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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

Sounds for the Jewish New Year

from the author, 23 Nov '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

Cohen, Avishai, and the International Vamp Band / Unity
Cohen, Gerald / Generations
Cohen, Tliat / The Jewish Soul
Csákolom / Ludo Luda/Fool's Fancy
Goldstein, Gila / Piano Music of Paul Ben-Haim
Rushefsky, Pete and Elie Rosenblatt / Tsimbl and Fidl: Klezmer Music for Hammered Dulcimer and Violin
Wandering Jews, The / The Big Schlepp, Live Volume One, 7/10/01 - 7/12/01

On Tuesday night September 11, 2001 it was a combination of prayer and Jewish music that helped get me through the slowly dawning reality of our situation. In the months since, music has been a constant companion, a bolster on which I find myself leaning for comfort and strength. The records reviewed below run the full gamut from joy to sorrow. My the best of them provide you with something like peace.

Cohen, Avishai, and the International Vamp Band: "Unity" (Stretch). Open this column with a trio of Cohens? Of course, that's merely a coincidence (or a cohen-cidence?) but there is a wide range of evocative music in many modes in this month's selection. Quite a switch for jazz bassist Cohen. He plays piano (and sings occasionally) on this set, which features ten of his original compositions and the Thad Jones chestnut "A Child Is Born." This is an oddly retro-sounding set, very mid-60s Blue Note, with a lot of Latin influences and some very crisp playing from the entire band. Cohen is a good, if derivative, pianist (think early Herbie Hancock or Cohen's boss, Chick Corea) and an adequate singer. Rating: 4 stars.

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Cohen, Gerald: "Generations" (CRI). Cohen is a young composer, only 41, with a sure ear for strong melodies. The instrumental pieces on this set, a trio for viola, cello and piano, and a string quartet, are sharply etched if somewhat derivative, echoing Diamond, Copland, maybe Bernstein. The setting of four Jewish texts has a nicely folkloric feel and is sung by the composer with authority. The suite from the Haggadah is deeply felt and thoughtful, although I have to confess a certain unease with the children's choir that is the dominant element. Cohen is definitely a composer to be reckoned with. Rating: 4 stars.

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Cohen, Tliat: "The Jewish Soul" (Centaur). Cohen is a guitarist, performing here with the Jerusalem Symphony in a program of music by Jewish composers Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Yehezkel Braun and Rafi Kadishson (who conducts the Castelnuovo-Tedesco and his own composition) and philo-Semite Maurice Ravel. This is a program that is heavy on post-romantic floridness. Cohen is an expressive player, the orchestra is a good one and the program features a lot of seldom-recorded music. The Kadishson, three settings of Israeli songs, is treacle and Braun is overly emphatic nonsense, although Cohen's delicate touch makes both sound better than they are. Rating: 3½ stars, but I'd keep an eye out for Cohen in the future.

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Csókolom: "Ludo Luda/Fool's Fancy" (Arhoolie). These guys are wild. Csókolom is a sort of trans-European string band with a strong Balkan/Roma/Hungarian bent that incorporates Transylvanian, Serbian, Romanian folk elements and, inevitably, some Jewish sounds from all those places. Not strictly speaking a Jewish group, but the cross-pollination is unmistakable, as is the jazz influence (leader-violinist Anti von Klewitz studied with Reggie Workman). Funny, smart music recorded live with a nice crisp sound. A great party album but I don't think you could dance to it unless you're from the Balkans. Rating: 5 stars.

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Goldstein, Gila: "Piano Music of Paul Ben-Haim" (Centaur). Ben-Haim is one of the best-known exemplars of the "folklore" school of Israeli composers. If you're expecting a Jewish Bartok, forget it; he's sort of a throwback to the previous century, very melodic, almost lapidary. Goldstein is a very deft pianist and can handle anything these sprightly scores throw at her. A very pleasant, almost sweet recording. Rating: 4½ stars.

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nice drawing of medieval klezmer duoRushefsky, Pete and Elie Rosenblatt: "Tsimbl and Fidl: Klezmer Music for Hammered Dulcimer and Violin" (self-distributed). One of the most interesting developments in New Klez is a swing towards a sort of hardcore traditionalism, an attempt to recreate the sound of the Old World pre-recording-era bands. Rushefsky and Rosenblatt follow in the footsteps of Alicia Svigals, Budowitz and Khevrisa in this direction. The result is spare, emotionally intense and well-played and conceived, sort of a klezmer equivalent of the period-instruments movement in classical music. Rating: 4½ stars.

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Wandering Jews, The: "The Big Schlepp, Live Volume One, 7/10/01 - 7/12/01" (self-distributed). Live recordings of such dire sound quality that you have to think they were recorded on someone's microcasette recorder from a table near the bandstand. When the band can be heard the ideas are interesting but hardly original and the violinist has terrible intonation problems. Rating: 1 star.

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maxwell parrish meets maxwell st. klezmerConsumer Notes: As many of you may know, the excellent world music label Green Linnet folded this past summer. Among the many recordings in their catalog was the splendid collaboration between Chava Alberstein and the Klezmatics, "The Well." Happily, Rounder Records has brought this set back in print. When it came out in 1998, I wrote, "Alberstein is the most significant Israeli pop musician to acknowledge a debt to the Yiddish traditions, and this album draws tellingly on that account. With the Klezmatics on board, what else would you expect. Not too surprisingly, this is darker and more brooding than most of Alberstein's own recordings. The biggest surprise is how well her burnished mezzo merges with Lorin Sklamberg's reedy tenor. Of course, the musicianship is as superb as you would expect from the 'Matics. Highlight: a jauntily Brecht-Weillish "Ver Es Hot." Rating: 5 stars."

The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band's second album, released nine years ago, has long been out of print. Happily, the band has just re-released the CD under a new title, "Sweet Early Years," and it is well worth exploring. You can buy it from them directly on their website:

We get frequent phone calls at the Jewish Week office asking where someone can buy this or that recording. While beating my chest and murmuring "mea culpa" (or, more appropriately, "al kheit"), I draw your attention to several options. More often than not, you can find records reviewed in this column at either Hatikvah Music ( or 1-323-655-7083) or Tara Music ( or 1-800-827-2400). Or you can check your local Judaica store.

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