Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Flory Jagoda's "Pesah ala mano (Passover is at hand)"

My favorite Sephardic psychodelic rock band, Deleon, tipped me off to this Passover song by Flory Jagoda. Jagoda is Sephardic Jew from Bosnia, a winner of an NEA National Heritage fellowship, and composer of the Chanukah classic* "Ocho Kandelikas." It's the first Passover song I've heard that focuses on cleaning up after Purim. Which is exactly how I feel most years. My last hamentashen is just crumbs, and now I have to clean up the crumbs (chametz). Really. Already?

Click through to the YouTube page for the full Ladino lyrics and English translation.

* I've always hated the term 'classic.' It's like the word obvious, only used when something wasn't. But Jagoda earned it for Ocho Kandelikas. The song has been recorded a zillion times, to the point where I've seen it mis-labeled as "traditional."

Mama Doni's "Rasta In Pasta"

Continuing the Passover goofiness, here's Mama Doni's "Rasta in Pasta."

Mama DoniMama Doni is a Jewish culture songstress who plays kid shows on the JCC and synagogue circuit. Her songs are very very shticky but are fun, infectious, and have a lot more sense of adventure than a lot of Jewish kids material. Going through the videos and photo's on her website makes me wish that there was more of a market for Jewish television programming. I'd bet she'd give the Wiggles a run for their money.

Mama Doni - Rasta in Pasta

By the way, looking at her tour schedule I see that last September she played at the tiny synagogue I grew up attending. Times have certainly changed. We never had any fun performers come to visit when I was a kid.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Macaroons say Just Eat It!

This is just weird. The video is from JDub's new kids band, The Macaroons. Between the Weird Al refrain and Robyn Hitchcock vocal drawls, I'm more confused than anything else. But hey, if you've got kids around...see what they think.

The Macaroons - Matzoh Ball (Don't Kick It)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Tur-Mohel & his Minyan apply to join the Evil League of Evil

I'm a huge fan of Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog. Here's the banner.

Isn't it wonderful? Go watch it right now. The show I mean. Here are acts 1, 2 (part 1), 2 (part 2) 3 (part 1), and 3 (part 2).

Anyway, the three videos in the series revolve around the main character, Dr. Horrible, trying to earn his place in the notorious Evil League of Evil. Recently a call for applications went out to all would be bad guys to join the league. By all reports, the best application came from Tur-Mohel & his Minyan.

Tur-Mohel -- Evil League Of Evil Application

You can follow Tur-Mohel on his twitter feed and at his website. Ok, so maybe they're not The Purple Gang, but I'm swooning. Good shtick. I like. (And go watch more Evil League of Evil applications.)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Baruch Dayan Emet - Norman Liveten

Today I attended the funeral of my uncle Norman Liveten. He'll be missed.

Among his many other loves, he loved trains. So I thought I'd share this video that mixes Mourners Kaddish and trains.

The video was posted, and I assume created, by YouTube users freimasaurus. Performance In Video Space, Mass. College of Art, 2010.

Darshan's Hip hop Chad Gadya

Darshan's hip hop retelling of Chad Gadya is one of the more interesting new tracks for your Passover playlist. I don't love it, but it's definitely worth checking out.

<a href="">Chad Gadya חד גדיא by Darshan</a>

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Let My People Bugalú

Ok, if the Idelsohn Exodus 2.0 mix wasn't enough for you, here's a wild Latin boogaloo take on the classic African American spiritual, and now Jewish American Passover zemer, "Go Down Moses."
"Let My People Bugalú!
Tell that Pharoah to let me loose. . . . Part the Red Sea and watch me boogie . . . I got 400 years of rhythm stored up in here!

What Sharon Jones did for oldschool soul, what Antibalas did for Afrobeat and what Chicha Libre is doing for chicha, Spanglish Fly is doing for bugalu."

