Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Andy Statman Plays Jazz version of Modzitz Chasidim Melody

The Heichal HaNegina blog recently posted this wonderful video of Andy Statman (clarinet), with Jim Whitney (bass) and Larry Eagle (drums) playing a house concert in Nashville, TN. Statman is playing a jazz version of a traditional Modzitz Chassidic melody. Modzitz is a Chassidic dynasty known for it's nigunim. The Modzitzer's have a web page with lots of their traditional nigunim. They're well worth the listen. I immediately recognized and was signing along with Ani Monim.

Andy Statman Trio: Live In Nashville

Hat Tip to BlogInDm for pointing me to the Heichal NaNegina post.

Jewish Cowboys Part 5: Shir HaBokrim, the Song of the (Israeli) Cowboys

I'm not sure why I'm obsessed with Jewish cowboys. Maybe because it's so far from the bookish stereotypes of the educated urban Jew I seem to carry around. Anyway, thanks to the Hanashira mailing list, I've got another Jewish cowboy song to share. This one is the popular Israeli folksong "Shir HaBokrim The Song of the Cowboy".

Desert, desert without end
The cowboys' eyes survey it
No juniper, no thistle, no tree
Wind coming from the wilderness

The cowboys' song rises and falls
Over an empty, endless expanse
The sun rises and sets
And the song continues to flow

Desert, desert without end
Arisen over thousands of years
The cowboy astride his Arabian [aboriginal horse]
Over roads that breathe

Translation from Zemerl.com

Israel Yitzhaki - Shir Habokrim

You can also catch Arik Sinay's great, 1970's hairy-chested, macho version courtesy of Google video. Make's me want to yell "Rawhide! Yeeeah!" FAU's Judaica Archive also has a loungy Gidi Elon version.

(Related posts: Jewish Cowboys Part 4: Harold Stern, Manischewitz Cowboy, Mare Winningham's "Refuge Rock Sublime", Jewish Cowboys Part 1: Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys, Jewish Cowboys Part 2: Scott Gerber, Jewish Cowboys Part 3: So Called's "You Are Never Alone")

Hat tip to YouTube user Schlumiel for posting the Yitzhaki video and to the Hanashira mailing list for pointing me to the song.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The World's Largest Klezmer Band

Here's an interesting klezmer video that was just posted to one of the Jewish music mailing lists I'm on.

"A medley of Klezmer favorites played by Clarinetist Tom Puwalski, with the worlds largest klezmer band, The United States Army Field Band. These were the final notes I played as an active duty member or the US Army"


In addition to the Field Band, Tom also plays with the Washington D.C. area klezmer group "Lox and Vodka" and is the author of the book "The Clarinetist's Guide to Klezmer." He's got a bunch more videos on YouTube. Check 'em out.

Update 1: Tom was interviewed recently for an excellent edition of the Klezmer Podcast. Among other things, they talk about Tom's new group, The Atonement.

Update 2: There has been lively and appreciative chat about this video on the Klezmershack mailing list. Tom just joined in with this great comment. I had to share.
"I would love to thank everyone for their comments about my You tube posting, including the few I've gotten that call into question, the legitimacy of my statement that this was the "largest" klezmer band ever. I believe there are four conditions that needed to be met to even make such a statement :
1. The band was paid (highly paid, I still get paid and I don't play with them anymore)
2. The band had a definable look i.e. "cool uniforms" that made us look the cover of a Beatles album
3. Concert took place in a concert hall, The Meyerhoff in Baltimore, where the audience had to obtain tickets, ok they were free, but they still had to call.
4. There was at least one old jewish lady, saying the drums were too loud and did we need such a big speakers."
Tom was referring to comments about attendee's at the annual Klezfest forming an even larger klezmer band. (Specifically the comment was about Klezfest London).

Sunday, April 27, 2008

La Mano Ajena - Chilean Klezmer

Recently I found a new Spanish language klezmer blog. What my rusty high school Spanish (20 years ago rusty) can't handle, I get my clever wife (and fluent Spanish speaker) to translate. It's not a frequent publisher, but a good one. And even if your Spanish is worse than mine, they have a nice playlist.

