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29 December 2008

Review: Lights: Celebrate Hanukkah Live In Concert

Craig Taubman has a reputation for excellence in all his musical endeavors, and his latest project, Lights: Celebrate Hanukkah Live In Concert, continues his list of accomplishments. The CD was recorded as part of an event that was taped for PBS television. The artists performing here represent a wide spectrum of the talented musicians on the Jewish Music scene today. The music is thoroughly enjoyable, and presents a fresh approach to the rather limited Hanukkah repertoire. The musical celebration is lightly sprinkled with liturgical music and Rabbinic commentary, to remind us of the significance of the holiday.

Taubman puts his soulful joy into Mi Yimalel, Shehechianu, Maoz Tzur, and Holy Ground. These are the most known Hanukkah songs, and the rich arrangements breathe new life into them.

Alberto Mizrahi performs the Cantorial role on The Blessings, then he morphs into a completely different persona on a Tango version of Ocho Kandelikas and the Sephardic Od’cha, sung to a middle-Eastern melody.

Michelle Citrin lends her beautiful voice to Peter Yarrow’s Don’t Let The Light Go Out, a very nice contemporary piece.

The Klezmatics perform two songs from their Woody Guthrie collection, the lively Hanukkah Gelt and the Folk Waltz, Hanukkah’s Flame, with a Trumpet solo from Frank London, and a Gospel choir.

Mare Winningham sings her very clever original song A Convert Jig and the traditional Hanerot Halalu.

Jazz Saxophonist Dave Koz performs an inspired Over The Rainbow, which as he explained it, brings a universal message of hope and fits in perfectly with the Hanukkah celebration. I couldn’t agree more.

Rocker Josh Nelson joins with a children’s choir on the rock anthem L’dor Vador. He brings his wonderful voice and deep passion to this original song. This is a favorite of mine on the album.

Joshua Nelson brings a new look at Hiney Ma Tov and I Have A Little Dreidl. Part Little Richard and part Louis Armstrong, with some Gospel added to the mix, these are highlights on the album, not to be missed.

A bit of spiritual insight is provided by Rabbi David Wolpe, on two short tracks, Lights, and The Lesson. Rabbi Wolpe imparts more insight in two minutes than most other Rabbis can in 30 minutes. Well done!

The finale, Hanukah ‘o Hanukah is a great showcase for the entire cast, with each taking a chorus in their own style, before the big finish with all singing together. This is a nice touch and a classy way to top off a great program.

The sound on this album is excellent. The vocals are clear and crisp, and the musicians come through distinctly, not shoved to the back of the mix. And the audience can be clearly heard singing along on some of the songs. Kudos to Recording/Mixing engineer Tom Weir.

The CD package is a tri-fold case with song information, credits, and some very nice photos from the concert.

If you’re looking for some contemporary Hanukkah music with a nod to tradition, then this is the album for you. I highly recommend this album and will keep it around for a long time. You can get the CD with a pledge of support to PBS as well as from the Craig ‘N Co. website.

Keith Wolzinger
Klezmer Podcast

Lights: Celebrate Hanukkah Live In Concert

Track list:
Mi Yimalel Craig Taubman
The Blessings Alberto Mizrahi
Shehechianu Craig Taubman & Caren Glasser
Ocho Kandelikas Alberto Mizrahi
Od'cha Alberto Mizrahi
Lights Rabbi David Wolpe
Light One Candle Michelle Citrin
Hanukah Gelt The Klezmatics
Hanukah's Flame The Klezmatics
A Convert Jig Mare Winningham
Hanerot Halalu Mare Winningham
Over the Rainbow Dave Koz
Maoz Tzur Laurence Juber & Craig Taubman
L'dor Vador Josh Nelson
Hiney Ma Tov Joshua Nelson
I Have A Liuttle Dreidle Joshua Nelson
The Lesson Rabbi David Wolpe
Holy Ground Craig Taubman
Hanukah 'o Hanukah The Cast

Craig 'N Co.

20 December 2008

Elaine Hoffman-Watts: Girls Don't Play Drums

Watch the new short documentary film by Renah Wolzinger about legendary Klezmer drummer Elaine Hoffman-Watts:

16 December 2008

Craig Taubman: Lights! Celebrate Hanukkah Live in Concert

I am re-posting this message from the Jewish Music List.

Keith Wolzinger
Klezmer Podcast

Dear Friends,

I hope you will not look at the group nature of this email and give it less importance- as I could really use your help!

Earlier this summer I was given the wonderful opportunity to produce Lights! Celebrate Hanukkah Live in Concert a Holiday special which begins airing nationally on PBS this week.

The show is fun, eclectic and features many artists you know including myself, Cantor Alberto Mizrahi, Mare Winningham, The Klezmatics, Michelle Citrin, Dave Koz, Josh Nelson and many other exciting performers.

This show needs your support to make it a commercial success. This is a first for PBS and if it is well received we hope it will not be the last.? Please take a minute and forward these links to your friends, family, faculty and email lists! ? This link http://www.craignco.com/flash/lights ?is a 30 second promo for the show and the following??www.craignco.com/lights/airdates.html
links to airdates nationally.

I thank you in advance for your consideration in helping us get the word out. With your support we can reach hundreds of thousands of people with this uplifting Hanukkah Celebration!


Craig Taubman

13 December 2008

CD Review: 2nd Avenue Square Dance

Review: 2nd Avenue Square Dance
Margot Leverett and The Klezmer Mountain Boys

Margot Leverett has found her voice with The Klezmer Mountain Boys. The group’s second album, 2nd Avenue Square Dance, offers a further exploration of her deep commitment to the fusion of Klezmer and Bluegrass. The music speaks for itself in the high-spirited offerings on this album.

Leverett and the band give marvelous performances throughout the album, and the guest artists add an extra dimension of authenticity in just the right places. Overall, the album is balanced, well-paced, and is a joy to listen to.

Leverett has a hand in arranging most of the songs, and composed three of them. Bandmate Kenneth Kosek composed two of the Bluegrass songs, which are among the highlights on the album.

Guest Electric Guitar player Jorma Kaukonen is featured on the title track, Second Avenue Square Dance, as well as on Electric Kugel, and (Acoustic Guitar) on Tumbalalaika. It’s fun to hear the Electric Guitar blended in with both the Klezmer and Bluegrass rhythms, and the more subtle work on Tumbalalaika, along with Leverett’s smooth, lyrical Clarinet make for an interesting twist on the well-known tune.

Darol Anger, of Turtle Island String Quartet fame, also appears, adding his 5-String Fiddle on two tracks. The instrument adds a wonderful quality to the group, and Anger fits in perfectly.

Vocalist Hazel Dickens is featured on the spiritual folk song Little Moses, and breathes new life into the traditional style of the song. It is a song that comes from the heartland, and speaks of the life of Moses in a way that is unique to the culture of the southeast U.S. mountain region.

Tony Trischka guests on Banjo, and Mike Marshall joins in on 10-String Mandolin. These musicians are already legendary and lend a new texture on the Klezmer-influenced songs. And the solos are a joy, too.

Speaking of solos, all of the band members are given ample space throughout the album. I’m sure it’s a conscious decision by Leverett to step out of the limelight and let the band do their thing. I enjoyed listening to all of them, and it’s really interesting to see what each does with the same melody. Even Bassist Marty Confurious gets a turn on Mississippi Waltz. He is the one that anchors the band, and does a consistently great job throughout the album.

Of the Klezmer tunes on the album, Sidney’s Tsveyte Bulgar is done in the traditional New York style of Sidney Beckerman. It is thoroughly enjoyable, and adds guest Hankus Netsky on Piano. Leverett’s Klezmer stylings here are impeccable.

Come Along Jody is my favorite on the album and shows best what the Klezmer Mountain Boys are all about. Along this same vein is the medley of Lee Highway Blues and High Lonesome Honga. These blend Klezmer and Bluegrass very well and would be worth the price of the album by themselves.

Another favorite is Geena’s Dream, which shows Leverett’s beautiful tonal quality and lyricism. It is a slow piece, and has great acoustic accompaniment, particularly from Anger on the 5-String Fiddle.

The engineering on this recording is remarkable. The Clarinet sounds perfect, considering it is one of the more difficult instruments to record properly. The strings sound equally stunning. Of course the playback suffers a bit through computer speakers and earbuds, but gives a very nice soundstage when listening on larger speakers. Kudos to engineers Lou Holtzman and Jason Richter.

The CD insert is rather minimal, a four-panel booklet with track listings and credits. There is not much more information on any of the websites, but the Traditional Crossroads site does have the lyrics for Little Moses.

Overall, this is a fabulous album, and I can easily recommend it. The band does a very credible job of being true to both of the musical traditions on the album, and then blends them in a very creative and ear-pleasing way. I’m ready to pay a visit to Klezmer Mountain.

