004 by Sam Weiss.

album coverBut wait, there's more! Izzet Bana & Estreyikas d'Estambol / Un Kavretiko, 2005, brings us a review of a delightful children's album.

album coverLess successfully, the excellent "Constantinople" ensemble tackled Sephardic music in 2001 with something that is beautiful as music, but perhaps not particularly connected to "Sephardic": Constantinople / Memoria Sefardí / Musique d'Espagne juive et chrétienne.

April 3, 2006

Jack Kessler brings out the Klingon in Brookline

latest Klingon Klezmer CDThere was a Shabbaton at my synagogue this past Shabbes with Rabbi Marcia Prager and her husband, Cantor Jack Kessler. Not being someone who davens best in a prayer session, I convinced Judy to come with me for Havdalah and a kickass concert by Jack, his son, and local musicians such as Dena Ressler.

I should mention that I really like Jack's cantorial and Middle Eastern CDs, but the real fun lies in the recordings by his simkha ensemble, the aptly named Klingon Klezmer. And at Temple Beth Zion, Jack managed to infuse a skilled group of pick-up musicians with the Klingon Klezmer fun in a short set that covered familiar repertoire in an unusually energetic and danceably entertaining manner. A delightful time was had by all.

And I am left wondering about the Philadelphia Jewish music scene. It isn't just the Klingons. It's Ken Ulansey's amazing band, and Benny & the Vilda Chayas and the Watts family women and Rachel Lemisch—and lest I forget, this is the town that gave us Hankus Netsky and Charlie Berg and Anthony Coleman and more. Some mighty interesting music happening there.

And while you wait for me to do an official review, you can take my word for it that the new Klingon Klezmer CD is as wonderful a mix of klezmer as done by people who may have taken more drugs than the rest of us during the Sixties, and/or listened to their rock music a bit louder, and who still haven't lost the sense of joy and the madcap fusion of styles that came out of that era. Still klezmer, but definitely not my bubbe's klezmer, for sure. Pick up a copy on today.

March 5, 2006

new George Robinson reviews

The prolific George Robinson manages to cover his usual wide range of new Jewish music in New York's Jewish Week. This edition, Ghosts In The Machine: Dead clubs, composers and languages enjoy new lives in these albums, came out March 3. CDs reviewed range from Frank London's brilliant "Chazanut" to Yiddish over world beat from Israel.

February 19, 2006

SRO at Kaplan-Rushefsky concert in Newton

Pete and BeckyOne of the most amazing duos performing Jewish music today is the combination of singer/pianist Rebecca Kaplan and tsimbalist Pete Rushefsky. I have my own vested interest in the duo—I typeset the liner notes for their CD—but there were easily 200 people crammed into the largest meeting room in the Newton Library today, ranging in age from just born to grey hair. Maybe it was the fact that this was a free, Sunday afternoon concert, but I have to suggest that part of the credit lies in that incredible combination of Becky's voice—referred to by one reviewer as "this generation's Isa Kremer" and Pete's wonderful tsimbl playing. The two just belong together. The result is sublime: not recycle Yiddish folk shlock, but instead, something that fits this time with songs new or unfamiliar. And it sounds great.

The songs, including one lively tsimbl piece introduced by Pete as "the sort of piece Bruce Springstreen might have written had he been Jewish and played tsimbl," and a wonderful recent song authored by Kaplan and recorded on their CD in which she tells her lover that it is time to decide whether to commit or to move on. A favorite of the audience was a satire with the punch line, by a rabbi, that to "kasher" a philandering husband, the wife should scub him and put him in the fire and then put him in the ground for a year.

Kaplan and Rushefsky also had a sold out house at their concert, with Dobe Ressler and Di Bostoner Klezmer, celebrating this website's 10th anniversary earlier this year. If we can get an audience this good for the closing 10th anniversary concert (March 25th and March 26th, with the Klezmer Conservatory Band and a mini Jewish Music Festival), all will be well.

You can get a copy of Becky and Pete's CD, "On the Paths", from

February 11, 2006

Deborah Strauss and Jeff Warschauer ROCK

band photoI don't know how many times I have seen Deborah Strauss* and Jeff Warschauer. As often as possible, as it happens, and it adds up. Tonight's show at Workmen's Circle in Brookline, though, was the rockingest show I've ever seen them do. It was like a cross between a chassidic revival and a bluegrass show, except for the lack of chassidim and bluegrass.

Continue reading "Deborah Strauss and Jeff Warschauer ROCK" »

January 31, 2006

Tribute to Viktor Ullmann

recording of Ullmann's 2nd symphonyOkay, one more important article that has been waiting several months. Stewart Cherlin has been writing for the KlezmerShack since 1997. His most recent article is about the Czech composer, Viktor Ullmann, who composed some amazing music in Terezenstadt before being shipped off to Auschwitz by the Nazis. Those who heard the lecture on his music at the Milken Conference a couple of years ago, or who have been privileged to otherwise encounter his music know that this isn't just your average Schoenberg-student does 20th century shtick music—this is "stick it to the Nazis in full glorious and conscious defiance" music. Many thanks to Stewart for writing an article about the music, and this past summer's performances in Chicago. We've added some links to learn more about Ullmann, as well.

Read Viktor Ullmann Remembered: A review and article on Viktor Ullmann and his music, performed at the Ravinia Festival, written by Stewart I. Cherlin

January 30, 2006

di Fidl-Kapelye / Live in Amsterdam; review by Günther Schöller

album coverWhile I was out galivanting with work and otherwise pre-occupied, a really, really sweet, very old-style European klezmer album came in for review by the Amsterdam-based "Di Fidl Kapelye". Happily for the band, they were not forced to await my review: Günther Schöller, accordionist with Narishe Tantz posted a great review to the Jewish Music list back in April and sent me permission to post it to the KlezmerShack. That's long enough to wait. Read about Live in Amsterdam and pick up your own copy asap. We hope ya'll enjoy it as much as we did.

January 29, 2006

New KlezmerShack review: Panoramaland

lovely map of panoramalandIt has been many, many months since I've been able to find time for reviews. As I try to catch up, just a little bit, I find myself turning to one of the CDs that hasn't been waiting for months, but which has nonetheless insinuated itself onto my CD changer and refused to let go. Figures, of course. It's the New Orleans band, Panorama Jazz Band, and their new album is appropriately entitled, "Panoramaland." If you love Frank London's Klezmer Brass Band (review of the new Carnival Conspiracy coming very, very soon) or New Orleans Jazz or Zlatne Uste or just love to dance, this is a good place for reviews to start again.

December 31, 2005

Elliott Simon discovers amazing Polish Jewish bassist

album cover

Elliott Simon writes to the Jewish-Music list:

Wanted to share an article that appeared in AAJ-NY this month that had me for the first time listening to Vitold Rek...he is one of the most amazing bassists I have ever heard....there are Yiddish themes running through his work which features him solo...or with major jazz players such as John Tchicai, Karl Berger, Charlie Mariano and Albert can see the article here: Taso Music.

December 28, 2005

Brave Old World's "Lodz Ghetto" leads off new George Robinson reviews

album coverOkay, still months behind, but back in the Aug 5 issue of New York's Jewish Week, George Robinson got in a new set of hot reviews: A Still-Beating Yiddish Heart: A sampler from the mamaloshen. CDs inlcuding Yiddish - Klezmer , Ladino, and 'classical' styles.

November 6, 2005

Blown away by "A Cantor's Tale"

I have too much work to be spending time writing about things on the KlezmerShack right now, but I can't not mention the most amazing, music-affirming movie I have seen since the Epstein Brothers movie, or Michal Goldman's groundbreaking "A night in the garden of eden."

I am talking about "A Cantor's Tale," of course, a movie that manages to be part biography of the amazing cantor, Jack Mendelson, part history lesson, and more than anything, a movie that undoes years of bad Hebrew School experiences and excruciating Saturday mornings spent listening to the Jewish prima donna onthe synagogue bima, waiting for the moment to mumble appropriately in response to some endless tortured solo—the guys (it was always guys back then) who turned the repetition of the amidah into a reprise of the descent into the underworld..

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September 5, 2005

"Youngers of Zion" at the National Yiddish Book Center

cheesy cheesy cheesyI just wanted to extend some props to the Youngers of Zion who delivered a thoroughly enjoyable set at the National Yiddish Book Center yesterday. It was a delightful day to be in Western Massachusetts, and my first chance to see the band perform live.

I hadn't really considered what a unique set of strengths the group brings to the stage. Cookie, of course, is one of the world's great klezmer violinists. Henry is a wonderful storyteller and has a repertoire ranging from wonderful vaudeville ("I am a border by my wife," "Levine and his flying machine") to hasidic folk songs. Rubin, of course, holds it all together with impressive bass playing, swapped out with tuba. The result is as heimish and fun an afternoon as you could want.

I also enjoyed the band's CD, Protocols, but this was live.