Anyway, a couple of days a go they posted a delightful video from the Chilean band La Mano Ajena. The 'Klezmer" blog describes La Mano Ajena, more or less, as a fusion of the rhythms of Eastern Europe with those of Russia, France, and Venezuela and incorporating the band members love for rock, punk, theater music, and Latin American folk music.

La Mano Ajena - Aves Errantes

If you like this video, you can download the track here.

Hat tip to the video's producer, Manodeobra Films, for posting the video to YouTube and to the Klezmer blog.

Broadsheet: Jewish Music in the News

Reports about Jewish music show up in a lot of odd places. I'm going to try to keep up with the more interesting reports. Here are some recent ones...

Israeli Singer Navah Baruchin Makes Comeback... For Women Only, The Jewish Press, April 23, 2008

Pulpit to culprit: Sex trap claim plunges cantors into war, The Associated Press, April 25, 2008

Israel Festival welcomes Polish influence, The Jerusalem Post, April 24, 2008

$10.8 million earmarked for Jewish identity and education, April 23, 2008

In conversation with Benjamin Lapidus, Jazz.com, April 19, 2008

Shatner read Exodus, Trek Today, April 18, 2008

Poland cites Jewish festival chief, JTA, April 17, 2008

The day the music died, The Jerusalem Post, April 16, 2008

David Lang Wins Music Pulitzer, The Associated Press, April 7, 2008

Friday, April 25, 2008

Jeff Klepper - Shalom Rav

Jeff Klepper IllustrationTo get us ready for Shabbat I thought I'd share cantor and song-leader Jeff Klepper performing Shalom Rav. This song, co-written back in 1974 with Dan Freelander, is amazingly popular in the song-leader community and has has been covered many times. According to Klepper's bio, "He was one of the first cantors to champion congregational singing and to use a guitar in Jewish worship. For his role in creating a contemporary Jewish musical style he has been hailed as a “pioneer,” one of a handful of people responsible for literally changing the sound of American synagogue music." Klepper has a nice website and a new blog. He also maintains a site called "Kol B'Seder" with Dan Freelander. All well worth checking out.

Shalom Rav - Jeff Klepper

Also see my post: Guitar in Synagogue?

Hear, O Israel: A Prayer Ceremony in Jazz featuring Herbie Hancock

Hear, O Israel: A Sabbath Concert in JazzOnce upon a time, 1965 to be specific, Rabbi David Davis asked Jonathan Klein (then 17) to compose to "write music that would be fitting for the theme of our conclavette "Sects and Symbols within Judaism. The result was a jazz concert." This concert, recorded in 1968 and printed in a very limited release by the Union for Reform Judaism, features some jazz legends including Herbie Hancock, Thad Jones, Ron Carter, Jerome Richardson, and Grady Tate and has been unavailable to all but the most dedicated collectors.

Concert PosterBut it's been brought back into print by Jonny Trunk, a British audiophile and archivist. Trunk Records specializes is finding and reprinting strange and wonderful out-of print-recordings including the soundtrack to the film "The Wicker Man" and "Music For Biscuits: Lost advertising and rare film sounds by Mike Sammes and The Mike Sammes Singers." Jonny is my kind of guy.

And now "Hear O Israel." According to Jonny, "I`d been lent this album about five years ago by John Cooper, the legendary underground music dealer. Last year I was discussing the album with him again, and we were both under the impression that this privately pressed album, called Hear O Israel, was no longer owned by anyone. So I put my detective hat and mac on and set about trying to find the owners. And eventually I did, and they are a large organisation called the URJ based in NYC. I went to see them in fact, and suggested that it would be a smashing idea to get this lost and very unique recording back into circulation. They asked me “why?” and I told them that it was one of the most beautiful recordings I have ever heard and needed to be heard again, because bugger all people heard it the first time round. And they said yes. Enthusiastically yes."

And there you have it. If you're at all interested, as fan, musician, or scholar, in the intersection of Jazz and Jewish experience, this album is a fascinating listen. And it is quite beautiful. I can't offer any links to downloadable clips or videos, so you'll just have to trust me on this one.

It's not officially available for another couple of weeks, but I got mine in the mail on Tuesday (grin. I've got connections.) and have been listening non- stop. If you email Jonny and tell him I sent you, maybe you can coax it out of him early.

