This past week saw the CD release of Dmitri "Zisl" Slepovitch's latest project, Litvakus. To note that the CD is an extraordinary Eastern-European-style klezmer CD would be an understatement. (We would expect no less from the person responsible for the equally lovely Minsker Kapelye CD several years ago). You'll understand why the review is so knowledgeable when you glance at the byline:
Litvakus' New Album "Raysn" is Party Music for the Klezmer Set: Ethnomusicologist Dmitri Zisl Slepovitch plays the Jewish music of his native Belarus, by Rokhl Kafrissen / October 29, 2014
Joel writes: A nice video of part of my Midnight Prayer program with the Joel Rubin Ensemble in Geneva this past June 15 at Théâtre Cité Bleue, sponsored by Les amis de la musique juive. With Kálmán Balogh, cimbalom, Csaba Novák, bass, Claudio Jacomucci, accordion, Mark Kovnatskiy, violin:
He adds: (p.s. the CD of the whole program is on Traditional Crossroads and just went into a second printing :-) )
Academic Conference on Jewish Liturgical music
University of Leeds, UK
Tuesday 16 - Friday 19 June 2015
AHRC "Care for the Future" Theme, Performing the Jewish Archive
For the first time in Britain an International Academic Conference is being devoted to the music of Jewish prayer. Internationally acclaimed scholars in Jewish liturgical music will lead the programme presented jointly by the School of Music, University of Leeds and the Academic Wing of the European Cantors Association.
The conference is organised in association with the international research project Performing the Jewish Archive, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
From Rory Michelle:
Hi Jewish music mailing list!
I'm excited to share that I'm recording an album of songs inspired by Jewish texts and Pete Seeger. These 8 songs were written during my time at Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies this spring in Jerusalem.
They range from a fun, playful ballad about Rabban Gamliel to a singable interpretive version of Birkat Hamazon, that many have loved and claimed as a great Jewish camp song - and more. Please check out my Kickstarter Page here. (spelled out: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/rorymichelle/rory-michelles-3rd-studio-album-the-god-album)
I'd be very grateful if you would take a look, consider funding, and share it with your networks.
Many, many thanks!
Rory Michelle, singer-songwriter
This is the amazing project Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett has been working on these past few years. Tremendously exciting.
WARSAW -- With anti-Semitism having become more prominent again across Europe, something quite different is growing in a huge, translucent building at the center of a vanished neighborhood in Warsaw.
After several days of concerts, seminars, festivals and hoopla, the core exhibition of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews -- the most ambitious cultural institution to rise in Poland since the fall of Communism -- will be unveiled on Tuesday. Poland's top political leaders will be there, as will the president of Israel and other international dignitaries. The institution has been embraced across the political spectrum and has drawn only scattered, mild protest.…
These are posted each week by Pete Rushefsky to the Jewish-Music mailing list:
O rebbe I stand and shiver
In my heart burns fire.
I want to be a good khosid,
a faithful khosid.
A song from the repertoire of Josh Waletzky's grandfather Morris. Commentary by Itzik Gottesman. Now at the Yiddish Song of the Week.
A project of Center for Traditional Music and Dance and the Sholem Aleichem Cultural Center's An-sky Institute for Jewish Culture.
New video from The Moors. Not particular related to Jewish music, per se, but fun, nonetheless:
There are a host of interesting and significant events happening this week in our northeast corner of the country.
Tonight, in NYC, Jeremiah Lockwood, leader of The Sway Machinery is back on this coast and will be debuting his new CD and offering up a tribute to his late mentor, Carolina Slim. Expect lots of blues.
Tomorrow night in Manhattan, CTMD and others present the exceptionally exciting NYC premier of Deborah Strauss's new women's klezmer violin trio, Figelin. More info at the KlezmerShack calendar. I might note that the trio is also appearing on Monday night in Brooklyn.
Most important for me, however, is the 2nd Annual Klezmer Festival at the Regattabar, here in Cambridge. Two of the most interesting Klezmer fusion bands, Klezwoods and KCB clarinetist Ilene Stahl's Klezperanto join forces. I've waited years to see Klezperanto again. This is going to be big. According to Ilene, we'll get the world premiere of lots of new repertoire and special guest, Kasia Sokalla, singer
Wednesday, for those lucky enough to be in Manhattan, Zisl Slepovitch is previewing his new Litvakus CD. I've heard it, and this is killer. It's called Raysn: The Lost Jewish Music of Belarus, and Dr. Slepovitch will also give a talk. He spent a decade researching the hidden musical treasures of Jewish Belarus (White Russia, also known in Yiddish as "Raysn") with the late, noted scholar Nina Stepanskaya. CTMD's Pete Rushefsky will interview Slepovitch during the program. More info on the KlezmerShack calendar, of course.
