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George Robinson, GRComm@ writes for the Jewish Week. His book, "Essential Judaism," was published in hardcover by Pocket Books, March 2000. You can find out more at his website.

Articles by George Robinson, available on the KlezmerShack, are:

2004 Chanukah Roundup, by George Robinson, sent 2 Dec 2004.

The Year's Best: the annual "best of" column, by George Robinson, sent 25 Nov 2002.

A Religious Experience: A roundup of recent Jewish liturgical music, by George Robinson, sent 26 Aug 2002.

More Than Klezmer: A sampler of Yiddish vaudeville, folk music and even art song, sent 9 Aug 2002.

Spring Sephardic Music Roundup, send 3 May 2002.

The Spring Roundup, part 1, sent 9 Mar 2002.

The Spring Roundup, part 2, sent 9 Mar 2002.

The Best of 2001 - Hanukah suggestions, sent 7 Dec 2001.

Isaac Stern: Beyond the Fiddle to the Heart of a Man, sent out 5 Oct 2001.

Sounds for the Jewish New Year, sent out 23 Nov 2001.

Slobin on Beregovski (and the survival of Klezmer Music), sent out 30 Aug 2001.

Women of Valor, sent out 15 Aug 2001.

Shabbat, for Starters, sent out 3 Jun 2001.

From Liturgical Rock to the Postmodern, sent out 15 May 2001.

A Sephardic Passover, sent out 25 Mar 2001.

Oh, Klezmer, sent out 18 Mar 2001.

Jewish Classical Music, sent out 1 Mar 2001.

Best of 2000, send out 23 Dec 2000.

Holiday Music for Hanukkah, 6 Dec 2000.

Kidding on the Square, 9/29/00, from the Jewish Week

From the Catskills to Canada, 6/15/00, from the Jewish Week

Sephardic Survey, 05/00, from the Jewish Week

1999 Klezmer Wrapup, from the Jewish Week

Sisters in Swing, 12/15/99, from the Jewish Week

Bending the Genres, October 1998, from the Jewish Week

The Klezmer Drums of Passion, September 1998, from the Jewish Week

Drums of Passion, summer, 1998, from the Jewish Week

Other klezmer articles
on the Internet

Women of Valor

from the author, 15 Aug '01.
Reprinted by permission of the author.

by George Robinson,

Note: Don't click on any links until the entire file loads, or else the links won't work. I apologize for the inconvenience. webmaster

Beyond the Pale / Routes
Bloom, Jane Ira / Sometimes the Magic
Lichtenberg, Lenka / Deep Inside
Mikveh / Mikveh
Nefesh / Unplucked
Shirona / Judaic Love Songs
Soulfarm / Live in Berlin 2
Waletzky, Josh / Crossing the Shadows: New Yiddish Songs
Yarmulkazi / A Kick in the Tuchas

Every Friday night, traditionally observant Jewish men extol the virtues of their wives by reciting "Eyshet Khayil/A Woman of Valor." But in the Jewish music business, being female and a working musician requires a particular kind of courage and tenacity. This month's new recordings include several that feature women, including the long-awaited debut CD of the women's klezmer supergroup Mikveh. So, as a jazz musician might put it, let's give the women some.

album coverBeyond the Pale: "Routes" (Borealis). Smart mainstream (mostly instrumental) klezmer from Toronto. Strong Romani and Eastern European flavorings set this apart from other New Klez ensembles. A handsome, understated and intelligent recording. Rating: 4.5 stars.

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Bloom, Jane Ira: "Sometimes the Magic" (Arabesque). One half of the quartet that Mark Dresser brought to Makor a few months ago, with Dresser on bass and the estimable Bloom on soprano sax; add in Bobby Previte's crisp drumming and pianist Vincent Bourgeyx. Less cerebral than some of her previous albums, this is playful and soulful, two qualities one doesn't always associate with Bloom. Post-bop jazz at its best. Rating: 4.5 stars.

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album coverLichtenberg, Lenka: "Deep Inside" (Sunflower). Canadian singer-songwriter Lichtenberg deserves a lot of credit for taking on some unusual topics in her English-language originals -- Reform-Orthodox failures of communication; the experience of exile; the cost of being a child of survivors of the Shoah; a resurgence of interest in Yiddish. And the performances here are spirited, with nicely varied backing from a large cast of musicians. But we really don't need another recording of "Tumbalalaika" or "Los Bilbilicos" unless there's really something new. As for her singing, the top of her range is a bit pinched, but the middle and bottom have a nice, throaty quality. Should bear watching. Rating: 3 stars.