By the way, the liner notes have a interesting discussion by Rabbi Davis of whether or not there are "advantages to using jazz in a religious context" or "is it just a gimmick." His conclusion..."someone may find something in the service that he never felt before." Personally, I'm a fan of traditional nusach for the Shabbat service, but that said, listening to these recordings opens up such a feeling of joy and wonder that it's hard for me to argue the point.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sorry Arnie, Project Ben David is great. Please tell my mother I'm not a jerk. Ok?

Ok, Arnie. I get the message. Now even my mother is telling me that I'm an opinionated jerk and that your album "Project BenDavid" is great.

This is what happened. One of my brother's is getting married in California in a couple of weeks. A couple of weeks after the wedding, my parents are going to throw an east coast reception for the family and friends who couldn't make it to out west. And they want music at the reception. So I did a little digging and it turns out that Arnie Davidson, in addition to being a talented composer and musician, happens to live about 10 miles from my parents. Perfect!

Last weekend Arnie, my brother, and my folks got together to talk about the reception and listen to a demo tape of Arnie's. And he was a hit. My folks and brother loved him and booked him for the gig. Perfect!

And then Arnie mentioned (with a grin, I'm sure) that it's too bad that Jack doesn't like Arnie's music. uh oh.

Now I'm in trouble with my mother, who thought that Arnie's music was wonderful and what what were you thinking Mr "I'm so clever because I've got a blog."

So let me take this opportunity to straighten out any misconceptions, Arnie. While it's true that I didn't love the album, it's also true that I loved the track "Esa Einai." I think many of the compositions are fine, I just personally have a hard time with some of the performances. Just not my thing, ok? But everyone else should check out the album's music samples and decide for themselves.

In the meantime, here's Esa Einai

Monday, April 21, 2008

20 Things To Do With Matzah

Chag Sameach everyone. Now that we're into rhythm of Passover, I'll indulge in the latest Passover 'viral video' "20 Things To Do With Matzah." Pretty cute.

20 Things To Do With Matzah

The music and lyrics are by Michelle Citrin and William Levin. If so inclined, you can read up on Citrin and check out her four song EP called, of course "foursongsforyou." William Levin is the author of the online comic "Shabot6000" about an Orthodox Jewish robot. Levin's been popping up all over the place lately, including my post about his song "Seda' Crew". Levin' also got a side gig running "Jewish Robot," the "Autosemitic Animation Assembly Line." Jewish Robot is a Jewish themed advertising and media company. "Jewish Robot offers a complete range of cartoon, music and video building services for your company, organization, or family." Check it out.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mary, Don't You Weep

Last night, my gang and I went to a Passover seder at the house of a family friend. Today it was our turn to host, and we had a full house. Eight adults and three kids. Whew. But we had a lovely time and it all went well. This was my third time leading a seder, and I think I'm getting a bit more confident.

One of the bits of preparation I did was (as best I could) researching the history and symbolism of the African-American Christian spiritual turned Passover song "Mary, Don't You Weep." As I described in last years post about including "Go Down Moses" in a seder, I was brought up by my father on American folk music. When my father leads the seder he typically pulls out his guitar and leads the family in "Go Down Moses," "Mary, Don't You Weep" and other folk tunes with some Passover connection. These two songs are particularly apt because of the contemporary liberation (slavery / civil rights) connection.

"Go Down, Moses" is pretty straight forward and easy to include. "Mary, Don't You Weep" is another matter. If you look at the lyrics, you'll see that "Mary" is really a Christian song. Despite attempts by some to connect the Mary of the song with Miriam, Mary is really the Christian Mary of Bethany, sister of Lazarus. It takes some creative trimming of lyrics to get rid of those bits and render the song useful for Passover. But trimming and repurposing folk songs is a part of what makes them 'folk' songs. So no apologies. Here's just the intro, in case you haven't heard the song before...
"Oh Mary don't you weep, don't you mourn
Oh Mary don't you weep, don't you mourn
Cause Pharaoh's army got drownded,
Oh Mary don't you weep.

