Friday, November 30, 2007

Quote of the Week

The new Blog in Dm "Quote of the Week Award" goes to the father of a Bat Mitzvah girl who described the expense of the affair he's hosting thusly: "It's like driving a brand-new Porsche off a cliff, only in five hours instead of five seconds."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Who Writes This Stuff??? (JM PR)

This wins the award for best JM PR of the year.
Thursday November 29 sees the nationwide release of 2ND Dance, a groundbreaking new album. For the past several years, Jewish music has been moving in many exciting new directions, now Negunim Orchestra materializes and everything is on wheels. Mechel Mandel and Yitzy Schwartz, after years on the inside of the highest ranks of the Jewish music establishment, have decided to go one further. They have collaborated on a band that achieves what many thought too good to be true, combining talent from the four corners of the world of music, coordinating it for the occasion at hand, and producing work with the uniformity of genius.

For over a year now they have been waking up the sleepy corners of our imagination at every kind of Jewish event, from Concerts to Weddings to Bar Mitzvahs. Their new album displays all the creative ingenuity and supervisory polish at their ample disposals. It features the finest musicians provided by Negunim Orchestra, and it introduces Yosef Chiam Shwekey (younger brother of Yaakov) the most promising debut in any number of years. Singers include Dovid Gabay, Yishai Lapidot, Yisroel Williger, Michoel Schnitzler, Shlomo Simcha, Eli Levine, Pruz, Mendy Wald, Ieshula Ishakes, Yoily Greenfeld, Yackov Young, Mendy Werzberger, Shira Choir.

The production crew has been joined together from both Americas, Europe and Israel. The string instruments modulate the soul out of the rhythm and the beat out of the spirit. The brass is a novel recipe of classic and cutting edge methods. The mixing, by mastermind Eli Leshinsky, exhibits more inventive daring then Jewish music has yet heard, and the production genius of Mechel Mandel and Yitzy Schwartz lead you to rethink your entire approach to the contemporary Jewish music scene. There is more bottled energy in this album than your headphones can absorb. Covering classics and introducing some original songs, this is definitely the album that will be remembered.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

11/28/07 Link Dump

Eric Steiner:Music Snob!

Teruah posts a trailer for "Rock 'n Roll Rabbis."

Create Digital Music has a back and forth with Waves' faux "enforcement group" At least, that's what it looks like is.

I don't own any Waves product in large part because of their idiotic WUP/upgrade policies. And, my rep at one of the big retailers tells me they hear that a lot from customers. The solution isn't to be more annoying. Should seem obvious, I'd think, but Waves obviously has a different view. This is a dumb move on Waves' part. I predict it'll backfire and result in commercial studios not using Waves at all because other superb options are available without the potential headaches.

VOS IZ NEIAS wants Simcha Felder to enforce the law against hanging posters on street corners. He does not propose an exception for JM marketing posters.

THE LIFE-OF-RUBIN BLOG posts some footage of the concert in support of MoC's new disc. That disc is on the review stack and I'll try to get to it before Chanukah.

Learning Tsymbaly posts some footage of a stripped down Shtreiml set. Nice!

Here's a Chanukah classic: I remember Judah Macabee.

Finally, Lazer Beams posts The Beatles, Yiddish Style! S'iz gi'ven a shvere togedikke nakht!

From the mailbag...

PT forwards a link to Perel's review of the YU Battle of the Bands.

Jordan Hirsch writes:
I think you bring up some good points regarding awareness of the true origins of some of the currently popular intros and riffs making their way around the JM scene. While I agree that not all the "bochurim" so taken by the current hits are aware of their provenance, some will eventually become familiar with the original versions because of their current popularity. At which point they will have no excuse. It is a little amusing and sad that the politically conservative Yeshiva crowd is so comfortable appropriating the gestures, language, and music of a culture which they decry every day. The radical democritization which Rock and Roll represents is part and parcel with the movements that brought contemporary culture the breakdown in sexual morality, personal drug use, and social conformity that is anathema to the Yeshiva world. They hate liberal political and social thinking, but without it they would have no fun, not to mention food stamps and welfare for Kollel families.