Details are on the kickstarter page
Act now. Don't let this one fail, or you'll kick yourself for the next 120 years (we should all live and be healthy for so long).
Those who have scanned the KlezmerShack calendar may have noticed that Mark Rubin and the Youngers of Zion will be performing next week in Lafayette, LA. What you may not know is that you can tune in. Pay what you want, and the Blackpot Festival and Valcour Records Present will be playing this 30 minute (or longer) show directly into their laptop, just for you! Feel free to request songs in the chat room and leave a tip when you enjoy something.
I have reviewed early Koby Israelite releases on these pages, and always with delight. But this latest, which includes some wonderful Americana, along with his usual patented remixing of world traditional music from all over (including a classic version of Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues," perhaps arranged as only an Israeli exile in London can). If you haven't heard of Israelite, or haven't yet heard Blues from elsewhere, you are in for a treat.
The only thing sad about Ezekiel's Wheels first full-length release is that it has taken me a year to get it online. A traditional American klezmer band, the Wheels seem to infuse everything with a special energy. Their arrangements, even their newer compositions, are so much a part of the traditional approach to klezmer without foregoing what it means to be an American band making Ashkenazic Jewish simkhe music. They don't just sound special as a band, but in person they still seem special. This is the best capturing of that soul, so far, Transported
So, we're just about at the end of my writing about the Ashkenaz 2014 fest and what I saw and heard there. Just a few more bands/releases to cover. Bear with me. I've kind of saved the best for last, so you wouldn't all go away.
The first full evening of the festival was Saturday night. As festival director Eric Stein noted, every act playing Saturday night was Canadian. That already makes Ashkenaz special. Beyond the rare incursion by some of the Montreal bands, you wouldn't think from sitting here in Boston that there was Jewish music, much less new Jewish music in Canada at all.
One of the key ingredients of the festival is the ongoing dancing. This year, the band that did most of the playing for that dancing was a Montreal band, Ichka, that has also done some minor touring—they were even south of the border, here in Boston on a double bill with local favorites Ezekiel's Wheels last winter. They are a powerful, brassy ensemble that remind me in some ways of the venerable Dutch band, Di Gojim. Ichka is young and they play with excellence and fervor. Their first release, Podorozh, captures the contemporary North American klezmer sound: Not only familiar songs such as "Nifty's Freylakhs" or "Fun Tashlikh," but updated to include Steven Greenman's excellent "Dreaming of Goldenshteyn," a delightful "Glazier's Hora" from Alicia Svigals, and best of all, reaching across the pond to capture "the Tongue," by Merlin Shepherd (who, as already mentioned, was also at Ashkenaz with wife, singer/piano player, Polina Shepherd). Opening with a fantastic drumroll and a fantastic blaring of horns, this is both a blast from the past, and a statement about keeping the dancing speaking to us. If you were't at Ashkenaz, you can get your CD or MP3s from bandcamp.
Joining Ichka on its debut album was the Lemon Bucket Orkestra, one of Toronto's best street orchestras. You don't know from street orchestras? Somewhere, in an urban area near you there is a festival called "Honk!" featuring these popular, often-amateur ensembles from around the world. (Boston's was held this weekend, in fact!) Lemon Bucket is famed for calling out the band to play in an Assisted Living home, or to accompany a good protest. At Ashkenaz, they headlined on Saturday night, exciting the largest crowd I saw during the festival with incredible energy, precision, and a scintillating mix of klezmer, balkan, and whatever else they felt like playing. Their new recording, Lume Lume has the frenetic mix you would expect, with tunes from all over Eastern Europe, Jewish and otherwise. They close with one of my favorites, "7:40." Back towards the beginning of the klezmer revival, this was recorded by everyone. We all moved on. I am greatful to the Lemon Buckets for bringing it back, and for having so much fun playing. You can find out more and get your own copy (CD or MP3) from their bandcamp page.
