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Just went to see the film Sabbath in Paradise at the Sydney Jewish Film Festival. The film is about klezmer in modern settings and so on, and concentrated on the downtown New York scene, so lots of Zorn and Tzadik people!
The place was filled with ignorant Jewish people most of whom thought they'd see unchallenging Jewish wedding music and straight klezmer I think, and were a bit taken-aback by what they got ;) The film is structured around a tale about a Rebbe who is on his way somewhere and is taken in by some strangers who turn out to be Moses, King David, King Solomon etc... and he hears wonderful music and so on.
There are interviews (or spoken bits) with various relevant people: Anthony Coleman talks a lot, and there are some fascinating bits where he describes how his Selfhaters music comes out of more familiar Jewish contexts. Can't really describe it in words, but it was both amusing and informative... Marc Ribot talks in his slightly drug-fucked way about a lot of things. Because of his manner, most of the audience thought he was screamingly funny and I think the highly intelligent philosophising he was doing totally passed over their heads. Of the musicians related to "Radical Jewish Culture" Ribot has always seemed to me to have the most un-Jewish style of all, much closer to blues, country, thrash, whatever... and so hearing him talk about what it means to be making Jewish music was fantastic. His interviews at http://www.shamash.org/jsps/stories/ribot1.shtml which we were drawn attention to before were along the same lines... David Krakauer said some interesting things, and demonstrated how his more ornate and style of playing comes out of traditional klezmer, and Frank London talked along similar lines.
There were a couple of slightly more traditional klezmer musicians, whom I didn't quite know... Andy Statman on clarinet and occasional mandolin, an excellent musician but not particularly adventurous at all. He asked whether a Jewish tradition could exist separate from the Torah for very long, and suggested it couldn't historically. I disagree, but then I'm an atheist Jew ;) There were other dissenting voices. In fact, I'm interested whether Zorn and suchlike associates *are* practising Jews, reform or not, at all... From the film, I suspect Anthony Coleman at least isn't. Also, I want to note a fantastic accordian player who also played guitar at one point, Michael Alpert. He's in Brave Old World and also played accordian (among other things) on the first David Krakauer "Klezmer Madness!" CD on Tzadik (in fact it's the first CD of the Radical Jewish Culture series).
Musically, there was quite a lot too. We saw Zorn rehearsing the Masada Quartet at the Knitting Factory and got to see just how much control he has over what goes on, directing Joey Baron as to what cymbals to hit when during certain passages and stuff... And we saw 2 or 3 pieces performed live at the Knitting Factory too. Large slabs of Selfhaters stuff, and one piece of Coleman's Sephardic Tinge trio... Various things by Krakauer, and various other things by Statman and whomever. The "soundtrack", intersperced occasionally, was snippets of stuff from the Masada String Trio disc of Circle Maker. Again it was interesting how the improvisations were slowly introduced, so that I imagine each of the pieces was constructed quite controlledly by Zorn with the group.
Oh yes! Also, a shortish excerpt from a beautiful Cobra session, involving Marc Ribot for sure, and various others (can't remember or didn't know), quite quiet, with scraping and tinkling percussion by most of them and stuff... wonderful.
Altogether an excellent movie. Filmed mostly on video I think, with some very clever editing in some bits and at other times perhaps excessively low-buget in feel, but who cares? Lots of excellent Jewish music, wonderful live performances, snippets of rehearsal, and commentary from the musicians (not including any direct-to-camera talking by Zorn, interestingly) - what more could one seriously ask for? It's on again on Saturday the 28th in Sydney... well worth seeing ;)
Reviewed by Peter Hollo, 16 Nov 1998.
np: Klezmer, NY - David Krakauer & Klezmer Madness! A wonderful CD, from the funky alt(dot)klezmer at the start and the lovely setting of Der Gasn Nigun at the end, to the stuff in between. Pity it's so short! The new Naftule's Dream CD [Smash! Clap!] is also excellent.
From the Jewish-music mailing list:
From: Gideon Aronoff
If Sydney is too far to go to see Sabbath in Paradise, you may want to try Washington, DC. I saw a preview of the film and it was excellent. The mixture of the story with the interviews and concert footage really worked for me.
Also, the review's point about Marc Ribot were right on target. His sound still is the least Jewish of the Rads to my ear, but his discussion really opened up the Jewish-NonJewish nature of Radical Jewish Music. I was particularly moved by the holy manner in which he held his various guitars and his near Talmudic manner of discussing guitar playing over the generations.
