Noted Books and Recordings, 1999

I haven't figured out how to merge this stuff with the overall list of all recording reviews, the klezlist. Please bear with me, or e-mail me with suggestions. Send me E-mail with any comments or suggestions. What I think is going to happen is that I'll try new things over the next half of 5760, and then see what makes most sense next time I have a free day.

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28 December: I review some music of the season.

11 December: Don't miss a short review of Henry Sapoznik's new book on Klezmer by Jim Rebhan. Now, if would actually ship me my copy, all would be much better. [It's arrived. Such juicy klezmer gossip! And more! I exclaim!]

21 November: Well, last week I had my first brush with a particular form of nastiness enhanced by the web. We discovered that a band, listed on this site, had stolen materials (including testimonials, no less) from a second band, and was passing them off as their own. We did the usual, of course. We figured that the plagiarists knew what they were doing, so we pointed folks to the website of the band that wrote the materials, and erased all other references on this site to the plagiarists. We wrote the people who hosted the plagiarists account and let them know what the person in question was doing. They were pretty pissed off. The band whose material was stolen may or may not pursue things further. (They are the ones who originally discovered the theft.) Here's the bottom line: If you didn't write it, it isn't yours! If you steal on the web, sooner or later someone will notice. That's how the web works.

9 November: Kosher Red Hots' member Sheila Fox introduces us to another world: The 1999 KlezmerFest in St. Petersburg, Russia., reprinted from Mendele, where it was posted on October 20, 1999.

30 October: How does the time fly so? This year Chanukah comes very early (first candles right before Shabbes, Friday, Dec. 3), which means that it is time to make sure that a couple of special Chanukah klezmer albums get mentioned on these pages. No, I'm not referring to last year's news and "Hanukah with Monica" (more info, 800 711 3627, in the US). Instead, I have finally posted a review of last year's "Klezmer Nutcracker," by Boston's Shirim Klezmer Orchestra, a modest local band that I would happily see at least once a week were the opportunity to arise. Here's a recent example of why.

Then, of course, there are the kids. And those awful kid's holiday albums. This year, there is relief. Sruli and Lisa, the duo who always seem to be the ones running the kids workshops at KlezKamp, or KlezKanada, or wherever folks gather to play klezmer, have released their second Oy Vey! recording. If anything, Oy Vey! Chanukah is even better than the original Young Person's Klezmer Workshop recording. Best of all, this is the recording to keep your kids happy and get yourself in that chanukah, latke-chomping, dreidel-spinning spirit!

10 September: It's Erev Rosh Hashanah, and a good time to wish everyone a happy, health, and sweet new year. If you have thoughts about ways in which the klezmer shack could be better, or better serve the klezmer music and Jewish music communities, or if you'd like to make us aware of your own online resources to share, this is a good time to let me know. If things other than klezmer are on your mind this season, we'll understand. We don't expect to do much befor the end of Sukkoth, ourselves.

While I ponder the more weighty, personal questions that arise at this time of year, I have also been thinking about Klezmer, and the idea that the revival is over; the revival already has grandkids. Some of those grandkids, of course, are the "early Klezmer" bands, a trend that first surfaced with Budowitz, or Alicia Svigals' "Fidl" album, or with Di Naye Kapelye. Most recently, we have Khevrisa, with members of Brave Old World, revival pioneer Zev Feldman, and amazing violinist Steve Greenman. Two years ago, I contended that these early bands represented the most exciting edge of where the music is at right now. Playing the same old freylakhs is no longer an "alternative" activity--many synagogues now (properly!) sponsor klezmer bands, themselves. More important, we no longer consider "klezmer" the only Jewish music. But the edge has moved on. I'm not sure where it is, and it doesn't lessen my appreciate for "early klez."