As part of my introduction to the artists playing at Ashkenaz, I mentioned Lenka Lichtenberg's recent CD, Songs for the breathing walls. She was at Ashkenaz to promote a new, just-released project, an album of lullabies which she has put together with Iraqi-Israeli artist Yair Dalal. Lullabies from Exile presents lullabies from both European and Mizrahi Jewish traditions. Featuring the gentle voices of both, as well as Dalal's wonderful oud, and backed by an excellent ensemble, this is the children's recording of the festival. Soothing and gentle, and drawing from so many Jewish traditions (and their overlap), it is a pleasure. Check out Lichtenberg's website for your own copy and for more info.
Finally, we come to my personal favorite, Sunday night's headline band, Zion 80, jazz guitarist/Tzadik recording artist Jon Madof's recent project merging the AfroPop sounds of Fela Kuti with the melodies of Shlomo Carlebach. While that original project was a wall of danceable, infectious nign, this concert highlighted material from the new release, Adramelech: The book of angels, vol. 22 featuring Madof's arrangements of John Zorn tunes from "The Book of Angels." The band isn't much smaller than the Lemon Bucket Orchestra, and took Jewish music to another continent entirely. If you don't have both of the Zion 80 releases, time to catch up. But, I also have to express my pleasure and delight especially at the new release. Available, of course, from Tzadik Records. Enjoy. Same time, same place, in two years for the next Ashkenaz Festival?
Josh "Socalled" Dolgin was ubiquitous at this past Ashkenaz (continuing my coverage of Ashkenaz 2014—if this goes on much longer, it won't end until I switch to KlezKamp coverage). He DJ'd late at night. He did magic tricks for kids. He interviewed Canadian folkie Geoff Berner about Berner's new novel. You could pick up copies of his little books of puns at the souvenir stand. No performances of his own music.
Truth is, Socalled appears to exploring a larger world outside Jewish remixes. We saw him evolving as a songwriter on recent recordings (see below), and in fact, his current project is the musical, "The Season." It sounds zany and fun, but is outside the scope of these pages. That being the case, let's work backwords for a while. But, I'll also note that there is a kind of neat capsule of the incredible diversity of Socalled's early Jewish-connected work in "The 'Socalled' Movie," back in 2010. You'd think someone this young doesn't yet need a movie. But, if you are at all familiar with his music, you'll have a lot of fun. And if you aren't familiar, this is a great introduction.
In 2011, Dolgin released the Sleepover. To my ear, this was the first that focused primarily on Socalled the Canadian songwriter and hiphop artist, without any klezmer, and without any yiddish. With hits like "UNLVD," "Work with what you got," and "Richi," it's a lovely hiphop-ish, even pop-ish release. Featuring an abundance of Katie Moore's amazing voice, it is his most tuneful and soulful release to date, but also a curious one—a bit of a grabbag, as though he wasn't sure where he was going, but also wasn't going to hold back from trying whatever came to mind. The standout, for me, is a cover of the old Peggy Seeger anthem, "Springhill Mine Disaster." Sung at a faster clip than most versions, it is nonetheless beautiful. It is also one of the few songs to feature Socalled's highly expressive singing voice. More typical is the upbeat, calypso-tinged "Work with what you got." But then, just when you figure you've got the changes figured out, you encounter the "Richi" remixes at the end—a short Irving Fields solo piano gem, and a 15-minute dance remix by Derrick Carter. Like all Socalled releases, you can catch up with this one at the Socalled store.
One of my favorite all-time releases is this all-star gem featuring David Krakauer, Socalled, and Fred Wesley (better known with James Brown). Jewish klezmer yiddish hiphop fun! I can't cover this in one paragraph. You can read the entire review of Tweet Tweet, or just rush to the website and get your own copy.
In 2007, Socalled released the first CD to primarily feature his own songs (as opposed to the inspired remixing and rapping he had been doing for years). "You are never alone," singing of the 'Yiddish Cowboy' is a post-klezmer-revival classic, and that's just one of the songs. There is a full review of Socalled / Ghettoblaster finally up on the KlezmerShack. And, as above, you can get your own copy at the Socalled store.
The most recent Krakauer-Socalled collaboration (excepting Abraham Inc, of course, and the very different intro/outro pieces composed for Krakauer's recording of Messiaen's "Quartet for the end of time" released last spring) was 2005's Bubbemeises. You can read more about this wild klezmer-jazz-hiphop collaboration on David Krakauer & Josh 'Socalled' Dolgin / Bubbemeises
As I was saying, Socalled was over the place at Ashkenaz 2014. But if it's Socalled's music you're looking for, these cover the last decade. Enjoy.