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album coverMikveh: "Mikveh" (Traditional Crossroads). The long-awaited debut CD of the first all-women's supergroup in New Klez (indeed, the first supergroup in the old '70s sense) does not disappoint but it does surprise in one significant way. Mikveh's self-titled first side is somber, almost morose at times, with little of the celebratory oomph that one might expect from an assemblage that packs the voltage of this one: Lauren Brody, Margot Leverett, Nicki Parrott, Adrienne Cooper and Alicia Svigals. The focus is on slower, mournful material, and even the few uptempo numbers seem downright rueful. Impressive musicianship, of course, and an interestingly eclectic mix of material, most of it new to my ears. I only hope their next release is more joyous. Rating: 4.5 stars.

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album coverNefesh: "Unplucked" (Klezmer Kriez). Nefesh is a very polished and adroit band. Their instrumentals are snazzy and their backing of vocalist Sharon Citrin is tasteful. Intelligent but so far unexceptional mainstream klezmer. I'll be curious to see where they go in the future. Rating: 3.5 stars.

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album coverShirona: "Judaic Love Songs" (Lev David Productions). It is very rare indeed for me to play a new CD twice in succession. This one I played three times in a row when I sat down to review it. Needless to say, that is high praise indeed. Simple, straightforward liturgical and biblical settings by this exceptionally gifted Jewish-American singer. Shirona has a lovely, rich voice and her writing is tasteful and intelligent. This is a keeper, one the best albums of Jewish religious music I've heard all year. Rating: 5 stars.

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Soulfarm: "Live in Berlin 2" (Sameach). Soulfarm has evolved into a jam band a la Phish and the numerous other Grateful Dead pretenders. This CD, their second live set in a row, is sort of Workingman's-Dead-meet-Carlebach. Seven of the nine cuts are songs by Reb Shlomo and when the band is driving straight ahead down that particular road, the effect is delightfully propulsive, especially on "Ki Va Moed." The rest of the time will depend on your capacity for Garcia-esque noodling. Rating: 3.5 stars.

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album coverWaletzky, Josh: "Crossing the Shadows: New Yiddish Songs" (self-produced). This CD began life as a song cycle which I saw Waletzky perform a couple of years ago with the same backing -- Deborah Strauss on violin and Jeff Warschauer on mandolin and guitar -- to great effect. I was struck at the time by the masterful way in which Waletzky adopted Yiddish song to a post-Holocaust Jewish world, recapitulating all of the musical themes of the great Yiddish folksongs while bringing them lyrically into a new, if considerably darker world. Having the leisure to hear and rehear these songs on record, I am more impressed than ever by both the writing and the performances, which are heartfelt and adroit. A deeply moving album (and I'd love to be able to sing Waletzky's "Shabes-koydesh" in my shul!). Rating: 5 stars.

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Yarmulkazi: "A Kick in the Tuchas" (self-produced). Given the undergraduate humor present in the packaging and title, this recording is surprisingly straightforward, mainstream klezmer. Unfortunately, what it has in energy and enthusiasm it lacks in polish and focus. Some nice individual moments but the ensemble playing is sloppy and the drums are way too loud. Rating: 2.5 stars.

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album coverConsumer's Word to the Wise: A couple of years ago, the Jewish-Canadian musician Wolf Krakowski released a terrific album, "Transmigrations." When it came out I wrote "Krakowski, who was born in a Displaced Persons camp in 1947, grew up in Sweden and Canada, and he reminds me a lot of two other Canadians, Leonard Cohen and Neil Young. Like both of them, he has a rather inflexible vocal instrument but he uses it extremely well, affecting an incantatory style that suits his material. And like Young, he is heavily influenced by country and rock. This set takes a dozen Yiddish tunes, mostly standards, and reinvents them in a folk-inflected, country-rock vein and, for the most part it works well. Krakowski's lead guitarist, Jim Armenti, plays some searing stuff in a style redolent of Richard Thompson, and Krakowski's haunted vocals carry a dark charge. There is real power here." Transmigrations has been pretty hard to find until now; Tzadik, John Zorn's label, is re-releasing it this month. I highly recommend the album.

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Contents copyright © 2001 by George Robinson. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Page last revised 11 June, 2007.