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Part 2 of this article

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

The Big Spring Roundup, part 1: A-K

from the author, 9 Mar '02.
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

Alberstein, Chava / Foreign Letters
Calvert, Rick / Journeys
Carlebach, Neshama / Ani Shelach
Chevra, The / The Chevra
Chicago Klezmer Ensemble / Early Recordings, 1987-89
Gendler, Arkady / My Hometown Soroke: Yiddish Songs of the Ukraine
Gould, Dave / Adonai and I; Adonai in Dub
Hasidic New Wave/Yakar Rhythms / From the Belly of Abraham
Kol Hashana / Volume 1

Is it my imagination or is it a very long time since we met here? Imagination or not, the new CDS have backlogged powerfully, so this is the first to two parts, with two dozen recordings under consideration. As always, this is how the game is played: five stars is a certifiably great album and a must-have, four is very good, three good, two fair and one star poor and no stars are awarded to a CD so bad you wouldn't give it to your meanest creditor.

album coverAlberstein, Chava / "Foreign Letters" (Rounder). For a long time, Alberstein's charm was lost on me. I'm not overly well-disposed towards '60s folkies and she managed to combine the worst of that genre with the schmaltziest Israeli pop. But with her collaboration with The Klezmatics on "The Well" and this new album produced in France by k.d.lang collaborator Ben Mink, she's converted me. Imagine Piaf as an alto, throatier and smokier, singing in Yiddish and you've got the picture. Good songwriting by the lady in question and a tough, uncompromising sound. Rating: 4 ½ stars.

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Calvert, Rick / Journeys (self-distributed). Intelligent if somewhat bland folk-rock versions of Hebrew texts by Canadian singer-songwriter Calvert. Try to imagine a Jewish Cat Stevens. Good of this genre but not to my taste; some of his settings are very inventive, though. (Available from Sounds Write Productions -- or phone toll-free 1-800-976-8639.) Rating: 3 stars, but add another if this is your genre.

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Carlebach, Neshama / Ani Shelach (Sameach). Neshama goes boho/jazzbo. Neshama goes funk. Neshama goes folky. Neshama goes Latin. A little bit of everything on her new album often treading a thin line between easygoing and easy listening but managing to stay on the right side of the divide. A funk backbeat carries "Simon Tov" nicely, and a rocker "Am Yisroel Chai" smokes. I still love the timbre of her voice and her dad's tunes wear well. As on her past CDS, the English-language cut is weakest. Rating: 4 stars.

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Chevra, The / The Chevra (Sameach). At first glance, one hopes this will be another a cappella group in the same vein as Be'atachon or Listen Up!, but where the other two groups are doing pure a cappella, The Chevra's first CD is an overproduced mess with overdubbing, echo effects and a very tacky instrumental backing. If the Backstreet Boys wore kippot and sang in Hebrew . . . and if that doesn't curdle your blood, go right ahead. Rating: 1 star.

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album coverChicago Klezmer Ensemble / Early Recordings, 1987-89 (Oriente). Before the magnificent Brave Old World was formed, clarinetist Kurt Bjorling was part of a traditionalist band, the Chicago Klezmer Ensemble. Their first recordings were released on cassette in the late 1980s, which now seems as far off as the 78s from which they learned the music of Dave Tarras. Long unavailable, those first recordings are now on CD and it has been well worth the wait. Beautifully plaintive violin by Josh Huppert, nice comping on piano by Eva Monzingo and Bjorling's reed and accordion playing are exemplary. The sound on the reissue is clean if unexceptional, but the music is terrific. (Distributed in the U.S. by Hatikvah Music -- or 1-323-655-7083.) Rating: 5 stars.

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album coverGendler, Arkady / My Hometown Soroke: Yiddish Songs of the Ukraine (Jewish Music Festival). There is still a large musical literature in Yiddish that hasn't been documented, pockets of regional traditions that will cease to exist when the older musicians and ordinary people who lived with them die. This CD is an important example of how these traditions can be saved and transmitted to another generation. Gendler is a musician from a town in what once was known as Bessarabia and now is part of Moldova, and he is a living carrier of a bit of the musical history of the Jews of Ukraine. The voice was probably quite lovely a decade or two ago, it is still expressive and subtle. The songs are, for the most part, new to me. An important and often moving recording. (Available from the Jewish Music Festival of Berkeley -- or 510-848-0237, x226). Rating: 5 stars.

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Gould, Dave / Adonai and I (I Town); Adonai in Dub (Tzadik). Dave Gould's best known project is the ska band John Brown's Body, but for a long time he has been interested by the connections between roots reggae and Jewish music. Given the rhetoric of the Rastafarian movement with its invocations of Zion and horror at Babylon, the linkage is manifest, and in Adonai and I, Gould has chosen to explore them musically in the most obvious way, by taking some very familiar Jewish tunes and reworking them to a funky reggae beat. And -- surprise! -- the result works nicely. My personal favorite is a bluesy rendition of "Bayom HaHu" with a smoldering vocal by Amy Glicklich. "Adonai in Dub" takes this endeavor to its logical next step, the reggae remix process of "dub," in which the tracks of the first album are altered in a variety of ways by dubmaster Jamie Saft to create new versions that are somewhere between reggae, musique concrete and slowed-down '70s funk. The sound is, by design, murky so that the insistent beat is the most prominent feature. You can definitely dance to it but daven? I don't know. The first album will be rewarding to anyone who likes reggae and cares about Jewish music, the second may be just for specialists and initiates. ("Adonai and I" is available from Rating: "Adonai and I" 4 stars; "Adonai in Dub" 3 ½ stars.

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album coverHasidic New Wave/Yakar Rhythms / From the Belly of Abraham (Knitting Factory). This is the long-awaited recording of the collaboration between HSN and the Senegalese drumming troupe Yakar Rhythms. The musicianship is of the highest caliber, and Alioune Faye and his drummers seem to have spurred HSN to new heights and intensity. There is some really hot playing here. But for the first half this feels more like a collision than a collaboration; the drumming is great, the blowing is great, but they don't feel substantially integrated, more sort of side by side. Then, the frantic "Frydginator" kicks in and everything comes together; after that the record smokes. Rating: 4 ½ stars.

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Kol Hashana / Volume 1 (self-distributed). I'm the wrong person to review this record. First, at its heart is a boy's choir, a spirited and enthusiastic one, but I'm allergic to children's records. Second, although many of Yosef Tannenbaum's settings of Hebrew texts are imaginative -- I am quite fond of his quasi-Spanish "Bo'u, Bo'u" -- they fall into the Hasidishe-pop genre, to which I am utterly unsympathetic. If you are a fan of either or both genres, by all means grab this, because it's a competent version of both.(Available from Pirchei of Midwood, 718-951-9747.) No rating.

Consumer Notes: If you're looking to buy an album reviewed here, try your local Judaica store or Jewish bookstore. Failing that, you can usually find records reviewed in this column at either Hatikvah Music ( or 1-323-655-7083) or Tara Music ( or 1-800-827-2400)

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Contents copyright © 2002 by George Robinson. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Page last revised 11 June, 2007.