Keith Wolzinger
Klezmer Podcast

2nd Avenue Square Dance
Margot Leverett and The Klezmer Mountain Boys
Traditional Crossroads (CD 4339)

Track List:
1. Farmer's Market
2. Stoney Lonesome
3. Electric Kugel
4. nd Avenue Square Dance
5. Ternura
6. Little Moses
7. Sidney's Tsveyte Bulgar
8. Calgary Reel
9. Geena's Dream
10. Come Along Jody
11. Tumbalalaika
12. Boreasca
13. Mississippi Waltz
14. Lee Highway Blues
15. High Lonesome Honga
16. Abe's Retreat
17. Zaydn's Tants Porges Waltz

Klezmer Mountain Boys
Traditional Crossroads

11 December 2008

Klezmer Podcast 44- Mitch Smolkin

I have posted Klezmer Podcast 44 with Mitch Smolkin, Toronto-based Yiddish Vocalist. Click on the post title to view.

29 November 2008

Review: STriCat- rats & gentle people

rats & gentle people

A fresh approach to music is always a good thing, and STriCat is a shining example of what can happen when the constraints of musical expression are removed. At first blush, the band’s composition of Trumpet, Accordion, and Cymbalom would seem somewhat unlikely, but any reservations are overcome once you hear them. The result is some of the most unique music that I have heard.

The music is truly original, with each of the band members contributing original compositions. In fact, the band is listed as the Producer on the album credits. So, these guys show a level of commitment not often seen today. Composing, arranging, performing, producing. They do it all.

But what does the music sound like, you ask? They put out a lot of music for being a trio. I would describe the sound this way: relating to a jazz combo, think of the Trumpet as, well, the Trumpet; think of the Accordion as the Tenor Sax; think of the Cymbalom as the rhythm section. It’s an uncanny combination. Levelt (Trumpet) and van Tol (Accordion) to me sound like Miles Davis and John Coltrane. The parts fit exactly the way they should, and the harmonies are there, too. Vink (Cymbalom) really drives the group, and sets the style whether it be swing, Bebop, a fast Balkan Sirba, or a slow Hora.

The opening track, Driving Madness is an American-style contemporary big band tune. It has a great melody, excellent Trumpet break/solo, and even an a capella shout chorus. It serves to whet the appetite for all that follows on the album.

Lay Dee “p” is a slower solo by Trumpeter Levelt with Accordion accompaniment. It is the shortest track, but shows the introspective side of the group.

Asphalt, my favorite track, could be the title track for the album. With a strong Bebop influence, the combination of muted Trumpet with Accordion works well and shows that you can really swing on any instrument! I like the a capella coda, too.

Toni is the most Balkan styled tune. While still jazzy, it follows closely with much of the Balkan Brass music I have heard. And check out the great Accordion solo by van Tol.

Have A Seat and Hear My Degu A Comin’ are stylistically similar, with both using the short Balkan trill as part of the melody. Very interesting tunes, one fast and the other slow. I keep singing Hear My Degu to myself when no one is around. You will, too.

Dracula is an interesting contrast in styles. While the Accordion and Trumpet solos are the highlight here, this track has a most interesting melody. Take a Blakan theme and cross it with Lee Morgan’s A Sidewinder, and you have the essence of STriCat.

The two Sirbas on the album, Sir Bah and Sirba Voor Susanna are STriCat’s vision of the traditional folk song, the latter played on muted Trumpet.

The sound quality is excellent. I had good results on everything I listened on- car, computer, and home theater. The Trumpet is clearly the lead instrument, but you never lose the Cymbalom or Accordion in the mix. Great engineering by Micha de Kanter.

The CD package has no liner notes, only the track listing, personnel, and credits on the back cover. There are some great photos of the band members on the foldout. The web site has more info, including sound and video clips.

I can easily recommend Rats & Gentle People. This is truly World Music, and STriCat has hit on a fresh concept that should gain a wide following.

Keith Wolzinger
Klezmer Podcast

rats & gentle people
Karnatic LAB records (KLR 012)

Bokkie Vink - cimbalom,
Theo van Tol - akkordeon,
Gijs Levelt – trompet

Track Listing:
Driving Madness 6:09
Have A Seat 4:18
Lay Dee 'p' 2:49
Mohawk Territory 5:07
Sir Bah 5:50
Loose Ends 5:45
Asphalt 6:11
Toni 5:33
V 5:23
Hear My Degu A Comin' 7:02
Dracula 5:27
Sîrba Voor Susanna 3:26


Karnatic LAB

15 November 2008

Review: DeLeon

Review: DeLeon

DeLeon is the self-titled debut album of the Sephardic Indie-rock band led by Dan Saks. The group’s progressive sound is instantly ingrained on the listener from the first note of the album. The concept of the album is fresh and distinctive, while still managing to retain the essence of the Sephardic experience. By using complex Spanish and middle-Eastern percussion and electronic rhythms along with Ladino, Hebrew, and English lyrics, DeLeon brings the Sephardic culture to the forefront of the urban Jewish music scene. By changing languages within the songs, DeLeon not only appeals to a broader audience, but also adds authenticity and respect for the culture behind the music.

I was immediately drawn to this musical genre so well defined by DeLeon. While the vocals are great, I like the way the Electric Guitar lines mix with the Keyboard electronic effects, the strong Percussion rhythms, and Spanish-infused Trumpet.
The opening song, Yodukha Rayonai, is the probably the best known on the album. It is Percussion-driven and sets the tone for the album right from the opening notes in the Electric Guitar. This is contrasted nicely with the Piano lines between the vocals.

If there were a title track for the album, I would have to say it would be La Serena. For me, this song gets to the heart of DeLeon. It has all the elements that make the group great. It again starts with strong Percussion, Ladino and English lyrics, and Guitar. Then Trumpet is added to reinforce the rhythm. Toward the end the song changes style completely. There is a harmonized vocal, and 80’s style keyboard effects with matching trumpet licks.

Later on the album, La Ner V’Livsamim very cleverly opens with a Nign of Yodukha Rayonai and adds the main theme to it. Then the lyric takes over along with Guitar and Keybord. I liked the cool echo effect on the Vocal, too.

My favorite track of all is Be Still, Angelino. It is in 6/8 time and has a Spanish modality, plus a strong hook in the chorus along with some great Trumpet and Guitar lines. The band takes over near the end, with the Guitar and Drums building right to the last note.

Almond Trees is all in English and has more of a Pop song style. Saks carries this song off very well with the tag line “For you I would give my life.” I keep singing it to myself even after the song is over.

Shifting gears, Rahelika Baila adds some cool Keyboard sounds and a remixed vocal. It has the sound effect of an old scratchy 78 record. The Ladino lyric is matched in the Guitar and nice Bass line.

The band exchanges Banjo for the Guitar on the lively La Vida Do Por El Raki. The fast tempo and signature Spanish harmony combine to make this another favorite song. I like the stop time section in the middle, too.

Sa’ Dawi is the most unusual song. It is an instrumental piece that features the Guitar. The first section feels middle- Eastern, then after a short Nign in the middle switches to a contemporary feel for the rest of the song. DeLeon is very good at style changes within the songs. It keeps the listener involved in the music by implying “If your attention wanders you’ll miss something cool.”

Ok, I have to admit to another favorite track. Porke Yorach has all the elements of a great song. It is a ballad sung in both Ladino and English, and features the beautiful voice of Amy Crawford. She and Saks deliver rich, flowing vocals, with beautiful harmony. Just the right amount of electronics in the accompaniment along with a very tasteful Trumpet solo adds to the emotion of this love song. For me, this is the centerpiece of the album.

The audio quality of the album is excellent. The attention to detail is evident, and the instruments and vocals are well balanced. The vocal effects give DeLeon its special flair, with long tail reverb and echo used in a very artistic way.

I like DeLeon very much. The combination of languages in the lyrics and changing musical textures makes this a very enjoyable album. The musicianship is at a very high level and you can tell they are having fun performing the music. I highly recommend this album. DeLeon is on to something special and I look forward to seeing what direction they will go in the future.

Keith Wolzinger
Klezmer Podcast

JDUB Records

Track List:
1. Yodukha Rayonai
2. La Serena
3. Adio Querido
4. La Ner V Livsomim
5. Be Still, Angelino
6. A La Una Yo Naci
7. Almond Trees
8. Rahelika Baila
9. La Vida Do Por El Raki
10. Sa'Dawi
11. Porke Yorach
12. En El Cafe

Band Members:
Dan Saks - Vocals, Guitar, Banjo
Kevin Snider - Bass, Vocals
Justin Riddle - Drums
Amy Crawford - Keys, Vocals
Andrew Oom – Trumpet


14 November 2008

JDub Presents Jewltide: A Hanukkah Bash- Saturday, December 20, 2008 in Los Angeles, CA

Saturday, December 20, 2008
in Los Angeles, CA
Jewltide featuring DeLeon, The Sway Machinery & Festival of Rights
8:00 PM

JDub Presents Jewltide: A Hanukkah Bash
The Troubadour - 9081 Santa Monica Blvd
Valet Parking available


Featuring live performances by
Deleon – 15th Century Spanish indie rock
The Sway Machinery - Cantorial afropop and blues from members of Balkan Beat Box, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Antibalas
The night kicks off with PJA’s Festival of Rights multi-media menorah lighting

Plus, dredyls, gelt, latkas (until they run out), and a free JDub compilation CD with every ticket!