On another point, I agree that the pop horn sectiond should be used sparingly if at all in Jewish Music. My ideal of a horn section in JM can best be found on some of the old Rudy Tepel o'h recordings from the early 1960's, or perhaps the first Neginah Wedding album. My album Neshoma Yeseirah tried for that sound somewhat. Whenever I played with Piamenta, which was more often in the 80's, I stuck a harmon mute in my trumpet and tried to get a cool, Miles Davis type sound to contrast with the heat of the Piamenta concept. I don't know if anyone else liked it, but Yossie dug it.
"M" writes:
I am a sideperson who works in the Jewish field. I have read your blog for some time and and I enjoy it very much. Thanks!

I want to comment on a comment on the entry from November 26 from a person identified as "Y".

I have been asked to play the Usher lick many times in the past several months. Let me say; I am not a fan of Rap music, so honestly I don't know the lyrics of this number. I just want to make it known that what ever violent, misogynistic, perverted, deviant, or otherwise ill-advised behavior is not inherently "GOYISH"! No one in my family carries a gun, beats up women or uses illegal drugs.

Here is a news flash. Young people of all backrounds seem to enjoy this crap. Nobody is going to break down the mechitza and start an orgy at Torah Viera because someone plays that lick.

I really think we can calm down on this one.
Joel K. writes:
A little response to what "y", who is an in towner born and raised in Flatbush, had to say. Y. should stop complaining about Lipa and the style of music he plays at his weddings. Lipa is not the first guy to rip off a non jewish pop song it has been going on for years. If he is not comfortable playing non jewish music he should stop working or just stop bitching about it. Very popular wedding tunes like yidden from mbd and asher bara, kol hamesameach from piamenta are complete goyishe rip offs. All lipa did was take one riff.

This element is part of jewish music whether Y. or anyone likes it. Its not lipa's fault he's just playing to the crowd.
Now we're having a conversation! Anyone else want to join in?

Monday, November 26, 2007

From the mailbag...

Sruli Weinstein writes:
I am a guitarist making my way into the NY wedding scene. I believe I have sent you clips once before. Anyways I have uploaded some live clips online and would love to hear some feedback.

SoundClick artist: Sruli Weinstein - page with MP3 music downloads

PS. I know from your blog your not a fan of the Usher Yea Yea intro but try to get past it on this track.
E. forwards a link to a Forward article: "Orthodox Women Shine Onstage."

He also forwards a link to a demo clip of Piamenta's upcoming release and writes 'yet another feeble attempt to jewify "the sound of silence". Indeed. I love the guy in the background, though. Geshmak! Seriously, though, I wish they'd lose the horns on their commercial releases. Piamenta has a unique sound, and I love some of their releases, but the pop horn section sound doesn't work for them, IMO.

Leo writes:
Do you have this old LP, Shirei Alumim, in mp3 format? I can't find my old LP.
I thought it had been re-released on CD recently, but the online JM retailers do not appear to have it. Anyone know if it's available?

Y writes:
I've been "lurking" for quite some time, reading your blog every now and then. I can really a keyboard player for a relatively (60-90 gigs per year) busy Frum band in a large "out-of-town" community, I've seen/heard/transcribed all forms of original, not-so-original, and totally ripped-off forms of "Jewish" music, but the stupid Usher riff topped all. (And no, I'm not the von-man-band Boro Park type...)

It all started when Lipa Schmeltzer did a concert here. A whole crowd of Yeshiva Bochurim gathered in front of the stage and started singing that riff, which he had conveniently used on his most recent remix CD.

A week later, we played a wedding, at which these Bochurim were doing the same. We went through a few rounds of this, and (of course) it got the whole crowd going. I was sitting there these Bochurim know where this garbage came from? If they did, would they still be singing it? Why does Lipa's Rebbe tell him that he has to have a Mechitza at his concerts, but playing totally Goyishe music is OK? I just don't get it. You seem convinced that they all know what it is. I'm not so sure they know the lyrics -- just that it's Goyish.

Of course, I was the last person in the world to find out how Goyish it really is, as I was able to send an MP3 sound clip to a relative who's more integrated into the "outside world" and identified it right away - but that's another story.

While we're on the topic -- what in the world is up with all these dancing intros people use (Pirates of the Caribbean, Crazy in Love from Beyonce, Monday Night Football, etc.)? I wonder if they know where all of that stuff is from!

