Thursday, December 31, 2009

Shabbat in Liverpool Is Coming!

From the Shlock Rock newsletter...
Breaking News! Prepare for Shabbat in Liverpool!
Hello everyone! After five years it has finally happened! We are proud to announce that we have acquired licensing for Shabbat in Liverpool! This project which takes twenty seven songs from the Beatles and puts them to Shabbat prayers and Shabbat zemirot have received the green light for production! It has taken a long time but when you hear it you will know it was well worth the wait!  This new album which will be released sometime between this coming June and August 2010 sets the table for the greatest year in Shlock Rock History! The 25th Anniversary of Shlock Rock will begin on January 2011 and what better way to start off the pre-celebration with this unbelievable new album! So all Shlockers spread the word! Shabbat in Liverpool will be coming to an IPOD near you very soon. Tell the Kraz – tell everyone! Shout it from the rooftops! Prepare for Shabbat in Liverpool!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

12/22/09 Link Dump

Here's Ortho-rapper Rinat Gutman's 1st music video. She's pushing the envelope on this hip-hop kol isha thing. Interesting to see how this will evolve.

Beth Schafer posts about post-release marketing.

Avraham Fried sings "Song of Miracles", a fundraiser to benefit Rofeh Cholim Candr Society.

Finally, here's Keith Jarret the way you really want to hear him for the holidays.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Chanukah Music Links

Poppa's Kitchen writes:

Just thought the blog world would like to know that Poppa's Kitchen has been rockin the house of Hanukkah since 2006 with “A Rockin Hanukkah.” Also for your viewing pleasure please cast your curious eyes on our most splendid Hanukkah video.

Have a Rockin Hanukkah!

Teruah posts "Yidcore does Adam Sandler's Chanukah Song."

Meanwhile, as we're sure you know, "Sen. Orrin Hatch’s Hanukkah Song Is Tearing Up the Charts." Download your free mp3 at Amazon via this link.

Tablet Mag has posted a roundup of reactions to Senator Hatch's song.

Honestly Frum attended a pre-Chanukah YBC concert and asks "YBC or Milli Vanilli?"

DovBear posts a nice video of Pharoah's Daughter performing Maoz Tzur.

Friday, December 11, 2009

12/11/09 Link Dump

MyJewishLearning asked some of theirr favorite singers and musicians to record versions of their favorite Hanukkah songs for us. You can listen and download the music here.

FYI, "Five Towns Newspaper Quotes Rabbi: Kol Isha No Problem if Listener Doesn’t Know What Singer Looks Like." It's always fun when editors demonstrate their ignorance.

The Jewish Worker: "Satmar Rebbe: Children should not be sent for music lessons."

Here's a new Jewish music blog, "The Chazzan's Tish."

Finally, Chana posts a link to a Yiddish version of Brtiney Spears 'Three.'

From the mailbag...

A. forwards a comment posted to Emes Ve-Emunah
Thought you'd like this- it's a comment on his blog, related to the newest Satmar takanos:

Yerachmiel -

This is what I call the "Lipa maneuver." When you want to distract attention from anything that matters, go after the Jewish musicians. They're an easy target, they're the source of all that's evil in the world, and bashing them may help you forget how the followers of the two claimants to the old Rebbe's throne are beating each other up in the street, or how your kids' yeshiva never got around to firing that pedophile rebbi, or how, thanks to having gazillions of kids with no parnassah prospects, your holy little shtetl is the dead-last poorest municipality in the U.S. of A. No, by all means let's trash the musicians, who lost their jobs playing your weddings because of all your takanas, and therefore have to rely on giving music lessons for a living, so let's take that away from them too so they can starve to death. And then all the other problems will just go away. Right?

Sorry if I sound bitter - it's only because I am.
open the gates | 12.08.09 - 1:14 pm | #
Psachya writes:
Check this out for the inside story on Orrin Hatch's Chanukah song. Three money quotes:

"...I for one have tired of the Adam Sandlerization of Judaism in America." (Hear, hear!)

"...[Having a] Mormon senator in a studio with an Arab singer and a bunch of New York Jewish background vocalists recording a Hanukkah song of his own making...counts as a minor American miracle."

"I have always felt that the song canon for sparse and uninspiring...because Jewish songwriters spend so much time writing Christmas music." (Ouch!)
Dovid Kerner writes:

Wouldn't you know it - just in time for Chanukah - the second installation in the Jambalaya Trilogy is out - Chanb'layla. Our gift to you. Download it in its entirety here: Chanb'layla.

Have a lichtiger Chanukah!
Zal forwards a link: "Guy Demands to Be Arrested for Ripping His Own DVDs."

Avi Septimus writes:
I compiled the following list of Jewish music resources which I use on the web. I most frequently use the Dartmouth archive for learning old chassidic nigunim, and would like to advertise its existence amongst Jewish musicians. While I was at it, I added some other sites which I have used as well. I discovered many of these sites when I started to convert old Chassidic LP's to digital, and discovered that much (but not all) of the work had been done.

Please add this to your blog.

Thanks, Avi Septimus

Here is a list of Jewish music resources which I use on the internet.


Dartmouth Jewish Sound Archive:
Dartmouth Jewish Sound Archive

Old recordings from LP and cassette have been converted to digital and can be listened to on this site. There are currently around 12,000 songs. You must request access to the archive and agree not to download anything for copyright reasons. There is really a lot of good stuff here. I use this site constantly.

Modzitzer Nigunim

There are many Modzitzer nigunim here which can be downloaded in Real format. Most are from the original Modzitzer albums, but there is some other material as well. Highly recommended!

Florida Atlantic University Judaica Sound Archives
FAU Judaica Sound Archives

Does not require membership. Many chassidic and cantorial albums available for listening. Most (all?) of David Werdyger's albums are here, as well as tons of other material.


A site with many different tunes from all over the world for piyutim, zemirot, etc.

Chabad Nigunim: -Jewish Music and Song

Includes the entire audio for the 16 volumes of the "Chabad Melodies" set, plus other albums as well.

Jewish Music Resources

After starting to make this list, I found this site which obviously includes a much bigger list than mine. That said, I list some sites which he doesn't.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

It's Been A While - JM PR

A while back, I used to run a feature called JM PR Watch, wherein I'd quote actual JM PR, usually without comment. It's time to bring it back.

The following is cut/pasted from an American (not Israeli) promotional email I received today.
If you love the music of Shlomo Carlebach, the this is the cd for you. If Carlebach is not your taste, then Efraim Mendelson spectacular vocals with Shlomo’s world famous song will en enough of a reason to add this cd to yuor ever growing collection. Eli mandelbaum presents “Carlebach Kumzits” niggunim of Reb Shlomo Carlebach  featuring Efraim Mendelson.

Here's a link to a Jewish Insights posting of the text.

Senator Orrin Hatch: The Next JM Star?

Rokhl says: "You won't find me singing this around the khanukiah." I think it's a tremendous blessing that we live in a country where politicians feel comfortable doing things like this.

Eight Days of Hanukkah from Tablet Magazine on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The East Village ‘Wailing Wall’

Rabbi Greg Wall is winning the contest for most Jewish Week profiles this year.

Here's the latest: "The East Village ‘Wailing Wall’." I wanna guest lecture with my band.

Monday, December 07, 2009

12/7/09 Link Dump

Here's an embarrassing Mishpacha Magazine Profile. The answer is no. And the question ought not be asked. Green has released exactly one CD with only three or four original songs.

Klezmer Guy blogs about O.J. Simcha. Check out Shawn Fink's comments. A sad criticism on contemporary Chareidi yeshiva boys.

Boy, I'm glad these scientists were able to confirm their ground-breaking theory. Otherwise, no one would have had any idea!