-- Lucid Culture,

<a href="">Let My People Bugalú by Spanglish Fly</a>

The track is only a buck. Go get it. And their 4 song EP is only, wait for it, 4 bucks. Get that too. Great fun. And go check out the Spanglish Fly website.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dafna's Halilah Hazeh

Last week I got Dafna / ShirFun's "Halilah Hazeh" in the mail, just in time for Passover. I'm always excited to see new kids recordings, but am always a bit hesitant. Reviewing kids music is tricky, kids listen to music differently than adults do. I've been doing this long enough to have a few basic have a few elements that I listen for. If the recording's got them, we're in business. If not, probably not. I'm also in luck that I have two kids and lot of long car rides for album testing.

First, here's Dafna's offical blurb
"Shir Fun was created by Israeli music therapist, Dafna Israel-Kotok, whose passion for Jewish and Israeli music and culture has been cultivated all of her life. Growing up in a moshav on Israel’s Mediterranean coast, she learned to play the guitar from her father at an early age and together, they became a central musical figure to her community’s cultural celebrations. After her service in the Israeli army, Dafna attended university in the U.S, obtaining a degree in music therapy."
Second, before I do my review, here's a video of the title track...

Dafna's Halilah Hazeh for my thoughts. As I said there are certain things I listen for in a kids album.

1. Is the singer having a good time. Seriously. There are some depressing, self-important, kids albums out there. Dafna does fine here. She enjoys this music and her enjoyment is infectious.

2. Is the singer a songleader or a performer. Kids want to sing, jump, dance, thwack, or kapow. Pretty much anything but applaud. Music that invites them in is good, music that does clever wonderful things for show isn't. Halilah Hazeh is a bit mixed here. There are bit too many times where Dafna winds up for a big ending or does something else showy. Not bad, but iffy.

3. Are the vocals up front in the music. Can you understand the lyrics. Kids like guitar, drums, what-have-you just fine, as long as they don't get in the way. Seriously. It's all about the human voice and what the voice is signing about about. Mind you, the lyrics don't have to make sense and in many kids songs they don't, but they have to be clear. Dafna's got a challenge here. She's singing quite beautifully and clearly in Hebrew. For some kids, including mine, that's just fine. My kids don't speak Hebrew but they've got the rhythm of it through synagogue. Singing along with it, even though they don't understand the words, suits them just fine. But there were a lot of places where there was just too much guitar, shaky egg, or what-have-you. Again, not bad just iffy.

So my feeling, as the adult listener? A solid kids album but not necessarily a great one. Dafna's got a good voice. I enjoyed Dafna's interpretations of the classics. Her originals are well performed but not as compelling. But c'mon. We've been singing Dayenu and Eliyahu HaNavi for how many centuries? They're a tough comparison point.

How about the experts, my kids? They weren't much taken with the originals either, but sang right along with the classics. In fact, my elder daughter asked me to replay a number of them. We're using her version of the Four Questions (Ma Nisthana) when practicing for our seder. That's a pretty good sign. Would the originals grow on them? I'll have to report back later. I will say that my two favorite recent Jewish kids albums Oy Baby 1 and 2 and Shira Kleins Shirlala Chanukkah grabbed them immidiately, new songs or no.

But my little experts aren't yours. Hop over to Dafna's website and see what you think. Or better yet, put your little experts to work and see what they think.

Matzalaya! Free at Last!

Every Passover produces a flood of fun new music. If the Idelsohn Exodus 2.0 mix isn't your cup of kosher wine, maybe this video from Dovid Kerner will do the trick...

music: Hank Williams Sr.'s Jambalaya
arrangement based on John Fogarty's recording of Jambalaya
art work: the Kerner kids (ages 7 and 3)

Update: Dovid sent me a link to a new and hi-rezzier version that meets the approval of graphic artist (his 7 year old). Those fickle artists :)

Exodus 2.0: Idelsohn Society Passover Mix 2010

I love it when I get scooped by non-Jewish media. It gives me hope. Today I was beaten to the punch by my favorite blog, Boing Boing, who featured this pretty fabulous mix tape of Passover music clips compiled by the gang at the Idelsohn Society. The mix isn't really DJ quality, certainly not up there with Socalled's Seder, but does a fine job of collecting a bunch of odd and wonderful recordings.