Another interesting question (and this might make interesting blog material): Why are these visiting New Yorkers thoroughly convinced that we "out of towners" aren't Frum & have no idea, even when our appearance would indicate otherwise? By my appearance, I basically identify with the Chassidish segment of the community. The tux is just a "Purim costume", as far as I'm concerned, that I have to wear in order to stick to the bandleader's rules and have a uniform look on the bandstand. So why do these people look at me like I fell off of a spaceship from Mars when I go out in the hall to daven Ma'ariv with them and put on my Gartel? Why do these Bochurim come up to me on the bandstand and ask if I have heard of "Od Yishoma"? Or if we know about "Niggun Neshomele"? What about the ones who tell me that we have to pick up the tempo because there's a dance floor (no kidding!), or that we have to play slower because we're out of town? What about the Chassidim who remarked to each other in Yiddish, right behind me, about "di shkootzim" on the bandstand? WHAT THE HECK IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?

I'm glad to see I'm not alone in getting weird comments from people. Something seems to attract the weirdos to the bandstand, and I can't quite figure out.
I've seen this happen too. It's bizarre.

As far as the Usher intro goes... Perhaps my original comments were unclear. I don't think every bochur who asks for it now knows the original lyrics. Some of them just know that it's "goyish" and the "oylem is into it". However, the people who brought it in to the community did know. This includes the musicians who recorded it and the guys who started asking for it at simchos.

On a related note, a recent Cross-Currents post, "How Secular?", links to a PDF of a Hakira essay by Rabbi Dr. Ahron Hersh Fried on the subject "Are Our Children Too Secular." Here's a salient point that helps explain how this stuff becomes appealing to frum youth.

Many of our youth today have little understanding of the global context, the nature, and the values that drive secular thinking and of the worlds of business, politics, interpersonal relations, culture, and the like. This knowledge would be helpful to them in navigating that world. Yet many of them are unfortunately, quite familiar with the crassest forms of entertainment and enticements of that world, and that, in a most naïve and simplistic fashion.14 When we fence out the non-Jewish world completely, we fail to give our children some of the basic knowledge, values, and criteria used in general society to discern between what is refined and what is crass, between what is esthetically pleasing and what is just flashy, and between what is acceptable and what is abhorrent. In their ignorance, and in the throes of their passions, our “unprotected” youth, once they have dared to open the gates that have kept them penned inside our world (and have earned the appellation “Children at Risk”), make a mad dash for the lowest forms of culture and entertainment in the secular world, and in their ignorant minds rationalize, justify, and validate their behaviors by telling themselves that they are doing what is done and approved of by all those “smart, intelligent goyim who, by dint of their intelligence and wisdom, make things happen, invent things, and run the world.” Little do they realize that the goyim whose technological prowess they’ve come to admire wouldn’t want to be caught dead in the cheap and crass environment that some of our disenchanted youth habituate.
It's over the top, and I don't agree with this in full, but I do believe that he's correct about these kids not using discretion once they're "acting out".

To illustrate...

I once had a roommate at a prestigious yeshiva where listening to secular radio was forbidden. He'd made a mixtape of his favorite pop songs off the radio. (Naturally, he listened to Z100 and Hot 97 and the like). All of the songs were about sex, like the Divinyl's "I Touch Myself" (an ode to masturbation), Color Me Bad's "I Wanna Sex You Up", George Michael's "I Want your Sex" and the like. When he played me the cassette, I asked him if he saw anything interesting about the song selection. He didn't. Even after I pointed out the obvious sex angle, he continued to insist that it was a coincidence, that the lyrics didn't matter to him, he just liked the music.

The reality is that these kids, who are taught that listening to secular music is wrong, have no discretion about what they'll listen to. After all, their self image of how their community will view them is accurate. As far as their rabbeim are concerned, there is no difference between listening to the Beatles and Usher. They'll relate to students who listen to either the same way. Obviously, this is a generalization, but, it's one I have plenty of firsthand experience with both in yeshiva and as a bandleader.

Recently, I linked to a post on this subject by The Studio 54 Rebbe. It's worth reading, if you haven't yet.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

11/15/07 Link Dump

A Simple Jew posts: "Question & Answer With Shlomo Katz - "Composing" Niggunim."

Rabbi Ari Enkin posts at Hirhurim on "Clapping, Dancing, and Musical Instruments on Shabbos."

The J-Post reviews Omek Hadavar's debut disc and Blue Fringe's 'The Whole World lit Up."

Safam has released The Complete Collection Songbook, a book containg the music and lyrics to all of their original pieces. (Did we mention we'll gladly review sheet music books too?)

The nice folks over at Jewish music production company, Oorah, are conducting a push poll. No questions about Jewish music, though.

Jewish Music Blog is panning Yitzy Spinner's album based on the preview samples available. Among his critiques; the fact that Spinner composed all of the tracks on the album and that he explores different musical styles on the album.

Imagine that. An artist who writes his own material and is allegedly being musically creative. A shonda! This "review" makes us long for the days of "The guitar even plays wah-wah on freilich - talk about gishmack! "

The Town Crier posts a pair o' links about a Women singing in shul controversy in Upper Harlem.

From the mailbag...

PT writes:
I don’t know if you caught this (or if you have any interest in linking) but Robert Avrech reviewed Rock of Sages. Seraphic Secret: Moshe Skier's Rock of Sages: A Review
Naftali writes:
Check out Gibson's Robot Guitar. Click here.
Create Digital Music posted about this.

Sameach Music sends the following:
Can you please post these links.

Aryeh Kunstler's new CD is now available through Sameach Music.

We're giving out as a free download, the bonus track titled "The Chavrusah Break-Up Song."

You can also download an 8 Minute preview of the album.

All the details are on the podcast website!
Yam Productions writes:

שלומות לכם אנשים יקרים

אז ככה, קליפ הבכורה שלנו הגיע לערוץ 24, אין ספק,כבוד גדול....בכל אופן נשמח אם תצפו, תגיבו ותדרגו, ובאופן כללי תנו חיזוק חיובי

כן, זה שיר הזוי קצת והקליפ ניסה להלום את הסגנון , משהו אריאל זילברי/מתי כספי שכזה. או לפחות זה מה שאנחנו אומרים לעצמנו

נשמח גם אם תעבירו הלאה את הלינק (כדי לעשות הפצות) (אכן,יש כאן אנשים עם רקע נ-נחי) מקווים שהעלינו לכם לפחות קצה של חיוך ולו יהי זה שכרנו

חיים טובים
(ים הפקות) יאיר פלד ומרים הופמן
Psachya writes:
I followed your link to Studio 54 Rebbe (great blog, BTW). In it, he tangentially mentioned some of the rap lyrics from Usher's "Yeah". I was stunned. The riff (minus the lyrics) has become somewhat popular at yeshivish weddings, either as a fanfare or as a "stick-it-in-somewhere" request. One wonders whether the bochurim (or their rabbeim) have any idea of the provenance of the riff, or of the nature of the original words. This goes way beyond the more innocent lyrics of Djingis Khan or of Men At Work's "Down Under." Perhaps you might want to address this issue.
I expect that the bochurim who began requesting this at affairs (and the bandleaders/musicians who obliged them) knew full well what the lyrics were and that's why they requested it/played it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

In Review: Hamakor - The Source

In the mail... Hamakor - The Source

Following in the footsteps of SoulFarm and Moshav Band, Hamakor is the latest Solomon brother fronted band. The band, fronted by Nachman Solomon, describes it's music as "a unique blend of Rock & Roll and electronica combined with a root like Jewish message."

In general, the production style sounds very 70's rock. The band's simple groove-based approach works nicely. Its not virtuoso musicianship, just groovy trance rock, played by a tight band. Did we mention keyboards? Unlike the other Solomon brother bands, Hamakor features keyboards as an integral part of their sound. Benjamin Ross Frimer plays the parts, which are mainly rock piano, and pads and leads with lots of filter sweeps. Did we mention the filter sweeps? Not just relegated to filling in the background, these parts play a prominent role in the group's overall sound.

The album includes original English and Hebrew songs, as well as settings of Im Eshkacheich and Eliyahu Hanavi.