I want to take time out for a few minutes to note the current season and mention a few recent releases that may help get you in the mood for t'shuvah.
I'll first mention a new instrumental release by Tzadik saxophonist Paul Shapiro / Shofarot Verses. His 2003 "Midnight Minyan" put the daven into jazz. Here he continues that tradition, with some of my favorite Tzadik musicians, including Captain Beefheart alum Marc Ribot on guitar, Brad Jones on bass, and Tony Lewis on drums. From the opening moments of the very season-appropriate "Hashivenu" through the closing "With Reed and Skins" Shapiro manages to combine jazz and a sense of nusach (Ashkenazic Jewish cantorial modes) in ways that seek out that still small voice within us. At the same time, as on "Daven Dance," he reminds us that joy can physically move us. The shofar-like soprano sax impulsion on "Halil," with Ribot's answering guitar is one standout, followed by an actual shofar on "Ashamnu," which takes the familiar Yom Kippur melody to a new place of grace. The album's ethos is perhaps best expressed in the description of "Search your soul," "Finding solace in the house of b-flat." More info at Paul's website. The music is available from Tzadik and the usual disk and MP3 vendors online.
Coming from another place, entirely, (and perhaps exemplifying the difference between the gritty downtown New York scene vs. the spiritual secularism of California's Bay Area) singer/cantor Linda Hirschhorn's voice and words speak directly to those parts of us that aspire to heal and to help a world in need of healing. Her 2013 recording, "Amazed" is also an album with beautiful personal love songs. With an all-star cast, including Holly Near on the backing vocals of the opening hymn, "Amazed," this is just a wonderful album, balm for a "verbissener velt." Tunes range from the folkie to the blues, as on "Some Love," to the hum along inspirational and aspirational, as "Give it all you have." You can listen to samples and purchase the CD from Linda Hirschhorn's website and the usual online vendors.
Siach Hasadeh is a Montreal-based duo, clarinet and bass, exploring Jewish niggun. Since they also appeared at Ashkenaz 2014, I can also link this set of reviews to my continuing coverage of the standout artists at that festival. Although the music is sweet, the duo explores the rougher sides of harmony as well. There is a delightful tone poem/art song/modern classical dissonance that weaves in and out of these tunes, from the opening "R' Levi Yitzchak Berditchever's Niggun" to "Niggun firn di tsaddikim in gay eyden" or "Rabbeinu's Niggun" featuring Shtreiml masters Jason Rosenblatt on harmonica and Ismail Fencioğlu on oud. For those who enjoy digging deeper and letter ways of niggun wash over them, this is a rich recording. You can read more about the recording on the band's website or purchase it directly from CDBaby.com.
The standout voice, the woman everyone wanted to hear at this year's Ashkenaz Festival was Polina Shepherd. Readers of these pages over the years will not be surprised—you have read reviews of her singing with choirs, with brass bands, with just her husband, Merlin Shepherd, and friends. She plays an amazing piano, but it is her voice that you notice. Amazing range. Beauty, and a force of nature. Born in the former Soviet Union, this recording is a tribute to both her Russian and Yiddish roots. She sings of love and longing, universal yearnings, whether, say, in the Russian "Silver Birch" or the more modern Yiddish of "Birch Tree;" from folk melodies, to Eastern European "scat," here a wordless prayer in "Ay Yay Yay;" whether the text comes from the Song of Songs, "Place me like a seal," her own poetry (most of these pieces), or evokes life, itself, in the Yom Kippur plea, "Avinu Malkeinu" (Our Father, Our King). Shepherd's voice is transformative. More information, and CD purchases from the artist's website.