May 1, 2005

Rogovoy on the latest radical Jewish music

Seth Rogovoy's latest article (April 29, 2005) in The Forward, the English-language version of the esteemed Forverts, provides an interesting take on new Jewish music: "Radical Music for the New Global Shtetl: New Recordings Combine Dizzying Cosmopolitanism With Distinctly Jewish Melodies" in which he reviews recent releases by Charming Hostess, Zohara, Koby Israelite, John Zorn, et al.

March 27, 2005

Two wonderful new CDs reviewed

Here are two new reviews, separately or apart they represent just a part of the span of new Jewish music for which the KlezmerShack exists. Both are exciting CDs.

album coverIt's the Klezmatics first live album, and their first album with Joshua Nelson. It is also an incredibly intense CD for the forthcoming Passover holiday, focusing on black and Jewish song. Not your grandparents' klezmer? But, if you are of my generation, this is still music that you grew up with, just never performed with this intensity and joy: Klezmatics / Brother Moses Smote the Water.

Celebrate Yiddish album coverI was a bit dubious when Susan Deikman sent me information about her new album in which she performs traditional Jewish spiritual texts to Hindu chant. I loved what I heard, but turned to friend Hanna Tiferet for the review, feeling that the music deserved more than my own "I've never heard anything like this, but it sounds good." Yofiyah / Kabbalistic Kirtan.

February 26, 2005

New reviews by George Robinson in the Jewish Week

While I have been taking my time, George Robinson has released his lastest collection of reviews in this week's (2/18/05) Jewish Week: A Black-Jewish Chord, featuring among other things, three Black-Jewish collaborations (including the new Klezmatics album).

February 3, 2005

Khevre, at LAST, and more

album coverI rolled out of KlezKanada in August listening to a hand-pressing of this album. It has been a frustrating long wait for the official CD, then for there be a way for the ten people who take these reviews seriously to get their copy (from CDBaby). It's available now, and there are fresh concerts coming up here in the Boston area. Read more now: Khevre / Oyfn Sheydveg. Liner notes by Michael Alpert.

Celebrate Yiddish album coverHere's another CD that has waited a long time for a review. Yes, that's tonight's theme: catching up on old favorites that I haven't yet announced here. In this case, I did my usual glowing review of the new Metropolitan Klezmer album when it came out, and kept meaning to do the same with the sister disk ... here it is: Greetings from the Isle of Klezbos.

band album coverOne of the early KlezmerShack reviews was of a Dutch band that seemed to be channeling the Klezmorim. It's time to mention another classic album by the band: Di Gojim / Oostenwind.

January 22, 2005

Old and new albums reviewed, new to the Klezmershack

I have been torn between some amazing new CDs that have appeared in the last couple of months, and just a few more CDs that I haven't found time to review while I've been running around like a chicken without a head working on recoding the KlezmerShack (still partially done). Here are the latest CDs that were in the changer when I had time to sit, listen, and actually write. Excellent choices, all, if I may say so:

album coverI don't even know what to say about this. The album cover says it all, but you'll have to read the review to know how I heard it. Henry Sapoznik, with Austin's musical ambassador, Mark Rubin, and the absolutely stunning fiddle of Cookie Segelstein, teamed up to bring us the one and only Youngers of Zion / Protocols. Listen or else.

Celebrate Yiddish album coverCan you cover all of Yiddish music, with sufficient coherence, in just one CD? If anyone could do it, Lorin Sklamberg and Frank London are the two to do it. Check out this latest excuse to celebrate on Celebrate Yiddish from Craig Taubman and the gang.

band album coverIn this third CD from Berlin's Paul Brody, there is no cessation of the creative deconstruction of Jewish music. The results are far more tuneful than one would expect, and I am always grateful that Brody seems to pull together music that seems both edgy and listenable at the same time. Paul Brody's Sadawi / Beyond Babylon.

Willy Schwarz album coverIs there an instrument for which German musician Willy Schwarz hasn't found an excuse to tie to Jewish music? I mean, when you are prepared to sing a lovely anti-British pub song like "Moses" as your Irish representation, clearly you intend to go for musical breadth. The ear is intriguingly rewarded. Purists we're not. Willy Schwarz / Jewish music from around the world

Seewald and Psamim album coverI reviewed this album a few weeks ago and can find no record that I have mentioned it anywhere. That would be a shame, because it's about time that I got a review of something that Belgian vocalist Seewald has done, and this is an excellent place to start: Zahava Seewald & Psamim / Koved: A Tribute to Martin Weinberg

December 21, 2004

Metashvili on the road: Review of Burning Bush, live in York, UK

Nan Metashvili caught Burning Bush in York, UK, at a sold out concert on Dec 12, 2004. A former resident of Alaska, she is in the UK prior to traveling on the West Africa.

Much surprised to realize that we have never mentioned Burning Bush on the KlezmerShack before, except on our calendar. Our family saw the band back in 2000 or so in London, at Barbican Hall (sp?), but felt that the music was a bit too homogenized for our taste. The show was quite visually interesting, though. (For context, we were blown away by the Argentinian duo, Lerner and Moguilevsky, who played in the lobby prior to Burning Bush, and returned to the hall later that month to catch John Zorn with Fred Frith in my all-time favorite Zorn concert, and one of my all-time favorite concerts ever.)

The KlezmerShack did link to a review of a different concert by Burning Bush written by Richard Sharma, who has been missing in cyberspace for several months. I hope that it is only computer problems that are keeping him out of sight.

December 20, 2004

Eight Days of Jewish Music Reviews, by George Robinson

It was too big to fit uncut into the Jewish Week for which it was written, so we are making the complete column by George Robinson available here on the Klezmershack: Eight Nights of Hanukah, the Annual Survey, by George Robinson.

December 19, 2004

New reviews, at last

Driven by the arrival of a new recording from my current favorite Israeli band, I've managed to get to a few CDs that fell off the giant mountain awaiting review. Enjoy

K&P album coverWhen improvisational musicians are really "on" the result is a harmony of disharmony and shards of melodic fragments. This Tel Aviv trio get it in every way and the result is immediately my favorite improvisational album of the year. Kruzenshtern & Parohod / Songs

Krakauer album coverSome David Krakauer albums are all about David Krakauer, genius performer on the clarinet. Some albums have him balanced by a hot band. In this live performance everyone is on fire, but Krakauer stills seems out of balance much of the time. This is not necessarily a bad thing for those who love clarinet pyrotechnics. There is some notable sampling by guest DJ SoCalled. David Krakauer / Live in Krakow

Panorama jazz band album coverFans of the New Orleans Klezmer AllStars may remember clarinetist Ben Schenck from early recordings. That didn't mean that he exited from delving into either New Orleans Jazz traditions or world dance music. His Panorama Jazz Band has been holding down a weekly club gig for several years and now the result has been recorded for home consumption. Panorama Jazz Band / Another hot night in February features lots of Dixieland and early jazz, but also some great klezmer, balkan brass band music and other great dance tunes.

Krakauer album coverThe former San Francisco Klezmer Experience, now known as "Klez-X" (The San Francisco Jewish Bulletin in now known as "J"—there's an alphabet thing going on out there.) always felt loud a loud, boisterous, exciting, well, ... mess. The new snapshot provided by this CD is of a band that has lost none of its exuberance, but has gained major maturity, and which has moved to embrace a wonderful, wild variety of new Jewish music. This is a special one. Klez-X / Harbst

Mazel Tov Orchestra album coverI have had less time to review more "traditional" (a funny word when used to refer to music that has been newly re-adapted to Jewish weddings and clubs in the last generation) bands. Portland, Oregon's Mazel Tov Orchestra is one excellent example of a band playing a wide variety of Jewish and Jazz music. Mazel Tov Orchestra / Yiddishe Tam

Klezmer Juice album coverKlezmer Juice is one of the younger West Coast klezmer bands, featuring an amazingly fluid clarinet player (and a great cover artist!). Klezmer Juice / Actions speak louder than words. Indeed.

South Coast Klezmer album coverThis may be the tightest ensemble of the traditional Klezmer bands recently reviewed here. The beat is far less stiff, and the interplay between the band members is wonderfully smooth. There is a very good selection of popular klezmer and Israeli standards and medleys. South Coast Klezmer / Classic American Klezmer.

November 29, 2004

That Pre-Chanukah Review Crunch

I've been working a bit harder to get as many reviews out as possible before Chanukah. Of course, in our house, we celebrate Chanukah by lighting candles, playing dreidel, and making lots and lots of latkes. We're not into the commercial gift thing that has overtaken the solstice holidays. But I suspect that we are unusual in this regard:

album coverSteven Greenman has grown as a violinist with astonishing speed. It is less than a decade since I met him at a live recording of the Flying Bulgars. In the intervening years, he has played in several international folk ensembles, including Budowitz, Harmonia, and most importantly, Khevrisa. Now, he has composed a two-CD set of old-world-style klezmer that firmly revives that style and shows how varied and exciting it can be. Stempenyu's Dream is very special.

album coverFrench clarinetist Claudine Movsessian has been involved in Jewish music (and in world folk music) for at least a decade. In her latest CD, she creates a fusion of Jewish and world folk traditions that is unique and intriguing. Check out Claudine Movsessian / Ames Sonores Multiples: Musìque Klezmer and see what I mean.

album coverI think that I had Kleztraphobix confused with Klezmerfest, a different New York Klezmer band. Now that I've heard their new CD, I think I've got it straight. This is a wonderfully tight, really exciting edgy New York klezmer band, sticking to tradition and ranging from nign to klezmer to yeshivish. Damn, they're tight. Exciting, too. You may need Another bottle of vodka just to keep up :-).

album coverI got dissed last week for not reviewing enough "new" klezmer bands. I have gotten some exciting new bands in this week's listing, but I should feel guilty about spending so much time listening to Shirim's second new release this fall, Pincus and the Pig. But it has been years since Shirim released a new album. Besides, it's almost Chanukah and your kids will love this. What's Chanukah without a wonderful new kids album?

album coverSpeaking of new music, here is the first Klezmershack review of one of Craig Taubman's "Celebrate" series of Jewish compilations. Granted, this is neither typical of the Klezmershack nor the "Celebrate" series, but it is a very interesting compilation of new music called Celebrate Hip Hop. The bands come from around the world, if principally the US, Israel, the UK, and one Russian band. Some of the music is interesting as hip hop. Some is interesting as Jewish music. Some, both. All of it is interesting. This is the place to check out a genre that is new to most people of my generation.

album coverFinally, I end my Thanksgiving break doing what I feel I do best, Celebrate Klezmer. This CD was curated by Lorin Sklamberg and Frank London, both of the Klezmatics and dozens of other projects. If I say that this is the most diverse collection of excellent, mostly new traditional klezmer, need I say more? Also, speakig of new musicians, this is the first recording by Dobe Ressler, whose "di bostoner klezmer" CD should be out for KlezKamp. There is also an old Dave Tarras cut from the YIVO archives (that may be the Sklamberg touch, since Lorin's day job is in the YIVO sound archives, I think). Enjoy.

As usual, if you think this batch was special, wait until you see what's coming next.

November 22, 2004

Yes, I have new reviews, too

I always hope to get more CDs reviewed in a week than actually happens. Then I put off the announcement so that I don't have to put up several announcements all at once. Time to stop this nonesense and let people know about three excellent new releases and one that I missed from a few years ago, and have now reviewed:

album coverSince I roomed with Jonno Lightstone, bandleader of Hu Tsa Tsa, back in 1996 at KlezCamp, I am especially thrilled to review his band's first release. We've both changed since that time. In Hu Tsa Tsa's case, the changes have resulted in an even better band, and a lovely "chamber-music"-like recording in Well-Tempered Klezmorim.

album coverThis is something that I don't usually review, but I was quite stuck by the simple clarity of these pieces as performed by an ensemble new to me from Jerusalem in memorial to the composer. There is quite a lovely back story, as well. I think that you will be charmed, too, by this Woman of Valor.

album coverI have been on a roll with Tzadik albums lately. How I missed this one from 1999 I don't know, but it has actually been sitting out there on the changer awaiting review for quite some time. And I still find it remarkable. I hope it is still in print, but in all cases, I think Oren Ambarchi and Robbie Avenaim / The Alter Rebbe's Nigun is worth finding and listening to.

album coverThis second outing by Beyond the Pale is even more interesting than the first. It's a sort of post-klezmer world music—envision with your ears, perhaps, what Dawg music would sound like if David Grisman had started off as a klezmer! Then check out the new album, Consensus, and agree with me.

As usual, more coming soon, as I find time to finish the reviews and get them online. Bear with me and pay good attention—Chanukah is coming, and if gift-giving is part of your celebration of the season (if rather irrelevant to traditional Chanukah) these, and more to come will be most welcome by all.

Latest reviews by George Robinson

album coverGeorge Robinson serves up a fresh batch of Jewish music reviews in the current Jewish Week: Righteous Music, including reviews of the latest releases from Tzaddik.

Enjoy! And thanks, George

October 23, 2004

Belated Post - Di Fidl Kapelye in NYC, reviewed by Roger Reid

Metro New York's Ronan Tsimbler, Roger Reid, saw Amsterdam's Di Fidl Kapelye last winter and posted to the Jewish-Music list. Operating under extreme Jewish time, that review is now available to the rest of the world: Dutch Strings, Hammers, and Bows.

Many thanks to Roger "Got Belf?" Reid for permission to make this available on the Klezmershack.

October 7, 2004

Oh, right, there's no point writing reviews if I don't mention them....

I have slowly been trying to find my way out from under the scary stacks of CDs sitting here awaiting reviews. The good news is that there are so many, I get to choose my favorites for review first. The bad news? This is just the tip of the iceberg and next week I could be (and hopefully, will be) equally ecstatic over an entirely different list.

album coverFirst on today's list has to be my homies, the Shirim Klezmer Orchestra who turn out their first straight-forward klezmer album in several years (Pincus and the Pig is due out next month) and it is just killer—my favorite album in years, by one of my favorite bands: Mayse (Tales). I need to add a minor caveat: the lone word of Yiddish on the cover was typeset by moi, so it's not as if I am entirely disinterested. On the other hand, as readers of these pages know, I wouldn't offer my services if I wasn't already blown away by the music: big, brassy, exciting American klezmer with lots of surprises that make it all even better.

album coverNext up come a pair of very traditional albums from the Chassidic side of klezmer. First is Andy Statman's first release in years, Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge. On it, Statman explores the world of Chassidic nign, always informing the music with his own great klezmer, bluegrass, and jazz chops.

album coverGood as Statman is, however, he is one amazing musician playing with a workaday accompaniment. Not so this re-release of Moussa Berlin's "Sulam" ensemble live recording. The album was re-released as a memorial to the late jazz flautist Roman Kunsman (with some new material added to the CD emphasize Kunsman's contribution to the ensemble) and more than most Moussa Berlin albums, this one is a collaborative effort with a whole amazing band playing together. Sulam is my favorite Berlin album, and the rerelease eulogizes Kunsman in the best way possible—by giving us a generous helping of his playing and reminding us of what we have lost, while cheering us up in our loss by letting us hear lots of his playing.

album coverI knew that Aaron Alexander was ubiquitous, but I didn't realize what an exciting composer he was until I saw a piece off this album performed at KlezKanada. Then I got the CD and fell in love. Alexander brings unusual Jewish depth, both musically and otherwise, to his music, but he also brings jazz and lots more. This is the most fun I've had listening to a Tzadik recording since Koby Israelite's album last year, I think. When we talk about Radical Jewish Music, meaning music that pushes the edges of what "Jewish Music" is, and that gets you excited about the idea, this is the music we're talking about. Don't miss the Midrash Mish Mosh. It's less mish mosh than fusion; and an excellent midrash on how to make new, exciting, experimental Jewish music.

album coverComing from another place, entirely, this first solo outing by Basya Schechter, the creative genius behind Pharaoh's Daughter, is an exciting instrumental exploration of oud, santur, and Middle Eastern instruments used in the composition of new, very American music, that pulls together sounds from across and around the world. Queen's Dominion is every bit as exciting as Pharaoh's Daughter's most recent CD, "Exile", and completely different.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are more reviews written, just waiting for CDs to become available, and a host more that I'm going to catch up with very very soon, I hope. Stay tuned. In the meantime, good listening!

September 27, 2004

Khevre burns the house down at Zeitgeist, 9/26/04

band enters the club playingEvery time I go to see Khevre I get that feeling of excitement that I am seeing something very new. I don't mean "new" in the sense that no one has ever played klezmer and Yiddish song with bits of rock and jazz and South American rhythms before. These days, that could describe any mediocre American simkha band. Rather, there is an energy, and a delight in playing together, and specific wonderful compositions (stayed tuned for their CD due out in about two weeks) and amazing talent that makes one feel the way it would have felt to be watching Shirim back when they were young (and the hope that the band will be as good as Shirim when it has been playing for 20 years), or one imagines, perhaps, watching the Jefferson Airplane on the tiny Matrix stage back in 1966 in San Francisco.

Continue reading "Khevre burns the house down at Zeitgeist, 9/26/04" »

September 12, 2004

Review of London's KlezFest 2004

Leslie Bunder, editor of the UK's SomethingJewish site writes:

For anyone interested in coverage of Klezfest 2004 in London, we now have our review on it. See Klezfest 2004 (and maybe work on catchier headlines, eh—the KlezmerShack could use the same help?)