If I could I surely would, stand on the rock where Moses stood
Cause Pharaoh's army got drownded
Oh Mary don't you weep"
While my father isn't the only American Jew to use "Mary" in a Seder (see the 'Passover Blog' for at least one other example), it isn't as common as "Go Down Moses." One possible place my father would have come into contact with it is through the folk musician Pete Seeger. Seeger is one of my father's favorite musicians and a mainstay of the populist, pro-union, working man's protest music scene of the 50's and 60's. (I remember being taken to Seeger concert at the Sounding Board, in Hartford Ct sometime as kid in the late 70's. I knew it was a big deal show because it took place in the main area of the church instead of in the church cellar that the Sounding Board usually rented.)

Seeger, like many other folkies of the time, wrote many of his own songs but also specialized in popularizing traditional tunes by connecting them to topical events. Seeger, in particular, was known for popularizing the song "We Shall Overcome" in support of the civil rights movement. Here's a video of Seeger performing "Mary" with a young Bernice Johnson Reagon, future member of the singing group "Sweet Honey in the Rock" on civil rights show called "The Rainbow Quest." If you listen, you'll hear that in Seeger's version, the lyrics are clipped to remove the Christian references. I'm assuming that Seeger wasn't thinking of Passover but was using the familiar Exodus story as a parallel for the civil rights struggle (much as "Go Down Moses" does). That particular editing and thematic connection, though, makes it perfect for Passover.

P. Seeger, B.J. Reagon, J. Ritchie - O Mary, Don't You Weep

Getting back to our seder yesterday, we invited over some Christian friends of ours who had never been to a seder before. Adding the "Moses" and "Mary" into the more traditional seder gave them two points of familiarity and inclusion. My seder is an English and Hebrew mix, so while they had no trouble following the Haggadah, these were the only songs that they felt confident to sing along to. We also used the fact that "Mary" had been repurposed from the Christian tradition as a point to talk about the Christian view of the Exodus and the role of the Passover seder in the Easter narrative. This was nice moment of them teaching us about their faith. So in essence, we got to sit around sharing the meaning of the song as way to talk to each other. I can't think of a better use for a folk song.

Hat tip to YouTube user peglegsam for posting the Seeger video. Peglegsam has a posted an amazing archive of Rainbow Quest videos as well as blues and folk music performances.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

I'll bring my guitar and a pile of CD's.

60 Bloggers logo on multi-color guitars
This post is cross-posted at the 60 Bloggers project, a co-production of Jewlicious.com and the Let My People Sing Festival. The 60 Bloggers project is published daily for 60 days to celebrate Israel’s 60 birthday.

I'm listening to the Avishai Cohen Trio's 'Gently Disturbed' right now, letting the muffled tocking of the drum kit give texture to the pulsing, rising bass. I'm also catching up on Julie's myspace blog. Her picture on the page shows her hunched over a guitar, but the most recent blog post says

"-why i said that i'm never doing this again.
-why i say vidui and shma at the end of the labour (yes, i am thoroughly convinced that i will die if i have to go through another contraction.)
-why i said i'm never giving birth in a hospital again. (thank G-d!)
-how all the pain stops when i look at that little face...."

Before sitting down, I put my little ones to bed and now I'm thinking about Julie's new little one. A welcome addition to her brood. A blessing. I hope someday to meet her and her gang face to face, in her home in Israel. That would be another blessing.

When I sat down at this keyboard 15 months ago to start writing Teruah Jewish Music, my plan was to learn and write about every aspect of Jewish music I could find. But, I noted, it would take more than being Israeli music to qualify. Why? Because being an Israeli musician didn't make your music Jewish (whatever that means) and I wasn't going to get caught up in the big ontological game of Israel the Jewish State (whatever that means). But I listened.

And wrote, a bit at a time about about Free Hugs in Tel Aviv, the rockers Boom Pam and Yood, Matti Caspi and Balkan Beat Box. I found Israeli albums and songbooks on eBay. And I corresponded with Julie and Liz, read Israeli blogs and Haaretz articles and listened to Ben Bresky's Israel Beat. All research, mind you.

And somewhere along the way I shed the blue and white propaganda image I've had of Israel since Hebrew school and have had reinforced every time Israel is in the news. Israel of the partition and the Six Day War, a place to send trees (on Tu B'Shvat) and prayers (the Wailing Wall). Israel of the heavenly ideals and very mundane politics.