Exodus 2.0: Idelsohn Society Passover Mix 2010 by The Idelsohn Society

The best can download it right now and use it for your pre- or post-seder sound track. I know I'm going to. Or throw it on a thumbdrive as a great present for your afikomen finders. (If you do, wrap the it in a $5 bill. Just sayin')

Tracks include:
Richard Tucker, "The Kiddush"
Darondo, "Let My People Go"
Socalled, "The Four Questions"
Moe Jaffe & Henry Tobias, "Passover Time on the Range"
G-d Is My Co-Pilot, "Dayenu"
Steven Bernstein, "Manishtana" (vs. The Wonder Kids)
Bas Sheva, "Caravan"
Joy Division, "Passover"
Rabbi Kahn, "Your Passover Seder" vs. Flying Lotus
Harold Stern, "Jewish Cowboy"
The Carter Family, "On My Way To Canaan's Land"
Charles Mingus, "Freedom"
Nina Simone, "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free"
Gershon Kingsley, "What Does It Take (The Ten Plagues)"
Socalled, "Dayenu"
Egyptian Lover, "Egypt, Egypt" vs. The Malavsky Family
Ray Barretto, "Exodus"
Benjamin Lapidus, "Las Cuatro Preguntas"
Ray Charles, "Where Can I Go?"
James Harman Band, "The Four Questions"
The Velvet Underground, "I'm Set Free"
Roosevelt Charles, "Let My People Go"

An Interfaith Passover Blessing

Just got an email I thought I'd pass along...
I just received this pretty awesome Passover greeting card from my rabbi, which has a really great message. This unique card celebrates what really makes Passover beautiful by getting insightful perspectives and uplifting messages from inspirational leaders of many different faith communities. The card features Conservative Rabbi's David Wolpe, Nicole Guzik and Rabbi Deborah Schuldenfrei, as well as Imam Jihad Turk, Pastors Cecil Murray, Mark Whitlock and Reverend Liz Munoz.

Craig N' Co teamed up with American Greeting Cards to create this Passover message. Last year, their Hanukkah Card became American Greetings most downloaded card of the holiday season. This Passover, I'm sure the card will make just as much of an impact. I hope you will feature this free Passover card on your blog this upcoming Passover. It is a beautiful way to celebrate the essence of the holiday.
Check it out:

Monday, March 15, 2010

If because of this I die, I die

Pesach is coming fast, but this year's Purim videos are starting to pop up on YouTube. Here's a good one from New York-based folk-hop singer-songwriter Jim Costello, aka Ya'akov-Yisrael.

Chapter four of Megillat Esther as told by Ya'akov-Yisrael

The video was recorded on Feb 24, 2010 in Philadelphia at the Collaborative Purim spiel. Go hop over to Jim's website for a free .mp3 download of this and some of his other songs and for the full lyric sheet.

Friday, March 12, 2010

My Dream Came True but I'm Still Not Satisfied: The Journey of a Metal Jew

Keith Kahn-Harris of the Metal Jew blog took his turn at the Ignite microphone recently. His talk "My Dream Came True but I'm Still Not Satisfied: The Journey of a Metal Jew" is a riot. Have at it people...

Proudly part of Global Ignite Week

Hosted at The Luminaire on 02 March 2010

I hope that this is the start of a trend. Both Keith and I have done our about you? Get up and tell your Jewish music story and email me the link to the video. It's just a five minute talk. It'll be great. Promise.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Shlomo Carlebach: Songs of Peace and You Never Know

I've got a happy heart right now. I'm back at my computer after a night at the JCC Stephen Gottlieb Music Fest watching the Shlomo Carlebach documentary "You Never Know." All the way there and all the way back I was listening to a review copy of the new Sojourn Records album "Shlomo Carlebach - Songs of Peace" a posthumous release of material from a pair of 1973 concerts. This is as good as it gets, folks. I'm riding a serious Jewish high right now.

