Sunday, December 30, 2007

From the mailbag...

Psachya writes:
OK - here we go again - a couple more peeps for ya:

- "The Impatient Janitor" - OK - you finished playing about 10 minutes ago, and he's already on your case. Sample statement - "Stop chatting with your buddy over there - I want to go home already, and you're holding me back." Never mind that I'm packing up frantically as I'm chatting. Never mind that the caterer, florist, and half the guests are still in the room. Never mind that the guy himself has a half-hour's worth of chairs & tables to put away. Never mind that you certainly don't want to be there one more second than absolutely necessary after a gig - you're the only one that's keeping him there. (BTW - that's not to say that we should make these guys' lives any more difficult than they already are. But that works two ways.)

- "The Third-Base Coach" - that's the maitre-d' who says, "Watch for my signal - that's when the bride and groom are ready to come in." He signals, we start playing the entrance music, and he runs over and tells us to stop. "Wait!" he says. "That signal only meant that they finished their pictures. I'll give you another signal when they're ready - but don't start to play until I give you another signal that they're actually at the door. Then wait for me to run up to the bandstand and yell at you in front of everybody for not playing the entrance music. THEN start playing - but only when I signal you!" (Hey - I didn't say he was a GOOD third-base coach.)

- "The Wedding Crasher/Chassidic Idol Wannabe" - these guys dress up every night in a suit, tie, and hat, and wait outside certain wedding halls. After the first dance set, they wander into the place trying to look inconspicuous. As soon as the second dance set starts, they run up to the band, try to grab a mike, and claim to be the chosson's very best friend who absolutely MUST sing the entire set. Here's some friendly advice, guys - if you're actually trying to get into the business, that's about the worst possible way to go about it. Trust me on this one.
Howie Zaretsy writes:
I stumbled onto your blog and I am delighted to see that this record is still talked about 27 years later. I wanted to mention that I was in the audience at SUNY Stony Brook in the auditorium room at the Student Union Bulding when this record was recorded. I will never forget it - it was truly incredible. I was photographer of the Jewish newspaper on campus and I probably photographed the event. I of course have a copy of the record (not in shrink wrap but in excellent condition). I love the music and listen to it all the time - still. The guitar work on that album is truly awesome.
Rabbi Shmuel Simenowitz writes:
Maybe it's me but after a week of chanuka gigs I get the feeling that there's more than a passing resemblace between the hook in Debbie Friedman's "I'm a Latke" and "hotdogs - Armour hotdogs" hmm.. . . .

Musician's Guide To Playing A Certain Restaurant

Over the years, we've played a number of gigs in one pretentious restaurant. Here's a helpful guide for musicians who have booked work in said venue.

1) The venue will double-book events and then try to squeeze everybody in. It's happened three or four times while we were playing there. Far too often to have been accidental. You are still entitled to play, even though they've set your party up in middle of the restaurant, with dividers on the side, and told you to keep it down. Obviously, be reasonable. But, we've found that pointing out the absurdity of the setup and the fact that the other patrons will be able to hear you no matter how low you play will save a lot of hassle. The first few times this happened, we had them coming over to complain about volume constantly. Since we've begun pointing out the absurdity of their position --to them and to the hosts-- we've had zero complaints.

2) Don't waste you time asking them to turn off the overhead music. They will ignore you. Ask the Ba'al Simcha instead. They'll listen to him/her. They don't want to get him angrier than he already is over the fact that the event isn't taking place in the party room as promised (and paid for).

3) Bring a snack. They won't feed you. Even if the host asks them to. Even if some guests don't show and you wind up being the "panim chadashos" at a Sheva Berachos. If the host follows up and asks a few times, you might eventually get fed.

4) Tape extension cords down 100% of their length, even if they tell you it's fine to leave it as you have set it, with only the exposed parts in trafficked areas taped down. Otherwise, at some point, someone will come and tape the rest of it down using the stickiest non-removable tape known to man. Your cord will be sticky for weeks.

As an aside, the best line of the evening came from one of the hosts, a mortgage broker by profession, who thanked the guests for coming out despite the current state of the market and taking a risk on a "sub-prime grill." (FYI, the venue was not Prime Grill.)

Here's something for the manager to consider.

When a client asks us to recommend a venue for their upcoming dinner party, which place do you think we'll suggest; your venue, or the restaurant we played last month, where the owner comped us a meal, and then took us out for drinks and live music at a nearby club?

"Tis The Season for Peeps

"The Reluctant Dancer"

This peep joins the men's dance circle and shuffles 'round with a bored distant look on his face. Hey, thanks for doing us the favor! Really! It just wouldn't be the same without you.

"The Its Too Loud Shmuck"

A close relative of previously mentioned "Peeps', the "Its Too Loud Shmuck" deserves special mention for the fact that she can walk into a room while a dance set is going on (at moderate volume, we might add), start a conversation right in front of us, and then rudely demand that we turn down. Um, lady, the guests are dancing. Also, the bride and groom's grandparents are sitting not that much farther away from us, and are having no trouble at all conversing.