There has been an evolution as Basya Schechter has gone from writing Middle Eastern-inflected folksongs, to someone more involved with rethinking religious poetry. He most recent CD was a recording of her settings of love poems, both to women, and to God (and sometimes, like "Song of Songs," as easily to read as expressing love for both) written in Yiddish by Rabbi A. J. Heschel. This latest recording by Pharaoh's Daughter consists entirely of settings of traditional prayer and piyyut. The music, though, comes from around the world. The opening "Adon Olam" conveys echoes of electronica. The familiar "Maoz Tzur" is rethought with celesta-like keyboard pinpoints, as though to highlight falling snow; in the simplicity of the melody you can hear echoes of a family lighting Hanukkah candles. Likewise, "Ha-nerot Halaluh" contains elements of electronica and metallic percussion and a lively sing-along melody. The title song, for instance, "Dumiya," echoes all of the above, with hints of African rhythm and Middle Eastern flow. The closing "Shebishlifleynu" has a driving, somewhat psychedelic beat. The current season is evoked with light glissando's of sound setting "Zikaron," a poem conveying the awe of standing in front of G-d on Yom Kippur, with a quieter new melody for "P'tach lanu sha'ar" (open a gate for us). If the music of Shlomo Carlebach and Debbie Friedman simplified melodies and invited congregational participation in davenning in new ways, the music of Basya Schechter and Pharaoh's Daughter fuses Sephardic, Ashkenazic, and indeed, world music traditions for a new generation of prayers. It is good to hear such eloquent settings for songs of renewal in this season of awe. Liner notes and more info available on the Pharaoh's Daughter website. You can purchase a copy from Amazon.com.
Before memories of this year's Ashkenaz Festival totally dissipate, I wanted to continue my mentions of several notable bands and musicians encountered there.
First up is Forshpil, from Riga, Latvia. Although they performed a couple of traditional klezmer/yiddish sets at the obligatory "Bella Did ya eat?" brunch at the FreeTimes Cafe, the band is much more "rock-klezmer" fusion. In fact, the opening "Volekhl" on their eponymous 2012 CD immediately attracts the ears, sounding like an improbably successful marriage between Hawkwind and traditional klezmer. From there, it's on to a funk-infused "Priv Trink Oys." Despite the quite, gentle rendition of "Di sapozkelekh" or the closing "Dobranotsh," and although there are reggae and jazz influences, the dominant sound is that opening "heavy metal progrock" feel, along with a certain Dick Dale-inspired speed guitar picking, as on "Meyld in di yorn." In this, the band reminds me not a little of "Yiddish Princess." The diversity continues to good effect. Like so much good klezmer-and-more recordings these days, you can get your copy at CDBaby.com, where you can also listen to samples of each of the songs.
Geoff Berner's 2011 "Victory Party" is a different kettle of fish. A long-time stalwart of the Canadian folkie scene, this is his sixth recording. Berner is often compared to Daniel Katz for the social commentary and (in Berner's case, relatively rare) Yiddish or klezmer inflections in his music. You can hear their similarities in songs such as "Laughing Jackie the Pimp" and in a very nicely contextualized "Daloy Polizei," also covered by Kahn (especially timely this year--and now that I think about it, all too often). At the same time, where Kahn both incites to action and expresses an ennui (this, too, will not ultimately change the world), Berner more often seems a bit more of a commentator, distant. His "Mayn rue platz" is less a call to action, than an evocation of sadness. But, we speak of relativity. "I am going to jail / to get a new pair of shoes" ("Jail") pulls few punches, despite its jaunty tune. "Oh my golem" is likewise fairly direct commentary. "Did you really think a perfect god / wants you to burn a goat / or nail the Messiah in place" from "Rabbi Berner finally reveals his true religion" may be gentle, but it's a call to action, nonetheless (smirk included).
In addition to performing at Ashkenaz, Berner was interviewed by DJ SoCalled (who also produced "Victory Party") at the Festival about his relatively recent short novel, Festival Man. Advertised as a hard-hitting satire about the Canadian Folk Festival scene, the book is actually a bit of a fond love poem to same—satire included, and a pleasure to read.
One of the highlights of the Saturday evening concerts at this year's Ashkenaz Festival in Toronto was the appearance of David Buchbinder's Odessa/Havana. Showcasing their 2013 release on Tzadik, "Walk to the sea," the music was exhilarating. The fusion of Cuban, klezmer, and jazz, and much more was seamless. Buchbinder and his bands are always excellent, but watching pianist Hilario Durán was magic. Listening to vocalist Maryem Hassan Tollar live was a revelation. I have a short review of the CD now on the KlezmerShack. Enjoy. You can get your own copy via the band's website.
Posted to Facebook by Pete Rushefsky
These musicians are from Republic of Moldova, Chisinau. Marin Bunea - violin, Mihai Sorocan - accordeon, Valeriu Cascaval - cimbalom, Ion Croitoru - double bass.