Poster for You Never KnowCarlebach was an amazing figure, a controversial Lubavitch Chassidic rebbe who took his faith to the streets and lifted the hearts and souls of the people he met there. And in the process helped revolutionize Jewish music and prayer in both the traditional and liberal Jewish movements. If you hear someone pickup a guitar and sing a prayer in Hebrew, you're hearing Carlebach's echo (as well a few others).
While rough in pacing and erratic in focus, "You Never Know" is an excellent documentary. It is less about Carlebach than it is about his legacy and his impact on people. It avoids narrative, historic or biographical, and instead hops around in time and place letting a diverse set of people talk, dance and sing about how Carlebach had touched their lives. It paints a picture of a rebbe who was more interested in inspiring disaffected Jews than delivering lectures to frum yeshiva students. The cost of this was his reputation in traditional circles, the benefit was his success at his mission.

Songs of Peace album cover
And it's important to remember that if you get a chance to listen to Songs of Peace. This is a concert. It has a stage, a singer, a guitar. It's also a prayer gathering and religious experience. Carlebach breaks from his songs to tell stories and teach. The album admirably captures both the music and teaching. I'm not Chassidic and can sometimes get overwhelmed by the mystical language that permeates Chassidic thought, but I could listen to Carlebach any time (and often do). He has a gift for making the ephemeral concrete and relevant to daily life.

Carlebach has a long discography. Wikipedia notes 23 albums (5 of which are available on Sojourn Records) and I'm aware of a lot of other bootlegs and non-commercial recordings floating around. I'm not nearly enough of a connoisseur to say whether this is among the best of his records. But I can say whole heartedly that it's an excellent introduction. The recording has that wonderful audio distance of historic recording, but is clear and listenable. Carlebach's voice and guitar are in fine form and the teachings are well chosen, short and moving.

To hear samples from Songs of Peace, check out the Sojourn Records website. For a quick hit of one of the giants of Jewish music, check this video out. YouTube has a ton of Carlebach. I chose this one because it's from the same time period as Songs for Peace

Shlomo Carlebach Boi B'Shalom 1973

A couple of final notes. First, Sojourn Records also recently released a fine album by Carlebach's daughter Neshama. It deserves, and will get, it's own review sometime next week. Second, I've got an .mp3 of a great lecture explaining some of the reasons that Carlebach was controversial in the orthodox community. I'd provide a link, but I can't find it on the web anymore. If you're interested let me know and I'll get it to you.

Finally, the FCC wants you to know that I got no compensation for this review other than a free digital review copy of the CD. And I got in free to the movie because I was taking tickets. Isn't that exciting to know?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Like a happy rabbi eating tacos in Guadalajara at 3am- The Sherele Jazz Band Innovators

Klezmer music is one of those musical forms (the good ones) that both inspire and defy definition. I have some tounge-in-cheek definitions of my own...
  • The shtetl band, wanting to perfectly recreate the sound of pre-war Eastern Europe. (e.g. Budowitz and Adrienne Greenbaum)
  • The revival band, honoring their American golden age klezmer progenitors and Yiddish theater favorites, and so very (sometime depressingly) serious about making new Jewish culture (e.g. Klezmatics and the Shirm Klezmer Orchestra).
  • The bongo band, klezmer by way of the 1940's pop Yiddish and 1950's Jewish Latin music crazes (e.g. Yiddishe Cup and the Klezmer Company Orchestra).
  • And of course, the hard-working local simcha band (we play weddings, bar mitzvahs and brisses), actually expecting the audience to dance to songs with 'hora' in their name (e.g. Michigan's Heartland Klezmorim and New England's Wholesale Klezmer Band).
  • And then there's the jazz-klezmer band, where violins become horns, accordions become upright basses, and Minsk becomes Manhattan (Frank London, Enrico Fink).
  • The post-klezmer (or prog-klezmer) band, where klezmer is a point of departure not a destination (or something profound like that). (e.g. Klezmer Madness, Klezmafour)
  • The Pop-klezmer, where pop music has an illicit love affair with klezmer (e.g. Oi Va Voi, Golem)
  • And finally, the Roots / World music klezmer, where klezmer is whipped up with most any other rootsy music around to prove that every indigenous music form in the world loves accordion (Red Sea Pedestrians, JUF, Beyond the Pale)
I've been wanting to get that written down for a while. I'm sure that my friends in the klezmer community will take issue with this and with good reason. Categories are always limiting, often wrong and best are marginally helpful. But they can be helpful. And I needed a bit of help today.