What I found instead were people who also loved music. And art. And their children. And Judaism (some of them, Islam for others, and nothing for lots). And people who celebrated (and feared) and loved (and hated) and all of the rest of it. For me, learning the stories of the pop bands Poogy and the Diaspora Yeshiva Band resonated in a way learning the Hatikvah anthem never did. I still don't know if Avishai Cohen's Trio counts as Jewish music but I don't much care anymore. I've fallen in love with the people of Israel in all of their messy complexity and contradictions (so similar to ours, so familiar).

So tonight, on Erev Pesach, when I say "Next year in Jerusalem" I mean it. Not just in the time of the moshiach, but maybe soon, so my kids and Julie's can get to know each other. I'll bring my guitar and a pile of CD's.

Happy Birthday, Israel.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Magdalith, French vocalist

I guess today's a 2-fer. I was exchanging some email with the author of the Schoun25 blog about the Bas Sheva video I posted a while ago. (I goofed up the attribution of the video). He pointed me to another video of his that he thought I'd like. And how. Folks this is about the best vocal performance I've heard in years. I don't know anything about the vocalist, Magdalith, other than what Schoun25 writes below. I'll try to find out more and report back later.
Here is a traditional song on the Biblical Psalm XXII ("My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"), arranged and sung by the great singer Magdalith. Magdalith is a renowned French singer of Jewish and Gregorian songs with a voice covering three octaves and she has made several records. She has made an enormous work of rediscovery of the Gregorian song and several religious communities in France and abroad use her songs for their liturgy (she sticks to the theory that the Gregorian song originates in the songs of the synagogues). She is also a composer and has recorded some experimental compositions of her own, where she sounds a little like Yma Sumac, backed by minimal percussion, occasional keyboards and xylophone. Magdalith says of herself: "I am a dancer on the vocal cords".
Listen to her deep contralto voice and enjoy!
Magdalith: Eli, Eli, Lama Azavtani

HatTip to Schoun25 for posting the video and for pointing me to it.

Eishet Chayil, Woman of Valor

So today's Friday, and I'm going to feature an interesting song, Eishet Chayil, to help us get in the mood for Shabbat. But first, let me take step back and chuckle a bit about where the idea for this post came from. It's all about me being "ignorant in public" again.

Last week, I posted about Cantor Yosef Gottesman and his "cover version" of the theme to the Titanic. I got a great comment from the Jewish musician Gerson Veroba, who was pretty unimpressed. He made two points.

1. This isn't a cover of the song, it's Gottesman taking a well known standard (Eishet Chayil) and singing it to the melody of the Titanic theme. Sum total creativity or musical insight involved...zero.

2. While the Titanic theme is a lovely melody, the central themes of the song are completely inappropriate to Eishet Chayil. Titanic is a love story used to highlight a larger story of human tragedy. Eishet Chayil is from Proverbs 31, a description of how a virtuous woman behaves, and is typically sung on Shabbat after services and dinner, by a husband to extol the virtues of his wonderful wife. Tragic? Nope. Bad thematic match.

So while I think Veroba has a definite point on the thematic elements argument. I need to go back to his first point.

Oh. Eishet Chayil is a song? One that's sung on Shabbat. A rather lovely one? Umm. I didn't know that.

So anyway, here's a lovely presentation of Eishet Chayil performed by Ohad moskovits, mendi jerufi, amiran dvir & yshai lapidot. It's a little shmaltzy for me, but hey. It isn't worse than the Titanic version.
Piah pascha - eshes chayil

You can catch a bunch of other version on YouTube and get the lyrics in Hebrew and English from Project Z'mirot.

By the way, in addition to Eishet Chayil being a Shabbat standard, it seems to be a wedding favorite. I saw a number of videos on YouTube that featured new husbands singing it to their new wives during their wedding reception [Video 1] [Video 2]. Very cute.

HatTip to YouTube user MDBFriends for posting the video and to Gerson Veroba for his comment that prompted all of this.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Crank That Kosha Boy, now with Instructional Video

So, I got an email yesterday from Eric Schwartz about his new "instructional video." Schwartz is a popular stand up comic and multi-media showman. The instructional video is a follow-up to his "Crank That Kosha Boy" hip-hop parody video. Schwartz and the video's are (mildly) funny but, like I said yesterday, I think the hip-hop parody thing has jumped the shark. Can't we move on?