Postmodern Jukebox presents "Talk Dirty"—Vintage Klezmer Jason Derulo Cover (with 2 Chainz Rap in Yiddish)
From Eitan of the "Voice of Israel." The Klezmatics are in town for a sacred music festival:
Musicians Frank London and David Licht of the Grammy award-winning band The Klezmatics perform live in-studio on VOI's Yishai Fleisher Show. Tune in for a fun conversation about culture, sacred music, and 'Jewy' pride.
The problem with writing about a festival whilst attending, is that one feels some obligation to hear music every waking minutes. So, this will be a brief list.
We drove in from the States late and missed Geoff Berner's set on Saturday, which had been one of our goals. I did get a chance to catch him at an interview about his just-released book (which sounds good, but has nothing to do with Jewish Culture, new or otherwise) with SoCalled, and that was fun, if not musical. On his recordings, Berner has a political and somewhat satiric bent that reminds me of Daniel Kahn, except that Berner sings in English. You can catch him on his most recent recording, Victory Party.
David Buchbinder's Odessa/Havana show was a highlight. It isn't just that the band was tight, or that the singer, Maryem Hassan Tollar is exceptional, but pianist Hilario Duran is a treasure. If you saw the performance, you already have the new CD. If you weren't there, let me assure you that the CD is exceptional.
We were exhausted, but stayed for the Lemon Bucket Orkestra, a delightful street band that has been on tour for the last couple of months. Extraordinary energy and much fun in a sort of Eastern European mix. Huge orchestra! I hope they come to my neighborhood's "Honk!" festival this year and soon. David Buchbinder came out to join the band in one number, as did members of Forshpil, and the incomparable Polina Shepherd. Readers of these pages already know that Shepherd is an extraordinary singer. Here at Ashkenaz, she and husband Merlin Shepherd blew audiences away. If there were justice, they would have been booked for several more shows here. Several of her recordings have been reviewed in raves on these pages. Live, she is even better.
One special moment at the festival so far was the appearance of Steve Greenman with Chinese pipa player Gao Hong. They were right. The two musical traditions, as well as fiddle and pipa, were made to play together.
Michael Winograd's new project, "Sandaraa" was billed as a fusion. In truth, it is Pakistani music, mostly from Baluchistan, and I love it. (Yes, it is a Jewish music festival, but ...) Played by Winograd's ensemble, and featuring the voice of Zebunnisa (Zeb) Bangash, with a touch of "jam band" feel, this was just plain fun. Of special note, along with Winograd's clarinet, was Richie Barshay's amazingly fluent drumming and percussion.
We ended last night with Zion80, a relatively new project by Tzadik recording artist Jon Madof. The band has just released a new CD of Zorn's music, following their initial release of Carlebach tunes. The fusion of Jewish avant garde jazz and Fela Kuti's African beat is phenomenal. We danced our way home. In a few minutes, the Ashkenaz parade will come by, then I'll go listen to Shtreiml, see the new Veretski Pass theatrical piece, "Lilith" (Likely to write more about that later), and then, sadly, but with great fun, the Festival Finale.
Czeck-born Lenka Lichtenberg has been exploring Jewish, Israeli, Eastern European, and Middle Eastern music since before I met her back at one of the first Ashkenaz Festivals. Her voice is exquisite. The recordings keep getting better. Her imagination is even bigger. At the same time, with musical interests around the world, she has remained uncategorizable. That's probably a good thing. This latest recording, Breathing Walls is an excellent example, and an exquisite take on Jewish sacred music.
Breathing Walls came about after a concert series back in her native Czech Republic. After listening to the sound of performing in synagogues in Plzen and Liberec in 2009, she returned a year later to record Jewish liturgical poems in twelve synagogues. The melodies range from traditional Eastern European, to newer settings by contemporary composers such as Shlomo Carlebach and Shirona. Working with musicians as diverse as Israeli's Yair Dalal ("Maoz Tsur" and "Adon Olam," for instance) and klezmer clarinetist Christian Dawid ("Esa Eyney"), and an array of musicians from around the world, Lichtenberg fuses all of these influences and melodies into a new, tender world Jewish music.
This is a very special recording. Unlike her earlier CDs, where she focuses on Jewish folk music, often re-imagined with Middle-Eastern-sounding settings (partly influenced, I imagine, by the side of her family that hails from Iraq, and partly influenced by her friendship and musical partnership with Iraqi-Israeli musician Yair Dalal), these are sacred tunes. Again, they are often re-imagined and reset, but the result, with a beautiful accompanying CD case and booklet, is an explicitly spiritual journey. Our blessing is that she has chosen to record these pieces and present them. You can get your copy of "Breathing Walls" directly from Lichtenberg's website.
