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13 December 2015

Klezmer Podcast 127- Sasha Margolis

Klezmer From New York

Sasha Margolis is the Violinist of the band Big Galut(e) of New York City. They have released a self-titled debut album, consisting of traditional Klezmer tunes, along with some originals, including one of my new favorites The True Story Of Carmen, a Mickey Katz- inspired parody of the famous Opera. We get to hear the track Wallachian-Appalachian Scratchin' from the album.
Run time: 25:13.

Listen here:

21 September 2015

Album review: Sklamberg & The Shepherds- Aheym/Homeward

New album coming soon (3 Oct. 2015)

There has been a rising tide of new Yiddish music in recent years, and the latest to ride the crest of the wave are Sklamberg & the Shepherds with their first collaborative release aheym/homeward. New York- based Lorin Sklamberg has had an immeasurable impact on the global Jewish music scene since the beginning of the Klezmer Revival. His instantly recognizable vocal style and musicianship, as well as his reputation as a leading Ethnomusicologist have put him at the top of the Klezmer scene for decades. The UK- based husband/wife duo Polina and Merlin Shepherd have won acclaim for their worldwide concert performances and recordings. Polina is a highly regarded vocalist in multiple languages, and Merlin is among the top Clarinetists in the world today. 

Which brings me to the idea of this collaboration of these three artists, each a master of the genre, past guests of Klezmer Podcast, and longtime friends of mine as well. I've seen them performing at the same event, but not all together. So, I had never considered the possibility of them doing something together. But to be honest, even before I heard the first note of the album, I had the thought that this was going to be something great, something groundbreaking. And I was right. 

I had the good fortune to hear these tracks in uncompressed WAV format on my reference home theater system. This made for a highly enjoyable listening experience, but more about the technical side of things later. What about the performances?

I was pleasantly surprised at how well Lorin and Polina blend their voices. The harmonies are beautiful, and they each have moments to shine. 

On the faster songs like Ma Noymar and A Gezang Fun A Traktorist there is a joy in the music that is easy to relate to and forms the basis for the increasing popularity of Yiddish song today. Lorin's Accordion and Merlin's Clarinet help to keep the energy up and your toes tapping.

The fast Horas Hafiflik and Di Bekhers Mit Vayn are in a traditional style and allow everyone some space to shine.

Lorin shows his delicate side and high vocal range on the slow lullaby Viglid, a piece that sounds simple, but is incredibly difficult to perform. And he just nails it!

The most adventurous piece here is Ay-Yay-Yay, a complex song sung in Russian. A feature for Polina, she and Lorin weave their way in and out of harmony, with a delicate accompaniment from Merlin on Clarinet. I kept coming back to this track over and over gain. Simply breathtaking! Polina is also featured on Sankt Besht, a slow waltz, and the longest track on the album. She is a great storyteller, and gives an emotional performance that defines her unique style and solidifies her worldwide popularity.

Not to be left out, Merlin gets his own space on Khalvat and Sahar 1 and Sahar 2. His depth of feeling and impeccable technique are on full display, and show why he is one of my favorite Clarinetists. He can go from a rich, dark tone on one song, to a bright, light touch on one of the fast songs. All amazing performances. 

Being an audiophile, I'm always looking for good sound in recordings. I have to say that the depth and detail here is top notch. While the voices sound clear and natural, the detail in the instrumentals is where I found the greatest enjoyment. I have to come back to Khalvat to say that I feel it is the best engineered track on the album. Hearing every breath, the subtle, single notes from the Accordion, the movements of the Piano, all give the feeling that you are there in the studio with them during the recording session. And guess what? The album was mixed by Merlin. Say no more.

Final thoughts? Sklamberg & The Shepherds take us on a musical journey that entertains, is full of both joy and deep emotion, and pushes us further into the resurgence of Yiddish song. Come along and ride the wave with them. You definitely will not be disappointed. 