This one's a gimme! Bob Dylan Revisited - Must Be Chanukah!!

Hey, look! Men at Work plagiarized music for Land Down Under.

Here is House of Pain vs Amsterdam Klezmer Band! This and other Chanukah mixes at Menorah Mashups. is ISO Jewish and/or Israel-oriented Metalheads...

Mark Rubin Inteviewed: Part Deux!

This has been going around. Too Much Joy posts My Hilarious Warner Bros. Royalty Statement.

Gawker posts NBC Universal's Version of the Payday Loan Scam for Freelancers. Many bands have increased their turnaround time on payments from two weeks to a month or more. Not cool. They haven't tried this yet, though.

It's a Breslov Hip Hop video. Here's another Breslov rap video with Breslov female rapper Rinat Gutman and Y-Love.

Shlock Rock's Lenny Solomon is Walkin' The Land!

Over at the Yahoo JM group, someone is criticizing Matisyahu for not having other Jewish bands on the bill at his Chanukah shows. Sour grapes or valid critique? We report, you decide. BTW, I'm pretty sure David Gould of John Brown's Body is Jewish w/ a record out on Tzadik.

Az Der Rebbe Iz Gevoren Freilach!

The headline is self-explanatory. "Satmar Rebbe Tells Followers: No Videos, Don't Send Children to Music Lessons." (Hat tip, E.)

I presume this is a direct response to the current revival of musicianship among young post-ban Satmarer chasidim. The attempted alienation of musicians continues apace. This time around, it's likely to continue to backfire.

Remember this?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

From the mailbag...

MoC writes:
Interesting letter from anon re being asked to play overtime for less than scale.

I guess my question is, does a band leader have to require union scale for himself? As a business owner, shouldn’t he have the flexibility to negotiate a price different from scale in order to land a gig as long as he pays his players scale for their part of a gig)?

In the current economy, everything is negotiable when it comes to service providers. And I mean everything. My firm puts on a number of big conferences every year. We have been able to negotiate favorable deals with hotels that used to do you favors by letting you book them.

I have also been able to negotiate fixed rates at very steep discounts with major law firms on a number of litigation matters. I’m not saying it’s a good thing. I’m just saying it’s a fact of the current economy.
In general, the union sets the wage scale for musicians. Not every band is a union band. Only union bands are contractually obligated to pay that scale. That said, the going rate for musicians even among non-union bands has typically been at least scale, which is not that much, relatively speaking. Most in-demand musicians typically command a premium above scale. The office is free to mark up the price they charge the client as they whish. There are no union schedules for that.

For a mitzvah tants, typically the only person staying behind is the keyboard player and many band leaders don't charge a mark-up on that, in my experience. So, what this guy is complaining about is that he’s being asked to stay and play for less then what he considers the reasonable going rate. Personally, after having played a 5-6 hour wedding, I think the keyboard player deserves a fair hourly rate for a mitzvah tants. Based on this letter, it sounds like that’s what he was saying too.

I do agree that in this economy people need to be flexible, but they also need to be appropriately compensated for their work.

The problem, is that some people are negotiating gigs at less then scale (in other words, at less than cost). The only way to do this is by underpaying the musicians. This can be done if the musicians agree to it, and might occasionally be done by an office for legit reasons, say promotion. More often though, it is being done by bands who then screw one or more musicians after the fact, by not paying them.

The economy is forcing some painful, but much needed changes on the simcha band industry. I do think there are areas where the community can be helpful, or at least not harmful, to people from the industry in financial distress. (Not everybody is feeling the pain to the same extent.) And, there’s a difference between negotiating a fair price in a down economy, and taking advantage of someone in need. It’s legal, but also unethical. It is quite ironic to do so for something called a mitzvah tants.

E. writes:
Who is this United Tzedaka Group? How much will each charity actually receive?
Not a whole lot, I'd guess.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Couple a' links is having a Cyber Monday sale on musical instruments

End the need for benefit concerts.

Ben Bresky interviews Chaim Dovid.

Finally, Chanukah is coming soon.... get ready for "Nanach Dreidel!"

Thursday, November 26, 2009

From the mailbag...

Anon writes:
I just had a rather scary conversation with one of the younger band organizers in the Jewish club date biz. I was called about a possible Chassidic wedding gig, and was asked how much extra I would want to play the mitzvah tantz at the end. I asked if I would be playing it by myself. Told that I would be, I simply read to him the sublead overtime charges on my union card.

"Really? It's so much?" he asked me.

I told him that I wasn't charging any more than the minimum amount I should be getting. It seems that the fellow was in competition for the booking, and was trying to slash prices in any way he could. "Can't you do any better than that?" he asked.

No, I said. I really couldn't.

"And what if the mitzvah tantz goes longer than expected? I'll have to charge them so much more?"

That's right, I said. They call it a mitzvah tantz; I call it overtime. And overtime is overtime. Meter's running, clock's ticking, business is business.

The guy gave me a hold for the date, but I got the distinct impression that he thought I was being greedy. For charging scale. And that if he could find someone who would charge less (I believe the technical term is a "scab"), he would hire him in a heartbeat.

Truth is, I still might get the gig. And maybe enough of the older musicians in the biz will set this guy straight. He's not a bad guy. What frightens me is the mindset - that the scale card doesn't really matter any more. And the possibility that some musicians, faced with an empty schedule book, might buy into it.

Look, this year has been a disaster. For me and every other musician I know. I just want to implore my fellow club daters: No matter how bleak things look - no matter how many open dates are sitting in your schedule book - don't ever, ever, EVER do a gig at under scale. Because if that starts happening, we're back to the Stone Ages. We might as well all sell our equipment and start collecting unemployment.

I really hope this isn't the start of a trend. Because that would truly be the end.
I've been meaning to write a series of posts about the recession and musicians/live music. I hope to post on the matter soon. in the meantime, this is as good a starting point as any for a discussion on the topic. Comments are welcome. Anyone want to write a guest post on a releated topic?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

11/19/09 Link Dump

Robert Zimmerman is feeling freilach because Christmas is coming. posts a Sermon In A Song featuring Journeys.

Metal Jew posts about the release of a Chanukah-themed metal album in "Hanukah Gone Metal."

Here's a website that compiles many music videos done in tribute to the Chabad shluchim, Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holzberg HY"D, who were murdered in the terror attacks in Mumbai last year.

Gruntig posts a video clip, "The Rock Band Family" that gives a glimpse into the messianic insanity that had emerged in Crown Heights by the early '90's.

The professor is in: "Weird Al explains AutoTune."

Finally, here's what just might be the world's worst Nirvana cover.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

From the mailbag...

E. emails a link to A Jewish Star - Singing Competition.

Wolf Krakowski emails a link to Vilna: A Yiddish song, sung by Fraidy Katz, which he directed.

A reader is looking for a violin teacher in Brooklyn who teaches youngsters. Any suggestions for him?

Zvi writes:
I noticed you wrote a few articles about your woes of the Jewish Advertising world.
I'm wondering if you've had any positive experiences of specific media and can make suggestions.
Specifically, I'm curious if you've tried smaller publications, such as shul or school newsletters?

Also, have you considered the advantage of Branding a product/band, through continued advertising, as opposed to a specific ad->sale result? When you said, "if people were looking for them specifically, they might find their phone number in one of these papers", I suspect that is the result of long-term and effective branding. It is possible that by seeing that ad many times, and associating it with the positive experience of reading that paper, the person has grown familiar and trusting to that band.

Interested in hearing your experience and feedback.
My response:

I have had positive results on the local level with targeted small advertising campaigns. However, they have to be distinctive, meaning not just running a business card sized (or smaller) ad exactly where all of my competitors are advertising. The ubiquitous small ads typical of the Jewish band listings in the Jewish Press, for example, do not achieve this, IMO. I prefer to find advertising opportunities where my competitors aren’t, rather than where they are.