Here's the original "Crank That Kosha Boy"

And now the, new "Crank That Kosha Boy" Instructional Video

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Seda' Club

I'm looking forward to the next big cultural phenomena to hit. I'm starting to feel bad for the hip-hop crew. But not bad enough to keep this to myself.

Here's the gang from the online comic Shabot6000 (with unauthorized guest appearance by rapper 50 Cent) getting their Pesach on.

Seda' Club - shabot6000.com

If you want to add this fine work to your haggadah, you can get the full lyrics at YouTube.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Avishai Cohen Trio - Gently Disturbed

Avishai CohenAnother album to find it's way into my mailbox recently is the Avishai Cohen Trio's recording "Gently Disturbed." The Trio is from Israel, which more or less qualifies it for inclusion in Teruah. I'm not enough of a jazz-head to feel like I can comment intelligently on album, other than to say it sneaked up on me. My first reaction was that it was lovely, but too restrained and repetitive for my ears. But as I've listened to it longer, I've been sucked into it. There's an almost Baroque shifting of patterns and an adventurous sense use of rhythmic figures that is quite compelling. Even for us aging punksters. I can only imagine what they'd be like live. Hopefully I'll get the chance to see them some time.

Here's a clip from Cohen's bio:
Bassist/Composer/Band Leader Avishai Cohen, born April 20, 1970 in Israel, is a musician who has been called a jazz visionary of global proportions by DownBeat, and was declared one of the 100 Most Influential Bass Players of the 20th Century by Bass Player Magazine. Cohen is not only renowned around the world as an influential double bassist and profound composer, but also as a visionary bandleader that is following in the footsteps of Mingus, Dave Holland, Jaco Pastorius, Ray Brown, Charlie Haden, Stanley Clarke, and even Sting. In fact, every move Avishai Cohen makes routinely causes waves of critical praise.
Whew. I love bio puffery. Anyway, I couldn't find a good source for online clips from the new album, but here's good representative video.

Avishai Cohen Trio - Shalom

You can learn more about Cohen and the trio and get one of their albums from their website and their MySpace page.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Fraidy Katz and Wolf Krakowski: Yiddish cabaret roots rock

I've gotten a pile of CD's in the mail lately. It's great fun, but I'm feeling guilty for not posting about them more expeditiously. The basic problem is that doing a good review takes real time. Time to listen and absorb. Time to reflect and consider. Time to write. That's a lot of time. Oh. And it takes some insight too.

No wonder I don't do many reviews. That's a lot of work.

Wolf KrakowskiSo this isn't really a review. Consider it an homage to two amazing performers and three phenomenal albums. Let's start with Wolf Krakowski. I got two albums of his in the mail about a month or two ago from a friend who wasn't going to be able to do reviews of them. I popped the first of them, "Goyrl: Destiny", into the CD player and proceeded to loose about three hours listening to it over and over again. The next day I forced myself to listen to the other one, "Transmigrations: Gilgul." Ok. I only lost two hours on this one, but that's pretty darn good.

These are "what if" records. What if Yiddish didn't get abandoned by a generation of Jews desperate to see their children assimilated and safe in the US. What if, instead, their children hung out in bars and on street corners with jazz musicians and rock-and-rollers, teaching cabaret and folk melodies and learning country licks. Their music would have sounded something like this...

Tate-Mame (From Goyrl: Destiny)

A Shod Dayne Trern (A Waste of Your Tears) (From Goyrl: Destiny)

Her Nor, Du Sheyn Meydele (Listen, Pretty Girl) (From Transmigrations:Gilgul,)

Fraidy Katz 'The Eternal Question' Album CoverWhile I was sitting on these discs, trying to find time to write about them, I got an email from Krakowski asking if I'd like a copy of the new(ish) Fraidy Katz album that he produced. Absolutely. And I wasn't disappointed. Fraidy Katz's "The Eternal Question" picks up where Krakowski's albums leave off, adding Katz's warm and expressive vocals but holding on marriage of traditional Yiddish melodies and roots rock arrangements that made Krakowski's albums such a joy. Here are a few song clips...enjoy!

A Shtekele (A Little Stick)

Nakht un Regn (Night and Rain)

You can get more information on Katz and Krakowski at the Kame'a Media website.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Cantor Yosef Gottesman, Opera in the Synagogue!