Album available here:

13 September 2015

Yiddish is alive deep in the heart of Texas- CBS News Sunday Morning

Yiddish 101 is an introduction to an ancient language that's attracting new interest at the University of Texas. Richard Schlesinger has a report on the Austin classroom where conversations sound like they could be taking place at a Hasidic Jewish bakery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

24 August 2015

Klezmer Podcast 125- The Spike Orchestra

Sam Eastmond of The Spike Orchestra is a composer, arranger, and Trumpet player in London, UK. The latest album GHETTO is an exploration of WW II life in the Warsaw Ghetto, through a suite of pieces comprising a 20- piece big band, a 10- piece Spiketet, and a Trumpet/Voice duo. Eastmond describes the genre loosely as “Cartoon- Post-Bop Jazz and Klezmer music with a big band.” And that about sums it up. Enjoy our lively, wide-ranging discussion, and a fresh take on Jewish Music. We hear the full track Uprising, and a snippet of Child Smugglers from the album.

Listen here:

07 August 2015

Klezmer Podcast Monthly Spotify Playlist August 2015

Klezmer Podcast 124 on Mixcloud

Klezmer Podcast 124- San Diego Jewish Men's Choir by Klezmer Podcast on Mixcloud

Klezmer Podcast 124- San Diego Jewish Men's Choir

Kochi: A Musical Journey Celebrating The History Of The Jews In India

This episode features an interview with Ruth Weber, Director of the San Diego Jewish Men's Choir. Their latest album, Kochi,  was released today, and blends Jewish and Indian music. This is a new way of thinking about Jewish music, but is reflective of the rich history of Jewish culture in India, particularly the city of Cochin. Featuring instrumental arrangements by Ricky Kej and Vanil Veigas of India, these songs are transformed by the blending of traditional Indian instruments with the Yiddish, Hebrew, and Ladino texts. We hear the track Sha Shtil from the album. A portion of the album proceeds will be donated to the Gabriel Project Mumbai, providing relief to children living in the slums of Mumbai.
Run time: 23:47

31 July 2015

Mostly Kosher | Skirball Cultural Center

Mostly Kosher | Skirball Cultural Center
Sunday, August 9, 2015 12:00 and 2:00 p.m.

Aiming to preserve and modernize Jewish musical traditions, Mostly Kosher offers lively klezmer and soulful Yiddish melodies mixed with a variety of styles and genres, from tango to calypso to jazz. And the extraordinary Yiddish dance leader Bruce Biermanjoins the band for this special Skirball performance.
Clarinetist, pianist, and singer Leeav Sofer directs this eight-person ensemble that has performed in packed venues throughout Southern California, including the Skirball! In 2014, Mostly Kosher released their first, self-titled album. They also won the World Music Network’s Battled of the Bands, and their video for “Ikh Hob Dikh Tsufil Lib (I Love You Much Too Much)” was nominated for the Best Song and Audience Choice Award at the Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema.

04 June 2015

The Glass House Orchestra - Furfangos Frigyes (composed by Szirtes Edina...

The Glass House Project began as a tribute to the 70th Anniversary of the Holocaust in Hungary. The intention was to look at the largest picture of pre-war Hungarian music and to represent the breadth and scope of Hungarian musics from many traditions, with a focus on the incredibly rich and diverse Hungarian Jewish musical landscape. 


Frank London (trumpet) Pablo Aslan (bass), Aram Bajakian (guitar) Jake Shulman-Ment (violin) Yoni Halevy (drums) Edina Szirtes Mókus (violin, voice), Miklós Lukács (cimbalom/tsimbl), Béla Ágoston (winds)

08 May 2015

Interview with Ljova Lev Zhurbin

Join City of London Sinfonia for this modern-day tale of immigration from Russian to the USA with music by New York composer and musician, Ljova. Coming from a family who moved from Moscow to New York as communism fell in 1990, Ljova’s unique musical voice combines classical music with his own blend of Russian folk, jazz, Balkan gypsy and Klezmer. Performing on viola and violin alongside the Orchestra, this exciting CLoSer concert sees Ljova bring his haunting and exciting music to East London.

