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George Robinson, GRComm@ concentric.net 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


More Than Klezmer:
A sampler of Yiddish vaudeville, folk music and even art song

from the author, 9 Aug '02.
Reprinted by permission of the author.

by George Robinson, grcomm@grcomm.cnc.net

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

Alexandria Kleztet / Delusions of Klezmer
From Avenue A to the Great White Way: Yiddish and American Popular Songs from 1914-1950
Magalnyk Klezmer's Band / The Wandering Stars
Music from the Yiddish Radio Project
Rise Up and Fight: Songs of Jewish Partisans
Abe Schwartz / The Klezmer King
Herwig Strobl / Braccioline d'Amore: Music in the Izaak Synagogue, Cracow
Dave Tarras, with the Musiker Brothers / Tanz!
Yankele / L'Esprit du Klezmer
Yikhes (Lineage), Doyres (Generations), Shteygers (Ways)

When people find out I write on Jewish music, they usually ask, "Like klezmer?" Well, yes, I listen to a lot of klezmer, but it isn't the only kind of Jewish music. Played well, klezmer is as much pure fun as any musical genre I can think of, whether it's old or new, as several of these CDs prove. Klezmer isn't even the only Yiddish music out there; this group of recordings includes ample testimony to the power of Yiddish vaudeville, folk music and even art song, and some historical recordings of enormous import.

Alexandria Kleztet / "Delusions of Klezmer" (self-produced). A delightful followup to their first CD. Although the title suggests an album of straight-ahead klezmer, these folks from Baltimore are more eclectic than that, and several of the most effective cuts here are a bit off the klezzical mainstream, particularly the title track and its immediate successor, "Pepper's Dirge," both of them enchanting waltz tunes. A nicely programmed set that changes speeds as effectively as Mike Mussina. (Available from www.kleztet.com.) Rating: 4 stars

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From Avenue A to the Great White Way: Yiddish and American Popular Songs from 1914-1950 (Columbia/Legacy). Once upon a time there really was a Yiddish vaudeville and it was amply documented on 78-rpm records for subsidiaries of major labels specializing in ethnic recordings. And the sounds spread in totally unpredictable ways, so you have Yiddish songs being covered by Cab Calloway, Mildred Bailey and Slim Gaillard. Leave it to Henry Sapoznik (and Michael Brooks) to revive this tradition with a stunning collection of 50 recordings that showcase everyone from Cab to Molly Picon, from Jolson to Benny Goodman, with some amazing finds like previously unissued cuts from Jolie and Gene Krupa. If these two CDs did nothing but preserve great numbers from Pesachke Burstein and Aaron Lebedeff, they'd be worth having. Beautifully restored by Harry Coster and remastered by Darcy Popper, with startlingly sumptuous sound. This is just flat-out great music. Rating: 5 stars.

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Magalnyk Klezmer's Band / The Wandering Stars (Self-distributed). A charming set by four Israel-based musicians from the former Soviet Union. This is elegant chamber music accordion, clarinet, violin, harp highly reminiscent of the William Schimmel's "Tango Project" and Palm Court Orchestra sets, with echoes of Astor Piazzola and Romani music. Melodic, sweet but tart, quite lovely to listen to. I could have done without the medley of "Tea for Two" and "Hello Dolly" or the Yiddishized "Saints Go Marching In." Rating: 5 stars.

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Music from the Yiddish Radio Project (Shanachie). Another Henry Sapoznik project, re-creating the joyous almost exclusively Yiddish radio world that existed for an eye blink in the 1930s, '40s and '50s, mostly here in the Apple. Now that WEVD is a branch of the ESPN empire, WHN doesn't exist anymore, there aren't any stations broadcasting from Brooklyn, and the Parkway Cafeteria, Adler elevator shoes and Milady Frozen Fruits are barely a memory, this wonderful recording is about all that remains (other than the NPR program Sapoznik and Co. put together). The Yiddish swing music is vibrant, the ads are great fun and where else would you hear a Yiddish version of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic?" Great to hear the Barry Sisters in their swing period, and primo Brandwein, Tarras and Seymour Rechtzeit. Rating: 5 stars.