As far as long term effective branding... When you write: “When you said, "if people were looking for them specifically, they might find their phone number in one of these papers, I suspect that is the result of long-term and effective branding”, the successful branding has been achieved by the paper running the ads for their entertainment section itself, not by the ads themselves for the bands. In other words, based on my experience as well as extensive conversations with some formerly regular advertisers, when they are looking for a specific phone number (and even that is less common in recent years, given the ubiquity of the internet), people might know to turn to that section because they know there are ads there. However, the ads themselves are generally not productive.

In my opinion, given the nature of live music, it is much more effective to direct advertising dollars elsewhere.

Some quick examples:
For the price of a typical ad buy, the band could pay a small group of musicians to perform live at a public charity event.
For the same price, the band could give away hundreds of demo CD’s (assuming they’ve already recorded the material.)

Either of these is much more likely to bring in work, compared to an ad. Plus, you don’t have the negatives of those ads which I’d mentioned in my posts on the subject.

11/17/09 Link Dump

The Jewish Music Report posts "Ethnomusicology – the Americanization of Niggunim," the notes for a lecture given to an ethnomusicology by the Chabad shaliach at the University of Washington. Natch, it reflects a Chabad-centric view of the subject

Over at Vos Iz Neias: "Satmar to Open Subsidized Wedding Hall." Complete wedding package including music, entertainment [fake] flowers. and photographers for less than $10,000. I think they should offer a Vegas-style option too. It'd save even more $$$.

Failed Messiah posts a video report on Menachem Philip's chazara b'she'ala, "Haredi Music Star Leaves Orthodoxy."

The Volokh Conspiracy takes on the typical "yeshivishe lomdus" approach to copyright law in "Yeah, That’s A Good One." I have no reason to think is owned by chareidim, but their logic sounds an awful lot like that of the typical Vos Iz Neias/Yeshiva World/Matzav commentor.

Speaking of... Matzav assures us that contrary to what you might think, all is hunky-dory in Shwekey land. They know because the brother who is allowed to use his last name on his CD's says so. Great investigative reporting!

Frum Satire posts a rap video. Nothing like sampling an old Jewish boys choir record to make your beatz!

The Forward posts "A Concerto for Ancient Hebrew Ram’s Horn."I've heard Avitsur play. He has a wonderfully rich and warm sound.

Jewish Guitar Chords has added a random song generator. Why decide what to play, when this page will do that for you?

Over at Circus Tent, !זינג, וועלוול זינג

The story behind Guitar Center. Behind The Music (That Sucks)!

Finally, the ultimate explanation of Progressive Rock!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Keep On Shlocking!

Lenny Solomon writes:
Innovations continue to come from Shlock Rock.

Lenny Solomon and Shlock Rock have released their first Music Video from their new album No Limits. Lenny plans on releasing one video a month until March.

This first music video is called Leah's Song And I Will Pray

You can also hear Lenny talk about the new album, Jewish Music, Songwriting and the Pay What You Want Campaign on this interview on Arutz 7 at this link:

To Pay What You Want and Download go to

Monday, November 02, 2009

A Rocking Wedding Band

Check this out. The NY Times profiles a local wedding band in "Say ‘I Do’ to Rock."

And More Peeps...

"The Hallway Smoker"

This friend of the family must have a smoke during/right after the chupa. Naturally, the best place to do so is in the hallway right outside the chupa room. You know. The one that everybody has to pass through to get to the ballroom. The one that the chosson and kallah pass through on the way to the yichud room. The one that does not have any ventilation. Yeah, that one.

"Mr. Why Did You Set Up Here?"

This peep will walk by the band countless times as they're setting up the PA and all of their gear in the same spot they always do when playing this venue. Biding his time, he waits until absolutely everything has been set up before asking "why did you set up here?" Um, because that's where the band always set up. "Well, today we need you to set up on the exact opposite side of the dance floor!" OK, don't you think you might have said something a little sooner?

"Rabbi I'm Not Going To Speak About..."
This peep always starts off by saying he won't speak long. It is then followed, natch, by a long speech, in which he lists many things he won't/can't talk about adequately, talking about each immediately after he's disclaimed his ability to do so.

"You Played My Brothers Wedding"
Um, no. We didn't. We know, because we know who did. It wasn't us.

The "Need Any Help Guy"
This peep's offer of help would feel more sincere if he hadn't just shoved his way past us while we were navigating a cart full of gear through a tight turn off a ramp onto the sidewalk. For some reason, after this peep literally shoves past us in a manner that might have knocked the cart over onto us, his offer of "need any help", made without breaking stride while walking away rings hollow. Thanks for nothing.

"Did You See The Flowers You Bought The Kallah?"
Finally, this peep takes his title from the question his mother asks him after his engagement party. It is followed up by an instruction to make sure the kallah sees them. Because nothing says "I love you" more than the flowers your mom bought and signed your name to.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

In Review: Eight Recent Albums

Clearing out the review stack…

Prodezra – Beats L’shem Shamayim

This disc, by beat master Rueben “Prodezra Beats” Fromey, is kicking. Fromey, best known for his recent “Change” single featuring Describe and Y-Love (which is included here), knows how to drop a groove. These beats are raw. No slick over-production here. Just good solid urban beats.

The production is pure hip-hop. No techno (or what passes for techno on most frum pop records). R&B meets Chassidic meets Hip-hop.

Fave tracks include “Change,” “Stood At Sinai” and “The South Nigun,” which features samples of old-time Lubavitch bandleader/singer Eli Lipsker on vocals.

Fromey’s website/myspace is here

Amazon has it here:

Greg Wall’s Later Prophets – Ha’orot

Bassist Dave Richards joins the original Later Prophets trio, Greg Wall, Shai Bachar, and Aaron Alexander, for their sophomore outing; a collaboration with spoken word artist Rabbi Itzhak Marmorstein, featuring musical settings of Rav Kook’s poetry and nigunim. Rabbi Marmorstein reads Rav Kook’s poetry in a combination of the original Hebrew and English translation, while the band plays jazzy grooves behind him. The album also includes two instrumental arrangements of nigunim composed by Rav Kook, ZT”L.

It’s a Beatnik Beit Midrash, where the Rabbis (Marmorstein and Wall) school listeners in Rav Kook’s writings as well as in the art/power of the Jazz groove. Come learn!

If you’ve ever wondered what a frum poetry slam might sound like, spin this one.

Amazon has it here:

Gershon Veroba – 2nd Impressions

Gershon Veroba’s 2nd Impressions is a follow-up in his successful Impressions series wherein he takes well-known pop/rock songs, writes educational Jewish-themed lyrics to them, and performs them as close to the original as he can. Usually, that’s pretty spot on. The arrangements are faithful to the originals, and Veroba’s vocal stylings usually capture the essence of the original artists’ performances.

This type of Jewish edutainment, popularized by Shlock Rock, can often be corny, but working within the premise, Veroba manages to mostly stay away from the clichés of the genre.

This record also features several guest vocalists, including two boys who fill for female vocalists on “Run From the Egyptians,” a spoof of the Bangles “Walk Like An Egyptian” and Tom Bowes, who covers a rewrite of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

Veroba’s website is here.

CD Baby has the album here.

Lorin Sklamberg and Susan McKeown – Saints and Tzadiks

On "Saints and Tzadiks," Grammy-winning vocalists Loring Sklamberg and Susan McKeown, who won for the Klezmatics’ “Wonder Wheel”, continue their collaboration on a set of Yiddish and Irish songs.

The vocalists are well matched with each other as well as with the material. There are a number of medleys of similar themed Irish and Yiddish songs.