The film is part of the DCJCC's Washington Jewish Film Festival. It will be shown on Saturday, December 12 at 11:15 pm featuring an introduction by Larry Appelbaum of WPFW-FM Pacifica Radio and the Library of Congress. Tickets are $7.50 and can be purchased in advance (no service charges) through Box Office Tickets 1-800-494-8497.
The festival has two or three other music related films. For more information about this film and the other films. Its webpage can be found at: www.wjff.org.
From: Ari Davidow
Also, the review's point about Marc Ribot were right on target. His sound
still is the least Jewish of the Rads to my ear, but his discussion really
opened up the Jewish-NonJewish nature of Radical Jewish Music. I was
particularly moved by the holy manner in which he held his various guitars and
his near Talmudic manner of discussing guitar playing over the generations.
I feel like Jewish music in this context is almost a semiotic event: The music may not have overt Jewish strains, but the conductor wore tzitzis under his fatigues or whatever.
Yet, clearly, this speaks =Jewishly= to a lot of people. I mean, there seem to be a lot of subscribers to this list who regularly scan the Radical Jewish label or JAM for new Jewish releases. What I'm missing is how or why that connection works. When I listen to Kletka Red, for instance, I can hear some Jewish music strains of music in his guitar, but it seems so removed. Even more remote is, say, the band "Silver Jews" which seems to have nothing Jewish about it, excepting the name (although as a band, there is some interesting poetry and decent music). At the same time, the label names imply that, just as klezmer spoke to some people as a way into Jewish identity while sidestepping mainstream Jewish culture, there is both Jewish identity being expressed here, and a particular view about Jewish identity as expressed via public tokens, rather than (from my current perspective) say, participating in Jewish cultural life. Or, perhaps more true, participating in closer-to-maintstream Jewish cultural life.
Is there room here to discuss what makes the music exciting in the first place, and what makes it sound Jewish, or puts it into a Jewish context for the people who like it? (Obviously, if this music doesn't speak to you, or you reject this as "Jewish" music, this is not the question for you--but I suspect that I am not the only person to whom this is unfamiliar territory about which I am curious.)
ariDate: Wed, 18 Nov 1998 17:38:47
From: Corey Marc Fogel
Subject: Re: Sabbath in Paradise (fwd)
To: "World music from a Jewish slant."
On Wed, 18 Nov 1998, Ari Davidow wrote:
I think it has to do with the passion and the pain you hear in the music. i've only heard one track from Kletka Red, but it sounded like it had the appropriate edge to it, that makes the notes sing in a certain way. granted that style of guitar playing is farther removed from traditional instruments than is alot of other Radical Jewish Music, so its not the best example of Radical Jewish Music with a very clear point of reference. (?) am i even making sense?
I think that good jewish music has a certain passionate behind that you dont just find everywhere, and...if its there you know, and...if its not...you still know. like when i was trying out some cds by The Kabbalahs... it was pretty awful in my opinion. I thought they would be neat. They were essentially They Might Be Giants, only Klezmerized. the music was funny and had a certain spirit about it..but the actual playing seemed very uninspired and didnt speak to me in any way similar to other modern Jewish artists. It didnt actually speak to me at all. way too cerebral.
I havent listened to alot of the JAM stuff from the Knitting Factory label, but most of the Tzadik releases are very passionate and seems extremely legitimate. not all of them though. For instance, Kramer: Let Me Explain to You Something About Art...or whatever the title is. its a bunch of choppy sampled percussion blips with some old recordings of some elder woman babbling about Jewish traditions and happenings and its really not worth anything at all. i suppose it could be argued t hat it doesnt pretend to be any kind of passionate melodic work. and i suppose it does fit under Radical Jewish Culture. but...it doesnt do anything for me. i guess the Kabbalahs would be the best example of something that tries to be very musical and jewish and modern doesnt succeed. most other recordings i encounter, however, do. especially David Krakauer, John Zorn's Masada, John Zorn's Masada Chamber ensembles. those are all passionate enough to make me cry at times. i think that makes it as legitimately Jewish as anything traditional. in my opinion, if you sense a certain passion or "pain' in a performers playing, which i would hope would be more universal than subjective, it stands out as sort of an ambiguous quality/affirmation in regards to what youre debating.
i dont know if i actually answered anything here...but hopefully. sorry for babbling.
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