Made possible through the support of the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles

Sponsored by Progressive Jewish Alliance
Blogged with the Flock Browser

30 October 2008

Review: Moments Like These- Fern Lindzon

Review: Moments Like These
Fern Lindzon

I first became aware of Fern Lindzon about a year ago. When I learned that she was releasing this, her first CD, I was immediately intrigued. Not really sure what to expect from her, when the CD arrived I started listening to it right away. And listened again. And again. Moments Like These is a collection of intimate duets with Lindzon on Piano/Vocals, Reg Schwager- Guitar, Don Thompson- Vibes, and George Koller- Bass. Normally, I would say that this would make for a great sounding quartet, but the idea of doing these songs as duets is both bold and inspired.

Lindzon pays tribute to some great jazz artists such as Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Thelonious Monk, and Oliver Nelson, as well as legendary singers Ella Fitzgerald and Shirley Horn. The songs are selected from a broad range of Standards, Showtunes, plus a few surprises.

Lindzon is a truly outstanding performer. She has the ability to hold the listener’s attention throughout the album. The music never gets in the way of her floating voice, but provides a perfect background for her inventive style. In addition, the outstanding musicianship of everyone is on display during the instrumental breaks and on the three non-vocal pieces. Here we find quality jazz, a nice touch, considering that instrumental tracks are a rarity on vocal albums in general.

Another aspect of Lindzon that is not immediately apparent is her innovative approach as a composer and lyricist. As she says in the liner notes, she likes writing lyrics to standard jazz tunes. She displays this talent with great aplomb on the title track, Moments Like These/You Belong To Her, where she sings an original vocalese as an intro to her own lyrics set to the tune of one of my all-time favorite songs, Stolen Moments, by Oliver Nelson. She also sets original lyrics to Wayne Shorter’s Infant Eyes on her version called To See Through Infant Eyes.

Her composing and arranging abilities are on display with the Chick Corea-inspired Children’s Lullaby, which serves as a wonderful prelude to her beautiful rendition of Never Never Land, arranged in 5/4 time that reminds me of Dave Brubeck. Another Lindzon composition is the inventive TR7, a 12-tone blues that is actually a very nice piece. Just don’t try to sing along, you might hurt yourself (Just kidding, Fern).

My favorite song on the album is Re’i. This is quite a departure from the rest of the album. Lindzon sings the song in Hebrew, which adds a touch of mysticism to the smooth lines of the melody. Just as we settle into the slow groove, we are treated to a perfectly matched Vibes solo from Don Thompson. Another song with a twist is You Really Shouldn’t, But... As a tribute to Thelonious Monk it is a great Piano piece. But again, Lindzon puts her own stamp on it by using a slight Bulgar rhythm as the background. The Bulgar is a traditional Jewish dance, and gives new direction to what is otherwise a mainstream jazz piece.

The 6-page foldout booklet is nicely done, with photos; liner notes by Mark Miller, a noted jazz critic; thank yous and credits; and song descriptions. The track personnel and times appear on the back tray card.

I must say that I was very impressed with the audio quality. The vocals are clear, with just the right amount of reverb; the Piano, Guitar, and Bass are clear and distinct; and the Vibes have great presence. Vibes can be troublesome to record properly, but I give a lot of credit to the audio team of Chad Irschick and Michael Haas for the outstanding results the have achieved.

Moments Like These is a welcome introduction to the artistry of Fern Lindzon. And especially for those not familiar with her work, have a listen, immerse yourself in the music, and seize the moments that this album offers. Moments like these don’t occur very often.

Keith Wolzinger
Klezmer Podcast

Track List:
1 I Thought About You
2 On the Street Where You Live
3 Like Someone in Love
4 Re'i
5 Let Yourself Go
6 Tr7
7 To See Through Infant Eyes (Infant Eyes)
8 Children's Lullabye/never Never Land
9 Estate
10 You Really Shouldn't, But...
11 Moments Like These/you Belong to Her (Stolen Moments)
12 Where Do You Start?

Fern Lindzon
FL MySpace
FL CD Baby

25 October 2008

Review: A Song Is Born- Mitch Smolkin

Review: A Song Is Born
Mitch Smolkin

Right from the opening notes from the Didgeridoo, you can tell that Mitch Smolkin’s A Song Is Born is going to be an interesting listening experience. Smolkin leads us on a wondrous journey through Yiddish song, infused with world music in such a way that the album transcends the way we relate to this music. South American flutes and Harmonica add depth to the music, proving that the music of the shtetl can be brought to the world at large, taking elements from other cultures and enhancing the music in the process, rather than diluting it. In fact, adding these elements brings us closer to the Yiddish culture of those who emigrated outside North America.

Smolkin is a gifted musician whose voice soars above the band with grace and smoothness rarely seen among today’s performers, of any genre. And his dynamic range from a whisper to full voice is captured with all the emotion intact, and the interplay between singing and spoken word is used to great effect.

Kudos also to vocalist Aviva Chernik who presents, with her beautiful voice, the perfect counterpoint to Smolkin’s singing, as well as speaking the English narration.

The music runs an emotional gamut from hope to sadness, love, loss, joy, and humility. Fueled by Smolkin’s research into his family’s past, he pays tribute not only to their memory, but to all those who share an ancestry in the Yiddish cultural experience. In fact, one aspect that I find most intriguing is that each track on the album has a dedication written by friends and family members who helped fund the project.

A Song Is Born begins and ends with A Nign, a wordless song, which evolves into the familiar Chiri Bim.

Libe is the most beautiful yet delicate track on the album. Smolkin shows his passionate side here with great support from the band, including a lovely Violin background and a sensitive Trumpet solo from Paul Brody.

Unter Dayne Vayse Shtern starts with an Argentine Flute Interlude, overdubbed so as to sound like multiple flutes. It has a wonderful sound, and features the very talented Marcelo Moguilevsky, who also provides a nice Clarinet solo later on. I also liked the Clarinet/muted Trumpet duet.

On the waltz Vu Nemt Men A Bisele Mazl, I liked the sound of the Accordion, Bass, and Penny Whistle, as well as Chernik’s beautiful vocal harmony. The song’s last chorus is an a capella four-part vocal that left me wanting to hear more.

Ergets Vayt makes good use of English narration and Yiddish lyrics. I found this to be an enjoyable piece, featuring a Piano solo from Cesar Lerner and more Trumpet/Clarinet that works so well here.

My favorite track is Di Zun Vet Aruntergeyn, what I would call a Bluesy Slow Hora, with a spot-on Blues Guitar solo from Levon Ichkhanian, growling muted Trumpet, some great sounds from the Fender Rhodes, and again, the Didgeridoo. This song sets the context for the album, where all the world music elements combine to bring Yiddish song to a new level.

Vilne, the longest track, is the centerpiece of the album. It is a song of longing for the old homeland, full of emotion, and has the richest, most orchestral arrangement among these songs. Singing of Vilne, the lyric says “Ah, how often your name calls forth a tear from my eye.” Could we say the same of our hometowns of today?

I enjoyed the middle-eastern feel of S’iz Shoyn Farfallen, with the emphasis on Percussion and featuring a smooth middle-eastern Electric Guitar solo and the Argentine Flute.

Shabbes is a four-part chorale, a lush piece that stands on its own apart from the other songs on the album. The arrangement by Sid Rabinovitch is outstanding and gives Smolkin the platform from which to soar over the other voices in a very ethereal setting.

After the last song on the album Smolkin has added a hidden track, a recording of a live performance by the group that became the basis for this album. It provides some insight into the group’s development and approach to the music.

The sound of the album is superb, with a deep, rich sound field and some of the most pristine vocal reproduction I have heard on CD. Smolkin and Chernik sound magnificent, with such clarity that it seems they are in the room with you. The rest of the band sounds equally fantastic, but I have to single out the beauty of the Argentine Flute, which as with any Penny Whistle or other high-pitched instrument, can be piercingly strident in the upper register. Here, the sound is clear without any edginess. A truly remarkable job by the engineering team of Jeremy Darby, Jim Zolis, and Peter Bond.

The 12-page CD booklet is an equally beautiful work of graphic art, with a common theme of colored smoke in the background of each page. The booklet includes full Yiddish and English lyrics, some nice photos, introduction, and thank you page.

It is difficult to keep in mind that this is Smolkin’s debut CD, as the performances are clearly those of a veteran performer, with all members of the group displaying a high level of musicianship. They all create a real connection to the music, and as a listener, I am drawn into the musical landscape they have worked so hard to create. I believe this is the right direction that Yiddish song needs to be headed, and I can give this album my highest recommendation. A Song Is Born, and so is Smolkin’s rising star.