Album opener "The Source" sounds reminiscent of what EMF would sound like if they'd brought the Black Crowe's Chris Robinson in as frontman, mainly due to Solomon's affectation of a Southern drawl. There's a filter swept synth breakdown on "Lost Man". Look for the hidden bonus track at the end of "Should've Known" -- a live acoustic, unplugged version of the song.

Monday, November 12, 2007

State of the Union

Check this out! The stagehands union is not going to be picketing the HASC Ohel concert tonight.
On the official Local One website, union president James J. Claffey, Jr., writes, "Local One has just been made aware that a fund raiser for mentally challenged children was scheduled for tomorrow, November 12, 2007 in the Marriott Marquis Theatre . . . Please be advised that I am removing the picket line at the Marriott Marquis Theatre so that this worthy event can carry on for the benefit of these children. After the load-out of the event, the picket line will resume along with all others.
This is obviously the right thing to do, as well as being in their own self-interest. Imagine the negative press if they picketed a private fundraiser for the mentally challenged?

Where they go above and beyond is here:
"In addition, Local One refuses to work under the expired collective bargaining agreement that we are exercising our legal rights against. We will work the event free of charge for the benefit of this Organization."
In other words, they're working this one, gratis. Now, I realize they're trying to make a point about not working under the expired collective bargaining agreement, but really, they could have quietly accepted payment for their work on this event. After all, it's not a regular show, it's a one-off fundraiser for a photogenic charity.

So, Yasher Koach to the stagehands union! (HT, HT)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Name That Band!

Psycho Toddler is soliciting band name suggestions for his acoustic/klezmer group.

A few suggestions:
Tea and Kreplach
Rhozinkes Mit Mandolin
Go Know
Put On A Sweater

Sunday, November 04, 2007

In Which Dm Goes to Jail

Since I mentioned it...

A number of years back, I got a call from a singer I had been doing some work with. He wanted to know if I would be willing to come up with him and two other well-known singers to perform for the Jewish prisoners at the Otisville Federal Penitentiary upstate on the night before Shavuot. Although I was not convinced that it fell into the category of a "mitzvah gig", I volunteered to do it so long as he would drive me there and back. I figured that if nothing else, I'd get a good story out of it. As expected, I did.

When he showed up to pick me up that night, the mandatory sidekick all these guys travel with was along for the ride. I got into the car and "Sidekick" asks if I'm hungry. I ask what he has, assuming he'll offer chips, cookies, and the like. Instead, he asks if I'd like shnitzel or stuffed cabbage.

Turns out there are quite a few trays of shnitzel, stuffed cabbage, deli, etc. in the back. The guys than tell me that the real reason the concert was scheduled is so that we could smuggle the food into the prison. It turns out that the brother of one of the prisoners owned a restaurant and they'd set this event up as a way of getting the food into the prison for Shavuos. This guy wanted to "give kiddush" for all his friends. Apparently, you couldn't legitimately bring in that amount of food in, so it had to be smuggled in. I felt uncomfortable with the situation, but there wasn't much I could do at that point, so I just kept quiet.

The other two singers were driving up in another car and every now and again, "Sidekick" would check in with them via cell phone. (This will be relevant on the way back.)

When we got to the low-security prison, a Chassidish man in prison uniform comes out and motions to us to park behind the building. We park and get out of the car. One of the guards comes over and asks the singer why he parked in the back, instead of parking in one of the clearly marked visitor parking spaces in front. The singer tells him that one of the prisoners directed us to park there. The guard asked which one it was, and the singer replied, "oh, they all look the same." The guard first asked us to move the car, but since we'd already gotten out and begun unloading, he relented and let us leave the car there, even though it was out of sight of the guard booth.

We entered the prison, leaving the car doors unlocked, and set up for the show. After first davening mincha, we began the concert. I'd say there were about twenty people at the show. (There were more at Mincha.) Some of the Jewish inmates refused to attend because they were embarrassed and a few skipped the show for "religious reasons." It was a very strange gig.

Incidentally, the prison has a vending machine with "Meal Mart" deli sandwiches in it. And a Daf Yomi shiur.

It was interesting to speak to the prisoners. Some were clearly embarrased by what they'd done, but others were just as clearly not remorsefull at all. One guy proudly informed me what he'd done to get there. (It involved fraud with Govt. programs.)