September 7, 2004

George Robinson on Folkways reissues, now available from Hatikvah in LA

Simon, from Hatikvah Records, writes:

The current issue of 'The Jewish Week' features George Robinson's Jewish Music column. George reviews some of the "Folkways Records" Jewish titles that we now distribute, as well as other great recordings; Sephardic, Klezmer and Cantorial. The column is Something Old, Now New

August 31, 2004

Charming Hostess charms, blows us all away

picture of the band, singingCambridge's Zeitgeist is a small gallery/performance space, but it was packed last night with a crowd that new Charming Hostess' work well, and responded enthusiastically to the power and amazing grace of the performance. Imagine, if you will, a cross between Sweet Honey in the Rock and Bulgarian village music, or Zap Mama crossed with avant garde: three incredibly powerful, incredibly sweet voices singing everything from gospel to Sephardic song to non-poetic texts set to stirring, harmonic music.

Continue reading "Charming Hostess charms, blows us all away" »

July 4, 2004

From Klezmer to Klezcore

It is impossible to keep up with all of the good music coming out. Here is a near-random sampling from the CD pile:

album coverThis week's stack includes two albums of Yiddish music that are as different from each other as can be. For this one I have to also note that I had a minor production role. It was worth it. Becky Kaplan and Pete Rushefsky have recorded "Rebecca Kaplan & Pete Rushefsky / On the paths: Yiddish songs with tsimbl". This is the best new-old music I've heard in ages.

album coverIn the meantime, one of our favorite Yiddish art song singers has a new show with her arranger/accompaniest, celebrating the work of Mordechai Gebirtig and even bringing to life some recently discovered poems of his. van Oort & Verheijen / Mayn Fayfele.

album coverOver fifty years ago, comedian Mickey Katz discovered fusion comedy: the marriage of Yiddish and English into Yinglish, and klezmer with just about everything else into hilarity. This band channels Mickey, updates several pieces, and ups the ante with some of their own insanity in our time: Yiddishe Cup / Meshugeneh Mambo

album coverContinuing a career in which he has recorded in a variety of music settings, Jewish and otherwise, from klezmer to avant garde, composer/saxaphonist Greg Wall now steps out with a remarkable debut on Tzadik records: Later Prophets

album coverIt's been a good week to pull out some of the many klezmer albums. One of the most astonishing is this debut album by a band that originated at Princeton. This is mamash klezmer: The Klez Dispensers / New Jersey Freylekhs

album coverAlso a debut album of sorts, but by musicians who have been playing klezmer—almost 20 years now in Hawaii. Before that the bandleader was in a band recorded by Mickey Hart called the "Golden Gate Gypsy Orchestra." Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome: Kona's Traveling Jewish Wedding Band

album coverSome bands stop at nothing. This band from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, pulls in influences from all over the world, then adds it to a simmering pot of ska and pop. Please read all about the Plaid-Tongued Devils / Belladonna

album coverFinally, in an experiment that was probably inevitable, from Germany we have the first hardcore/klezmer fusion band: Klezcore / Hackenbeisser

June 21, 2004

Lots of great new music

album coverIn the last couple of weeks I have been better at writing and gathering reviews than actually posting them. For instance, last Fall I wrote a review of the rookie "Sukke" album. Now the album is out and available to all: "Introducing Sukke" and I like it a lot. The band consists of a trio of some of Europe's best klezmorim, and it shows. The album also includes a couple of lyric efforts by Michael Wex. Need I say more? Okay, then read the whole review!

album coverThere has been tremendous buzz about Pearl Gluck's film, Divan. The movie may deserve the buzz, but Frank London's soundtrack for the film is worth listening to on its own terms as a remarkable fusion of chasidishe nign and other music pushing the edges—makes sense, because in many ways, that's what chasidishe nign does. A wonderful, album, too, for lovers of women's voices.

album coverGoing back a couple of years, already, is an album by Sanda Weigl, "Gypsy Killer". It isn't klezmer, it's traditional Romanian and Rom music filtered through the New York downtown scene. So, other music kept getting reviewed first, even while I couldn't stop listening. Now you can read the review and catch the fever, yourself. It is a killer album.

album coverSpeaking of filtering great music through the New York downtown scene, another album that has been on the CD changer for over a year is this incredible, insanely wonderful tribute to Israel's amazing songwriter, Sasha Argov: Great Jewish Music. They really get it, and Argov, well, Argov got it big time. He's like the Kurt Weill and Irving Berlin all rolled together, and all in Hebrew.

album coverA couple of bands have been fusing Jewish music with 20s jazz and pop. In this hemisphere, we have Portland, Oregon's Klezmocracy, with their debut CD. And then, down where it's winter while we swelter in summer, is album coverAustralia's Monsieur Camembert, with a lovely sophomore outing, Absynthe.

album coverFinally, there is a newer Israeli pop artists, channeling the Sixties and Israeli music, Ben-Canar and Shvil HeHalav. Definitely interesting. Not Sasha Argov, but not Mashina, either. Read more!

Yiddishe Cup Channels Mickey Katz

album coverI have been sitting here most of the night waiting for my printer drivers to finish installing. If HP made printer drivers the way they make printers, this would be working hours ago. But such is not my fortune.

On the other hand, it has given me lots of time to really, really listen to the new Yiddishe Cup CD,"Meshugeneh Mambo." in which they successfully channel the late Mickey Katz. Oy, what a metziye! This is the most outrageous combination of fifties Borscht Belt shtick and postmodern Jewish deconstruction I've heard in years and boy did we need it. I'm going to review this 'real soon now,' but don't wait. You can order copies now from CD Baby. Why wait for me to get my act together. Mickey Katz is kvelling in a flying shisl somewhere out there and he's urging us all to "essn, essn." But not even Mickey would have dreamed up "I am a Man of Constant Blessings", and unless his son went to Tufts or Brandeis (like, say, the son of a certain bandmember of my acquaintance), we'd miss out on a very straight, delightfully a capella "Oseh Shalom." But what the heck. If uncontrollable laughter is what you need, just hang in there—the "Knish Doctor" will be up shortly.

Piamenta aims for Orthodox heavy metal fans; Hendrix he's not

album coverIt was about 30 years ago when I first heard Yossi Piamenta in Israel. He was an outstanding guitarist doing amazing jazz-rock fusion music. Then he found God, and his music seemed less interesting. The years passed and I occasionally talked about this extraordinary concert 30 years ago. I began to realize that I was seeing similarly laudatory praise in the Orthodox music press, so I picked up his brand new "Live: New York City Performance" album to listen to on a car drive down to the big apple.

This is not the music I remember. It is mediocre heavy metal accompanied by flat (if religiously derived) vocals and a mundane backup band. The faux Hendrix album closer—a reworked "Red House" doesn't do it for me, although here the guitar is skillfully imitative—wish the vocals were up to snuff. This CD contains music for a particular type of hormonally-overwhelmed New York City Jewish male teenager, which is fine. But I think I'll give it a rest. If someone knows and loves this music and can speak to what makes it attractive to them, I'll appreciate the comment.

May 10, 2004

New recommendations on the "mailto" page

When I started the KlezmerShack, I would often get e-mails from other fans about concerts, local bands, and the like. These days, many people have their own websites to which I link, and longer narratives wind up as their own articles hosted here on the KlezmerShack. Many others participate in the Jewish-Music mailing list. That's all good, but I am sorry that there are fewer short messages about bands or concerts or other Jewish music experiences. A good example is this short message about three bands whose music he especially enjoys playing on his show, from Michael W. Atleson, who hosts a Jewish music show up in Portland, ME. You can view it as the latest entry on the "mailto" page, one of the very first KlezmerShack pages.

May 1, 2004

New Reviews of all sorts

It's been a busy day. I think this is the most I've reviewed in many months. But this is still just the tip of the iceberg - there is so much good stuff to come. Here then, in no apparent order:

The eternal mother exemplified, indeed!Rita Ottens and Joel Rubin continue an excellent series of anthologies with Di Eybike Mame (The Eternal Mother) Women in Yiddish Theater and Popular Song 1905-1929

I've seen just this same kabalistic cover on yet another Jewish avant garde album 10 years agoThis new Montreal band joins our small category of interesting bands doing topical, political Yiddish music. Quite interesting: Black Ox Orkestar / Ver Tanzt?, 2004

artsy radio tower and reasonable typeIt's sort of "world folk chamber music" and I love it. There's a lot of accordion, played exceptionally well, which is always endearing. Check out 3 Leg Torso / Astor in Paris, 2003

amazing graphics from Golden Horn - I only did the typeI began to rave about this band from the moment I heard the first notes. I also typeset the liner notes, so I might not be considered sufficiently neutral. Hence, the inclusion of Roger Reid's comments - no less rabidly enthusiastic than my own. Veretski Pass / (eponymous), 2004

Album cover: Another non-obvious Tzadik coverThis French band is one of the few that I rate up there with hometown favorites, Naftule's Dream. There is some passionate exploration of Jewish cultural existence in Europe with music ranging from Yiddish to heavy metal and experimental jazz. This is quite excellent. Zakarya / something obvious, 2003

Album cover: Lovely leaf print. Good English/Hebrew type mixI reviewed only one Sephardic album this week, but this one is incredibly good. It will be on your turntable for quite a while. Kol Tof Duo / Camino en Mano, 2003

Album cover: Interesting idea that somehow doesn't work.I'm probably the last person to review this excellent children's album, with songs for several Jewish holidays from a secular perspective. Cahan-Simon has a beautiful voice and she is backed by the best. The Lori Cahan-Simon Ensemble / Vessel of Song: The Music of Mikhl Gelbart, 2003

Album cover: I dunno. Fussy.Another album that everyone is talking about and excitedly purchasing. Here's my take on the best traditional American klezmer album of the year - maybe longer. Elaine Hoffman Watts / I Remember Klezmer, 2003

The list of all klezmershack reviews.