Keith Wolzinger
Klezmer Podcast

A Song Is Born
Mitch Smolkin
MLS Productions (MLS 111)

Track Listing:

1 A Nign - A Melody
2 Libe - Love
3 Unter Dayne Vayse Shtern - Under Your White Starry Heaven (Interlude)
4 Unter Dayne Vayse Shtern - Under Your White Starry Heaven
5 Vu Nemt Men A Bisele Mazl - Where Can One Find A Little Luck
6 Ergets Vayt - Somewhere Far Away
7 Di Zun Vet Aruntergeyn - The Sun Will Set
8 Rozhinkes Mit Mandlen - Raisins and Almonds
9 Vilne - Vilna
10 S'iz Shoyn Farfaln - It's All Over
11 Papir Iz Dokh Vays - Paper Is White
12 Shabbes- Sabbath
13 A Nign - A Melody (Reprise)

Mitch Smolkin
CD Baby

21 October 2008

Review: Taibele And Her Demon

Review: Taibele And Her Demon
Lorie Wolf

Mixing music with narrative storytelling is an unusual project to undertake these days, but Lorie Wolf’s Taibele and Her Demon breaks new ground, with new possibilities for us to ponder. The album takes its title from the Isaac Bashevis Singer short story about Taibele, a Jewish woman living in a shtetl in Poland, whose husband abandoned her after their three infant children had died of childhood disease. She is visited late one night by a widower from the shtetl who claims to be a Demon, saying he will destroy her if she does not do as he says.

The narrative on the album differs from the original story only in that it is told in the first person and is shortened. The accompanying music, all original compositions by Wolf, is interspersed with the story and sets the mood, much in the same way that a film score sets the mood and tone for each scene.

The music of Taibele And Her Demon is Contemporary Jazz, with some gorgeous harmonies and energetic improvisations. The one exception is Tango For Taibele, where Wolf explores the Jazz possibilities of the Tango, adding Accordion along with Violin as Taibele succumbs to the Demon. This is a perfect match of music and mood.

On Seven Wives, we hear some beautifully creepy music as the narrator tells us the evil characteristics of the Demon’s seven she-devil wives. The band gets a good workout here, with some great solos from the Bass, sleazy Trombone, Flute and Piano, and Violin/Clarinet duo.

On Demon Dance we are treated to Wolf’s solo turn on Drums, with subtle accompaniment from the Bass. The melody and rich harmonies are woven through the song, an uptempo tune that implies the Demonic joy of Hurmizah as he controls Taibele.

On the last track, So Be It, we hear the soft, sad, and melancholy side of Wolf’s writing style. Soulful Saxophone, Piano, and Bass ably convey the feelings of loss and sadness theat consume Taibele at the end of the story. The Piano solo is a fitting response to the mood of the piece.

My favorite track is Moonless Night, Where the narrator sets up the plot of the story leading up to the appearance of the Demon. Wolf writes what is for me the most memorable theme on the album, with her great harmonic fabric woven so ably by Flugelhorn and Sax. The simultaneous improvising by the two instruments behind the narrative lends much to the story line. Returning to the theme at the end, we are left with the beautiful harmony in our ears.

Alchonon is a more upbeat piece, with a nice groove, and some fine solos from the Violin, Bass, Trombone, and Soprano Sax. There are some places in this piece where you can sense a Jewish/Klezmer chord structure, along with some of the best Jazz on the album. This is some of the most creative music on the album.

The album sounds terrific, with a great mix throughout. On everything from my home theater to computer speakers all the instruments were clear and well-defined, down to the last detail of every bit of Wolf’s Drum kit. My personal preference on the narration would have been to use a bit more reverb, as the voice sounds a bit flat compared to the richness of the instruments. And there are some points where the voice is overwhelmed by the band. But these are fine points and in no way diminish the enjoyment of the experience.

The album is listed under the “Alternative” genre in the iTunes Music Store, and I suppose that is the most appropriate. This is one album that cannot be pigeonholed because it is really in a category by itself. Wolf and her band have done a wonderful job of exploring the boundaries of what we think of as Jewish music. Wolfe has put considerable effort into this project and it shows in the very high quality of the writing and the performance of everyone involved. Listening to the album compelled me to pull out my dusty volume of Singer’s works and take another look at this story. Now, I can’t read it without hearing Wolf’s melodies running through my head. And that is the sign of great music and the impact it can have on us. I highly recommend this album to anyone who has an interest in original Jewish music and the work of Singer. And those who secretly love Demons.

Keith Wolzinger
Klezmer Podcast

Taibele And Her Demon
Lorie Wolf

Track List:

1 Agunah
2 Moonless Night
3 Monologue I
4 Alchonon
5 Monologue II
6 Tango for Taibele
7 Monologue III
8 Seven Wives
9 Demon Dance
10 Monologue IV
11 So Be It

Lorie Wolf
LW MySpace
CD Baby

03 October 2008

Review: Poykler's Shloft Lied

Review: Poykler's Shloft Lied
Matt Temkin's Yiddishe Jam Band

I am a big fan of Matt Temkin, knowing him and playing with him for the past nine years. While Matt has been mostly playing in groups as a sideman, he has at long last assembled his own group, Matt Temkin’s Yiddishe Jam Band. The combination of straight Klezmer as it was played in New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago, plus a swinging jazz style make for a well-rounded set that pays homage to the Klezmer old school greats as well as a nod to some jazz legends.

Temkin says that the album pays tribute to Klezmer greats Elaine Hoffman-Watts, German Goldenshteyn, The Epstein Brothers, Paul Pincus, Howie Leess, Ray Musiker, and Peter Sokolow. This style of Klezmer is my favorite, with music that is meant for dancing.

Throughout the album Temkin lays down the perfect groove, with drum styles like the Bulgar, Freylekhs, Swing, and some cool Jazz. He has a clear vision of what the band is about, and I believe he is headed in the right direction.

The album covers a lot of musical territory. Temkin captures the sound of his home town on Chicago Medley, with three great tunes played the way his grandfather would have played them.

Philly Bulgar is a great tune that I know as Nicolaev Bulgar, and is played in the distinctive Philly style. Listen to the great Trombone work from Rachel Lemisch.

Epstein and Borsht are in the New York style. The Epsteins, along with Peter Sokolow, are famous for bringing many of these Jewish dance tunes to the Hasidic wedding halls of Brooklyn. Borsht is a medium swing tune and has good solos from the Mike Cohen on Clarinet and guest Frank London on Trumpet.

German’s Bulgar #9 and 7:40 are European in origin. German Goldenshteyn came to the U.S. from Moldova and brought his extensive repertoire with him. This is one of the best examples of the Moldovan style. 7:40 is a fast Freylekhs that just keeps going. This is one that I never get tired of hearing.

Rumshinsky’s Theater Bulgar and Count Rushimsky’s Bulgar are two versions of the same tune. Theater Bulgar is a medium tempo piece that is always a popular feature. Here we get some nice solos from Binyumen Ginzberg on Piano, Allen Watsky on Guitar, and Temkin on Drums. The Count gives us a Quincy Jones/Count Basie look at the same tune. I would also give it kudos as the best arrangement on the album. Good solos as well. I love the classic Count Basie ending, too. You don’t hear it often in Klezmer Swing, but it adds a nice touch here.

The title track, Poykler’s Shloft Lied (Drummer’s Lullaby) is an original jazz tune with a very distinctive groove led by Temkin on Drums and Brian Glassman on Bass. The Bass line is my favorite on the album. It’s just perfect for this track, which is a vehicle for some open solos from the band.

The sound quality is excellent. Temkin teamed up with Drummer Aaron alexander to produce the album, and the results speak for themseves. Al Perrotta Engineered, Mixed, and Mastered the tracks to perfection. I like the mix very much, having listened to it from headphones, computer speakers, in the car, and with my home theater (which revealed a great depth of the soundfield; deep, rich bass, and every instrument clear and distinct, paticularly all the bits of Temkin’s Drum kit.

Liner notes are very limited, with one side of the CD cover foldout for song descriptions, track and personnel listings on the back, and thank yous behind the CD tray. I would have liked a photo of the band, but some good ones are posted on the band’s web pages.

As Yiddishe Jam Bands go, I think Matt Temkin has the right idea. Blend some great Klezmer, Swing, and a little Jazz and there you have it. A great album, and a great introduction to the music of some Klezmer legends for those just getting interested in the genre. There certainly are no sleepy Drummers in this band!

Keith Wolzinger
Klezmer Podcast

Poykler’s Shloft Lied
Matt Temkin’s Yiddishe Jam Band
Matt Temkin

Track list:
1 Count Rumshinsky's Bulgar 4:32
2 Philly Bulgar 3:35
3 Borsht 4:31
4 Chicago Medley 6:31
5 Epstein 3:09
6 German's Bulgar #9 4:02
7 7:40 2:41
8 Poykler's Shloft Lied (Drummer’s Lullaby) 9:18
9 Rumshinsky's Theatre Bulgar 3:30

CD Baby
Klezmer Podcast 37

22 September 2008

Review: JuMu Presents Nu Jewish Music Vol. 1

Review: JUMU Presents Nu Jewish Music Vol. 1

JUMU has to be the most interesting music entity that I have encountered. The mission of JUMU is to introduce New Jewish Music artists to the French music scene, for both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. This first compilation album consists of tracks from the artists they have been associated with since 2004. The album is a cross-section of the bands that are leading the new direction in Jewish Music. This international collection shows us that this music has a wide acceptance by young people around the world and JUMU is there to light the way.