There is growing attention paid to Jewish classical music, to Sephardic and North African music, and even the heavily American-folk-influenced music by musicians such as Debbie Friedman. Still, sometimes one wonders. As Judy Pinnolis (of the Jewish Music Web Center) pointed out at the Ashkenaz Festival, after an amazing concert by Moroccan-Israeli cantor, Emil Zrihan, "It is amazing that this Jewish cantor tops the world music charts, but American Jews haven't even heard of him." All of this is (including the notes in the next section about the revival) are up for ongoing discussion on the Jewish-Music mailing list, of course, or on the web-based forum, Virtual Ashkenaz. That's the beauty of the internet. You don't have to just passively read what I and others have written--your own thoughts and knowledge are welcome and vital, and can become part of this presentation.

Books and other stuff

Susan Bauer, von der Kuphe zum Klezkamp

Henry "Compleat Klezmer" Sapoznik writes to the Jewish-Music mailing list: "Just wanted to let folks know about a wonderful new little book on klezmer music which has just been issued by Piranha in Berlin. It's called "From the Khupe to KlezKamp Klezmer Music in New York" by ethnomusicologist Susan Bauer. The beautifully designed 240 page book in CD size format is in German and lavishly illustrated with photos both old and new. It's a clear eyed appraisal of the American klezmer scene featuring extensive interviews (in English) with Michael Alpert, Don Byron, Walter Zev Feldman, David Krakauer, Frank London, Pete Sokolow, Lorin Sklamberg, Alicia Svigals and myself. The accompanying CD contains 21 cuts and illustrates the major points raised in the book. You can find out more about it by checking out Piranha's website:

Henry Sapoznik, "Klezmer!"

Henry's latest book is called Klezmer! Jewish Music from Old World to Our World; here's a short review by Jim Rebhan.

Slobin's revised "Beregovski" due

Mark Slobin, esteemed professor at Wesleyan here in New England ("Tenement Songs," et al), writes that he has several publications coming out, including an expanded version of the special issue of "Judaism", (on the klezmer revival, which he put together), an update to his Beregovski transcriptions with more complete klezmer material, and a book on the klezmer scene due out of Oxford University Press in a few months. The actual publication dates on all three are uncertain, with the book on klezmer slated for "sometime early in 2000". The revised Beregovski, of course, is often requested on the Jewish-music list.

Rogovoy's "Essential Klezmer" due

Seth Rogovoy's book, "The Essential Klezmer," about klezmer, the contemporary klezmer revival, and new Jewish music, is to be published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hillis this spring.

Judeo-Jewish Songbook coming

Summer, 1999, ethnomusicologist (and damn wonderful tsimbl player and a member of Budowitz) Josh Horowitz reported: "Concerning Sephardic music, I just wanted to say that we have just sent in the manuscript of The Judeo-Spanish Songbook by Aron Saltiel and Joshua Horowitz which should be on the shelves in late Fall by the classical publishing house, Peters Edition. The Songbook contains 54 carefully annotated transcriptions of field recordings of native Ladino speakers (mostly old) singing songs from Thessaloniki, Istanbul, Sarayevo and Sofia. This collection contains some very unusual songs which most people will not know, or variants of tunes you might know- but not the usual line-up of standards. Many of the field recordings are over 20 years old, and Aron and I went back to retape some of the informants in 1991 in Thessaloniki to make sure we had all the verses, variants, etc. We had the basic book done then and wanted to release it for the 500 year Sephardic commemoration in 1992, but instead have been chipping away at it for the past 7 years.

As of this writing, Peters, is still getting the book out. I do not have a definite release date. Do contact Josh Horowitz for further details.

New albums

Catching up, 10/30/99: The folks at JAM, who have been releasing a wide range of new Jewish music have released an unusual and striking CD, "With Every Breath: The Music of Shabbat at Bnai Jeshurun." Here, at Marshall Myer's (z"l) old congregation (he, from Argentina, is known to many of us for his support of the Sanctuary Movement, but that's all most of us non-New Yorkers know about him, or the congregation he led until passing away several years ago), something is going on, and I'd like to know more about what it is, because there is a diversity of Jewish religious song, sung by a men's and women's voices (including the lovely Basya Schechter of Pharoah's Daughter), backed by an interesting panoply of New York's Radical Jewish musicians from Marc Ribot to Anthony Coleman.

For years the Klezmatics have traded astounding licks with Toronto's Flying Bulgars. To my amazement, and despite a string of amazing albums, each breaking new ground, the Bulgars continue to evade the recognition that the Klezmatics (deservedly!) have garnered. Perhaps this latest release, Tsirkus being distributed by Traditional Crossroads (the label that also distributes Alicia Svigals), will bring them the recognition they deserve. It's killer. It's somehow still klezmer and yiddish with a big thick slice of Caribbean and world rhythms. It's the second album with vocalist David Wall (formerly of the Bourbon Tabernacle Choir), and also features wonderful Winnipeg jazz pianist Marilyn Lerner, who's recent Cuban album is also on my turntable. I especially note the way the Bulgars have taken older Yiddish poetry and set it to new edge Jewish music.

Two of the most raucous bands playing variants of klezmer include the hard-touring New Orleans Klezmer Allstars who continue to make waves, and a loud impression, with their latest klez-funk fusion, "Fresh Out the Past." These guys rock! But for those of us who have worshipped lounge polka and the Brave Combo, the Kabalas bring a new wave of klezmer, Israeli, and general eastern european dance madness to in-your-face lyrics in "Time Tunnel." So far, there's nothing here that makes me kvell the way "Wall Martt Polkka, from the first album, moved me, but that leaves a lot of room for pleasure and mind-expanding accordion.

A few months ago we started listening to two new midwest klezmer CDs, "Klezmer's Greatest Hits," from the Cincinnati Klezmer Project, features a nice medley of Jewish wedding and popular music. Okay, so the title is commercial, but the music, featuring Michéle Gingras on clarinet, is quite nice. North, just a bit, Cleveland's Yiddishe Cup have released "Yiddfellas," which continues their unique and fun mix of borsht belt humor and traditional klez. Some bands go for the Yiddish Theatre shtick. Yiddishe Cup sticks to the further west humor of the Catskills, and has a lot of fun doing it.

Further east, and just in time for Chanukah, we can start with Virginia's Alexandria Kleztet, clearly 5760-enabled and "Y2Klezmer"-ready. A touch north, the Baltimore-area Tummelers have made their CD debut with "Shpiel, Klezmer," covering not only klezmer favorites, but Israeli folk tunes and Yiddish theatre. At nearly the same time, and in the same city, the delectable Charm City Klezmer band has released an eponymous first recording, and widening the coverage with a lovely Ladino Passover tune. I sense some review fun coming soon, once I've had time to listen to these closely. And, for those of us who live further north, let me finally acknowledge a new recording by one of the oldest recording revival bands, the Yale Klezmer Band, this year's CD aptly called "Meshuggeneh." Continuing north and heading back towards the midwest, we come to Ontario's Hot Latkes, who have teamed up with a host of local notables, including Toronto's Jonno Lightstone, and created "Eine Kleine Klezmermuzik." Grosse good music!

A new project includes Canadian klezmer allstars from the Flying Bulgars and Finjan. Called "From Both Ends of the Earth", the all-star band plays music from Yiddish and Ukrainian traditions. Given the jazz/folk/R&B/Klezmer backgrounds of the musicians, the odds are that their claim to wonderful music is to be believed. The result is a very pleasing, jazzy, yiddish-inflected album. To check out some samples from their new CD, try Contact Maurice Hogue, for more info.

Also, this month (July), The Alexandria Kleztet announces its debut CD, "Y2Klezmer". E-mail Alexandria Kleztet for more info. Over in Germany, a band called "Huljet" has released "A Kind Of Klezmer", "featuring both traditionals and original songs. Into their refreshingly experimental arrangements and expressive soundcombinations they even include elements from classic, jazz and worldmusic." Contact: Martti Trillitzsch of TP9 Records, Nuremberg/Germany.

One of the year's most wonderful and significant releases was the new Brave Old World CD "Royte Pomerantsn" (Blood Oranges). To everyone's frustration, the album has been available only as an import. Now the album has been picked up by Red House and should now be available in US stores. It's RHR CD 134. While you are thinking thoughts of the band, also send healing to arranger and keyboard player, Alan Bern, who was in an accident and is now undergoing therapy on his shoulder.

There are a plethora of other new albums just released or due this summer. In no particular order:

  • Dena Ressler reports: ... the new release, entitled "In Love and in Struggle: The Musical Legacy of the Jewish Labor Bund." It features arrangements and piano accompaniments by Zalmen Mlotek, and the singers Adrienne Cooper [also of Kapelye], Dan Rous, Abe Gershowitz, The New Yiddish Chorale, and the Workmen's Circle Chorus. Includes a beautiful booklet with many archival photos, forwards by author Irena Klepfisz and Bundist Motl Zelmanowicz, and background information on each song. Words in Yiddish, transliteration, and English translation...." I agreed with Dena, and wrote a full review.

  • I first met Mark Levy almost 20 years ago when he was singing good organizing music in the anti-nuke movement (among other good deeds). Now he's just released a new CD, "Bin Ikh Mir A Shnayderl: Yiddish Work Songs," and trying to get the word out.

  • The Freilachmakers Klezmer String Band "announces the release, on or around Dec. 2, of a new CD, "The Flower of Berezin." This is the first offering of my band, The Freilachmakers Klezmer String Band, from Sacramento / Davis / Sebastopol, California." For further info, contact Andy Rubin. And what a release! You can read all about it.

  • New England's Klezical Tradition has gotten by with a well-received demo-tape for years. Now there is a full-blown CD, Family Portrait. It is the best, freshest traditional klezmer album I've heard in ages. For further info, e-mail Adrianne Greenbaum.

  • Rochester NY's premier klezmer ensemble -- The 12 Corners Klezmer Band -- is pleased to announce the release of our first recording, "Git Azoy" (It's Good That Way), in January of 1999. For further information, e-mail 12 Corners Klezmer Band. (Rob Mendel).

  • The first klezmer from South of the Panama Canal (and very south, at that). César Lerner and Marcelo Moguilevsky have released a series of piano/clarinet duos entitled, "Klezmer en Buenos Aires." These guys blew people away at the Ashkenaz Festival and even have an even better, second CD out, "Basavilbaso".

  • People who have followed these pages for a few years will remember my Europe '96 tour, and the official souvenir of the tour, a cassette by the little-known Budapest klezmer wizards "Di Naye Kapelye." Well, time passes, and sometimes, the best bands get even better and get actual recording and distribution contracts. You can hear the band on a new, eponymous recording, "Di Naye Kapelye", Oriente RIEN CD 17, which is being distributed in the US by Hatikva Music in LA: Hatikvah Music">Hatikvah Music. As far as I am concerned, this is the klezmer recording of the year, and I haven't even heard the whole thing yet (although it's on the CD player as I write this on the eve of Yom Kippur eve).

  • Klezmokum is a Dutch jazz-klez-Jewish music band that has previously released two delightful recordings. Number three is called "ReJew-venation," and it's the best yet. It's a sort of Klez-Jazz-Sephardic mix that sounds wonderful. BV Haast CD 9809 Bandleader Burton Greene writes: "If anyone wants to order them from me the price is $17.- each incl. mailing. My bank acct. # ABN 545328349. The best way to order is from bank to bank with the swift code: ABN AN L2A (in the name Burton Greene with the above acct.#)." To find out more about the band, check out some web pages at

    What about you? Do you have a recording that should be listed here? Send me E-mail with comments or suggestions.

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