The arrangements are sparse and compelling and the backup band, which includes klezmer violinist Jake Shulman-Ment and Aidan Brennan on acoustic guitar, among others, is first-rate.

My fave track is “Oakum.” But it’s a tough call.

“Prayer for the Dead” blends “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye,” “Kh’bin Oysgeforn Felder,” and “Deus Meus Adiuva Me.” Powerful stuff!

The lyrics on “Father and Son” are intense and Sklamberg sings it solo, without any musical backing, letting the words speak for themselves. It’s amazingly and sadly just as relevant today as much as when it was originally penned.

Don’t miss this one!

The duo’s MySpace is here.

Amazon has it here:

Yiddishe Cup – Klezmer Guy

This album features eight live tracks and six studio tracks by the Cleveland-based Yiddishe Cup.

The material includes Chassidic music, klezmer and Balkan music, some Yiddish and English singing, a cover of Halleluja (the Israeli version) featuring Hawaiian lap steel guitar, a klezmer-style medley of three Bernard Herrman tunes, and an original Klezmer composition by keyboardist Alan Douglass, and a beat-box DJ mashup of klezmer with hip hop.

In other words, this one is all over the place by design.

There are a lot of great klezmer bands out there, but not too many cover and update the Borsht-belt style humor of Mickey Katz et al. To me, the humorous songs and arrangements are Yiddish Cup’s strength, and with this disc, I find myself wishing the band had included more of that on this record.

There are some fun moments, like the tribute to Dutch prog-rock group Focus on Anim Zemiros. It doesn’t really match the rest of the arrangement, but the absurdity makes it fun. I feel like the band might have been better served recording some more of that material.

Also, the live sound on the recording doesn’t showcase the band’s strengths. I much prefer their last record. That said, Klezmer Guy is a good encapsulation of where Yiddishe Cup’s head is at these days. (I couldn’t resist that one. Get it? Cup. Head. Oy!)

My review of their previous release, “Meshugene Mambo,” is here: Klezmer with a Slice of Wry

Yiddishe Cup’s website is here.

Amazon has it here:

Kol Noar Boys Choir

This is the Kol Noar Boys Choir's debut album. I’m not a fan of the boys choir genre. Understandably, I was skeptical of this one. The mostly R&B inflected pop is not my favorite taste, but it is well-executed here. The most notable part of this Ortho-pop choirs’ approach is the lack of screeching/shouting that typifies the genre. Producer Mo Kiss arranges to the boys’ strengths, featuring smooth-sounding solos and harmonies.This is a much more musical approach that makes for a significantly improved listening experience when compared with his competition. You won’t hear any straining on this one. If you like frum boys choirs, but could do without the screeching kids, this one is worth a spin.

Kol Noar’s website is here.

Amazon has it here:

Ben Epstien – Shirei Halevi’im

This independent release by singer/songwriter Ben Epstein features his indie-pop settings of the Shirei Halevi’im, the “Songs of the Day” which the Levi’im (Levites) would sing in the Beit Hamikdash (Temple.)

Epstein writes sweet hooky melodies, and his understated vocals make for pleasant listening. The light production lets the melodies and vocals stand on their own. No fancy arranging tricks here. Just intelligent Jewish guitar pop.

Fave tracks include “Sunday,” and “Wednesday” which has a Spin Doctors influence.

A hidden bonus track sets Ana B’koach to Shlomo Carlebach’s “Lord, Get Me High.”

CD Baby has the album here.

Klezmerfest – Life of the Party

This is Klezmerfest’s second album and the quintet is in fine form here. Of particular note are outstanding performances by accordionist Zevy Zions and trumpeter Jordan Hirsch, but the entire group, which includes drummer Aaron Alexander, bassist Brian Glassman, and clarinetist Greg Wall, is excellent.

Zions’ original “Cape May Bulgar” showcases his virtuosity and his strong understanding of klezmer. This tune and Aaron Alexander’s original contribution “Blagan Balaban” fit nicely alongside the group’s renditions of mostly well-known klezmer dance melodies.

Alexander’s statement of the head of “Fun Tashlikh” on solo drum set is a neat creative touch as is bassist Brian Glassman’s bowed melody playing on "Kishinever Bulgar.”

This is a well-played trad-style Klez album with a few modern touches around the edges. You will want to dance.

Update: Amazon has the album here:


Monday, October 19, 2009

From the mailbag...

Pinchos Vorst forwards a link to a video of his impersonations of Chassidic pop singers like Ohad!

E writes:
A rebbe at Reishit tweeted these links "בזכות ר' לוי יצחק בן שרה סאשע"
Personally, I find it a little off putting and inappropriate to be playing guitars at a holy rabbis grave (or anyones grave for that matter).
Personally, I'm more perturbed by the spelling of the village name.

Anon writes:
"Shwekey, Ad Bli Dai" is the understatement of the century ;)
Truth in advertising.

Finally, a press release.
Nulite Music, Inc. proudly announces the release of Sy Kushner's second CD of original Jewish music. Performing with some of New York's top klezmer musicians, Sy takes us on a mulifaceted musical journey but always with Jewish sensibilities. So fasten your seat belt and come along for the musical journey.

Also available are books for C and Bb instruments with the music from the album.

10/19 Link Dump

The Jewish Music Report looks at some "Alternative Jewish Music: Great Artists." There are many frum artists with international reputations. It's nice to see a site that primarily focuses on commercial Chassidic pop music take a look at some of these artists.

While we're on the subject... this is a good place to mention Rabbi Greg Wall's installation as rabbi of the Sixth Street Synagogue in NYC. To celebrate, the shul is having a concert retrospective, looking at Wall's musical work over the past twenty years. Several of his projects will be performing, including Hassidic New Wave, Later Prophets, Klezmerfest, Unity Orchestra, and more.

The installation/concert (and Greg's 50th B-day celebration) will take place at the Sixth Street Synagogue on October 31, 2009 at 8:30pm. The address is 325 E. 6th St. (between 1st and 2nd) and admission is $18 at the door.

Neshama Carlebach's new record, a collaboration with the Green Pastures Baptist Church choir is now out. You can listen to the album and buy ithere.

Marching on Mein Shtetl Yass. Check out their other clips, these guys are good! The leader of that band, Na'or Carmi has a new collaboration with clarinetist Chilik Frank that's also well worth checking out. You can hear a clip off that project here.

Over at DovBear, a post on Simchat Torah: " Why don't the Women Dance?

David J. Hahn posts on "Motivating Musicians as a Bandleader."

Hey, it's another Ortho boys choir!The Yitzy Bald Boys Choir.

Ha'aretz interviewed Menachem Philip in an article on people who've left Orthodoxy,"The Ties That Continue To Bind."Ha'aretz interviewed Menachem Philip.
Filmmaker Meni Philip, formerly a well-known famous Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) singer, who recently presented his short film "Sinner," at the festival in Venice, says he is sometimes suddenly "thrown back" to his previous self. For example, when he choked up upon hearing a song by Haredi singer Mordechai Ben David on the radio. Philip himself recently embarked on a journey to learn about secular music, and discovered the Beatles and classical music. He has also shed any "religious jargon," as he describes it, in his own singing. But, in spite of everything, he admits, there is Haredi music that touches him deeply, "because of your childhood. It makes your stomach do flip-flops."

I met with Philip, who has been "outside" for nine years, to discuss a heartrending scene in his documentary film "Let There Be Light" (2007), which recounts his personal story and that of his brother, who also left religious life. The scene takes place at a Purim party organized by Hillel, a nonprofit Israeli organization catering to those who leave the ultra-Orthodox community. Philip performed one of his melancholy hits from the past - "Rabbi Ishmael Said" - before an audience of people who were no longer Orthodox. Dressed in totally secular clothes, in some cases to an extreme because of Purim, they sang along with him, in tears.

"Usually those who have recently left religion refuse to hear such songs," says Philip, "but it was Purim and it was appropriate. After all, I used to be their singer, when they were ultra-Orthodox. They simply melted."
Finally, some video over at Vos Iz Neias ... " MBD: Zealots Slander Jewish Concerts With Fabricated Lies."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

On Jewish Music Promo Style

Teruah compares two different approaches to album promo copy. Methinks he gives way too much credit to the Chasidi News approach. I don't think too many people in the frum world find those informative either. I know that I usually don't, and I know who most of the people being name-dropped are.

Of course, Chasidi News' poor Hebrew to English manglings don't help things, but even the Hebrew album previews usually contain little if any useful information. It's even worse in context, where an email features twenty or so new albums all featuring "the best of composers" and "hits".

One of these days, we just might have to do a "Best of Chasidi News" post.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Name Your Own Price

Taking a page from Radiohead, Lenny Solomon and Shlock Rock have just released their new album of original English jewish music as a "name your own price" download.

Hope this works for them!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Want to Check Out A Chassidish Simchas Beis Hashoeva or Two?

Barring a last-minute gig, I'm open tomorrow night. Anyone interested in checking out some chassidic Simchas Beis Hashoeva celebrations in Brooklyn tomorrow evening? If so, please be in touch.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

From the mailbag...

Dovid Kerner writes:
Previously, you were kind enough to post the words to the old country classic Sukkalaya. I'm happy to report that an actual recording has been found - right in my house! Sukkalaya

May you and your readers have a Hank'in Chag Sameach.
Ron Benvenisti writes:
Happy to announce that the Lakewood Music Program I've been slaving at for the youth, with my own sweat equity has gotten offical notice. This summer the Township picked up the tab and this fall we will be doing a 3 day a week intro for keyboards at the High School and Community Center. A brand new multi-million dollar facility is being built on Cedarbridge (near the Parks & Recreation Headquarters and Blue Claws Stadium) where I hope to run a full fledged program for all levels, ages and instruments in 2010. Thanks to the incessant support of Citizen of the Year, Maestro Wilbur Wittemann of the Lakewood Jazz Ensemble, Jeff Shapiro, Director of Parks & Recreation, those on the Township Committee and so many other people of goodwill, passion and committment to music as education and leadership tool par excellence. This will be non-sectarian and free with, get this - separate entrances and two kitchens! My only snag is some personal issues and being in Virtua-Marlton Hospital with a rare liver disorder. Winning some battles in it and hope to win the war. Please daven for a refual shelaima for yours truly, play a little tune for Aharon Ben Simcha ( and I wish all of you a Gmar Tov and hope to be out of here and back home as soon as possible.

PS: I would love to see us network to do a major Hakaras HaTov benefit concert for my dear friend (and many of you to) Yosi Piamenta. Everyone has been touched by Yosi, who single-handedly changed the face of Jewish Music as we know it through passion, dedication and real Mesirat Nefesh. This started over 35 years ago and I can't think of a single artist since then who has not been influenced by this giant. Think about it. I'm a little tied up (tubed up - to be exact) right now but I think we owe it to the guy and it would be a major event. Please think about it, and if any producer types out there (all you guys know this man and what I am saying is true and that he deserves it now) can get the snowball rolling please put the sweat into it.... May we all be inscribed in the "Real" Real Book......
PT writes:
Here's one for the Poskim:

I was recording a song for a nice young fella (when did I get to be an AK?) and he used the "-nai" word instead of the "-shem" word in his lyric. He did this in the context of saying a whole tfillah (the end of "Adon Olam"). I asked him if he'd reconsider changing to "shem" to avoid controversy.

Makes me wonder about a few things. I know that non-Orthodox performers have no compunction about using the "-nai". I've heard Orthodox performers use "hamonai" instead to keep the proper sound. Is there actually a halachic issue with avoiding the "-nai" word, since it itself just means "my Lord" and is not an actual Name of G-d? If you use an entire pasuk or prayer, is it then OK?

The other issue is, if we then decide to ERASE the lyric and replace with "adoshem", is there now an issue of erasing a Holy name?? All I can say is, I guess it's a good thing Protools is NONDESTRUCTIVE!
Shloime Lichter writes:
My name is Shloime Lichter, I put up this website Keren Yitzchok Isaac for a friend of mine who passed away at the age of 45 while waiting for a Heart Transplant. Leaving behind an almanah and 10 unmarried children with no means of any financial income.

I would like to ask if you would be able to post a link or banner or a little write up on your blog in order to help us raise funds.

Or you may donate by visiting this site.

P.S. Please forward this email to all your fellow bloggers and friends who may be able to help us out.

Tizku Lemitzvohs and A Ksiva Vachasima Tovah

Thank You
Shlome Lichter
IT Support YVY

10/1/09 Link Dump

Dov Bear asks: "Why are we so liberal about our liturgical music?"

Shemspeed is giving away free downloads of a couple o' tracks off of Diwon and Dugans 'Dreams in Static" release.

Chassidic singer Michoel Schnitzler has a new CD out. Here's a remake/update(if you can call it that) of the "Rabbi's Sons" classic hit "Rabos Machshavos." More road trip material.

This might come in handy for wedding guests. Is that off-key wedding singer getting on your nerves? Spare yourselves and all the other guests by tuning his vocals for him using your iPhone.

This title says it all: "Reb Abish: Today’s Music is a Cholent Pot; Many Songs Are Superficial." Naturally, none of the ones he sings. He thinks.

Over at Chasing the Fat Man: "What I really should have said..."

That's not an orchestra! Its Synthesiser Patel.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

We'd Like To Apologize To Dave Mustaine

Apparently, the Neo-Nazis music critics over at Stormfront have read this post of ours and will be deleting your music/videos because they don't support Jews.

One anti-Semite music critic writes:
Having not previously know that, say bye to the Megadeth videos, and my Ipod will say goodbye to their songs. I don't promote or support jews. As a matter of fact, I get in trouble at work a lot because of my anti-jewish beliefs. Like I told my boss, I was looking for a job when I got here, and I'll be looking for one when I leave.
Dave, although you might consider yourself a Christian, the racists Jew-lovers at Stormfront now know the truth. We apologize for the inconvenience. Shana tova!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Teruah Teshuvah

Teruah is doing teshuva!

I too have been feeling guilty about the number of CD reviews I have not yet gotten to. I have been working on the stack lately in fits and starts, and am hoping to have it done soon. I have listened to all of these and pretty much know what I want to say, just need to make the time to write it all down.

Here's my current review stack:

Prodezra - Beats L'shem Shomayim
Kol Noar Boys Choir
Later Prophets - Ha'Orot
Klezmerfest - Life of the Party
Susan McKeown & Lorin Sklamberg - Saints & Tzadiks
Gershon Veroba - Second Impressions
Yiddishe Cup - Klezmer Guy
Ben Epstien - Shirei HaLevi'im

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Free Pitom Download

The Village Voice NY Music Blog has posted a short interview with Pitom bandleader Yoshie Fruchter. You can also download a free track off of their debut record.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

An Autumn Night in New York

Walking down a NYC street near midnight...

A panhandler calls out from the steps of Bnai Jeshurun: "Brother, can you spare some change?"

We stop and start feeling for some change.

"Melody Maker in Bb", he says. "A lady gave me a Melody Maker in Bb. Would you like to hear it?"

"Sure," we say, handing him a dollar.

He improvises a sad bluesy melody and then takes the dollar.

"Thank you!"

No, thank you.

Monday, September 14, 2009

From the mailbag...

E. comments on the previous post:
If the new people aren't mechadeish anything, then why does MBD need to have Aaron Razel involved in the production of his "new" album?

BTW, It is ironic that a site like Matzav which infringes on people's copyrights daily is preaching about copyrights...

J. Gondek writes:
Dear Hasidic Musician,

In your blog I read the following:

"Given the interest in exotic instruments, I suppose this was inevitable. Note: According to Jewish tradition, a synthetic shofar is not acceptable for religious use."

I'm not arguing the validity or accuracy of your statement but am curious if you can point me to a Talmud citation that discusses prohibition of synthetic shofar in religious ceremonies.
The Mishna in Rosh Hashana specifies the criterion for a shofar. One of them is that it needs to be natural, and from a ram or goat, but not from a cow. The Talmud in Rosh Hashana (27a) addresses the case of a gold-plated shofar and concludes that if the part where the mouth rests is also covered, so that the mouth doesn’t touch the horn itself, then one has not fulfilled the mitzvah.

It’s clear from these texts that the shofar has to be a natural horn and that a synthetic reproduction would not be acceptable.

More CD Rental Embarrassment

CD rentals are back!

I've commented on this in the past. In my opinion, this approach is a chilul Hashem.

I'll also point out that according to the Rabbi who "conceived" this idea, the pictured CD liner interior would not suffice.

This is not legally or halachically binding. The proposal just makes religious Jews look bad.

It's time to accept intellectual property laws, as Rav Elyashiv and Rav Ovadya Yosef have.

Oh, and while we're on the subject, someone needs to send MBD some CD's. He's clearly not up to date on Jewish music.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

9/5/09 Link Dump

Here's a great Wedding Entrance! And here's the divorce.

"The Minutes Go Like Hours When You Sing."

This ain't bluegrass. Despite the misleading title, it's fun. I want these guys in the studio for my next project.

Here's a Jewschool discussion on wedding Shtick.

Violinist Jake Shulman-Ment's new CD, A Redele, is out! Check it out!

Andy Derrick writes about Professionals and Charity Work. What's your take?

The KlezKanada 2009 blog is here. I wish it had been frequently updated. Blogging these events is a great concept and I hope future KlezKamp and KlezKanada blogs will have more content. It's a great marketing opportunity to attract future attendees. And I know some bloggers who could/would be happy to help out. Hey, how about having a J-music bloggers panel at one of these?

Finally, here's a nice version of "Every Breath You Take."

Making the Job Harder

I recently sat through a prep meeting for a wedding for which I'd been hired by the band owner who booked the job as a sub-leader. The participants at the meeting were the band owner/musician, myself (as the sub-leader) and the bride and groom. Throughout the meeting, I sat there in silent horror as I watched the band-owner say one thing after another all with the end result of a) making the job much harder and b) making themselves look incompetent.

First a little about the job...

This was a standard frum MO wedding. The client booked a five piece simcha/pop band consisting of Keys/drums/guitar/woodwinds/violin. The specific requests prior to this meeting, other than the usual simcha repertoire were:
some light classical music during dinner (hence the violin), some Israeli folk songs at some point, and a few American and Israeli pop/rock songs at the end of the event. All in all, a pretty straightforward affair.

Then we had the prep meeting.

Here's what the band owner did wrong, in my opinion...

1) The band leader kept pushing the client to make decisions about music for parts of the wedding at which they had no preference, i.e. the background music at the cocktails, opening the ballroom after the chupa, etc. We talked through the entire affair at the beginning of the meeting. The client had no specific programming requests for these times, and left it to our discretion, as to what to play.

Towards the end of the meeting, the band owner revisited each of those times, and essentially made the client feel they had to choose specific music/musical genres. So, the client made requests. My impression was that these were not specifically what they wanted to hear, just one of several possibilities that would have worked for them. Since they were being pressured to choose, they did. These "requests" will make the job more complicated, for no good reason. For example, they talked the client into having only classical music during the cocktail hour. That's fine, if that's what the client had wanted. But, they really didn't care if we played light Israeli, some Bossa Novas and standards, etc. A five-piece pop band with drums and electric guitar is not exactly the best choice of ensemble for an hour plus of classical music. We can do it, but we'll be a pop band playing classical music, which I'm certain is not the sound in the bride's head when she imagines classical music at her wedding.

Plus, now someone has to bring the sheet music for this. Guess whose job that is!

2) Kept bringing up the suggestion that we could/should include some contemporary Israeli pop in the first dance set. Since the client didn't want it there, and we'd already, in talking through the program, placed it in the 2nd dance, it was a pointless suggestion. Repeating it many times showed that they a) don't understand the dance needs at a contemporary simcha, and b) weren't listening to the client.

3) During the meeting, the client inquired about the possibility of adding a harpist to play in the lobby as guests were entering, and wanted a quote. So, this musician helpfully told the client that they'd once gotten a harpist to play a cocktail hour/ceremony for $200. Not cool. Also, no chance that was happening again. But, it served to make a fair price quote for said harpist seem excessively high.

I could go on...


Musician's definition: Overtime.
Chareidi definition: A likely career choice for women.

Musician's definition: ProTools.
Chareidi definition: The other likely career choice for BY graduates who have not gone into chinuch or OT

Musician's definition: Cheesy '70's dance music.
Chareidi definition: The latest dance hit by Shwekey.

Jewish Music Print Advertising

Over the years, I've had quite a few conversations with various band owners about print advertising for the Jewish market. I've also experimented with some myself.

In my opinion, and this has been confirmed to me by many I've spoken to who have tried it, print advertising in various local Jewish media doesn't pay. The media are overpriced relative to the benefits, and don't result in increased work, unless you're willing to charge the lowest price.

Note: I'm not talking about a short specific campaign involving articles, free CD's, etc, just a paid listing/ad in the music services section of a newspaper/magazine.

In my own experience, an ad I ran years ago in one paper brought in two types of inquiries...

1) Calls from the paper's competitors trying to sell me ads in their papers.

2) Calls from people who were calling everyone listed in the section and making their decision based solely on price. Since there are other bands advertising in these sections, who have no problem booking a job at below scale, and then sending kids or unqualified musicians out to play it, there is simply no way I could/would compete on price. My expenses are higher because I insist on hiring good musicians, which costs more.

An ad in another publication got me a junk mail subscription. I'm still receiving mail from those folks.

The only benefit some advertisers I spoke to have found, is that in some cases, if people were looking for them specifically, they might find their phone number in one of these papers. That said, if these people were looking for their number and couldn't find it in the paper, they'd still be able to find it, so they didn't see too much benefit in that either.

Obviously, the chance of booking a job off an ad exists, and that's why some still advertise. (There are also some bands who advertise, but don't pay their bills, so it doesn't cost them to do so. This is unethical, of course.) In my opinion though, the price of Jewish advertising in general, and simcha services ads in particular are significantly overpriced.

A few years ago, one of the popular Jewish websites contacted me to try and sell an ad. Their price was absurd. Moreso were their stats. Being new at this, their salesman gave me information he probably shouldn't have. At the time, this website was claiming 40,000-60,000 hits a day. Yet, when I asked for the number of hits to their simcha directory the number of hits was twelve. That is before subdividing those hits into individual categories like music, flowers, makeup, catering halls etc. Needless to say, I told him their rates were quite unreasonable.

I did make a counter-offer which I've since made to a number of other J-media salespeople. That offer? If they'll run a free ad for a short time period, and I book even one gig off it, I'd buy an ad. They've all turned it down. I think these people know that their ads don't work well enough and that's why they won't do it. It's simple really. If an ad venue was productive, I'd obviously pay to keep it. Their unwillingness to stand behind their product is telling.

There is another issue with much of the J-media advertising as well and that is timeliness.