Sherele album coverThe Sherele Jazz Band Innovators is one of my favorite contemporary klezmer bands, well grounded in the tradition but also well planted in their place (Mexico) and time (now). A fine woody clarinet over tockity drums, acoustic and electric guitars, and bass. Wailing and soulful, jangly and full of life. Their recent album, "Oy Mame Shein -Pickles, Chiles and Jrein" is great fun. And, of course, my categories both help and hurt my ability to describe them. Definately not a shtetle band. They've got the jazz feel of a late-revival band but happily weave in elements of (Mexican) roots and post-klezmer. The guitar playing was particularly fascinating, sometimes a Spanish, almost flamenco, style acoustic guitar sometimes a cutting electric guitar. All in all a lovely blend.

Here...give'em a listen.

Sherele klezmer medley

Putmayo Album CoverSherele has gotten a bump in popularity late through their inclusion on the new Putumayo sampler cd "Jazz around the World."For a band who's self description is "Like a happy Rabi waking up in a Moldavian shtetl, dancing love letters in Buenos Aires, eating tacos in Guadalajara (3 a.m. after mariachi and tequila) and head banging to your grandmother’s music in 50 plus minutes of Latin American Klezmer extravaganza" a world music album is natural home.

You can get more info on Sherele at the Myspace page, their CD Baby page, and their Facebook fan page.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Yiddish Song of the Week

I'm pretty excited about the website "The Yiddish Song of the Week." I'm pretty excited about it. If the first, and only so far, blog post sets the tone this should be a fun ride. The blog post offered a quick biographical sketch of Yiddish folksinger Lifshe Schaechter Widman (1893-1973), as well notes, lyrics, and a lovely recording of her singing "Fintster Glitshik". Here's the official blurb....
Welcome to the website/blog “The Yiddish Song of the Week” presented by the An-sky Jewish Folklore Research Project (AJFRP). This initiative is part of a larger effort by the AJFRP to revitalize traditional Yiddish folksinging performance and research on the subject. To that end, this website will emphasize field recordings of traditional Yiddish folksingers from around the world contributed by folklorists, ethnomusicologists, musicians, singers and collectors.

Each Yiddish song will be presented with Yiddish words and translation, along with commentary from the contributor. Since the website is a blog, we hope that each song contribution will elicit comments from others on the song itself, or on the singing style of the singer. Perhaps others will contribute a variant of the song from their recordings, etc.

I'm pretty excited about this. Blogs like this are an important tool for expanding our communities awareness of this largely hidden treasure. There is increasing interest in expanding the range of performed Yiddish song. (Not to mention interest in increasing the amount of spoken Yiddish, but that's a different challenge.) So go check out this blog and stay tuned. It looks like more good stuff to come.

Here are a few of my favorite contemporary Yiddish singers. These folks are all amazing and bring a lot of energy to Yiddish song. In fact, maybe the An-sky Jewish Folklore Research Project should match their historical Yiddish Song of the Week with a "New Yiddish Song of the Week" website.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

2 from Shemspeed: Darshan and Dreams in Static

When I stand in front of people, virtually or physically, and tell them that we're in a silver age of Jewish music, exhibit A is often the Jewish hipster record labels Shemspeed and JDub. Labels successfully packaging Jewish music, approached from both religious and cultural perspectives, for hip 20-somethings? If that's not evidence that something fabulous is happening, I'm not sure what would be. So I look forward to every new release from these labels and am always happily surprised and challenged by them. These two albums, though, don't quite live up to my expectations.

