Yesterdays, Cantoral Inspiration Concert at Eldridge
and Mike Winograd with Bessarabian Hop at Workmans Circle
by Alan Watsky
Reprinted from the Jewish-Music list with the author's permisson.
Well; talk about an embarrassment of riches !
NYC is awash with talent !
Glittering mounds of it !
Hummm ? Just lets leave that alone OK .
Great things were heard yesterday on that old Island they call New York.
Get out a roll of paper towels.
You know whats coming don't cha' ?
I shall now begin to gush !
The afternoon began with a Concert at the newly restored Eldridge Street Shul/Museum. Cantor Sam Weiss canted, Pete Rushefsky hammered and Steve Greenman bowed. The house was packed with expectant listeners. Folks even came from the wiles of New Jersey (myself included) to see their Cantor display his artistry and erudition. The program was a Shabbat focused time line from Kabbalas Shabbos to Havdalah. I have heard all three of the performers in dozens of settings in various ensembles and venues this Trio was a terrificly satisfying musical experience. A lovely balance and blend.
Cantor Weiss who is always a model of poise, presented his vocal selections in a charming manner and was in excellent voice. His use of the Ashkenaz pronunciation of the Hebrew fit the music Perfectly. His command of the texts was masterful, his delivery gracious and the flights of invention were both elegant and energetic. Steve Greenman and Pete Rushefsky are a wonderful team. They have been duo partners and band members in numerous ensembles over the years and their craft and artistry is well known. Their ability and willingness to support a vocal soloist is much appreciated and I have never heard a cantorial soloist as well supported by a string duo.
Steve Greenman's playing, whether his own compositions or traditional material, was always sensitive and imbued with a deep understanding of the idiom. His playing has a rare combination of vitality and tenderness.
Pete Rushefsky is a treat. If it were possible to bottle his personality and stage presence we would all be happier for it. He's a rhythmic force and a very able accompanist. This trio should perform more often and lets hope Steve Greenman gets to spend more time in the NYC metro area. Cleveland's loss would be our gain.
My next stop was uptown.
Rolled into the Workman's Circle on 33rd. Street early enough to catch the end of the sound check. It was fun to be at someone else's tech. check for a change. What is often a most tedious event was transformed into entertainment simply by being on the other side of the proscenium.
I have worked with a number of the players in this band and would have been more than happy to accept anything they had proffered. What I witnessed as the evening unfolded was not so much a surprise as it was a confirmation of what we have come to know. These performers aren't "trying" to make Klezmer/Yiddish/Jewish Music/ Art , they are the embodiment of it. To say that the form has been , preserved or revived misses the point.
This ensemble, under the direction of the Charming and Talented , not to mention Lovely, Michael Winograd have managed to make something that two decades ago would have been unthinkable. Music that is Yiddish, rhythmically varied , danceable , melodically inventive and rich in dynamics and texture.
The band played with remarkable sensitivity. Mike is a wonderful clarinet player and composer. He calmly led the band through the evenings concert and played melodies beautifully , improvised inventively and produced a lush sound.
Mandolinist Joey Weisenberg, displays great sensitivity in his playing. He's shapes tone, adds vibrato , plays with grace ,verve , accuracy and dynamics. He's a rarity among fretted string players and brings the same level of artistry to his Guitar playing and singing. Wudda' Guy !
Daniel Blacksberg has a complete command of the trombone. Great tone and texture.
Patrick Farrell , who was a new face to me, played virtuosic accordion. He used a fine and well tuned Guerrini. (for all the accordion fans out there).
Bassist Nick Cudahy has been holdin' it down for numerous Klezmer and world music ensembles for the last few years and always impresses with his precision and tone.
Percussionist Richie Barshay is so good he defies hyperbole. He's always drivin' the bus; but you never know it. He's able to provide gravity or levitation at will and is the master of the well placed accent.
I knew Judith Berkson's name and had heard some sound clips of her singing before attending this concert. So I knew I was going to enjoy her singing from the outset. What I was unprepared for was her ability to shape a phrase and her very enjoyable vocal instrument. Very good control and a lovely lower register.
Enough has been written about Michael Alpert to fill numerous books. He's always great fun to watch and listen to. This evening found him in great voice and surrounded by an excellent ensemble. He out did himself . Sending waves of concentrated artistic energy out from the stage to break over the audience.
Pete Rushefsky, he's delightful. What more can be said?
A total shout of Joy out to Don Jacobs for his sound system and engineering skill. It sounded GREAT ! Don.
Props to the Lighting Director, The Most Venerable Potentate of Trolldom , The Director of Dialectical Diatribes, Her Majestic Majesty of the Ministry of Magical Ministrations. Jenny Romaine !!!!!!!!!
Workmans Circle !!!!!!!! Rocks !!!!!!!!!!
What an audience, they pushed back the chairs and danced for another hour. Jake Ment and Steve Greenman were added to the ensemble for the dance set . We all enjoyed ! Yippie ! Klezmer Party !!
I Love You Guys !!!!!