For example, one New-Jersey based J-ad publication, The Network, mailed their Purim issue out late this year and last. The result, it arrived after Purim. This made the color front page ad for Mishloach Manos baskets as well as the various other Purim-related ads inside irrelevant. I'd be pleasantly surprised to hear that they had contacted these advertisers to offer refunds, but I haven't heard that they have, even to the tzedaka with its full page color ad soliciting Matanos L'evyonim.

If anyone has any J-music advertising stories to share, please send 'em on in.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Breaking Kabbalistic News!

Here's a Madonna update!

It's Giveaway Friday - Free Stuff for Ya'll

Over at, theyr'e giving away free World Music sampler downloads!

There's a JDub sampler and an Israeli music sampler as well as lots more interesting music. And, the price is right.

If you have an iLok or any Line 6 DAW interfaces, you can get a free license for their amp modeling plug-in, POD Farm Once again, the price is right.


Thursday, September 03, 2009

New Intellectual Property Psak

Here's some good news for people who compose music for the chareidi market. I wonder if ACUM will pro-rate a major percentage of the fees towards those composers.

At any rate, this is big, as both Rav Elyashiv and Rav Ovadya Yosef have endorsed the idea that Dina D'malchusa Dina applies to intellectual property. This is the approach that I have been suggesting for years and it logically extends to other areas of music/intellectual property rights like downloading. It represents a direct rejection of Rabbi Dovid Cohen's allowing people to download/copy songs/sell hard drives full of music without payment to the rights holders.

If the JM industry is smart, they will, as I have been suggesting for years, invest in publicizing this psak and its implications.

More Peeps

The Choirmaster

This peep comes over, flashes his pitch pipe, and says: "Don't comp us under the chupa. It won't work." He also says "There are four of us and only one of us can sing on key." He's not wrong.

The Prissy Caterer

This guy's a real class act. We're playing a six hour affair at which the band was supposed to be getting dinner. Due to some scheduling mishaps, the party is running late, and the caterer decides to make up the time by shortening the time alloted for dinner, and having us start the second dance set after only a short break. Naturally, he refuses to feed the band until after all of the guests are fed. Also, naturally, that's the point at which he already wants us to start the next set.[Brief digression: This situation, where the caterer refuses to feed the band before all the guests are served, comes up frequently. It is inconsiderate, because it ensures that the band will not have time to eat (unless there are speeches.)] At any rate, we don't get meals, despite having been promised them. After this dance set, we take a short break for dessert. We have a bunch of dance requests left to play, and are supposed to start up again in five minutes and play through the end of the gig. The folks in the kitchen again refuse to feed us "until after the guests have all been served dessert." Nice! At this point, the bride asks me if we've eaten. So I tell her we haven't. Long story short, she takes me in to the kitchen and informs the folks there that they need to feed the band now.

Two minutes later, the caterer, who was not in the kitchen when the bride came in, comes over to me and says in a peeved and condescending tone: "Did you really go over to the bride and ask for food?" Um, you don't get to be upset about looking bad in front of the client if it's your own fault. Even if meals hadn't been promised, there's really no reason for the 'tude.

Monday, August 31, 2009

From the mailbag...

Michael Fish sends in a peever.
Recently did a gig and the band was really in a groove by the 3rd song of second set when all of a sudden this older ‘gentleman’ came storming up to the band screaming at the keyboard player who was leading to play somthing yeshivish. He startled the musician so , that mid song he just waved off the band and started playing yomim.
Naftali forwards a link to a "Pete Sokolow Interview." I'm pretty sure I've linked this years ago, but Pete's a legend, so it's worth another link.

Steve Cohen writes:
When I read your story about singers who don’t know the words, it reminded me of a great club-date joke:

"A vocalist hired a piano player to accompany her at an audition for a night-club job. After listening to a couple of songs, the owner said, "Can you sing 'When Sunny Gets Blue?' It's my favorite song. If you can sing it, you're hired." The singer whispered to the piano player, "I don't know it all the way through." The piano player said, "I know it. Go ahead and start, and I'll prompt you." Reluctantly, she began: "When Sunny Gets Blue . . ." She looked at the piano player for help. He whispered confidently, "B-flat minor nine..."

Monday, August 24, 2009

From the mailbag...

Naftali writes:
My new pet peeve:

Singers that don't know the words. A singer is hired to do a gig with you; you go into a fairly popular song, and they whisper to you "I don't know the words" or "I'm not comfortable singing that". Mr. Singer, your ONLY job is to KNOW THE WORDS TO SONGS! You have nothing to shlep, you arrive 1 minute before (or after) start time and you only need to KNOW THE WORDS to songs! Do your research.
This arrived in my inbox just as I returned attending a concert. (I wasn’t playing.) At that performance, the lead vocalists screwed up the following lyrics:
1) Vena Al Tatzrichenu
2) Racheim

Both of those texts are from bentching, something they ought to be familiar with. Amazing!

Psachya writes:
Check this out: We Will Survive!

BTW, at about 3:30 of the clip, I could've sworn I saw a choson and kallah about to come in. :)
Igudsman and Joo rock! I've posted some of their other stuff in the past.

Avremi G. writes
‘This peep shows up with the score to an original composition they've written in honor of the bride and groom. Said musical masterpiece has been notated in Finale in the worst possibly way.’

I’m sure Sibelius is capable of equally atrocious output.
It's possible. In this particular case, the "composer" happened to have used Finale.

Daybay writes:
NYC based Jewish musician,

I read the following in The Yated (July 17, 2009 edition) in a column by Yossi Kamiel entitled Binni Blitz and the Bored Businessman, and thought you might was to address it. In his column he has one of his fictional characters say,

"My father asked a shailah and the rov told him that we're not allowed to listen to them (acapella cds) during Sefirah or the Three Weeks either. He said that there is no difference between them and regular music tapes. So even though we miss listening to these songs and albums, still, no frum Yid would even think of doing something that is not allowed in halacha."

Thank you,

A frum Yid who might think of doing something that is not allowed in halacha, but, b'H, would never do something that is not allowed by halacha.
Even Rabbi Belsky allows listening to certain kinds of acapella recordings during sefirah. So, this characterization (I assume it’s fiction) is inaccurate, even according to those who prohibit some acapella recordings during sefirah.

It’s also against common sense.

I posted his psakim on this and my comments on them here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Hot Weather is Bringing Out Da Peeps

Some more peeps for y'all...

"Weed Guy"

This peep, who is not African or African-anything, shows up to an Orthodox wedding with a dashiki over his long hair, a T-shirt, shorts, and Birkenstocks. Observing him over the course of the event, we notice that he keeps making loud puffing exhalations, as though he's taking a bong hit. Then, he comes and stands next to us, and we get a closer look/sniff. Turns out, his lungs are so full of weed, that despite not having toked in hours, he can give himself a contact high just by holding his breath for a few seconds and then exhaling. Pass the Doritos, man!

"Mr. Eat Over The Keyboard"
This peep helps himself to food from the buffet, and then proceeds to stand directly in font of the band, holding his plate over the keyboard as he eats. Considerate. At least he didn't get any Lo Mein on the keys this time.

"Rabbi Rush"
No relation to the conservative talk show host. This peep is in a hurry. No reason why. He just is. So, the wedding starts at 6, he has them do the badekin at 6:10 and starts the chupa at 6:12. Did we mention he's also coordinating the schedule for the dinner which is also taking place in his shul. Did you know you can do an entire Ortho-Chasidic wedding in 2 hours? Rabbi Rush thinks you can.

"Full-Time Clown"
It is common for people to dress up at affairs as a shtick, dancing for a few minutes in a costume of one sort or another. This isn't good enough for the full-time clown, though. This friend of the bride shows up to the ceremony in full clown outfit --suit, wig, funny shoes, and face paint -- and spends the entire affair in character.