Darshan's Lishma EP album coverThe first album, Darshan's "Lishma EP" has taken me a month or so of listening to get into it, but I'm getting there. Here's their official blurb...
Darshan is "astral rap, liturgical jazz, audio alchemy. Harmonizing Hebrew chant with hiphop, folk rock with electro-pop, love poetry with kabbalistic psychology, Darshan is a unique and organic weave of world wisdom traditions and modern musical styles"
Darshan is a project of one of my favorite new vocalists, Shir Yaakov, and rapper & producer Eprhyme. Driven by Shir Yaakov's liturgical melodies and slow slow slow delivery and built on Ephrhyme's equally slow, staticky productions, this album sounds in many ways more like an Aphex Twin electronica album than it does hip-hop. I'm not sure that it works. There's a riskiness; a certain urban dreaminess to it that I can appreciate, but also a certain grinding tedium I can't. I'm told by folks that have seen them that their live show is outstanding. I can believe it. The raw material in these tracks is great. I could see Yotzer Or, my favorite track on the album, shaking the house. I can imagine the interplay between Shir Yaakov's melodic vocals and Ephryme staccato rap. The EP, though, seems held back by the lack of stage energy.

Why imagine it? Here's Darshan performing Yotzer Or at their album release party a couple of weeks ago.

Good stuff. But for me the EP doesn't quite live up to it.

Similarly, the second new Shemspeed release, Dreams in Static, draws on a large sonic palette, but the resulting picture is a bit blotchy. According to the official blurb,
"Dreams in Static conjures up the aesthetic of James Bond, Prefuse 73, & Pulp Fiction. Each song is the soundtrack to a film in a genre of its own. This is music that exists beyond pop and yet overflows with it. Serene Poetic strikes a balance between Diwon, a Brooklyn-based hip-hop producer, and Dugans, a multifaceted guitarist-composer from Texas. Using live drums, samplers, analog synths, electric pianos and guitars, Dreams in Static transcends genres and breathes new life and depth with each subsequent listen. The album teems with life, beauty and depth; it's an instrumental masterpiece that resurrects live instrumental music and guitar-based symphonies. It pops in a world where popular music has been left in a state of static."
Ok. Whew. That's a lot to cram into an album. And the album feels a bit crammed into. I'm an electronica fan from way back and can be really happy with broad-brush sonic adventures like this. At its best, this recording is happily deconstructive, breaking down pop genres into bits and reassembling them into long tone poems. My favorite tracks, including American Pastoral and Standing in Shadow live up to hype. They have a rich internal life that gets me immediately invested. Many of the tracks, though, sound more like demo reels than a movie soundtracks. Sounds flicker and weave, but never resolve into anything. I really dug this album when I first listened, but over repeated listening it didn't wear well. Your mileage may vary...check Dreams in Static out on their myspace page and in this video. Let me know what you think.

Dreams in Static feat. Eytan "I'm Gonna Get Back Up" Live

I do want to point out that I'm a big fan of Diwon, and in particular love his Tikkun Klalki remix. Download it from Shemspeed here. And check out the video.

Tikkun Klali # 10 (diwon dancedancetantz remix of Erez Yechiel)

Friday, March 5, 2010

More Yehuda Green

Shabbat shalom everyone.

Over at my day job, we've at had a big software delivery this week and I'm pretty fried. Very ready for Shabbat. Here's a 'get in the Shabbos groove' video from Yehuda Green. I as mentioned yesterday, I got hooked on Green while prepping for my Jewish music talk and am excited to go pick up his new album*.

Yehuda Green performs at the Carlebach Shul - January 5th, 2008

*I think the FCC wants me to say that I haven't gotten any compensation for plugging this album. I didn't even get a freebie in the mail. Though I'd like one.

Shircago at Detroit's JCC Stephen Gottlieb Music Fest

Ok. Back to the JCC Stephen Gottlieb Music fest. I'm on the committee after all, and am entitled to a few plugs for the festival. Shircago will be playing on Saturday March 13th at 8:30pm. They're an a Capella group whose repertoire ranges "from classical to pop, from English to Hebrew and even Yiddish and Ladino, from traditional melodies to original compositions and innovative arrangements." Good fun.