Mrs. "My Friend Is An Idiot"
This peep has the bad luck to be conversing with the "Its Too Loud Shmuck" when she goes into her rant. She gives the bandleader an apologetic look and suggests to "Ms. Shmuck" that they just move a few feet away. Naturally, Ms. Shmuck refuses. Despite this refusal, and no reduction in volume, they are perfectly able to continue their conversation over the next twenty minutes or so of dance music. Of course, Mrs. "My Friend Is An Idiot" does keep giving us apologetic glances and "don't mind her" gestures when her friend won't notice.

The "It's So Nice To Hear A Band That Doesn't Play Too Loud" Couple

These "Peeps" are an elderly couple who come over shortly after we've had an encounter with the "Its Too Loud Shmuck" to compliment us on our low volume. We get compliments about our volume quite often. What makes this couple qualify for our list is the juxtaposition of their comments with our encounter with the "Shmuck". It's always nice to be validated.

Monday, December 17, 2007

12/17/07 Link Dump

Jewschool is flogging Rabbi Shir-Yaakov Feinstein-Feit's upcoming release.

The Klezmer Shack provides a link to a a Yiddish version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Pair o' articles in the Forward: "‘Hora’ History" and "To Dance or Not To Dance?" The second article is about the Mezinke Tants and Hihurim has a related post here.

CIRCUS TENT comments on Matisyahu's Karlin switcheroo.

Do you eat " Chinese Food On Christmas?"

For those who wanted the lyrics to the YES HDTV ad we'd posted...

DovBear and Heichal HaNegina review MoC's K'Shoshana. Turns out on of the songs isn't a Carlebach original.

Lazer Beams posts "A Breslever Medley."

We're a bit late, but Treppenwitz posted "Seasonal Music (it isn't all about Xmas!)" Veroba fans should definitely check this out.

Finally, following a refer, it turns out that we're the number one Google search result for on bavarian customs dancing leather thigh slapping. Who knew?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

From the mailbag...

D. sends in some more peeps:
Mr. “the best place to have a conversation in the entire hall is right under a speaker, holding on to the speaker pole”. Sure the only thing standing between his head and a 70 lb JBL is one screw, but the pole does feel sturdy.

Mrs. “we are very frum, have every rosh hayeshiva in town at our party, have to have a HUGE mechitza and separate everything…….. but I dress like a hooker.” (As long as it is a sheitel, and my elbows are covered it is ok)

Mrs. “I have to dance while carrying my little pocket book thingy.” –seen a lot of that lately.

Mrs. “what band is this”? –while standing in front of about 20 bandstands with the name 3 feet x 1 foot across.

And of course my favorite- “the shortest distance between two points is through the bandstand guy”.
We've met some o' these folks before.

Jordan Hirsch comments on our "Holiday Song Peep."
And it's funny, there aren't that many really great Chanukah songs to be played at a typical simcha. Unless you count "Let it Snow." Which I do.
You can also pull out some Debbie Freidman. "Not By Might and Not By Power" or "I'm A Latke" are both good choices. Especially in BP.

Avremi G. writes:
I just got a phone call from 13 year old Chassidishe kid from Monroe and I immediately thought of you.

He saw my book and wanted to know where on his keyboard would he be able to find the ‘smorg’ rhythm?

It took considerable effort to restrain my laughter.

Feel free to quote me.
That's too funny. There are some really good musicians coming out of Monroe now. There's been a real surge of interest in live music in that community.

A. sends in the lyrics to " The Sound of Sickness." Hey, maybe Piamenta should cover this?

A. also forwards a link to a bizzare Yiddish Alef Bet song. A traditionally irreverent (and intolerant) Purim song. Not for the politically correct!

Anon writes:
This is an anonymous tip, I'm listening to the 2nd dance wedding cd and im shocked. There is a list of goyish music on this including a whole 45 second instrumental track of Beyonce's crazy in love, Numa Numa, Gloria Estefan. It also has Niggun Neshsma and Yishai Lapidot doing Lipa's Sheli Shelach.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Peeps for Chanukah

Continuing the series...

"The Ubiquitous Guest"

The Ubiquitous Guest is the person who seems to be invited to 85% or more of gigs over a given season. Whether it's a Yeshivish event in the Bronx, a Chassidish affair in the city, an anniversary party out of town in one state or a wedding out of town in another, "Ubiquitous Guest" is almost always there.

"Super Ubiquitous Guest"

Similar to "Ubiquitous Guest", "Super Ubiquitous Guest" is not seasonal, but apparently attends virtually every event year round. Not to be confused with "Mr. and Mrs. Popularity" who are present at every event, but only in their community.

"The Shmoozer"

This peep wants to talk. All night long. Never mind what we're playing or doing, or, for that matter, what is happening in terms of the event itself, this peep just has to talk. To the bandleader. About nothing at all. Or is that everything. We forget.

The "Do You Come to ________ Gal"

This peep wants to know if we'll travel to play a gig in a neighborhood 20-40 minutes away from the gig we're playing. At tonight's gig in NYC, they wanted to know if we travel to Monsey. In Monsey, we'll get asked if we'll play in Brooklyn. And so on. They have to ask because of the well-known axiom that most professional musicians only accept gigs within two minutes of home.

Mr. "Play Some Holiday Music"

This peep only wants to hear holiday music. All night long. For four hours straight. He'll come over we finish a nice forty five minutes of Chanukah songs, including some dancing and some listening music, and interrupt us to say "It's Chanukah! Can you please play some Chanukah songs!" Hey, thanks for listening.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

12/4/07 Link Dump

THE LIFE-OF-RUBIN BLOG has posted a "JM PR Watch" style post. By their own words shall ye know them.

Time for a DRM Deathwatch?

Teruah writes "Guitar in Synagogue?"

Many of you are doubtless wondering what it sounds like when "The string instruments modulate the soul out of the rhythm and the beat out of the spirit." Find out for yourself by listening to a sample clip here.

Oy Vey, indeed.

Biymey Matisyahu, here's a NYJW article, "Matisyahu’s New Spiritual Groove."

Ben Jacobson reviews Jordan Chaviv's "Baal Teshuva release.
On "Shema," Chaviv pulls out all of the stops, deploying a barrage of Justin Timberlake-like groans and falsetto coos.
Just what we've been looking for.

Monday, December 03, 2007

From the mailbag...

Dovid Kerner writes:
I've tracked down the only known recording of 'Chanbalaya' and posted it on my site at Chanbalaya.

Let's put the 'Hank' back in Chanukah.

Chanukah Sameach!

MoC writes:
I've been following your thread on Lipa's use of an apparently vulgur riff from Usher.

(The truth is I don't even know who Usher is or what that riff is but I get the picture).

I've been following the debate about whether it's right or wrong, and whether the riffs sourced from vulgar rock songs introducing chashanim and kallahs are appropriate.

To me the issue is not whether it is right or wrong. To some extent, that's irrelevant.

To me it's just sad because it reflects the "prustness" of so much of modern Jewish music. I'm not sure exactly how one defines "prust". Perhaps the closest I can get is "unrefined".

Lipa and his ilk may mean well but when they carry on the way they do and introduce vulgar, base and unrefined elements (like riffs that are sourced from vulgar places, ridiculous dance moves, and digitilization of the sound, etc.) into jewish music they are bringing Jewish music down to the gutter. The whole purpose of Jewish music is to inspire and uplift neshamos. They are doing the opposite.

I am not suggesting that putting a pasuk to a rock song, or a rocking style of Jewish music is in and of itself prust. That is not at all the case. There is much inspiring and uplifting Jewish music in that genre and it is certainly true that rock may be the best way to reach many of our teens.

At the end of the day, I don't think I can adequately describe the difference between what is prust and what is not. But I know it when I hear it.

In Review - K'Shoshana (Aaron Razel, Chaim Dovid, & Shlomo Katz)

In the mail... the second Shirei Shmuel release.

The album, K'Shoshana, features Aaron Razel, Chaim Dovid, & Shlomo Katz perfoming never-recorded songs that were composed by the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach.

The musical arrangements were written by Aaron Razel, and seem deceptively simple. For the most part, Razel's arrangements subtly enhance the songs, without detraction from the melodies.

All too often, producers get too fancy, as it were, with Carlebach's simple melodies, and the resulting arrangements take away from the music. The "Best of the '60s, '70's, and '80's" series comes to mind in this regard. The arrangements on that one aren't bad, but their commercial polish often seems a bit much. Not that I have anything against complex arrangements of this music, per se. Milt Okun's classic orchestrations of early Carlebach work nicely. It's not about how complex the arrangement is, necessarily but about how well the arrangement supports the melody, functioning as a setting for it, rather than a substitute for it.

On this project, Razel does an excellent job, for the most part. The arrangements are subtle, yet sophisticated. He has a good knack for choosing simple but tasty chords to support the songs, and the arrangements are never overbearing. The chord changes on Boreh Olam are a good example of this nicely understated approach.

The tunes are all unknown, as it were, but sound very much Carlebach. No real surprises here, in that regard. The song selection is nice, overall, and the songs don't all sound the same. This is a result of both good song selection and the way Razel varied the arrangements.

Tracks I really liked include Ravrevin and Borei Olam, but the whole album is pleasant. The singers do a nice job taking turns on the leads as well as harmonizing. The singers are all really into the music, and their singing is heartfelt.

Some minor nitpicks...

The ending on Ki Lekach Tov sounds rather abrupt.

Many of the arrangements use the same technique of skipping a repeat of a song to move to the next section. It gets to be a bit overdone.

The final tune opens with some dialog. In general, I'm not a fan of dialogue on music tracks (unless it's part of the composition). In this case, the "It's Moshiach, brother" bidness comes off as contrived. I'd have passed on that.

In general, however, this is a pleasant album, especially for fans of these singers and Carlebach aficionados. I've added some of these tunes to the bands' book. If you're looking for a Chanukah gift, you might want to check this disc out.