This is a great introduction to New Jewish Music for those that might be new to the genre or are not sure where to start listening. So many musical styles are here in one place, from hip-hop and rap, to electro and pop, as well as some alternative and experimental sounds. I find this collection of music to be exactly where contemporary Jewish Music is focused and lays the foundation for what will be attracting an increasingly wider audience in the years ahead. I feel very fortunate to be in a small way connected to the pulse of this new musical direction.

So, what is on the album? North American readers might be familiar with Socalled, David Krakauer, Frank London, Hip Hop Hoodios, and Balkan Beat Box. My favorite song is Socalled’s You Are Never Alone, the first track on the album. To me, this song defines the New Jewish Music genre, mixing together layers of instruments, vocals, and electronic sounds.

But the real excitement for me is discovering the other bands that have not had much exposure yet. My favorite among these is Anakronic Electro Orkestra, from France. They have a great blend of old and new, combining a traditional Klezmer feel with electronic elements. And, as a big fan of Shantel, I am drawn to his remix of a track by Amsterdam Klezmer Band, again taking traditional Klezmer, but mixing in his special blend of Euro-Balkan electronica and vocals.

Other bands featured are Oi Va Voi, Boogie Balagan, Emunah, J.U.F., Boom Pam, Sophie Solomon, and new Pop singer Yael Naim, who is known to North American listeners from her song, New Soul, featured in an Apple Macbook Air TV commercial.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this album. It is, for me, the best compilation of New Jewish Music around, and I can highly recommend this album to anyone with an interest in exploring the new bands and musical directions that JUMU has become known for. Thanks to JUMU and these fine artists for putting New Jewish Music on the world map.

Keith Wolzinger
Klezmer Podcast

JUMU Presents Nu Jewish Music Vol. 1
JUMU/ V2 Music

Track List:
1. You Are Never Alone
2. Adir Adirim
3. A Csitari Hegyek Alatt
4. Biomecanicamel
5. Why Is It Funny
6. Bum Ching
7. Gypsy Part Of Town
8. Bulgarian Chicks
9. Havana Nagila
10. Bubbemeises
11. Who Knows One
12. A Time Of Desire
13. Freylehks Fun Der Khupe: Pelt Me With Rice
14. Wedding Son
15. Sadagora Hot Dub
16. Pin Pricks And Gravy Stains
17. Paris

JuMu MySpace
JuMu (France)

Klezmer Podcast On The Mainly Musical Meanderings Blog

Please read the nice post from Dan at Mainly Musical Meanderings

Blogged with the Flock Browser

16 September 2008

Review- Yizkor: Music Of Memory

Yizkor: Music Of Memory
David Chevan w/Hazzan Alberto Mizrahi And The Afro-Semitic Experience

As Yom Kippur approaches, and with it the associated prayer service of Yizkor, David Chevan’s Yizkor: Music Of Memory could not have been released at a better time. Chevan, along with the gifted Hazzan Alberto Mizrahi and The Afro-Smitic Experience, has completely re-imagined the Yizkor liturgy and given us the gift of a musical journey unlike any other we are likely to encounter.

Chevan quotes Abraham Joshua Heschel in the liner notes. “There are three ways to mourn. The first is to cry. The second is to grow silent. The third is to transform sorrow into song.” Certainly, words designed to comfort the mourner, but to a musician, it becomes an imperative. What better way for a musician to express sorrow and mourning? And the Yizkor service lends itself to this musical transformation very well. Chevan goes on to liken Yizkor to the Requiem Mass, with a set of texts that have been recited, unaltered, for centuries. Spurred by death and near-death among his family and friends, he channeled his mourning by composing these jazz settings of the sacred texts.

How do you combine jazz with the Hazzanut of the traditional service, you ask? Well, as a jazz fan as well as a Klezmer/Jewish Music fan, I can say that the combination works very well. Granted, the jazz is toned down a bit to provide the support for the vocal artistry and gymnastics of Mizrahi. But there are two bonus instrumental tracks where the band gets its moment to shine.

I have been awaiting this release for the better part of a year. I learned of it in November, 2007 from Chevan’s Fall Newsletter. He mentioned listening to the rough mixes and how excited he got every time he heard them. He kept posting updates on the project throughout the year. Then in July 2008, I was fortunate to meet Hazzan Mizrahi and hear his magnificent voice. He mentioned the Yizkor album project he worked on. And so here we are.

Mizrahi brings a fresh perspective to this concert setting of Yizkor. Keep in mind that the Hazzanut he sings are based in the traditional style; the jazz resides with the orchestrations of the band. Mizrahi, though, does get a chance for some improvisation on Psalm 23, a beautiful piece with a groovy rhythmic background and open solos from the Piano and Guitar.

El Meleh Rakhamim is the touchstone of the album. This work features Mizrahi in his most impassioned performance.

Yizkor For Martyrs is the showcase for the powerful vocal range Mizrahi possesses. He is capable of dynamics that few can approach. The last Amen is nearly a whisper. I highly recommend watching the beautiful video of this song on YouTube, a documentary film about the making of the album. See the link at the end of this post.

Psalm 121 Esa Enai is a quick three tempo, and shows the lighthearted side of Mizrahi. Very enjoyable, but it is the shortest track on the album. David, how about another chorus? The band obviously likes this song, too. It is one of the songs that is included as an instrumental on a bonus track.

My favorite song, though, is the opener Adonai, Mah Adam. From the opening line in the Bass, followed by the Piano, Clarinet, and Flute, this is a song you can really get in your head. Plus, this is the other bonus track instrumental version.

The engineering on this recording is very good, overall. Mizrahi’s vocals come across as both powerful and delicate in the right places, with just the right EQ and reverb applied. The band mix sounds good, but to me the ancillary percussion is a bit too present and there seems to be a bit too much room ambiance on the clarinet and sax.

The eight page CD insert is very well done. The design evokes the feeling of Yizkor, and the cemetery photographs enhance the album’s theme of memory. There are Hebrew transliterations and English translations of each song, plus an introduction and thank yous from Chevan. He promises to post additional material on his website soon.

This is not background music for your next party. But if you invest the time for some serious listening, you will be deeply rewarded. I have not had such a rich listening experience in a very long time. Yizkor is worth the effort and this music deserves your attention. As the prayer says: A good doctrine has been given to you; do not forsake it.

Track Listings
1. Adonai, Mah Adam (My God, What is Man?) (4:43)
2. Psalm 16 Shiviti Adonai L'Negdi Tamid (I Keep God Before Me At All Times) (7:05)
3. Psalm 121 Esa Enai (I Raise My Eyes) (2:54)
4. Yizkor for Martyrs (5:26)
5. Psalm 23 (9:42)
6. El Maleh Rakhamim (God, Full of Compassion) (10:56)
7. Adonai, Mah Adam (Instrumental version) (4:45)
8. Esa Enai (Instrumental version) (3:32)

Keith Wolzinger
Klezmer Podcast

Yizkor: Music Of Memory
David Chevan w/Hazzan Alberto Mizrahi And The Afro-Semitic Experience
Reckless DC Music

Yizkor Project
David Chevan
Yizkor For Martyrs YouTube

08 September 2008

Review: Klezmafour

Review: Klezmafour

New bands are always appearing on the Klezmer scene, but one of the most exciting bands I have found is Klezmafour, a fabulous, high-energy group based in Poland. I’ve been listening to their hot new album, the self-titled Klezmafour for some time now, and it has become one of my top favorites for this year.

The band has been performing since 1999, mostly in Poland and neighboring Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Slovakia, and Czech Republic. With the release of this CD, Klezmafour has put their name on the world Klezmer map. I’m sure they will be touring widely very soon.

The music is a combination of traditional Klezmer tunes mixed with original material. The music is quite lively and, in the right places, very emotional. They blend styles and make just the right transitions, putting the music front and center, making this a magnificent listening experience. While the music is aimed at the younger crowd, there is plenty here for the more seasoned listener to appreciate. The lead duo of Andrzej Czaplinski and Wojciech Czaplinski (Violin and Clarinet, respectively) are brothers from a musical family. Together, they lead the band through a broad range of Klezmer styles, with some Balkan and Middle-Eastern influences. The music is fresh, and I find it irresistible.

Opening the album, The Storm, an arrangement by Wojciech, sets the tone for all that is to follow. A nice groove is set by the rhythm section, then the Clarinet enters with a Klezmer melody. Later they switch to a tune I know as Tantz, Tantz Yidelekh, but they play it at half tempo, with a fast rhythmic background. Very effective. There is even some thunder added for effect, hence the track’s title.

My favorite track has to be Psalm, arranged by Andrezej. It begins with a series of long electronic chords, that give a feeling of other-worldliness. Lots of ambiance behind the soulful violin solo. The Clarinet and Violin alternate with the melody in a very slow tempo, then suddenly we are up to speed, and the band kicks into high gear with the fast melody and some wizardry from the Bass.

Suite Part 1 and 2 are further examples of some very creative arranging by Andrzej and Drummer Tomasz Waldowski. Suite Part 1 is slow, ethereal, with a nice Clarinet melody, and subdued background. Part 2 opens with some wild Bass, leading to a great melody- first by Accordion, then with harmonized Clarinet/Violin. There is even room for Accordion and Clarinet solos. Then they sing and clap in a slower tempo, speeding up gradually to the original tempo, followed by a Drum break before ending. This has to be the most fun track for the band. You can’t help but sing along.