April 28, 2004

New reviews on Rainlore's world of music

New CD reviews up on Rainlore's World of Music are - Lori Cahan-Simon Ensemble - Vessel of Song (It's a real treasure Lorele, and so are you.) Legendary Mark Weinstein's exquisite homage to klezmer, Yiddish and Ladino song and more, Shifra Tanzt and his legendary Afro-Cuban jazz album re-issue, Cuban Roots Two great albums by lister David Chevan and the Afro-Semitic Experience that rock, Let Us Break Bread Together and This Is The Afro-Semitic Experience And an exquisite album with strong Sephardi/Andalusian and Mizrakhi, as well as Israeli links, by Oud virtuoso Adel Salameh, Nuzha - Promenade Intros to all these, plus other news etc., can be found here: as well as on the Jazz, Other World Music, and Classical Music pages.

new reviews on "All About Jazz"

Elliott Simon notes that there are two new reviews of Jewish Music interest on the "All About Jazz" site:

Two reviews that appeared in the April AAJ-NY have been posted to the main website; my CD/Concert Review of Krakauer and Caine at Carnegie Hall, a night that rocked Carnegie Hall to its fouindations and a wonderful tango nuevo CD by the original bassist on the first KM album.....Pablo to all...Elliott

April 25, 2004

New Reviews on Klezmershack

This is my week to catch up on some distinctly non-Klezmer music of interest to KlezmerShack readers. In particular, I realized that I had, on hand, three CDs representing two fiddlers for the interesting New York modern Jewish music band, "Golem". It was too much to resist. None of these recordings resemble anything I have heard about Golem. All three are treasures. Enjoy.

Album cover: Another ambiguous Tzadik paintingViolinist Jenny Sheinman released her first album on Tzadik's "Radical Jewish Music" series back in 2002. Called "The Rabbi's Lover" it explores an interesting and pleasing fusion between Jewish sources and jazz. Album cover: And yet ambiguous Tzadik photoNow, two years later, she has composed something entirely new for Tzadik's "Oracle" series, "Shalagaster". In it, she explores textures, sound, and the fusion between her very lyrical violin playing and some occasionally minimalist, always driven experimental jazz. Delightful.

Album cover: Very lovely cropped picture of the fiddler on a bench, holding her instrumentI met Alicia Jo Rabins at an Alicia Svigals concert here in Boston. A student of Svigals, she asked if I would be interested in hearing some non-klezmer music she had recently recorded. One never knows, so of course I said, 'yes', and was promptly rewarded with the best southern and old-timey album I have heard in years. The album is mostly instrumental, but when she sings, Rabins is as lovely in voice as she is when playing the fiddle. This is just a great, great album. Rabins has recently joined Golem, replacing the departing Jenny Scheinman. It will be very interesting to hear the result. In the meantime, don't be shy about purchasing extra copies of "Sugar Shack" and passing them around to people you love.

New article by Stewart Cherlin on Chicago live performances

Differences can divide or can unite. In the realm of music, unity is achievable through our differences. Genesis at the Crossroads, a Chicago-based non-profit organization promotes and organizes events featuring Jewish, Arab and Persian artists. Genesis represents a variety of disciplines including performance, visual, literary and culinary arts....

Read more at Genesis at the Crossroads: Trio Mizan and Maxwell Street Klezmer Band Review

April 19, 2004

New Reviews on Rainworld's World of Jewish Music

Richard Sharma resurfaces with a host of new material at his website:

Hope everyone's had a good escape from Egypt and the matza went down well. (Personally, I love 'em actually.)

The review of The Burning Bush with the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Robert Ziegler concert is at last online on Rainlore's World of Music after continued computer problems and the odd other emergency

There's also a separate review of the pre-concert "Vessels of Sound" foyer performances

A bunch of much delayed album reviews is also up:
Joe & Paul - The Best Of The Barton Brothers
The Barry Sisters / Our Way! The Barry Sisters Sing "Bei Mir Bist Du
Lenka Lichtenberg / Deep Inside
Lenka Lichtenberg / Open The Gate - Break Down The Walls
Wolf Krakowski / Unbounded
David Chevan / The Days Of Awe
Mark Weinstein / Tudo De Bom - Music from Hermeto Pascoal's "Calendario do Som"

Another lot should be up within the next week or two at most.

April 11, 2004

new albums by Shtreiml and Brave Old World

Album cover: I still haven't seen a Brave Old World cover that I likedThe new Brave Old World album, Bless the Fire, doesn't seem to be getting the kind of press it deserves. Granted, that would involve a ticker tape parade and mention on every streetcorner - this is the sort of music that reminds me of why I maintain these pages and why I love to listen to new Jewish music. In my minor worshipful way, I try to remedy the situation.

Album cover: nice. You don't need fancy type to be niceShtreiml just gets better. For an outstanding band, that is no small feat. This Montreal-based klezmer band mixed Yiddish song with new and old klezmer instrumentals on "Spicy Paprikash" in a way that makes everything feel fresh and wonderful. Just because they aren't an American band shouldn't get in the way of discovering how good this new recording is. Besides, the band includes Josh "SoCalled" Dolgin, klezmer scion Rachel Lemish, along with Jason Rosenblatt on Harmonica and more.

Catching up - more great writing by Richard Sharma

I can't keep up with the burgeoning archive of reviews that Richard Sharma has added to his Rainlore's World of Music. Here are some of the latest that I've received

By way of an interim update to Rainlore's World of Music, the review of Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble's fabulous January gig at London's premier jazz club, The Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho, held over from the previous update is now up. A truly unforgettabe date!

Lots more soon, including some more catching up on album reviews and profiles. Apologies to everybody I owe mail - I'm getting terribly behind at the moment and will be in touch ASAP.

Again, to see the whole range of Sharma's writing on Jewish music, visit his Jewish music page at

February 21, 2004

new Seth Rogovoy reviews

Seth Rogovoy writes:

The new issue of Sing Out! Magazine (Spring 2004, Vo. 48, #1) includes
reviews by yours truly of CDs by the KCB, Aufwind, Solomon and Socalled,
Rahel Jaskow, Yale Strom and a couple of the Milken Archive releases.

It also includes reviews by others of new CDs by Ceilizemer and Margot
Leverett and the Klezmer Mountain Boys (for which I wrote liner notes).

It's been a busy month for Seth, who also had these appear in the English-language Forward

This week's Forward (2/13/04) includes two pieces by yours truly reviewing
recent recordings by a slew of klezmer, Yiddish and Jewish music artists.

Klezmerania: A roundup of recent releases (Yale Strom, Solomon and Socalled,
David Krakauer, Frank London, Eleanor Reissa, Klezmocracy, David Glukh, Koby
Israelite, CeiliZemer, KCB, Lori Cahan-Simon, Mel Waldorf)

Dispensing the voice of klezmer past and future (Klez Dispensers)

February 2, 2004

Rashanim, Caplan concert review by Roger Reid

Roger Reid has given me permission to repost his review of a recent concert by Jon Madof's Rashanim and the Jason Caplan Quartet. The review was originally posted to the Jewish-Music mailing list on Nov 13, 2003

New KlezmerShack reviews

Four new reviews on the KlezmerShack:

album coverFreylach Time!, based in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina is a tradtional klezmer gem. It is also a community treasure. Now that the band has finally recorded, you can hear for yourself: Freylach Time! / The Klezmer Dance Band

album coverLondon's Oi Va Voi has been impressing audiences from the UK to KlezKamp and everywhere in between for years. Whatever they are playing, it isn't klezmer any more, except insofar as it gets people up to dance. This new album, "Laughter Through Tears" just made the New York Time's "10 Best" list for 2003. For a change, I agree!: Oi Va Voi / Laughter Through Tears

album coverCésar Lerner and Marcelo Moguilevsky are two amazing musicians from Argentina. I've seen them perform in the UK and Canada. Now you can year why audiences love them and their brand of passionate klezmer infused with South American jazz. The new album, Sobreviviente, is live: Lerner Moguilevsky Duo / Sobreviviente

album coverA year with a new release from the Klezmer Conservatory Band is a good year. This latest contains many new gems - more than a taste of paradise: Klezmer Conservatory Band / A Taste of Paradise

December 29, 2003

Oi Va Voi in Top Ten

Bob Wiener alerts the Jewish-Music list:

album coverIn today's NYTimes, Neil Strauss lists "Laughter Through Tears" by Oi Va Voi as his #9 album of the year.