19 March 2015

Klezmer Podcast 123- Litvakus

Zisl Slepovitch

Klezmer Podcast 123- Litvakus. This episode features an interview with Zisl Slepovitch of the new band Litvakus, from Brooklyn. They have just released their first album Raysn- The Music of Jewish Belarus. Zisl is a great musician, singer, musicologist, and Yiddishist. Originally from Minsk, Belarus, he brings the music of that region to New York, where he blends the traditional repertoire with his own original works. We hear the track Zisl’s Sher and Karahod from the album.
Run time: 30:15.
Listen here:

26 February 2015

Klezmer Podcast 121- Simja Dujov

Klezmer/Jewish music from Argentina

Klezmer Podcast 121- Simja Dujov. Another episode from the 2014 Ashkenaz Festival, my guest is Simja Dujov of Argentina. There is a diverse Jewish music scene there, and Dujov pushes the limits with his DJ mix of Klezmer, Gypsy, Cumbia, and Surf music. He puts on a high energy multimedia show that keeps the audience on their feet. We hear the track Shalom from his album Santificaras La Fiesta.

23 February 2015

Review: The Sway Machinery- Purity and Danger

The Sway Machinery Purity and Danger

Jeremiah Lockwood’s The Sway Machinery is about to release their third album, Purity and Danger, and fans of the group will be well rewarded for the long wait since their last release in 2011. For those new to the high energy music offered by Lockwood, the band combines dance- worthy grooves with ancient Jewish melodies and Cantorial singing or Hazzanut from Lockwood. The result is very hip, while at the same time paying respect to traditional Jewish texts. 

The opener and title track Purity and Danger gives a quick taste of what the band is all about.
A rocking horn section against a bluesy, surf-inspired rhythm section. As a brass player, I am always interested in new, inventive ways a horn section can be used, and TSM has established itself at the forefront of innovation with creative arrangements, high energy horns, and, of course, the magical voice of Lockwood. 

A favorite track is My Dead Lovers Wedding, sung in English, dealing with the idea of Jewish resurrection. Between Lockwood’s vocals the horn and rhythm sections trade off in a life-and-death duel perfectly matched to the lyrics.

Longa gives a nod to surf music, with a tinge of distortion on the Electric Guitar. The band is on full display here, including a haunting Trumpet solo. 

Another favorite is Od Hapaam, with it’s complex arrangement and tight harmonies. And the addition of backing vocals gives this track a different character, and hopefully could get some radio play. 

I’ve always been impressed the the sonics on the TSM recordings. There is a sense of depth,
and the vocals have a distant quality, as if performed in a an ancient Temple. It is a unique blend of sounds, and gives the band a distinctive sonic signature. No other band sounds like this.

Listening to TSM, I am reminded of the diversity of Jewish music beyond the genre we call Klezmer, and it gets harder to put a label on much of the music that’s been produced in recent years. That said, I am happy to put TSM in a class by itself, truly without any resemblance to another band anywhere. Experience the beauty and power of The Sway Machinery for yourself, and see if you don’t agree.

Klezmer Podcast 120- Steven Greenman

Klezmer Podcast 120- Steven Greenman. This episode features an interview with ViolinistSteven Greenman. Steven is a long time Klezmer musician who is also a master of Gypsy/Roma and Classical music. Here Steven speaks about his recent projects such as a collaboration with Chinese Pipa artist Gao Hong. He also performs regularly withHarmoniaJoel RubinPete RushefskyKurt BjorlingAnnette BjorlingAlexander Fedoriouk, and Heather Klein. His latest album is Stepenyu’s Neshome, and we hear the track Plea/Supplication.
Run time: 20:58.

25 January 2015

NPR Feature On Klezmer Great Peter Sokolow

In Modern Klezmer, 'The Oldest Old Guy' Is The King Of The Scene

During the the 1980s, when the traditional dance music of East European Jews known as klezmer was enjoying a revival, Pete Sokolow was called "the youngest of the old guys."

Listen here: