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Klezmer from the Weblogs, 2002
This is what I wrote and first put on the main KlezmerShack page in 2002. I delayed doing this because I am hoping to have a replacement main page in place. But it is now February. Time to move on! This, at any rate, is what was posted in 2002:
2 Nov 2002: As I mentally note the end of the first of three projects that have tied me up this fall (none related to klezmer or music, but all driving me and my schedule slightly off), I take a breather and get some new materials up onto the KlezmerShack. First, we have a record of the 2002 Kiev KlezFest written by festival publicist Mikhail Frenkel, "A Holiday called KlezFest.". Having been to the former Soviet Union over a decade ago as part of the entourage of the first Jewish Film Festival there, I continue to be excited over the revival of Jewish cultural life throughout the former republics. Let me encourage visits by interested klezmorim and Jewish culture mavens.
On another subject entirely, Matt Temkin has provided a window into another neglected corner of not-so-distant American Jewish culture with this review of the reissue of the 1962 Terry Gibbs classic (and first recording by Alice Coltrane), "Terry Gibbs, Plays Jewish Melodies in Jazztime".
29 Sep: I make no claims to being caught up. There are overflowing stacks of albums on the CD changer that I haven't had time to write about. But other people have been writing, which may be even better. Mordechai Kamel has reviewed the new album on Tzadik by Wolf Krakowski, "Goyrl : Destiny". Elliott Simon catches the latest by Frank London's Klezmer Brass All-Stars, "Brotherhood of Brass". Moving back in the direction of traditional Klezmer, Matt Temkin reviews a rereleased classic: Dave Tarras with the Musiker Brothers, "Tanz!", along with two other wonderful classics. Columnist George Robinson has been very busy. Here, we catch up with three columns that are new to the KlezmerShack. First, there was his spring "Sephardic Roundup." Then, over the summer he caught up with his usual diversity of Jewish recordings. And, most recently, in time for the High Holidays, the latest in Jewish Liturgical recordings. Enjoy!
28 Sep: It's almost October???!! Okay, I always get a bit distracted by the Jewish High Holidays. I am also typesetting a new book, busy at work, busy at school, and otherwise distracted in all ways. These pages will continue to suffer for another month or two as I struggle to catch up with listings and the calendar, and then catch up with reviews. Over the next few months the structure of the KlezmerShack should be changing dramatically. Stay tuned.
One of the most exciting bands on record, or live, is Frank London's Klezmer Brass All-Stars. But, now you needn't take my word for it. Elliot Simon has published this accurate, and highly complimentary review of a Sep 23, 2002 appearance at the NYC Knitting Factory: www.allaboutjazz.com/creviews/c1002_02.htm. If you are reading this today, and live in Chicago, you're in luck: the ensemble is appearing at the "World Music Festival" at the Old Town School of Music.
18 Aug:The jewish-music mailing list is back up.
15 Aug: Yes, the Jewish-music mailing list is down. We do not know what is wrong, or when it will be restored. Shamash is working on it, although no one has posted any details (or acknowledgement) of the problem on the Shamash site.
29 Jul: I posted the following message to the jewish-music mailing list this evening. I hope it explains why I have not had time to do much on the Klezmershack recently:
"Just a quick note to the list that I will be on vacation for the next couple of weeks. If anyone needs help, the best source will be the jewish-music list info at www.ivritype.com/resources/jlists.html#jewish-music.
"I should mention that this is not entirely a vacation like any other. List-member Judy Pinnolis (Jewish Music Web Center) and I will be honeymooning and will be less likely than usual to consult a computer for the duration.
"For the record, I should note that the wedding band (playing, it is granted, to a small, mostly-family gathering) was Boston's "Shirim," the first klezmer folks that I met in Boston many, many years ago, good friends, and an astounding wedding band as we confirmed, yet again, yesterday. The band handled the various switches between klezmer, yeshivish, and Israeli folk dancing with grace, aplomb, and incredible skill. Anyone wishing to know more about the band would do well to consult www.klezmershack.com, or the band's own website at www.shirim.com. Their albums come highly recommended, as well.
"Dance instruction and leadership was provided by the excellent Jacob Bloom, also of this list (web: www.gis.net/~bloom/).
"Needless to say, Boston does not lack for equally excellent musicians, as any visitor to the klezmershack can confirm. I will once again revert to my usual refusal to recommend one set of excellent friends and musicians over another, after this message.
"A special song in Yiddish for the wedding was commissioned by Judy (a total surprise to me, and a wonderful one), and composed by Josh Waletzky. I do not know when this song will be professionally recorded for the rest of ya'll (for myself, Judy's rendition is perfect), but Josh's "Crossing the Shadows" has been recommended on this list often. Let me do so once again. It is a phenomenally wonderful album. www.crossingtheshadows.com.
"As I mention old friends on this list who participated, let me not fail to thank Yosl Kurland and Peggy Davis whose band (Wholesale Klezmer) is among those incredible, highly-recommended Boston-area bands. For this wedding, however, they were responsible for the stunning ketuba, set in Hebrew and Yiddish. For more, consult the klezmershack or www.hebrewlettering.com."
21 Apr: First, a couple of announcements. From Dena Ressler (among a gratifying number of sources): "Michael Alpert - who you may know as a member of the "supergroup" Brave Old World, or as a founding member of Kapelye - will be the honored first artist in the Brookline Workmen Circle's new coffee house on Saturday night, April 27 at 8:00." This is an exciting new venture by the Workmen's Circle here in Brookline, MA, and Michael's participation in the first of the series is the best possible augur for the future. Now, readers of this site with access to Brookline have to show up and make the evening succeed.
Second, Alpert's band, Brave Old World is leading an advanced workshop in Weimar, Germany, this summer, from Jul 28 to Aug 4. Anyone who has ever worked with the band will kvell at the thought of spending a week with them. You heard it here, first. For more information, see the workshop website, www.klezmer-wochen-weimar.de/page11.htm.
Next, Michael Spudic makes the second person in recent weeks to see the David Krakauer Klezmer Madness ensemble performing its new work, and is delighted. His writeup of the Apr 13 Klezmer Madness concert at Symphony Space in New York is now on the KlezmerShack.
And finally, my latest reviews include Byrd/Chevan / This is the Afro-Semitic Experience, 2002; Tim Sparks / At the Rebbe's Table, 2002;Yankele / L'Esprit du klezmer, 2001; Howard Leshaw / Bronx Volume II: Yiddish on the Edge, 2001; Klezmaniacs (MA) / Sveet like herring vit potatoes, 2001; Amsterdam Klezmer Band / Limonchiki, 2001; Alain Chekroun & Taouifik Bestandji / Chants des Synagogues du Maghreb, 2000; Mark Levy / Bin ikhmir a shnayderl (I'm a little Tailor), 1999; Roy Nathanson & Anthony Coleman / I could've been a drum, 1997; Rabson, Mimi / Music, 2002.
31 Mar: A year ago I wrote about how much I wanted to see local klezmer jam sessions and dance-teaching sessions. Not only are these springing up all over the country (see the Klezmer calendar), but I am pleased to announce that in my own home metropolitan area, activity is busting out all over. Sunday, April 7th, a week from today, there will be the second monthly klezmer jam (1st Sunday of the month) at Brookline's Workmen's Circle, 7-9pm, 1762 Beacon St., Brookline. A few days later, on Thursday night, the 11th, dance instructor Jacob Bloom teams up with Shirim Klezmer Orchestra for a night of dance instruction and music at Temple Beth Zion, 1566 Beacon, just up the street from Workmen's Circle, for what they hope will become a regular "second Thursday of the month" gig. Shirim, as I have related elsewhere, is one of the reasons I moved to the Boston area. I can now add that my fiancée and I have requested both Shirim, and Jacob Bloom at our wedding. That's how good they are. We're intending to use these sessions to get ready. Don't make us dance alone!
And, trying to keep up with everything coming in with the daily mail, here are ten new reviews: Klezmic noiZ / Davka, Second Avenue Klezmer / For our mothers, Roberto Rodriguez / El danzon de Moises, Moshe Berlin / Maz'l Tov, Marilyn Lerner and David Wall / Still soft-voiced heart, London, Sklamberg, Schwimmer / The Zmiros Project, Orchestre Andalou D'Israel / Jerusalem, Kol Oud Tof Trio / Gazelle, Seth Austen / Desert Winds, The Kabalas / Time Tunnel.
30 Mar: The seders are over. The glories of matzo brie will continue for only another few days. In truth, matzo brie without the Matzorena, just wouldn't be the same. Believe it or not, there are still cassette copies of this single (in both dance and orchestra versions) available for $7, from the wonderful Maxwell Street Klezmer Band. You'll be happy.
As noted in the KlezmerShack news service a couple of weeks ago, David Krakauer's new release is now out in France. Elliott Simon has a review, first posted on the Jewish-music mailing list. In addition to Elliott's review, we are pleased to welcome back the latest articles from George Robinson, a two part roundup, A-K, and L-Y of new Jewish music from all over.
24 Mar:Did I say that Passover is coming? Well, two special treats this Passover are Lori Cahan-Simon's new recording of secular Passover songs, featuring an all-star cast ranging from Steven Greenman to Michael Alpert. Just in case that doesn't get you into the Passover mood, here's a hip hop-styled, SoCalled Seder. These, and the latest reviews of albums by Nefesh, Israel's Tea Packs, and Jewlia Eisenberg, are all part of the latest. It's the sort of variety that I offer as proof that "klezmer" is sometimes the least part of Klezmer.
Passover means spring cleaning and finding hametz--anything that might contain bread or bread products--all over the house. We don't necessarily take an intensive check here at the KlezmerShack, but I got a nice read on which recent albums are popular elsewhere in the house when I walked upstairs to view my partner vacuuming the teenager's room, with the Hip Hop Hoodíos EP on loud so she could listen over the sound of the machinery. I gotta admit that we've got a couple of copies, so that I can keep it on rotation downstairs, along with other favorites from last year's top 10, and my new fave, Tea Packs' "Your life with laffa". Now, do you make matzo brie with onions or with cinnamon and sugar?
10 Mar:Passover is coming, and there is lot's new under the sun. First off, those who were blown away by how good the previous David Krakauer album (A new hot one) was, will be excited to note that the new album, "12 tribes," is due to be released in France on Mar 15. You can pre-order it now from Amazon.fr.
In honor of the forthcoming holiday, Cantor Sam Weiss gives us some basic info on "Khad Gadya" and other Passover songs. One of the things that fascinates me most is the fact that "Khad Gadya" wasn't written in the days when Aramaic was spoken. It was translated into Aramaic only a few centuries ago. Read all about it in "Sing a song of Passover."
24 Feb: Well, I'm slow to pass the word along (there is a big, big site redesign coming, but slowly slowly), but on Feb 11, Loren Sklamberg, the amazing vocalist for the Klezmatics, announced to the Jewish-music mailing list:
In response to a previous post, this past weekend at RPM Studios in NY the band and producer/engineer Ben Wisch finished basic tracks on its new Rounder cd, scheduled for release in the Fall. Included is a suite of tunes from our collaboration with the Pilobolus Dance Theatre, "Davenen," as well as a bi-lingual version of Holly Near's great song "I Ain't Afraid."
So, if you don't subscribe to jewish-music, or know anyone who does, I guess you heard it heard first!
Speaking of live music in New York, though, we are pleased to make available a review by Elliott Simon of a recent concert by Klezmer Madness at the Tonic in NYC. Even better, many folks have heard of the 11-CD release of Jewish music created under the Nazis, from 1933 through 1938. Michael Spudic has it and has written about it, "Beyond Recall". You'll want it. And I contribute the next five reviews in an ongoing series: Some amazing music by Theodorakis; two excellent new CDs from Tzadik by my faves Naftule's Dream, and newcomers Zakarya; a new Chava Alberstein; and a new klezmer/jazz/something band from Australia, Monsieur Camembert. Enjoy!
18 Feb: There have been some thoughtful responses to my "State of Klezmer" article, which I very much appreciate. Such responses, especially when they are thoughtful disagreement with what I say, make it worth writing the article.
To no disagreement whatsoever, Dena Ressler has made available to the Klezmershack an article she wrote about Josh Waletzky's amazing solo album of last year, as well as about "Yidish vokh" (Yiddish Week), a retreat related to, but different from KlezKamp and KlezKanada. Herewith, then, her memories of Yidish vokh, 2001.
10 Feb: It took too long, but the "State of Klezmer" article I meant to have ready for the change of common era year is finally here. I think that we're going through an interesting, and increasingly diverse musical period. Read the article and do send me comments. In addition to such self-puffery as my "State of Klezmer", I have also finished a review of an extraordinary new Yiddish album, by Arkady Gendler. Not only will Gendler remind you of a Yiddish Mississippi John Hurt, but the record quality, notes, and everything demonstrate how one does this sort of recording well. Now I have something to show to those who do it poorly.
This is also a good season for concerts. A couple of weeks ago Peter Lippman was at the CD release party for Sandra Layman, and for the new Di Naye Kapelye album, held in Seattle. His review should help keep attention focused on the two albums.
Brave Old World came to the Boston area last night and this afternoon. They are among a handful of bands playing Jewish music today that I would go see on almost any occasion, anywhere accessible. As usual, we were rewarded by an evening of incredible music. In the first half of the concert, the band set Eastern European Jewish themes--klezmer and folk--into a classical quartet sort of setting. Occasionally one was reminded of Copland or other classical influences. And even though the songs were often familiar--there were a couple of selections off their most recent album, Blood Oranges, for instance--the setting was new, more complex, and much more classical in feel.
My first feeling was that this was new classical music, with words set in the nineteenth century. The Yiddish that Michael Alpert was translating to the couple of pieces that had Yiddish lyrics, very much evoked a nineteenth century shtetl, or at least, how one imagines such a place. On reflection, I'm not sure that the musical setting was necessarily of this time, either. And it seems appropriate. As Brave Old World picks up this thread in the evolution of Jewish music, there is some backfilling, some context to create. And the result, as I wrote at the outset of today's weblog, is superb. It is music to dream by. It is almost Jewish trance music, except that it is the complexity, not just the development of a theme that draws you in.
The second half of the concert was more familiar. What was interesting to me was that whenever Alan Bern, the pianist, got out from behind the piano at the far end of the stage, picked up his accordion, and the group sort of gathered around Stu Brotman, the bassist, one got a much stronger sense of improvisation and, of course, the feeling of relaxed people who enjoy making music together was that much stronger. That underlines one of the contradictions of the current music Brave Old World is playing. On the one hand, it sounds carefully scripted and written out. On the other hand, it is also clearly improvised in many places, much like a jazz concert in that regard.
I think some people were put off by the fact that the band is not, and does not play straight-ahead klezmer and Yiddish theatre music, say, in the manner of the Klezmer Conservatory Band. Since the KCB is also on that short list of bands I see as often as I can, I would emphasize that this, too, is a good thing. It's just not what the Brave Old World do. Nor should we be forced to put up with one type of Jewish music. The real issue might be how to make those people who would be open to the amazing style of Jewish music that Brave Old World is inventing, aware of the band.
26 Jan: If you're in NYC tonight, you have a chance to attend the EP release party of one of the most interesting bands to come along in ages, the Latin-Jewish band, "Hip Hop Hoodios." This is wonderful, in-your-face, clever lyrics, great music. If you don't believe me, read the review (or follow the links to sample the sounds). Now, if I can just get them to play Boston....
12 Jan: It's mid-January, and I'm just starting to retire the old weblogs and think about amazing music from 2001. Last year was an incredibly good year for music, as you'll read shortly. But, the new year hasn't even begun (in my own mind, at least), and there is new music to be written about from North Shore Boston's favorite youth klezmer band, to a stunning new recording by Naftule's Dream, to a recording of Theodorakis' Mathausen Trilogy, to Arkady Gendler, 90+, recorded at the Berkeley Jewish Music Festival in a manner that not only highlights his voice and his songs, but shows how one does this right.
Last year was also the year that Yiddish Dance, aka "klezmer dance", started popping up everywhere. Klezmer shows have been accompanied by dance instruction, sometimes, going back 20 years. Last year, for the first time, it seemed as though dancing--from "what do we call it" (tentatively, according to the Jewish music mailing list, "Yiddish Dance") to "where can I go to learn" and "what other bands offer such instruction at concerts" became a common subject. This, of course, is music to my heart, and I hope that the KlezmerShack (and me in what remains of my personal life) will find ways to promote Yiddish dance, and Yiddish dance instruction, in this coming year. That's our theme--taken from Leonard Cohen and that most wonderful recent Klezmer Conservatory Band recording--"Dance me to the end of love".
Participants at this year's KlezKamp, the original klezmer and yiddish retreat, held each year towards the end of December, at a time when people can hide out just before commercially-focused Americans are doing last minute shopping, and emerge in time for the sales, were greeted with flyers for a West Coast klezmer retreat, organized by aficionados on the West Coast, planned for summer of 2003:
To encourage people to let the KlezmerShack know about annual festivals, be they one-day gatherings, or a week's worth of intensive classes and culture, I've set up a "festivals" section on the Klezcalendar. Do visit and help me expand this soonest.
Part of getting the website ready for a new year is a final tug to try to make sure that all of the amazing articles that are supposed to be online actually got online. In this case, I abashedly report that I have an article by Tamar Adams, aged 13 in 1999 when this was written, about traveling with her mother, Judith Cohen (known in these pages as both the author of a wonderful Sephardic music bibliography, and a wonderful singer). At KlezKanada a couple of years ago, we were talking with Tamar and her mother about how awful it must be for Tamar to be always dragged along to exotic locations when she could be at home with her friends. To my pleasure, Tamar had already written about just that experience, "My Travels," in her mother's column in "The Canadian Folk Music Bulletin" 33.2 (June 1999), published by the Canadian Society for Traditional Music. Permission was quickly granted to reprint the article here, and I apologize for the delay.
As many people know, an amazing collection of Sephardic music gathered and edited by Aron Saltiel was just published by Peters Editions. Called "Sephardic Songbook" it features meticulous and excellent production and appears to be exciting folks left and right. I have gathered the original press release, and some subsequent comments, and I hope that this will help people understand what the book is and why everyone will want their very own copies. Or, do as I did--buy one for home, and one to give to a good friend.
Back in 2000, I discovered a lovely children's book about klezmer--the first fiction about klezmer that I have seen, in fact. The book has a new title, "Shira's Hanukkah Gift", and is still available. Karen Gall wrote the Jewish-music list, describing how much she enjoyed it.