Before we left, some of the prisoners came and snuck the food out of the car.

One of the most surreal moments of my life has to have been sitting in jail playing the song the prisoners requested, "Just One Shabbos" with its chorus of "Just one Shabbos and we'll all be free" as they all sang along.

Finally, to cap the night off...

On the way back, "Sidekick" was on the phone repeatedly with the singers in the other car and was laughing hysterically. Eventually, he told us that the other guys were, um, er, getting high and it wasn't on Torah. In other words, these guys (who had a reputation for uh, indulging) were stupid enough to bring the stuff into a Federal prison, potentially getting us all into trouble. Nice.

It was quite a night.

Note: Names have been omitted to protect the guilty.

10/31/07 Link Dump (Delayed edition) - UPDATED

Inadvertently saved this as a draft 'stead of posting. So, here it is with some mo' links.

Orthomom calls on Cardinal Eagen to use his influence in "Church Endorses Message of Hate?"

Dahlia Topolosky has released Kol Nearim, an album on which she sings her children's movement lyrics set to the melodies of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. (Via Teruah.) Update: after having "Waddle Like A Penguin" in our ears all weekend, there's a 50/50 chance we'll wind up singing those lyrics next time we play the song at a gig.

Over at Tzelem-Currents, JR writes about a program bringing music to adult cancer patients and to prisons. One of these days, we'll post about the concert we played at Otisville Federal Penitentiary.

There's a new blog on learning to play tsimbl called Learning Tsymbaly. (Via KlezmerShack.) Looks interesting.

Ben Jacobson finally got around to reviewing the 'matics "Wonder Wheel" last week. He also reviews Lanzbom and Solomon's "Chabad Sessions" and Karduner's "Breslever Melave Malka."

We reviewed "Wonder Wheel" here and the Karduner disc here.

Here's an album we'd like to hear. It's by Shuli Rand, who starred in Ushpizin. (Yes, that is a mikvah. Glas he resisted the urge to put some greasy kugel on a fishook. Oh, nevermind!) reports Mare Winningham Spotted @ Ramath Orath. We reviewed her album, "Refuge Rock Sublime", here.

Sameach Music has posted a video preview of the HASC DVD they're releasing soon. This is a DVD of a live concert held in NYC. Judging by the preview it gives a good overview of the current state of Chassidic pop music. (The state is Nevada, more specifically Vegas, circa 1979, in case you were wondering.)

Ever wonder what would happen if somone applied's concept and slogan to the Jewish wedding band industry? One of JB's friend's has done so.

So, if you've been dying to send your event information to some anonymous musician with no contact info on his site, so that he can try to book your affair, that's the place to do it.

There was a website aimed at Jewish musicians a few years back called, I believe. The concept was similar in that they also expected people to give them personal information despite the fact that they also didn't publish any contact info or ID on their site, (although it was clearly unzere, as they say in French). That didn't work out too well either.

Finally, here's John Tendy's secret Jewish identity. Shh! Don't tell.

UPDATE 11/7/07:
One of the SimchaTree folks writes: “We are not booking any affairs rather we put consumers in touch with the orchestras, dj's etc. who can potentially give them what they want.”

Friday, November 02, 2007

Time Fo' Some Mo' Peeps

It's that time again...

Here are some peeps we met at recent gigs.

"168 BPM Girl"
This chick NEEDS her freilach at 168 BPM or faster. If you slow down to 167 BPM, she's back at the bandstand, demanding "fast music we can dance to." (Yes, we did test to determine her exact tolerance level.)

The Rabbinical School Dropout
As best we can tell, he's either a dropout, or one of those people who stay in school for years, but never finish. To make a few bucks, he accepts a gig officiating at a small wedding for unaffiliated but traditional-minded Jews in a restaurant. Don't know exactly how these folks chose him. At any rate, he officiates, forgetting about the Ketubah, among other things. Good thing Rabbi Dm was there to remind him.

The Yeshivishe Translator
This guy gives a Dvar Torah in full-on yeshivish "Yinglish". He does stop to considerately translate two terms for his mixed audience. Those terms: Beit Hamikdash and Har Sinai. Considerate, but so pointless. We feel confident that anyone who needed those translated could not have understood the rest of his Dvar.