Whew, I haven't posted since Monday but not for lack of material. I was just out late smoozing with other conference goers and trying to find out if I was in trouble for a little ruckus I caused at one of the conference panels. I told a bunch of emperors they had no clothes. Yikes. I normally keep my little rants to myself or my friends. This time I said it into microphone in front of about 100 people.

Anyway, I'll be heading home tomorrow, so I thought I'd get in one more post about Jewish music in Florence. Today's feature is Cantor Yosef Gottesman. According to his bio, he was born in Florence, educated in England, and attended yeshiva in Israel. He tours regularly and has five albums out and (drum roll please) "His cover version of the title track from the Titanic movie "My Heart Will Go On" sung in Hebrew, is becoming a staple song for Jewish Weddings all across the world."

I don't think I needed to know that there's a Hebrew version of music from the Titanic. Sigh.

Anyway, sappy love songs aside, Cantor Gottesman has fine voice and sings in the operatic cantorial style that once lit up synagogues all over America. Here are a few of his sample tracks that I particularly enjoyed. (yeah, I guess I can get sappy too).

Kevakrath (From Gotteman and Sons)

Tevienu (From Yosef Gottesman sings Carlebach with Sthimme)

And here it is, in all it's smaltzy glory...
Titanic - Eshet Chail (From Opera in the Synagogue)

If your interested in purchasing one of Cantor Gottesman's CD's, you can contact him through his website. He also performs at all sorts of festivals and events. He even does weddings.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco

Continuing this week's theme of Jewish music from Florence, Italy, today's find is Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (hereafter abbreviated MCT). According to a Milken Archive press release for the recording, Naomi & Ruth / Sacred Service for Sabbath Eve, MCT was "born in Florence to an Italian Sephardi Jewish family with roots in Tuscany dating back 400 years, the composer himself identified three primary inspirations at the core of his musical expression: his Tuscan background, his fascination with Shakespeare, and the Bible--not only its narratives, but the Jewish spiritual and liturgical heritage developed over the centuries." According to his Wikipedia entry, while MCT was born in Florence, he emigrated to the US in 1939 to escape the pre-World War II race laws that had cut short his Italian career. Once in the US he quickly became a successful and influential film and opera composer.

Amazon.com has the CD and plenty of sound samples for Naomi & Ruth / Sacred Service for Sabbath Eve as well as many of his secular compositions including the Tarantella played here by Giulio Tampalini.

GIULIO TAMPALINI - M. Castelnuovo Tedesco: Tarantella

You can find more info about MCT at the Milken Archives biography page and his wikipedia entry.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

60 for 60: Happy Birthday Israel

60 for 60 Concert Logo So Israel's turning 60 soon and there will be a bunch of parties to show for it. Two of them are going by the name 60460. The first is an online party which will include 60 bloggers (including yours truly) writing happy birthday notes. These notes will be posted on our own sites and at 60Bloggers.com and will start this Wednesday. I'll be writing mine late this week for posting on April 18th, Erev Passover. I'll be writing about everything I've learned to love about Israeli music over the last couple of years. I'd love some help, though. Leave me a comment and tell me what you think makes Israeli music special.

The second party is Craig Taubman's 60460 Let My People Sing. From Sunday May 4th through Sunday May 11th, Let My People Sing will bring 60 hours of non-stop festivities to the city of Los Angeles in honor of Israel’s 60th anniversary. If you'll be in the area, check out the party schedule. Even if you're not, you should check out the snazzy 60460 promo video. Now if I can only convince my brothers that going to Friday Night Live with Craig Taubman, Hadag Nachash, and Jacob Dayan, Israel's Consul General in Los Angeles, would be the perfect event for a bachelor party.

Singing Dew: The Florence-Leghorn Jewish Musical Tradition

I'm on my second day in Florence, Italy. I did so much walking around today I think I got blisters. Oh well. It's my only day to see the place. I'll be working the rest of the week. Anyway, I'm back in my hotel room, tummy full of Gorgonzola pizza, Campari soda, and pistachio gelato and am ready to get back to Jewish music, Italian style.