"If Massive Attack was a klezmer band, you'd have Oi Va Voi, a London sextet that pulls together Uzbek, Yiddish and English singers into a mesmerizing, innovative debut of chill-out music with substance."

You can read the BBC review at:

You can listen to 1 minute excerpts of all of the songs at:

Loads of new articles from Richard Sharma

Richard Scharma writes to the jewish-music list:

There's a bunch of new reviews on Rainlore's World of Music, plus various bits 'n' pieces including a little personal appreciation of this list's incredibly hard working Geraldine at

The J4J issue which reared its ugly head in this list some months ago is also addressed there in a UK context.

Reviews include the fantastic, fabulous Alexandra Yaron live at London's The Spitz, and The World Quintet's (formerly known as Kol Simcha) and the Budapest Klezmer Band's concerts at London's Union Chapel last month. All three are lavishly illustrated as usual.

There are also a couple of superb albums reviewed. Multi-woodwind ace Stewart Curtis' Klezmer Groove's "Too Loud For Dinner" debut album is still an outstanding album and is the first of three coming up. Another first of three album reviews is the superb Dutch Yiddish song duo Mariejan van Oort and Jacques Verheijen's wonderful "Benkshaft" album.

December 23, 2003

Jewish Rock Stars

Seth Rogovoy reviews "Stars of David," a new book about Jewish rock stars in Rockin' Out, for JBooks, the Jewish Family and Life Book Reviews pages. It's a lively, perceptive article with lots of meat even for those not particularly interested in rock music, or this particularly incidental book.

Latest George Robinson reviews

I'm late in passing along with word, but here are the latest Jewish Music reviews by George Robinson in the Jewish week: A World Of Klez: From Uganda to Australia to the Emerald Isle, new CDs offer delightful surprises.

Discography of early European Jewish recordings

Joel Bresler reports on the Jewish-music mailing list:

I am pleased to relate that my colleague Michael Aylward has started to publish some of the results of his impressive seven-year effort to compile a discography of commercial European Jewish recordings on cylinders and 78s. His article (title above) appears in Vol. 16 of "Polin, Studies in Polish Jewry", Oxford and Portland, OR, The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2003.

He is covering traditional Jewish music, defined here as excluding performances in the classical tradition. So far, Michael has documented 5,500 recordings. It's well worth getting a copy of the article.

List members then came up with the following contact info: To get the volume of Polin look at the website of the publisher, or, in the US, go through International Specialized Book Services (ISBS).

Continue reading "Discography of early European Jewish recordings" »

December 19, 2003

Seth Rogovoy's seasonal CD roundup

From Seth Rogovoy, author of The Essential Klezmer:

My annual new Jewish music CD roundup in the Berkshire Eagle runs on Friday. It includes commentary on new and recent CDs by Jonathan Harkham and David Brook, Oi Va Voi, NOKAS, some anthologies, and some of the Milken Archive CDs.

You can read it here: New Jewish music CDs

December 18, 2003

new reviews on All About Jazz

Elliott Simon reports on some very nice new reviews in "All About Jazz:"

The December AAJ-NY is out with two reviews by yours truly...Klezmer Mountain Boys and Days of can download the paper at or check them out pre posting at Margot Leverett & The Klezmer Mountain Boys and The Days of Awe.

also one of our other writers has reviewed the new KCB at: A Taste of Paradise

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 16, 2003

    Margot Leverett and Klezmer Mountain Boys featured in The Forward

    album coverSandra Layman spotted this by veteran Jewish news reporter Jon Kalish:

    Mixing Mountain Musics: How One Band Combines Klezmer and Bluegrass. By JON KALISH, The Forward, Nov 14, 2003

    The verdict? Outstanding music, live or on disk. But you already knew that....

    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.

    October 27, 2003

    Review: New Milken Archive Recording of Jewish Concertos

    Elliott Simon posted information about this to the jewish-music mailing list:

    These pieces are not the kind of klezmer you're most likely familiar with. Composed by the top drawer of American Jewish or expatriate composers, all are warm with the familiar sounds and rhythms of Eastern European Hebraic culture....

    Klezmer Concertos and Encores: Various Artists | Naxos/Milken Archive of American Jewish Music

    October 20, 2003

    Review: Kruzenshtern & Parohod / the craft of primitive klezmer

    cool lettering, cool album coverThey are a trio and they don't play klezmer. But whatever it is, this is wonderful, wonderful experimental music - the sort of music that causes people like me to brave dozens of tedious mishmoshes of sound to find something this good.

    All I know about the band is that they come from Russia. Now they live in Israel. They formed a year ago. And they are insanely good. For more, read my review. Then run out and order the album.

    October 8, 2003

    All About Jazz back up; new reviews by Elliott Simon

    Elliott Simon writes on the Jewish-Music mailing list:

    Hi all...As some of you may have noticed the AllAboutJazz website has been down due to a server crash for a few weeks. At this point most things are up and functioning but some of the most recent articles have been lost. They are being reconstructed and will re-appear, unfortunately with new links, over the next few weeks. The British-Klez- Jazz article that I wrote is back up with a new link. It is at:

    You can also see a preview of the Zorn cover piece I did with him for the September issue at:

    I was at the Electric Masada concert last week at the tonic and it was pretty incredible. It was followed by a midnight set (actually closer to 1 am) of Roberto Rodriguez's Septeto with Krakman...which rocked...Meg Okura is truly an incredible violinist....thanks to all for their patience while things get up and running....but of course if you are in NYC....or go to the .pdf files of the papers on the can always see a NYC paper that is friendly to Jewish Music and its continued association with Jazz...Anyone go to the recent Jewish Music in Jazz Time concert? Would love to know thoughts.

    David Chevan, "Days of Awe" review

    album coverSandra Layman discovered this timely (Oct 3, 2003) article about David Chevan's latest album.

    September 28, 2003

    Days of Awe review

    It's the Days of Awe, and it is an especially fitting time to note David Chevan's new jazz project, "Davs of Awe." You can read a full description and review in Hartford, CT's Jewish Ledger: "High Holiday liturgy is focus of new CD", by Mara Dresner

    August 13, 2003

    Latest reviews on the KlezmerShack

    Sometimes I get so caught up into listening to new music that I forget to tell people about reviews written. That is particular unfortunate this week, since there are some really exciting albums that I wrote about:

    interesting lettering and '30s-style cartoonInto the Freylakh has produced a debut album that includes a very tuneful mix of klezmer and jazz. Lots of new jazz material, in particular, to gladden your ears. The album cover is also quite classy.

    decent monotype of the band on a bridge, as though old timeyFialke / A grus fun der alter heym. Now, someone explain to me why some of the best traditional klezmer is coming from Germany? For those of us waiting on a next fix from Budowitz or Khevrisa, Fialke steps into the breach. Guest participation by Budowitz tsimbl-master Josh Horowitz helps, too. (Horowitz is currently finishing up an album with fellow-tsimbler Stu Brotman of Brave Old World, et al, and Cookie Segelstein of Klezical Tradition, himself, so stay tuned.)

    another obscure tzadik album cover of building upon building upon older buildingPaul Brody's Sadawi / Kabbalah Dream. This is one of the most amazing trumpet albums I have heard in a while. Klezmer, jazz, avant-garde, and entirely listenable.


    August 10, 2003

    Rainlore posts new klezmer reviews

    After being put out of commission for a short while due to a faulty computer, Richard Scharma has released reviews of new releases by Metropolitan Klezmer and Isle of Klezbos, as well as a concert review.

    August 4, 2003

    Five new music reviews

    I only got to two of the brand new recordings this weekend, partly because I've had trouble putting away some of the CDs that were sent last year. It's time. It's certainly time to spread the word.

    anothing Tzadik coverAnyone who has watched him perform, or more broadly, who has seen Claudia Heuermann's "Sabbath in Paradise," which covers the New York downtown Jewish music scene, is familiar with Coleman's work. His recordings with Sephardic Tinge--Coleman accompanied by bass and drums--present him at his most accessible and, I think, most lyrical. Last year's Our Beautiful Garden Is Open is an excellent example.

    a lovely purple potatoI remember being amused by the name, "Orient Express Shnorer Klezmers" or something--a French klezmer band that seemed interesting, but I never had time to write a review. Now they have evolved into an incredibly articulate, brassy klezmer jazz ensemble. This tribute to Jewish food is a perfect introduction. Remember, when terrorists put a bomb in Paris back in the mid-eighties, it was a Jewish deli that was bombed. This is French Jewish food. Food matters. Delicatessen

    lovely detail from Turkish SynagogueThis is simply a pleasure. One of the most beautiful Sephardic albums I have heard in a while. Lovingly documented, beautifully sung by Hadass Pal-Yarden. Yahudice

    Surely we should never have to see a poorly used Zapf chancery again!ëYes, we have another name change. The band whose name was once preceded by "Shawn's", is now simply "Kugel." Be that as it may, here's another helping of everything from the Grateful Dead to Aleynu, in Finger Play

    delightful painting of 'Jewish Folk Musicians' by Mané-Katz' w/appropriate party typographyThis week's winner of the "another band that I would have happily hired for my own wedding" is KlezmerFest. The band includes a couple of members of Hasidic New Wave, but this is where they get down and make traditional Party Music.