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Rise Up and Fight: Songs of Jewish Partisans (U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum). This set, which features Theodore Bikel, Frieda Enoch and The Noble Voices (conducted by Robert DeCormier), makes an admirable companion to the soundtrack to "Partisans of Vilna," another excellent collection of partizaner lied. There is surprisingly little overlap between the recordings and both are excellent compilations of these often hortatory, always moving songs. It's hard to say how good this music would seem stripped of its historical context, but Bikel is in fine voice he sounds as good as he did on his folk song albums of the '60s, and the instrumental accompaniments are simple but effective. I find Enoch's voice a bit thin but expressive, while the choral pieces, although well performed, are the weakest material on an otherwise fine album. Rating: 5 stars.

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album coverAbe Schwartz / The Klezmer King (Columbia/Legacy). More reissues and rediscoveries by Sapoznik, again with excellent remastering and transfers. Schwartz is a key figure in American klezmer history, a fiddler, composer and bandleader whose aggregation showcased all three of the major voices on clarinet, Brandwein, Tarras and Shloimke Beckerman. All but three of the 25 cuts here are from the 1920s, a decade that Schwartz's bands dominated as surely as Louis Armstrong did jazz in the same period. These recordings, while excellent, are redolent of an era of klezmer that may sound old-fashioned to a listener whose primary exposure to the music is from, say, the Klezmatics or even Klezmer Conservatory Band. Rating: 5 stars.

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Herwig Strobl / Braccioline d'Amore: Music in the Izaak Synagogue, Cracow (Austro Mechana). Strobl is a German who met and became friends with Bernard Offen, a Holocaust survivor who has been involved in the rebuilding of the Izaak Synagogue in his native Krakow. Fascinated by the unusual acoustics of its sanctuary and deeply moved by Offen's story, Strobl went there to record an album of original improvisations inspired by the Yiddish songwriter Mordecai Gebirtig, performed on the Renaissance-era violin that gives the set its title. There's also some conversation between the two men and a scary cut version of "'Ss Brent" on which Offen adds some terrifying sound effects. Strobl is the real thing, a powerful, slashing violinist whose big sound is augmented by the natural reverb of the synagogue space. A moving document and also some very fine music. Available from www.hatikvahmusic.com or (323) 655-7083. Rating: 5 stars.

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album coverDave Tarras, with the Musiker Brothers / Tanz! (Columbia/Legacy). You can have Brandwein and Beckerman, I'll take Tarras. Maybe it's my affinity with jazz that makes me favor the divine Dave over his main rivals, but I prefer to think it's his superior musicianship (not that they weren't also brilliant). This 1955 set shows him in peak form, with a great band that includes several survivors of the Swing Era. This is a great party record OK, maybe a bar mitzvah record mirthful and tuneful, with Tarras playing entirely in a klezmer vein (as opposed to the jazz-inflected work heard on the Radio Project set). Classic stuff and a must-have. Rating: 5 stars.

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Yankele / L'Esprit du Klezmer (Musique du Monde). A French klezmer quintet, like Magalnyk's with a strong Gypsy/Tango influence. A lot of familiar tunes capably played, and some interesting curveballs, like a stealthily played bridge on "Der Rebe Hot Geheysn Freilikh Zeyn." A sweet little record. Rating: 4 stars.

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album coverYikhes (Lineage), Doyres (Generations), Shteygers (Ways) (Trikont). These are not exactly new sets, a trio of anthologies of klezmer that, respectively, range from 1911-1939, 1979-1994 and 1991-1994, but they have been hard to find recently. The first is drawn from the extensive collection of Professor Martin Schwartz and, like the other two sets, was ably assembled by Joel Rubin and Rita Ottens. The names are mostly the ones you'd expect Brandwein, Tarras, Schwartz, Belf's Rumanian Orchestra but there are a few surprises like accordionist Mishka Ziganoff. album coverThe second set focuses on the transition from second-generation players like Tarras to third-generation bands like Kapelye, The Klezmorim and a few of Rubin's own able recordings. album coverAnd the last collection highlights the new pathways being blazed in the '90s by Frank London, the Klezmatics and really "outside" players like Don Byron and Elliott Sharp for whom klezmer was a jumping-off point for parts unknown. If you were looking for a good introduction to the evolution of klezmer, albeit a bit heavy on New Klez, these three CDs are a great way to start. Available from www.hatikvahmusic.com or (323) 655-7083. Rating: 5 stars.


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