Reviewed by Ari Davidow, sitting in the delicious sunshine of the Ashkenaz Festival in Toronto, ahead of a performance by the artist later this afternoon, 1 Sep 2014.
When you need a pick-me-up, sometimes nothing but a festive Shtreiml will do. On their latest outing, Eastern Hora, the band continues its celebration with Turkish musician Ismail Fenicoglu, blending klezmer seamlessly with Turkish music and coming up with a result that makes the klezmer sound fresh, with energy and life. The result is something not just Jewish or Turkish, but also, as in the case of "A Saturday Evening Blues," as Jason's plaintive harmonica melds with Ismail's soulful our and with the band, the result is something unique.
What is surprising to me is that fewer klezmer bands have made the Turkish connection. After all, klezmer itself grew up in the borderlands between the Ottomans and Europe. To take a full-on North American klezmer sound, with Thierry Arsenault's progressive drumming, Jason Rosenblatt's harmonica and keyboards, nth-generation Philly klezmer Rachel Lemisch's trombone (take a good listen to her riffs on "Rayrus Spielt" and throughout the CD), and the dance-friendly bass-lines of Joel Kerr, and then re-merge it with Fenicoglu's fluent oud and you have a match made in heaven. From the opening, full-steam "Grand Theft Stutinki" and onward into "Chassidl pour les batards" on through the closing, gentle "Lullaby for Halleli" the band is a cure for a world in need of healing dance and soothing music. It is not only clear why this is one of the best wedding bands around, but, here, in concert mode, we get the band exploring a broader dimension of joy and music than would normally come through at a simkhe, with the bonus lightning oud strikes.
Like 2006's "Fenci's Blues," this CD exemplifies what is most exciting about modern klezmer. The playing of traditional music is fluid and celebratory, but the renewal that comes from the encounter with new Turkish music creates a magic that will please not only klezmer fanatics, but fans of Turkish music as well. You can get your own copy, as well as copies for your friends via iTunes or CDBaby.com
Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 1 Sep 2014, from the Ashkenaz Festival where Shtreiml are featured performers.
Yes, our favorite North American festival of new Jewish music starts next week, and this year it joins the current century by enabling an actual iPhone "app." Search for it in the Apple Store. That's the minor reason to go. The major reason is new music, ranging from a new music from Veretski Pass, "Lillith, the Night Demon," to music inspired by the Sarajevo Hagaddah, Yiddish "New Wave" from Eastgern Europe, Dudu Tassa from Israel, and more. See you at the Ashkenaz Festival!
Known to the rest of the world as a master violinist, teacher, mentor, Yaela Hertz was also a critical faculty member at KlezKanada where I was fortunate to meet her. She had that rare combination of extraordinary ability, insight, and human warmth that will be heard for generations as her students teach their students. Deborah Strauss posted on Facebook yesterday that she had passed away May 30, 2014. You can get a brief sense of who she was professionally from her entry in the Canadian Encyclopedia, or from this 1963 article in the Montreal Gazette.
There was a great piece by Ezra Glinter in last week's Forward about the growing fictional genre for people who have left the ultra-Orthodox community. It inspired me to read a new-to-me Tova Mirvis (which I enjoyed as much as her first book, a best-seller).
It also made me reflect that I rarely encounter fictional characters who resemble myself: a former Orthodox Jew who is generally quite religiously secular. Esther Broner captured a community in Israel (albeit, primarily only from the women's side) 30 or 40 years ago in A Weave of Women that was possibly the only time that I read a book and felt as though I could almost identity each character and its real-life inspiration—many of them friends. Since then, the closest I have come is, perhaps, Peter Mansur's Song of the Butcher's Daughter, which, centered at the Yiddish Book Center, at least centered around an institution that is important in my life.
It may be that I am sufficiently unusual—both knowledgeable about Jewish life, but distant from it—that I shouldn't expect to see people who look familiar. Michael Chabon's recent Telegraph Avenue at least featured some types, some even Jewish, that I knew from my years in the Bay Area, although their lack of connection to "Jewish" beyond some vague childhood culture points was disappointingly tenuous (if also quite common). What have you read that resonates? Who is writing about the American Jewish experience that resonates for you? Email me.