    August 3, 2003

    First feature-film klezmer soundtrack in 50 years?

    Album cover: video coverIt may be the first feature film in 50 years to use klezmer as the soundtrack - pretty wild when you consider that the film in question, "Dad on the Run" is about the madcap adventures of a French Jewish wedding musician of North African descent.

    But the movie is incredibly funny, and well-worth seeing--if only for what may be the first loving circumcision ceremony on film ("when I do a bris, the baby never cries") and a Jewish mother who isn't a misogynist caricature. Even "Fiddler on the Roof" gets a good-bye sendoff.

    Why don't American filmmakers do funny movies about Jews that don't involve making fun of being Jewish? Even "Crossing Delancy," which does have some nice, albeit culturally conservative moments, fails on the above-mentioned ceremony (and perhaps also in its culturally moribund moral message). You'd think we could do better. You'd think that a culture that can revive joy of klezmer could be less uncomfortable with making non-self-hating fun of itself. Sheesh, even "Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob" had to be made in France.

    July 27, 2003

    Four new reviews

    Despite best of intentions, I couldn't stop listening to these four albums this weekend. So that's as many reviews as got done:

    Super Borvis discards his boots and heads into spaceI used to claim that the New Orleans Klezmer Allstars were the hardest working klezmer bar band in existence. They've gotten much better than that. And their mix of New Orleans funk and Jewish soul just gets better and better with Borvis.

    lovely detail from Turkish SynagogueThis is almost the Jewish equivalent of Gregorian Chant, just more recent, in tune with the music of the Ottoman Empire, and, well, very Jewish. Very well done, with very good notes: Maftirim.

    white. just white. with perfect type, of courseIf, like me, you thought that Adrianne Greenbaum's flute album, or the Duo Controverso albums were high points of the year, then this incredible collection of clarinet-accordion pieces based on perfect klezmer will be the next essential stop. Truly heymisher.

    interesting picture of the band. trivial typeThis is the best Klezmatics album since, oh, "Jews with Horns"? Ecstatic music, ranging from klezmer to hasidish to the edges of new Yiddish music, and words worth listening to, context worth considering. If you read the KlezmerShack, you've probably already got your copy. If not, time to Rise Up.

    July 26, 2003

    Khupe review von Deutschland

    That amazing German klezmer, Heiko Lehmann, has lots of good things to say about the new Khupe album (I intend to do the same in English, asap). The review is in German, on the German Klezmer pages. As he says, " Khupe ist das ohne Zweifel gelungen, mehr noch: Heymisher übertrifft das Debütalbum". Whatever that means, ich bin einverstanden. You can read the whole thing on Note, above and to the left, what happens to an all-white cover with a smear of teeny tiny print, reproduced on an all white background. Don't be fooled. This is a killer album. More, anon. Or, check out the sound samples and review at the URL above, NOW.

    July 11, 2003

    Appreciating the Stringband

    I've been playing hooky this past week. Whilst checking out how to get a copy of the rather excellent new Flying Bulgars album (Sweet Return), I discovered that the distributor, also distributed a two-CD set, "The Indispensible Stringband". It is indispensible.

    If a man of Joe Clark's ability could rise to be premier of Canada, then by the same logic, he could have risen to be head of Ontario Hydro. If that happened, and if Three Mile Island happened here ... Joe Clark would have been in charge! Thank goodness he was only prime minister.

    Continue reading "Appreciating the Stringband" »

    June 14, 2003

    Review of Paul Shapiro album

    tzadik cover style 2: band members looking hipElliott Simon spotted this one - a review of Paul Shapiro's Midnight Minyan by Celeste Sunderland, from All About Jazz-New York June 2003.

    I raved about the same album, myself, not to long ago.

    June 11, 2003

    Elliott Simon reviews in "Squids Ear"

    Elliott Simon writes to the Jewish-Music mailing list:

    album cover"Hi...just wanted to make those interested aware of a website that caters to NYC experimental/improvisational music and as such does feature/promote a fair amount of Jewish influenced jazz CDs/concerts. It is run by Kurt Gottschalk who I met at the recent NYC visions festival. At which, BTW, Erik Friedlander, Greg Cohen and Mark Friedman performed an incredible set as the Masada String Trio. They were conducted by John Zorn who sat on stage in front of the trio. Anyway, Kurt asked me to review the new Koby Israelite CD (which has generated some discussion in here already) check out the site

    Simon's first review for Squids Ear is of the nearly-ubiquitous Koby Isaelite "Dance of the Idiots" (which I reviewed last week, and Richard Sharma reviewed a few weeks earlier)

    In addition, he suggests checking out Eyal Hareuveni's review of Borah Bergman: Piano Meditations

    June 8, 2003

    Lots of new reviews of almost everything

    the pied piper of desert bands - a long time since I've enjoyed a tzadik cover!I got carried away. CDs were falling off the shelf, so I sat down this weekend and stayed sat down until I got several reviewed. We've got some great new Jewish music, some avant garde and jazz, some klezmer (lots of klezmer), some Sephardic and Mizrahi music, more klezmer and Yiddish folk.... That's not the whole gamut, but odds are that something in this weekend's stack will be just what you were looking for:

    June 5, 2003

    New Robinson column on Jewish Music

    George Robinson, whose articles are now placed online by the Jewish Week, notes that his latest column is now in print: As usual, Robinson reviews albums from a mind-boggling range of musical styles, from 'Jewish Cello Masterpieces" to sephardic and cantorial, to Adrienne Greenberg's wonderful "FleytMusik," to Bang on a Can.

    May 26, 2003

    New reviews from all over

    It is nice to be at a point where the KlezmerShack can feature articles by people who listen to and are interested in music about which I know nothing. My goal is to ensure that people who love Jewish music can spread the word about things that may be worth listening to. The more voices, and the more diverse ways of considering the subject there are, the better.

    In that vein, Chicago writer Stewart Cherlin, who did a year end wrapup back in 1997 has recently contributed an article on Rabbi Joe Black

    And, stepping into the breach to write about related non-Jewish music that will be of interest to KlezmerShack readers, Roger Reid contributes a review of the new album by cymbalist Alexander Fedoriouk, "Crossing Paths." Fedoriouk is familiar to many klezmer aficionados for his work on recent albums by Sy Kushner and others. He is also a member of the Cleveland-based world music band, Harmonia, in which Khevrisa violinist Steve Greenman (as well as former Budowitz co-member Walt Mahalovich) also finds a home.

    I have been trying to dig myself out from under the accumulated mountain of incredible music, as well.

    One of my favorite "traditional" klezmer albums these past few months has been a delightful album from the Montreal-based band, Shtreiml. What makes this unusual, and causes me to put the word "traditional" in quotes is the use of the harmonica as the primary solo instrument. Once you hear the music, however, I trust that you, too, will be a Harmonica Galitzianer

    One of the latest releases from Tzadik is Jon Madof's first recording with his Jewish-derived jazz band, "Rashanim". Although the band is named for the noisemakers used on Purim to drown out the sound of Haman's name, the jazz is anything but. The mix of Jewish, as well as other music sources is well done and a joy to the ears.

    May 24, 2003

    Klezmatics Review on RootsWorld

    I thank Michael Spudic for forwarding to me the URL for this very thoughtful review of the stunning new Klezmatics CD, "Rise Up":

    May 8, 2003

    Maxwell Street Klezmer / Old Roots, New World

    I can't get away from Chicago. Of course, when the bands are this good--Duo Controverso, or today's featured Maxwell Street Klezmer Band, who would want to leave?

    One of the first exciting klezmer revival recordings I purchased, nearly 20 years ago, was Maxwell St's first album. It opened with the flute playing "Mi Yimalel" and then blasted into klezmer. They haven't stopped since, and this album, last year's "Old Roots, New World," is the best yet.

    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

    May 4, 2003

    Three new reviews

    As I try to catch up, I am happily snowed under by even more incredible music. Here is a taste:

    picture of KlezRoym
    Italy's Klezroym have put together an incredibly powerful album, "Yankele nel Ghetto," based on Gila Flam's collection of songs from the Lodz Ghetto. Notes in Italian and English.

    album coverRob Burger's recent Tzadik release, "Lost Photograph," combines lounge and exotica with South American and Jewish styles.

    Wholesale Klezmer's new "Sing for Peace, Dance for Joy" shows why I think of the band as "Comfort Klezmer".

    April 7, 2003

    Reviews of Sephardic Passover CDs, George Robinson

    Here is the latest CD roundup by George Robinson:

    It may help alleviate the surprising lack of comments to my request for "favorite Passover CDs".