To give you a taste of their style, here's Shircago performing on Chicago's Rabbi Doug show.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Yehuda Green's Yearning and Lipa's Haggadah

I get a lot of announcements about new albums, way more than I can keep up with. But I got two today from the Orthodox / Chassidic music company, MostlyMusic that I wanted to share, primarily because I plan on buying both of them myself.

Yehuda Green's new album, YearningThe first is the new Yehuda Green album, Yearning. I was only turned on to Green a few weeks ago, when I was preparing for my Ann Arbor library Jewish Music talk. I was going to spend some time during the talk discussing the Orthodox / Chassidic music scene and was looking for a good example of the neo-Carlebach sound. While there are a number of musicians who qualify, Green is one of the standouts and I played a clip of his music during the talk. I found it very moving and decided to grab the album.

To give you a sense of what Green's about, here's a video of Green recorded for the Vos Iz Neias website. For more on Green, you can check out a 30 minute interview he gave recently to VIN.

Yehuda Green preforms for VIN Readers

Lipa SchmeltzerThe second album is from Lipa Schmeltzer, one of my favorite Chassidic shiny-shoe singers. Lipa is about as funky and out-there a musician as I've run across. I had his previous album, Poshiter Yid, on heavy rotation when I first got it (and have his bumper sticker on my car.) This year he's coming out with his own Pesach haggadah and accompanying album. I'm honestly not sure what to expect. The video below, which is supposed to be a promo, doesn't really help much. An album of new Pesach songs? Traditional songs? Him narrating a seder? Not sure. But it's bound to be fun. I'm always on the lookout for new Pesech music, so I'll pick it up. It can be found over at Mostly Music.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Rabbi Joe Black at Detroit's JCC Stephen Gottlieb Music Fest

Yesterday I kvetched a bit about JCC Stephen Gottlieb Music Fest headliner Hal Linden. Should be a great show, but not my thing. That's ok. The fest has a number of other shows that I'm a lot more excited about. Number one on the list is Rabbi Joe Black, who'll be playing on Sunday March 14 at 2pm at the JCC in West Bloomfield, MI.

Here's the official blurb...
"One of the most popular and in-demand contemporary Jewish musicians in America, returns to Detroit for this family concert! With children, he is energetic, surprising and dynamic. With adults, his superb musicianship, powerful songwriting and sense of spiritual awareness creates an opportunity for the head and the heart to come together. A Rabbi Joe Black performance is not to be missed! The Matzah Factory event immediately follows the concert (3-5 p.m.)"
And here's a fun video of RJB playing with the Maxwell Street Klezmer band a year or three ago.

Eight Nights Of Joy - Rabbi Joe Black and Maxwell Street Klezmer Band

This is about as happy clappy, kid-friendly a contemporary songleader style show as I could ask for. Which is great, considering the pair of little wigglers I plan on taking to the show. And I, myself, have never been to a real Jewish songleader style show either. It should be great fun and educational. The whole 'songleader' approach to Jewish music is something I'm rather new to. It comes, largely, out of the Reform Jewish camp movement (see Cantor Wally's "The Music of Reform Youth" for first cut on the evolution of songleader style) and the folk music revival of the 1950s and 1960's. Lots of strummy melodies and singalongs. Should be lots of fun.

By the way...I think I'm ushering at the show. If you come, make sure you say howdy.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Hal Linden headlines Detroit's JCC Stephen Gottlieb Music Fest

Hal LindenI don't remember if I mentioned this before, but I recently joined the executive committee of the JCC Stephen Gottlieb Music Fest. The music fest brings all sorts of interesting Jewish music acts to the North Coast (aka Michigan) every spring. I'm going to spend this week writing about a number of the acts playing the fest, both as a shameless plug and as a chance to think aloud about how different types of music collide in a Jewish music fest and what that says about American Jews.