The Middle-Eastern influence is most apparent on Safar Al Omr. with a heavy beat from the Drums, particularly the Toms. It’s a very interesting track, with the Clarinet melody played over some very interesting rhythms from the Bass/Accordion/Violin combination. If you like Drums, this is the one for you!

Lublin Station and Bialystok Station (both by Wojciech) are a short suite wiith some contemporary elements. There is even a bit of Bulgar rhythm. Together they show the range and versatility of Klezmafour. This is the essence of their music, and I find it very engaging.

The sound quality is outstanding. Of course, the bass and drums sounded magnificent on my home theater, but the mix is balanced and each instrument is clear and distinct. The mix also held up well in the car as well as on computer speakers and earbuds.

These songs all fit together very well. There wasn’t anything on the album that I didn’t like. Klezmafour has hit on a new sound that, I believe, makes a bold statement on the the future direction of Klezmer. For more on Klezmafour, listen to my interview with Wojciech on Klezmer Podcast 36.


Klezmafour MySpace

Klezmer Podcast 38- JUMU

I have posted Klezmer Podcast 38, featuring an interview with Claude Szwimer of JUMU in
Paris, France.

02 August 2008

Review: David Buchbinder's Odessa/Havana

Review: David Buchbinder’s Odessa/Havana

David Buchbinder has been around the muisc scene for a long time as a performer and composer. His newest project, Odessa/Havana, has the tag line “The explosive Jewish/Cuban musical mash-up.” While true, this barely scratches the surface of what this music really is all about. Odessa/Havana breaks new ground, firmly landing in a new musical genre that results in a fresh approach to what we call World Music, though it really is described better by Buchbinder as World Jazz. “This is not traditional music from either side, but original music filtered through Cuban and Jewish sensibilities.Cuban and Jewish elements are used as raw material to create something new,” he says.

Odessa/Havana is a musical adventure unlike any in recent memory. At first listen, the album seems to be Jazz-centric, but when you listen further you cannot help being drawn into a world of multi-cultural influenced music that goes way beyond the boundaries of Jazz. Buchbinder describes it as”a new direction of jazz in the macro sense.”

The opening track, Lailadance, is indicative of this new direction. Familiar Jewish instrumentation of Trumpet, Clarinet, and Violin, is joined by Afro-Cuban Piano, Bass, Drums, and Percussion. Some of the finest musicianship anywhere is on display here and I was immediately drawn in by the rhythms and the melodies. The music is both refreshing and exciting.

Duran’s Impresiones continues this exploration of styles with an introduction from Buchbinder and Duran that I see as a Cuban Doina with Trumpet and Piano, then Bass and Percussion bring us to the main theme where Trumpet and Sax play in octave unison with th Violin puctuating the lines in a Progressive Jazz context. Great solos from Sax, Piano, and Violin round out the action.

My personal favorite and, I feel, most engaging piece is Cadiz, written by Buchbinder. The track starts with slow out of time Piano/Bass with the opening theme, then Trumpet and Violin take turns with Judeo-Spanish styled solos. Then the tempo picks up and starts a progressive Afro-Latin groove, and leaves room for more solos, then finally returns to the slow opening theme to end this, the longest piece on the album. Buchbinder cites a number of cultural influences in writing this piece: Jewish, Arabic, African, Free Jazz, Roma. Cadiz is, according to Buchbinder, not technically Cuban or Jewish, but takes both these sounds and creates a new world from within.

My second favorite is Prayer. If there is such a thing as Jewish-Cuban Blues, Buchbinder has found it here. It is the most melodiacally beautiful piece on the album. The opening Bass solo gives way to a very sesitive Trumpet, followed by a lovely Violin/Oud duet and then Soprano Sax/Trumpet. Buchbinder then gives a great jazz ballad solo before bringing the Violin/Sax/Oud back to the theme. The song ends with an unresolved chord, which corresponds perfectly to an unanswered prayer.

Colaboracion is descriptive of this joint Buchbinder/Duran composition. Piano/Percussion set the tone for a Jewish-styled Violin solo followed by a free-jazz Trumpet solo and a mainstream Sax solo. I like the Piano groove that Duran lays down, and particularly the coda of the last minute of the song, a groovy outro that comes from nowhere. Very inventive stuff that I can’t get enough of.

The closer, a great encore piece, is Freylekhs Tumbao. Buchbinder gave Duran some Klezmer tunes to work with, and the result is a great take on these tunes from a Latin perspective. Nothing corny here, this medley takes on Klezmer head on and presents it in a sizzling flurry of Latin beats and percussion.

I have always loved Jazz, and Afro-Cuban Jazz in particular. To match it with Jewish-Klezmer is a dream come true, and I thank David Buchbinder and Hilario Duran for bringing these two world together and creating something that is truly unique and has the potential to further expand multiculturalism through Jazz. I can’t wait to see what they will come up with next. In the meantime, I will keep listening to Odessa/Havana and enjoying the spirit that infuses their music.

Keith Wolzinger
Klezmer Podcast

David Buchbinder’s Odessa/Havana
2007 Tzadik
TZ 8121

1. Lailadance 5:41
2. Impresiónes 6:41
3. Cadiz 9:34
4. Next One Rising 6:46
5. Rumba Judia 3:38
6. Prayer 4:21
7. Colaboración 8:34
8. Freylekhs Tumbao 4:38

O/H MySpace

07 July 2008

Review: "Borsht with Bread, Brothers" Klezmer

Review: “Borsht with Bread, Brothers” Klezmer
Yale Strom & Hot Pstromi

Yale Strom has been on the Klezmer scene for many years and has collected a large repertoire from the Eastern Europe countries that once were the center of Yiddish culture. Strom refers to himself as an Ethnographer, a term I was not familiar with. Strom studies the culture of the people that live in the various towns and regions and analyzes how the Jews interacted with the cultures of their host nations and, by extension, the influences these cultures had on each others’ music.

In the case of “Borsht with Bread, Brothers” Strom uses the band to transport the listener to those faraway lands where itinerant musicians traveled the countryside and village bands played for every occasion. Of particular interest to Strom is the interaction between the Jews and Rom (Gypsy) people. The music of these two cultures existed side by side for centuries, and musicians learned to play both styles.

The music here represents the material Strom found on his many visits to Eastern Europe. He walks a fine line between faithfulness to the original field recordings he made and his original compositions that push Klezmer music into new sonic realms. The result is a freshness that brings the art form to a new level, the sound of transforming the village band into a modern entity, able to hold the attention of traditionalists as well as lovers of new music.

Hot Pstromi, itself a play on Strom’s name, is easily able to convey the feel of the village band as it would have been heard from Romania to Bessarabia, Russia, Poland, and Germany. Even Strom’s new compositions are in the same style, so one has to listen closely to find where the new sections are.

The album contains four Yiddish vocal selections featuring contralto Elizabeth Schwartz. Schwartz brings emotional depth to the material, and adds a bit of spontaneity to Ver Es ken Keseyder Tseyln, a wedding song from Ukraine embellished with batkhones, traditional singing/talking. I also liked Szol A Kakos Mar, with lyrics in Hungarian and Hebrew. This song is not like anything I’ve heard before. It comes from Hungary, where the Rom musicians still remember the Hebrew lyrics. It gives the feeling of Jewish Mysticism.

Another favorite song was Kalarasher Bulgar. This tune from Moldova changes character, starting as a nice slow bulgar, then changing to a fast freylekhs. I have to particularly mention David Licht on Percussion and Sprocket on Bass who together drive the band with a great style- traditional but with a bit of zip.

I must also mention Ben Avrameni, an original by Strom based on music he heard while traveling in Romania. It has an interesting violin/whistling duet opening, then changes to a sort of extended Gypsy jam with lots of room for solos from the band members and some vocalizing from Strom.

The included booklet is 36 pages with excellent information on the album’s concept, history of the band, musician bios, track descriptions, and song lyrics in Yiddish and English. The booklet is in English, French, German, and Spanish, a nice touch that I have found from ARC Music releases. There are also some great photos of the old-time musicians Strom encountered during his travels.

The sound quality is outstanding. The work by Michael Broby, Tripp Sprague, and Diz Heller brings the band to life. The disc sounds terrific on my home theater as well as on headphones, with deep, crisp bass, light drums, clear vocals, and a nuanced sound on the flutes and pennywhistle. My only criticism would be that the Tenor Sax sounds a bit harsh in a couple of spots. Otherwise, it has a consistent sound overall, which is a great accomplishment since the tracks are from studios in New York and California.

It’s always interesting for me to hear bands like Hot Pstromi, whose music comes from years of research and dedication to preserving this musical language nearly lost in the Holocaust. I admire Strom for his dedication and ability to interpret the material in a way that is both entertaining and truthful.

Keith Wolzinger
Klezmer Podcast

“Borsht with Bread, Brothers” Klezmer
Yale Strom & Hot Pstromi
EUCD 2102
2007 ARC Music Productions Int. Ltd.