Singing Dew Album CoverToday's find is a lovely recording issued a few years ago by the Feher Jewish Music Center at Beth Hatefutsot, The Nahum Goldmann Museum of the Jewish Diapora, Tel Aviv. The recording presents the Florence Synagogue Choir singing local melodies for "Sabbath, the New Year, the three festivals of pilgrimage (Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles), Simhat Torah (Rejoicing of the Law) and the Ninth of Ab, as well as songs to celebrate weddings and the birth of a son." The Feher website offers a few samples, so give them a listen. I'm particularly enjoy the Lecha Dodi. Most of the melodies I'm familiar with either have a much faster tempo, or start faster and then slow down half way through. I'm not familiar with one that starts so slowly.

Lecha Dodi

Achot Ketana (The Little Sister)

Sheva Berakot

The Feher Music Center has a lot more interesting recordings, check them out.

By the way, there is a big fluff going on in the Jewish music world right now regarding the Feher Jewish Music Center. Yuval Shaked, the former director of the Feher Music Center, was recently fired. Since the Music Center only has one employee, Shaked, this has raised concern by the community that the Music Center is going to be shut down. While I don't really know any of the inside story, I do know that there's a petition circulating to reinstate Shaked. It's in Hebrew, but I was sent a translated copy which reads...
"The Feher Jewish Music Center is severely and acutely endangered by the Management of Beth Hatefutsoth (The Nahum Goldmann Museum of the Jewish Diapora, Tel Aviv). The work of the sole musician at the Museum, Yuval Shaked, current Director of the Feher Jewish Music Center, had been terminated by the Management and will come to its end on March 31, 2008.

Upon his dismissal, the vast recording collection of the Center, the CD series it released and its unique databank – all renowned and acknowledged throughout the world – will be abandoned. The contacts nourished by the FJMC with partner archives and institutions all over the world, its initiatives and intense endeavors on behalf of Jewish music of all kinds, places, times and styles (preservation & documentation) will all be neglected and destroyed. Various projects in progress will be stopped. Hard labor done over many years will get lost.

We therefore appeal to Beth Hatefutsoth's management to nullify its most regrettable and deplorable action, and ensure Mr. Shaked's position and the maintenance of the recording collection and activities of the Feher Jewish Music Center for many years to come"

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Enrico Fink - Italian Klezmer and Theater Music

"Picture yourself with hundreds of Austrian music lovers expecting a learned performance of Renaissance music and finding themselves cheering a joker singing a folksong in Ferrarese dialect..."

Ensemble Lucidarium's "Had Gadya

I haven't slept in a day or so. I'm currently in Florence, Italy on at an academic conference. Not about Jewish music, sadly. It's about Human Computer Interaction, my day job. But, while I'm hear, I'm planning on studying up on Italian Jewish music as best I can.

Enrico FinkOne of the first interesting Italian Jewish musicians I've come across is Enrico Fink. According to his bio, Fink "has devoted himself to new interpretations of the Jewish cultural tradition, finding a path between "radical" and traditional, which uses both music and musical theater as means of expression." Fink's played with the early music group Ensemble Lcidarium, the Klezmer group Lokshen, written theater music, given lectures on Jewish music, and put out bunch of CD's.

In addition to the very timely "Had Gadya," Fink's MySpace page has a number of lingering, jazz-inflected soundscapes. Just lovely. His website is also filled with interesting mini-essays on Italian Jewish music. Well worth the read and listen. He's got two albums available on eMusic which I'll be scooping up as soon as I get back to the states.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Driving Mr. Brandwein

I love it when I run into a local (to the North Coast) band playing Jewish music. Today's find is DJ Paradiddle, of the "salsa, klezmer, rock, Motown, samba, TLC" band, Groove Spoon. The track that caught my attention is "Yale", DJ Paradiddle's remix of Naftule Brandwein's "Terkishe Yale V'Yove Tantz." It's a fun remix, layering Brandwein's clarinet over a contemporary base groove with some guitar squawk leading up to car crash ending. While it feels like a freshman release, a bit over-reliant on the original sample for both tone and tempo, I've listened to it a dozen times today and am still digging it. I'm looking forward to what comes out of DJ Paradiddle next.

Hopefully I'll get to see him live soon. As I mentioned he's a local guy, at least during the school year. He and Groove Spoon play at a local Ann Arbor, MI, restaurant, The Heidelberg, once a month. The next one will be on April 28th, 2008, though he's also playing at the Michigan Theater on April 11.

DJ Paradiddle's "Yale"