The headliner of this year's music fest is Hal Linden, who will be playing on March 6. If you know who he is, you're doing better than I did when I first saw the event schedule. What if I said "Barney Miller?" Did that do it? It did for me. I'm old enough. Hal Linden is the Tony and Emmy award winning actor who played Barney Miller on the hit 1970's tv show of the same name. He's also a fine singer and musician and is Jewish, "Hal Linden" being a stage name for a Mr. Harold Lipshitz.

Here's the official fest blurb...
"Actor/singer/musician Hal Linden has earned three Emmys and Broadway’s highest accolade, the Tony, for his lead in “The Rothschilds.” Best known as the star of the popular series “Barney Miller,” Linden began his show business career as a clarinet player and later toured as a singer with the Sammy Kaye, Bobby Sherwood and Boyd Raeburn bands. Join us for an evening of outstanding music and song; Hal Linden is a riveting entertainer not to be missed!"

Here's a fun video of Linden goofing around on the 1970's show Captain and Tennille (which I don't remember.)

I'll be honest. I'm going to miss this one. I'm a fan of traditional jazz and I'm sure that Linden puts on a great show. But babysitting is expensive, going out without my wife isn't much fun, and with a Jewish music fest kicking off...this one just isn't compelling enough for me. It isn't, well, Jewish enough for me.

If the opportunity were to come my way, I might see Linden at a jazz fest. Or at a celebrity showcase of some kind. But I don't get the idea of him playing at a Jewish music fest. Other than banal fact that he's Jewish, his music says little to me about my religious life or cultural history. All it does is remind me that fairly regularly Jews make good TV shows.

What's interesting to me is how much my perspective isn't shared. This is a hot ticket, don't make any mistake about it. The show is selling well and people are excited. He's gotten rave reviews from other JCC's. Partially this is a demographic thing...his primary audience is my parents age, not mine. People who were in their 30's or 40's when Barney Miller was on the air. Not 7. People who are in their 70's now. Not 39.

Partially, it's an expectation thing. Going out to listen to a Jewish musician with a hall full of other Jews is more than sufficient for many Jews. It's not sufficient for me, for a Jewish music fest I expect more Jewish content. The JCC Stephen Gottlieb Music fest has plenty to offer for me, though, and I'll talk more about that starting tomorrow.

Charlie Bernhaut Channel

Photo of Charlie BernhautGot an email this morning about a great internet radio show, the Charlie Bernhaut Channel. I've been listening to one of the shows for most of the morning and I'm hooked. It's a treasure trove of chazzanus (cantorial) music a well as a variety of Orthodox and Chassidic music artists. I think I'm going to be listening in regularly. Here's the official description...
"Charlie Bernhaut’s volunteer 'radio career' began in 1977 when he introduced the Friday morning pre-Shabbos segment on Larry Gordon's "Jewish and Hebrew Sound" at WFMU. In 1980 he created "Two Hours of Jewish Soul Music" on WSOU – which ended in 1996. In recent years, under the auspices of Cantors World, he hosted a one hour cantorial program every Thursday at midnight via WSNR.

The first hour of the internet music program will be a mixture of Israeli, Yiddish, Chassidic, Sephardic, Choirs, Instrumental, Comedy, Historic, together with frequent brief interviews and commentary concerning Israel and the Jewish world. The second hour is solely 'chazzonus' - cantorial music. Via this hobby, Charlie is pleased to share his private collection of over 15,000 Jewish albums with listeners. There will be no commercials.

Lovers of 'chazzonus' recall that Charlie, together with his friend, Cantor Benny Rogosnitzky, formed "Cantors World" and helped to revive interest in traditional chazzonus."

To give you a tasted of what you'll hear on the show, here's are two videos of songs I heard this morning (or are close to what I heard).

The first is a vintage Reb Shlomo Carlebach singing Mimkomcah.


The second is a video of Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt singing Acheinu Kol Beis Yisroel.
Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt sings Acheinu Kol Beis Yisroel