Yale Strom
Hot Pstromi MySpace
ARC Music

10 June 2008

Review: Klezmachine

Review: Klezmachine

One of the most interesting groups on the scene today is Klezfactor, the Neo-Klezmer band led by composer/Reed player/Producer Mike Anklewicz. Their new release, Klezmachine, continues the klez/jazz/funk sound that first grabbed my attention when I heard their first album, The Golem Of Bathurst Manor. The music is smooth, rich in harmonies and textures, and is unforgettable. All but one of these tracks was penned by Anklewicz, and he has certainly made his mark on the World Music community. The performances are outstanding, giving free reign to the band members to bring their own personalities and experiences to the table with ample time given for improvisation. I loved all the songs on the album, each one making its own statement and contributing to the project as a whole.

The title track, Klezmachine, shows us right from the beginning that Anklewicz’ contemporary vision is rooted in the Klezmer tradition. By starting the song as a thin, scratchy 78 RPM recording sound, we see the beginnings of recorded Klezmer music. Then, they gracefully transition to a clean contemporary-sounding entrance of the rhythm section, followed by the band joining in on the main theme. It’s a gimmick to be sure, but it is not overdone, and I think is a great way of paying homage to the early recordings that we all love while pushing the envelope of today’s music. Well done Klezfactor!

A favorite is Bulgarian Dance (Kopanitsa), a great tune that is lively and has a fabulous bass line that drives the whole way through. The band comes in with the Bulgarian melody, then opens up for solos from Clarinet and Violin. The Piano soon joins in on the bass line, and by the end everyone plays it in unison. The song has a nice additional touch. The band claps the bass line at the beginning and end of the song. It lends a different element to the song, and gets us into the Bulgarian rhythm that keeps looping through our mind long after the song ends.

There are a pair of Waltzes that add some nice colors to the album. Golden Medine is a fast waltz the has a nice flowing melody, with some great harmonies, and nice solos from Guitar and Clarinet. Waltz For Ronit is a slow waltz and is an extended solo vehicle for Anklewicz’ beautiful Alto Sax. I liked the lovely accompaniment from the rhythm section and some nice touches from the Violin and Cello.

Rumanian Rhythm is a jazzy Latin-influenced Rumanian tune that is a nice blend of sounds and textures, and features a Piano solo by Ali Berkok.

Klezfactor has always done well with the Jazz/Funk side of their personality, and again they do not disappoint. The band really cranks it up a notch with The Jewce (Manischewitz) and Gonif. I really like the heavier rhythm section combined with a light Piano and the great Clarinet/Sax/Violin work.

A nod to Sephardic/Yemenite tradition comes from Dundah Meditation and Dror Yikra, starting out with Dumbek and layers of long tone rich harmonies from the band as Anklewicz soars above with a beautiful sax solo that serves as a prelude to Limore Twena’s distinctive vocal, accompanied so well by Oud, Strings, and Sax.

Those of you who like mainstream jazz will certainly go for Greenhouse Effect with a nice 5/4 swing feel, Electric Bass, and some outstanding solo Piano again from Berkok. The ending is cool, as the band drops out leaving only the Sax and Violin. Wonderful!

New Age fans will want to check out Chalom and the triplet background that moves around the rhythm section in this interesting waltz. Then we are treated to a nice Bass solo from Michael Smith, as well as a Violin solo from Ben Plotnick.

The last track, Shepping Nakhes, brings us ful circle back to the more traditional Klezmer melodies (but keeping the Electric Bass and Electric Guitar). Anklewicz on Clarinet and Plotnick on Violin make a great duo and show that they have a firm grasp of Klezmer.

The album sounds terrific. The engineering and mixing by Jim Morgan are great. The instruments are nicely balanced and even the smallest cymbal hits can be heard clearly.

My preview copy had no liner notes to speak of, only a two-page CD insert that lists the tracks and credits. I am told that the full release will have more complete liner notes and artwork.

A very exciting extra from the Klezfactor website is the Making of Klezmachine Podcast. What a great idea! Anklewicz and Ali Berkok take us behind the scenes of the recording, mixing, and editing that was used to make the album. I especially enjoyed the way that they deconstructed Dror Yikra to show how a song is built up from the basic tracks with overdubs and alternate takes. This is fascinating listening. Nice job Mike!

Anklewicz pours his soul into this music and the album. He has surrounded himself with sidemen who share his vision and passion. It is a great gift to us, the listeners. I highly recommend Klezmachine. I’ll be keeping it in my music rotation for a long time.

Keith Wolzinger
Klezmer Podcast

2008 Mike Anklewicz

Track Listing:

1 Klezmachine
2 Goldene Medine
3 Bulgarian Dance (Kopanitsa)
4 Waltz for Ronit
5 The Jewce (Manischewitz)
6 Dunash Meditation
7 Dror Yikra
8 Chalom
9 Greenhouse Effect
10 Rumanian Rhythm
11 Gonif
12 Shepping Nakhes

CBC Radio
Making Of Klezmachine Podcast

28 May 2008

Review: Chaunkah Is Freylekh

Review: Chanukah is Freylekh! A Yiddish Chanukah Celebration. Songs My Bubbe Should Have Taught Me: Volume Two
The Lori Cahan-Simon Ensemble

The title says it all. Chanukah Is Freylekh is full of songs I’ve never heard.  These songs are set in a true Klezmer style, which brings a wealth of emotion and authenticity that you can’t get with the “traditional” Hebrew Chanukah repertoire.

Lori Cahan-Simon has researched the songs presented here and provides a wealth of information along with outstanding performances and arrangements. The ensemble performance is spot-on and contributes a richness to the album that is a perfect complement to Cahan-Simon’s vocals. The ensemble gets plenty of time between song verses to showcase their considerable talent with a perfect interpretation of this eastern-European Klezmer material.

While I like the melodies and lyrics of these songs, one stands out for me. Take a look at the English lyrics for Borekh Ate- Blessed Art Thou:

“Blessed art Thou,” sings father 
And he lights the candles. 
And their light falls softly 
On his pale countenance.
And a fire, holy and dear 
Shines in his eyes. 
And his weary limbs stand
Tall and strong.
And it seems and it appears: 
There is still something here. 
Something has remained to love, 
Holy is this hour.
Old sounds long gone... 
No, I hear them still. 
Sing for me, Father, “Blessed art Thou”
And I remain your child.

This is clearly not a children’s Chanukah song, but speaks of the sacred moment of  “Father” lighting the candles and singing the blessings.

One familiar song is Ver Ken Dertseyln, the Hebrew Mi Yimalel. This song gets the full Klezmer treatment, with a lovely Doina introduction, and the newly composed Katshke’s Khanike Freylekhs by Adrienne Greenbaum to complement the Yiddish lyrics. I enjoy this combination of old and new material very much. It gives this album a uniqueness that never becomes tiring.

Two songs that I find fascinating are Di Khanike Likht and O, Ir Kleyne Likhtelekh. Both have the same lyrics, but are set to different Russian melodies. The former is a a two-part slow/fast Russian cafe song, while the latter is a lovely Russian waltz. I like them both, and find the contrast to be a highlight of the album. It reminds me that many of our Jewish liturgical songs  have several melodies for the same lyrics. It appears that the same applies to Yiddish song as well.

One last song I must mention is the slow waltz Akht Likhtelekh, a delicate piece featuring a flute/guitar duet backing Cahan-Simon’s lovely vocal. The song is about the Chanukah candles, but sounds more like a love song. But don’t we all love our Chaukah candles?

The album sounds amazing. The mix is done right, with every instrument clear and distinct, without a lot of the annoying reverb on the vocal that seems commonplace today. A simple and pure sound that doesn’t get in the way of the music, thanks to Henry Shapiro (who also appears on the album).

The included 28-page booklet is a mini-compendium of Yiddish song. Cahan-Simon provides an introduction, extensive notes and translations of the songs, as well as detailed descriptions of the many dances that accompany the music. A lot of effort went into compiling this material, and it is a great supplement to the music.

Cahan-Simon states: “My mission is to encourage the revitalization and renewal of Yiddish in American Jewish life, educating through the arts and introducing Yiddish to a new generation through enjoyable activities such as song, story, dance, games, theater, and cooking; and to disseminate the material, instilling a love for the culture in young children, families, and the larger community.”

She plans to release a dozen more albums in the series, and I hope she reaches her goal. The Yiddish revival seems to be in high gear and the Lori Cahan-Simon Ensemble is in a perfect place to spread the joy. I highly recommend this album to anyone who has an interest in keeping the Yiddish culture alive.

