Adrienne Cooper / Dreaming in Yiddish

Album cover: Simple photo of Cooper singing, holding dumbek.

Adrienne Cooper
Dreaming in Yiddish

[Currently out of print]

Adrienne Cooper has the most lovely voice singing Yiddish today. Any attempt to review music that she is singing has to start off with that notice. She is also one of the most remarkable stage performers, one of those wonderful people who manages to make you feel as though you have shown up, along with a casual few dozen or few hundred friends, to hang out in her living room and listen to some song.

You can hear her sing in more traditional contexts with Kapelye, or on the most recent Flying Bulgars album, or with Josh Waletzky and family and friends on the soundtrack to the Partisans of Vilna. Here, she transforms several Yiddish songs, mostly standards, some, like "Harbstlid," unfamiliar to me, many of them directly, or impressionistically about people and their dreams, into art song, accompanied perfectly and perceptively by Joyce Rosenzweig on piano.

What a pleasure! From the opening "Zol Zayn," right into one of my favorite songs of unrequieted love, "A Kholem", through utter shlaggers such as "Vilna" or a transcendent "Zol shoyn kumen di geule" this is sheer pleasure. But, then, speaking of transcendent, the near-worshipful, sensual "Borsht," sung a cappela, a song about borsht, and about love, which follows "Zol shoyn kumen di geule" demonstrates only the power and variety of Cooper's musical imagination and ability to turn even the banal into something special, something insightful and awe-inspiring. Nor does the album contain only dreams. "My uncle Elye" is both the dream and the reality. "A gutn ovnt Brayne," about spouse abuse, is reality with little left to dream.

More than anything, this is an album about voice, Yiddish voice, making arias out of the familiar and leaving us, ready to turn the cassette over and listen again, dreaming in Yiddish.

It may require special effort to get a copy of this cassette, and I am temporarily suggesting e-mail to the artist. The record company on which the recording was original released went broke. Distribution of the cassette appears to be spotty (done by the artist?), and I find no contact info on the current liner notes (which include synopses, in English, of the words to the songs). But Cooper performs frequently at festivals, and at least locally in New York City and on the East Coast. And, after all, you don't want just the cassette, you want to see her perform, as well.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 5/14/97

Personnel this recording:
Adrienne Cooper: voice
Joyce Rosenzweig: piano

  1. Zol zayn / What if ... (I. Papernikov)
  2. A kholem / A dream (trad.)
  3. Mayn feter Elye / My uncle Elye (attributed to Moyshe Kulbak)
  4. Di mame / Shopping for love (trad.: a medley of three songs)
  5. Harbstlid / Autumn Song (Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman)
  6. Vilne / Vilna (Shmerke Kaczerginski)
  7. An alter nign / An old song (Poem: Leyb Kvitko; trad. melodies arranged by Emil Gorovets)
  8. Zol shoyn kumen di geule / Let the redemption come (words: Shmerke Kaczeginski)
  9. Borsht (trad.)
  10. A gutn ovnt Brayne / Good night, Brayne (trad.)
  11. Der rebe / What the Rebbe knows ("Fun Kosev biz Kitev" / Between Kosev and Kitev": trad.; "Der Filosof / The philosopher" Velvl Zbarzher)
  12. Yontev peysakh (or, "It's good to be a Jew") A song of history, food and celebration

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