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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.