Keith Wolzinger
Klezmer Podcast

Chanukah is Freylekh! A Yiddish Chanukah Celebration. Songs My Bubbe Should Have Taught Me: Volume Two

Lori Cahan-Simon Ensemble
LCS 003

1. Khanike    iz    freylekh/ Chanukah is Happy       1:50
2. Tsindt    on    likhtlekh        (A    khanike    lid)/    Khanike-marsh    (Tsindt    on    di    likhtlekh)
    Light the Candles (A Chanukah Song) / Chanukah-March (Light the Candles)       3:01 
3. Kinder    haynt    iz    khanike    /    Mir    zenen    khanike    likhtlekh    /    Naftule,    shpil    es           nokh    a    mol 
    Children, Today is Chanukah / We are Chanukah Candles / Naftule, Play it Again    4:27
4. Borekh    ate  –  Blessed art Thou    3:23   
5. Di    khanike    likht – The Chanukah Candles    3:06
6. Drey    zikh,    dreydele – Spin, Little Dreydl    3:00 
7. Ver    ken    dertseyln    (Mi    Yimalel)/Katshkes    khanike    freylekhs
    Who Can Retell/Katshke’s Chanukah Freylekhs    5:18
8. O,    ir    kleyne    likhtelekh – Oh, You Little Candles    3:49
9. A    lid    fun    khanike –  A Song of Chanukah     6:00
10. Ven    kh’tsindt    on    di    likhtlekh    on,    di    akht –
      When I Light the Eight Candles    3:05 
11. Zogt    nor,    zogt    /    Ikh    bin    a    latke    /    Ikh    hob    a    kleyn    dreydl    (Dos    Dreydl) 
      Just Tell Me, Tell / I am a Latke / I Have a Little Dreydl (The Dreydl)    2:39
12. Sheoso    nisim – He Who Performed Miracles     2:51
13. Ikh    bin    a    kleyner    dreydl – I am a Little Dreydl / Sirba in C    2:20  
14. Akht    Likhtlekh    – Eight Little Candles    2:57
15. Di    khanike    teg    akht – The Eight Days of Chanukah    3:52  
16. Al    hanisim – For the Miracles    4:43
17. Oy    khanike,    oy    khanike – Oh Chanukah, Oh Chanukah     3:28

Lori Cahan-Simon

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30 April 2008

A Klezmer Funk Remix Saturday, May 3, 2008 at 8pm

SAT MAY 3 2008 @ 8PM
Celebrate James Brown’s birthday with a special weekend of FUNK!
The Apollo Theater Art & Soul Series presents
Featuring David Krakauer, Fred Wesley and Socalled
A Klezmer Funk Remix
Saturday, May 3, 2008 at 8pm | Tickets $35
Abraham, Inc. is a head-on musical collison!
Fusing the geniuses of klezmer champion and clarinet virtuoso, David Krakauer, funk/jazz legend,
trombonist, Fred Wesley, and hip-hop renegade, Socalled - Abraham, Inc. ushers in a new musical
era.  Featuring a killin’ band with a three-piece horn section led by Wesley and special performance by
rapper C-Rayz Walz, this world-premiere concert promises to sweep audiences away with its ecstatic
wailings, bold-face funk, and pulsating hip-hop beats.
  Don’t miss the free Abraham Inc. events leading up to the big show!
May 1, 2008 at 7:30pm, the Apollo Theater Foundation, Inc. and the Jewish Community Center will present, The
Collaborative Spirit: The Soul Music of Abraham, Inc., a conversation with David Krakauer, Fred Wesley and
Socalled with WNYC’s Leonard Lopate.   JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Avenue at 76th Street.
May 2, 2008 at 7:00pm, the Apollo Theater Foundation, Inc. and the Museum of African American Cinema honors
funk superstar, James Brown, with a special screening of Remembering James Brown.  The Apollo Theater Sound-
       Free programs - limited seating.  For more details visit www.apollotheater.org
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03 April 2008

Review: Traveling Show

Review: Traveling Show
Metropolitan Klezmer

An exciting facet of today’s Klezmer scene for is the mix of genre-bending sounds that are being created by an increasing number of very talented groups. This is a welcome trend and shows a worldwide acceptance of Jewish musical traditions. One of the most important discoveries I’ve made is Metropolitan Klezmer and their latest release, Traveling Show, a live recording that encompasses a wide range of musical tastes that truly has something for everybody. The band’s energy and interaction with a very appreciative audience put this at the top of my list of live Klezmer recordings.

Traveling Show really has two meanings: The band as it is heard “on the road” while touring, as well as the global roots of the repertoire, North American, Eastern European, Balkan, Latin, and Soviet Yiddish Theater. All are represented with truth, originality, and musicality.

Metropolitan Klezmer does a marvelous job of taking medleys of well-known Klezmer songs and piecing together the best parts in stylistically creative ways, making mini-suites of these musical treasures.

My favorite track on the album is Baltic Blue, an original composition by reed player Debra Kreisberg. It is a Jazz-influenced Terkisher that opens up for solos from Accordion, Sax, Muted Trumpet, and Trombone, and backed by delicate Percussion, Accordion, and some very tasty Acoustic Bass. Kreisberg is a versatile performer, with a great Clarinet sound on the Klezmer tunes and some free flowing Sax on the Swing/Jazz tunes.

The focal point for the group is Vocalist Deborah Karpel, who leads the musical journey with great style. From Yiddish swing favorites like Ot Azoy Neyt a Shnayder and Abi Gezunt to the Balkan-backed Pick A Pocket Or Two to the traditional A Yid, A Kaptsn, the melancholy Mayn Rue Platz, and the distinctive Musikalisher Tango, she gives a nuanced performance that is among the best of today’s interpreters of Yiddish song.

More fun breaks out on Klezmerengue, a latin-flavored rendition of Yosl, Yosl; a “klezmographied” rendition of Guys & Dolls & Bagels, and the Dixieland- flavored version of Ikh Bin A Kleyner Dreydl.

Pam Fleming gives us a soulful Flugelhorn on Kalarash Khupe & Frolic, Mayn Rue Plats, and An Alter Nign. The rest of the time she leads the horns with some very spirited trumpet playing, and fills in nicely on the jazz numbers.

Ismail Butera plays the role of the energetic Accordionist with masterful solos on Mostly Rumanian Finale and Encore, some short solos on other tracks, and restrained accompaniment throughout the album (as there is no keyboard). I think Accordionists are generally underappreciated, but Butera makes you take notice of his inspired performance.

Michael Hess is a great violoinist, but really makes his mark here with his Ney Flutes on S’vivon, Terk In Amerike, Ney Taxim, and Striver’s Sher.

Reut Regev is teriffic at pumping out the Trombone accompaniment throughout the album, but gets limited exposure. She has some great solo work, however, on Baltic Blue, Grandma’s Dance, and Abi Gezunt.

Dave Hofstra is a very talentd Bass player, laying a perfect foundation for the band across all the musical styles on the album, especially on Baltic Blue, and a beautiful solo on Abi Gezunt. But the surprise comes from his doubling on Tuba on C Minor Bulgar and Ken O’Hara Freylekhs, Pick A Pocket Or Two, Striver’s Sher, and Kalarash Khupe and Freylekh.

Finally, we meet the unsung heroine of the group, Drummer Eve Sicular, who lays a perfect groove, whether Klezmer, Balkan, or Swing. She is among the best on the scene today. But let’s not stop there. She also had a hand in arranging all but one of the nineteen songs on the album, and was involved in mixing and editing, plus serving as the Producer, and writing the liner notes and Yiddish translations. It’s a daunting task to take on so much of the behind-the-scenes work on a project like this, and she has pulled it off with a very clean, crisp recording that will sound great on anything you play it on. Live recordings are difficult to get right, but this is one of the best-engineered live albums I’ve heard.

Speaking of liner notes, the cleverly-packaged insert is an 8-page foldout booklet that gives a good introduction to the album, as well as notes about each of the songs and some of the English/Yiddish lyrics.

One last thing to mention is the bonus track, Comes Love, a beautiful studio recording made by Sicular’s smaller group, Isle Of Klezbos. It’s flowing lyric is set to a Tango/Yiddish Waltz and leaves some room for some more solos from the band members.

Traveling Show is at the top of my list for albums to recommend. It has every Jewish style and would be a great first album to buy if you are just starting to get into Klezmer/Jewish music. It’s got a home on my playlist for a long time to come. And who knows, maybe Traveling Show might be coming to your town.

Keith Wolzinger
Klezmer Podcast

Traveling Show Metropolitan Klezmer 2007 Rhythm Media Records RMR 005
Uncle Moses' Wedding
2. Ot Azoy Neyt a Shnayder
3. Miracle Melody: A Nigun & The Poor Man's Tune
4. Shpil du Fidl, Shpil
5. Guys & Dolls & Bagels (Adelaide's Khazones, Lucky Freylekh,
6. Traveling Dreydls (S'vivon & Spinning Mojo)
7. C Minor Bulgar & Ken O'Hara Freylekhs (Dance Medley)
8. Mayn Rue Plats
9. Pick a Pocket or Two
10. Baltic Blue
11. Kalarash (Parts 1 & 2)
12. Uskudar Taxim & Terk in Amerike
13. Ney Taxim & Tailor's Sher (Soviet Yiddish Theater)
14. Striver's Sher (Soviet Yiddish Theater)
15. Grandma's Dance/Mikhoels' Tune/Lebedik un Freylekh
16. Muzikalisher Tango
17. Mainly Rumanian Finale (Doyna, Hora, Sirba, Volokh)
18. Encore: Abi Gezunt Medley & Klezmerengue
19. Klezbonus Track: Comes Love

Metropolitan Klezmer
MK MySpace

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