    March 23, 2003

    New KlezmerShack Reviews

    The church at the end of the alley, decent punk typeIt's been a very fun week. There are new reviews up demonstrating, once again, the absurd bread of interesting music that is being sent to the KlezmerShack:

    Naftule's Dream / Live in Florence is a dream--this live recording catches the energy and interplay of this post-klezmer edge band as nothing yet.

    loud, cheesy benguiat with cliched drawing of chassidim drinking in violin caseDresder & Mayer / Sruli and Lisa's Klezmer Dance Party provides the answer to the question: "what two people are most responsible for people associating "party" and "klezmer".

    Nikolayev Kapeliah / Vodkazak features some of my favorite klezmer and jazz musicians (Alicia Svigals, Jeff Warschauer, Sy Kushner, Marty Confurious, Nicki Parrot) tearing up chasidic standards. Hot.

    Meshugga Beach Party. It's time to twist to those freilachs once again. Dick Dale meets "Hatikvah" and wins.

    March 22, 2003

    Review of Theresa Tova CD

    ho hum cabaet shot with trivial typographyThe new Theresa Tova CD, "Live at the Top o' the Senator" is a jazz singer's delight. The KlezmerShack review is up at". Enjoy!

    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

    March 15, 2003

    Review of Maxwell St Klezmer, "Old Roots, New World"

    Dan Pine writes in the most recent Northern California Jewish Bulletin:

    Yo Yo Ma did it. Wynton Marsalis did it. And now, the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band, like the aforementioned classical music superstars, has blended thorough musical scholarship with an unabashed joy of performing on their new Shanachie Records CD release "Old Roots, New World." ...

    Review of Klezthetics CD, "Calistrophy" by Elliott Simon

    Elliott Simon write to the Jewish-music mailing list:

    My review of Burton Greene's Klezthetics.....Calistrophy is now posted online....

    The latest offering from pianist Burton Greene, Calistrophy, is a curious blend of klezmer, blues, swing, free form, Latin, Balkan and plain old straight ahead jazz. Greene, a founding member of the '60s cutting edge Free Form Improvisation Ensemble, was, with his group Klezmokum, also among the first to reacquaint contemporary jazz with klezmer. Joining Greene on this effort, and billed as the Klez-Thetics, are Hungarian reeds player Akos Laki and Klezmokum's core rhythm-masters drummer Roberto Haliffi and tubaist Larry Fishkind.....

    March 8, 2003

    Klezmer Reviews in "Sing Out!"

    Seth Rogovoy posts to the Jewish-music mailing list:

    The new issue of Sing Out! Magazine (Vol. 47, No. 1, Spring 2003) with Irish-American fiddle Liz Carroll on the cover contains reviews by yours truly of Jewish music recordings by the Red Hot Chachkas, Laura Wetzler and the recent anthology of klezmer called KLEZfest put out by ARC Music.

    Eventually, these reviews will be posted at my website.

    February 25, 2003

    Alexandria Kleztet, Delusions of Klezmer

    Decent wide-angle b/w of the band with reasonably nice type. see, it is not so hard to look decent!One of my favorite of the new post-revival, "traditional" suburban American klezmer bands is the Alexandria Kleztet. Their second CD, "Delusions of Klezmer" only increases my affection. This is wonderfully-well-performed klezmer with everything American music influencing something traditional, yet new.

    Read the review at">

    February 23, 2003

    Five New Reviews

    The next-best-thing to Hopper in expressing exile and alonenessIn what I hope will be the beginning of a plethora of new reviews, as I catch up with the pile of CDs that has accumulated since before my wedding, I have the first five up. All of these are great albums, but I caution folks that this is still the tip of the iceberg. In any event:
    • Pharaoh's Daughter / Exile, 2002 -- this will blow your mind. Basya Schechter has gotten superlative reviews for previous albums, but this new album is even better.

    • The Red-Hot Chachkas / Family Album, 2002 -- I have been following Julie Egger since she formed her first band, post KlezKamp, in 1998. This album shows how good she, and the band are. It is a very exciting traditional klezmer album with a couple of excellent new tunes.

    • Vocolot / Heart Beat, 2002 -- my earliest memory of Linda Hirschhorn is her talking with a friend of mine, even before I moved to Berkeley (which is a major relocation ago) about her music. Here, she and her primarily a capella band, the Vocolot (how aptly named! "vocolot" is Hebrew for "voices") range all over the world for songs of spirit and beauty, as well as featuring some of Linda's newest compositions.

    • clunky pastel drawing - not to my taste, although the type is fineAdrianne Greenbaum / FleytMuzik, 2002 -- I am awestruck, and am not going to waste further verbiage trying to describe what an amazing, beautiful, virtuosic album this is. If you like klezmer, or you like flute, or if you didn't know that you liked either, this will still be your favorite album for a long time.

    • Paul Shapiro / Midnight Minyan, 2003 -- this just arrived. I popped it on to the changer to check it out, and have had a hard time not leaving it on constant replay ever since. Shapiro works primarily with the familiar Conservative synagogue song that all bar mitzvahs of a certain age (and perhaps bar and bat mitzvahs to this day) will recall. But what he does with this music, and with other Jewish sources, is to take davening to a new level. This is spiritual music and jazz of the highest order. (Bet you never davened to a rhumba before!)


    February 17, 2003

    Review of Maxwell Street / Old Roots New World, by Richard Sharma

    album coverRichard Sharma has posted several reviews of wonderful klezmer albums to the Jewish-music list. The author has given us permission to post this one to the KlezmerShack, and we thank him profusely. Our own delay in getting this reviewed is only partially mitigated by Mr. Sharma's well-written, and suitably enthusiastic words:


    new articles by Elliott Simon

    Elliott Simon has written two new articles.

    The first, about Tzadik Records, includes an interview with John Zorn, the label's founder:

    The second, "Terry Gibbs Plays Jewish Melodies in Jazztime" is about the CD release of the groundbreaking 1963 album by jazz vibraphonist Terry Gibbs:

    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:

    April 21, 2002

    Latest reviews by Ari Davidow cheer up a taxing season

    The latest reviews include Byrd/Chevan / This is the Afro-Semitic Experience, 2002; Tim Sparks / At the Rebbe's Table, 2002;Yankele / L'Esprit du klezmer, 2001; Howard Leshaw / Bronx Volume II: Yiddish on the Edge, 2001; Klezmaniacs (MA) / Sveet like herring vit potatoes, 2001; Amsterdam Klezmer Band / Limonchiki, 2001; Alain Chekroun & Taouifik Bestandji / Chants des Synagogues du Maghreb, 2000; Mark Levy / Bin ikhmir a shnayderl (I'm a little Tailor), 1999; Roy Nathanson & Anthony Coleman / I could've been a drum, 1997; Rabson, Mimi / Music, 2002.

    David Krakauer's Klezmer Madness reviewed by Michael Spudic

    Michael Spudic makes the second person in recent weeks to see the David Krakauer Klezmer Madness ensemble performing its new work, and is delighted. His writeup of the Apr 13 Klezmer Madness concert at Symphony Space in New York is now on the KlezmerShack.

    March 24, 2002

    Passover music and more

    The latest reviews include Lori Cahan-Simon's secular Yiddish Passover song, a SoCalled Hip Hop seder, Nefesh' debut album, 'unplucked,' a delightful album by Israeli band, Tea Packs, 'your life in a lafa,' and Jewlia Eisenberg's latest effort, an avant gardeish, mostly a capella piece based on the writings and diaries of Walter Benjamin and Asja Lacis. A mediation by singer between two lovers. A 'Trilectic.'

    February 24, 2002

    Beyond Recall: Once more revisited..., review by Michael Spudic

    of Jewish music in Germany prior to the Holocaust, reviewer: Michael Spudic, originally posted to the jewish-music mailing list.

    February 18, 2002

    In Memoriam of Liberation--Theodorakis' Mauthausen Trilogy and more, recent reviews by Ari Davidow

    reviews of great new releases of music by Mikis Theodorakis, Zakarya, Naftule's Dream, Chava Alberstein, and Monsieur Camembert.

    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'

    December 7, 2001

    Years's Best Recordings by George Robinson

    George Robinson selects the years best, including albums by Bang on a Can, Klezamir, Klezperanto, David Lang, Frank London, Peter Salzman and the Revolution Ensemble, Shirona, Robert Starer, Josh Waletzky, Za'atar, Emil Zrihan, and recordings of Composers of the Holocaust, The Yemenite Jews, and The Music of the Mountain Jews.

    December 1, 2001

    The latest hot stuff, part 2, 12 Dec 2001

    Capsule reviews of music by Moshe 'Moussa' Berlin, Klezmokum, Di Naye Kapelye, Shirim Klezmer Orchestra w/Ellen Kushner, Lerner & Moguilevsky (aka 'Klezmer en Buenos Aires'), Hester Street Troupe, Mesinke, a rerelease from the Chicago Klezmer Ensemble, and two compilations: the Rough Guide to Klezmer and Henry Sapoznik's Klezmer! Jewish Music from Old World to Our World.

    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.