"The Composer"
This peep shows up with the score to an original composition they've written in honor of the bride and groom. Said musical masterpiece has been notated in Finale in the worst possibly way. Mathematically it all works out, but visually it's a mess. For example, instead of a dotted quarter note, you might have a dotted eight note tied to three sixteenth notes in a row tied to each other. Imagine an entire page or two of this. Ah, the beauty of HyperScribe aka why trained music copyists are not out of work just yet.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Oh Deer!, Dear! Giraffe!

Parshablog links to yet another bizarre Jewish music article by a Rabbi who is simply making stuff up. Let's just say that his position demonstrates a lack of awareness of dance styles and practices both in and out of the frum community.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

From the mailbag...

The Klezmer Shack's Ari Davidow writes:
Shalom Rav Dm,
I wrote a few words about the koren siddur on the Hebrew type blog most of which are there just to point you to a link to a wonderful article in tablet mag--How Eliyahu Koren used typography to encourage a new way to pray ( by Joshua J. Friedman.

It is worth noting that although it has been common to use the dueling languages approach to including Hebrew and English (where the Hebrew is placed to the extreme right; English to the left, so that the eye has to jump the entire width of the spread to go from one starting point on the same line to the other), the calligraphers and early typographers who created the great polyglot siddurim of the Middle Ages were quite aware that when you want the eye to go back and forth between languages, it is critical that the distance between them be as short as possible--that Hebrew and Latin share a common spine (as is the case with the Koren siddur).

But layout depends on purpose. If you have a safe assumption that the readers will use either one language or the other, keeping them far apart (the dueling languages position) is good. Producing two separate books would be even better! More on the Hebrew type blog, of course. (And even more when I finish redoing the blog so that it is more usable. Sorry about that.)

Ari Davidow
Hebrew typesetter, extraordinaire
I seem to have gotten blog smicha lately from various correspondents. Was it the Luft series?

Sneak Attack Media's Miles Grosovsky emails some PR about SAM client, Matisyahu. It included the following photo. Jewish heroin chic. Just what we wuz missing.

Here's a link to a video of the single he's promoting: Matisyahu: One Day.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Koren Siddur on Yedid Nefesh

I recently received the new Koren Siddur with Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks' translation. This is a beautiful siddur. If you're looking for a nice English translation of the traditional siddur, this one is well worth checking out. It is far superior to the popular Artscroll Siddur. Rabbi Sacks' prose is a much more enjoyable and meaningful read.

Two interesting things about this siddur:

1) The Hebrew pages are on the left with the English translations on the right hand pages. This unconventional approach --usually its the reverse -- makes sense because you start reading in the center, no matter which language you're reading. This makes it easier to flow from one to the other. Additionally, it means that if you usually daven from the Hebrew, there's a shift in the direction you're looking which may affect right-brain left-brain cognition and therefore, at least in the short term, change your kavannah experience. More on that concept here.

2) The version of "Yedid Nefesh" Koren chose to use is based on the original handwritten manuscript by the author, Safed kabalist Rabbi Elazar Azikri (1533-1600). The changes make the poem even more beautiful, and some of the seemingly difficult to translate in context words become clear. Of course, this is not the way Jewish communities sing the words, but perhaps people will start to use this version. Just beautiful!

Why I Cancelled Bridezilla Today!

Today, for the first time ever in my career, I cancelled on a client.

The back story: A few weeks ago, I was hired to play music for a wedding ceremony tomorrow afternoon. The father-of-the bride and I reached an oral agreement and he then put his daughter in touch to discuss the specifics of the event.

The bride called me a few hours later. In our initial conversation, she told me that she had a compilation CD with some modern Israeli songs she really liked, and I told her I'd be happy to transcribe/play any of them she wanted. She promised to email the artists/song titles when she got home, and drop off the CD if I needed it.

Then, nothing. No phone calls or emails. After several days of this, I left a message on her cell asking her to call me/email the information. No response.

Finally, today, the day before her afternoon wedding --I do have an evening gig as well tomorrow-- she answered the phone when I called and proceeded to make lame excuses about why she hadn't been in touch; saying that since it's so close to the gig, maybe she should just play CD's instead, because I don't know the songs she wants. Since she's never ID'd them, I can't say this for certain, but based on her description of the compilation CD she liked, I'd say that there's an 80% chance I know those songs, a 95% chance I have the sheet music for them, and a 100% chance I could have played them had she gotten me the CD even a day or two ago.

Based on comments she made in our conversation, my impression is that this was purely anti-Orthodox bias. (Her dad is Orthodox. She isn't.) She seemed to feel that an Orthodox musician would be incapable of playing an instrumental version of an Israeli pop song. Remember, we're not talking vocals here, where there could be an issue of accent, etc.

At that point, after listening to several rude comments, I called her on her inconsiderate behavior, read her the set list of Israeli pop tunes I'm playing at tomorrow evenings affair, told her I would no longer be available to play her affair, and that she should use her CD's. I also wished her the best of luck in her marriage, and advised her that I hope she treats the other vendors more appropriately.

It's amazing what some people think they can get away with. If she didn't want me to play her affair, she had plenty of opportunity to be honest about her concerns early on. Passive aggressive behavior like this is grossly unfair to the musician, who may have turned down other work for the slot and made plans around their performance schedule and it's just not "mentchlikh."

Monday, July 27, 2009

Exactly How Out of Touch Is Agudas Yisroel? Updated 3x

This much!

The mind boggles! The recent scandals in the frum community do warrant introspection and even an emerdzshency asifeh. However, choosing Rabbi Avremel Schorr, one of the rabbis behind the international chilul Hashem that was the Lipa concert ban, to be the public face of propriety here smacks of tone-deafness at best and hypocrisy at worst. For shame!

UPDATE: And if you thought they couldn't make it any worse...

A writes:
Seeing just a few words about last night's Agudah "asifa", I now rest my case. Everything I have complained about for years, about how Agudah is an enabler by restraining criticism and PR about violators and honoring ex-cons, has been proven true in one fell swoop. Schorr, the Spinker Rebbe, and Brafman on a single bill? Why did they diss Kolko?

Can you even imagine how they would have crowed had YU invited Madoff, Tendler & Boesky to chair an event?

The unmitigated chutzpa of these "shaina yidden" who sit in their shteebels on mizrach with ex-cons, who have the first-class dining room at the Agudah convention, stroking their paunches with self-satifaction while they look down at the "amcha" that actually live Torah lives while they act frum but act like the proverbial "tzaddik in peltz" not dealing with the real world.

For several years now there has been an effort to stop the illegal posting of ads on lightposts, especially since the great majority of violators were Frum organizations.

To spread the word on the very important Agudah meeting combatting illegal behavior, guess where they posted the ads?


You just can't make this stuff up.
A Yeshiva World report and audio of the speeches is here.


The Spinka Rebbe apologized publicly, Nathaniel Popper reports for the Forward's Bintel Blog. he writes:
The most surprising moment of the night came at the very beginning, when the Grand Rabbi of the Spinka sect, Naftali Tzi Weisz, at right, took the stage for an unscheduled appearance. Weisz was arrested in a separate money-laundering case in 2007, and just last week he pleaded guilty, reportedly accepting a jail term. Before heading off to serve that term, Weisz delivered an obviously emotional mea culpa for his wrong-doings, first in Yiddish and then in awkwardly translated English.

“Unfortunately we have to admit in public that things happened that were not supposed to happen,” Weisz told the men in attendance (women were not invited to the forum). “We must have to express our wish that these matters will never happen — we have to commit that in the future this will never happen again.”

Weisz spoke in great detail about the compliance program that the Spinka board has entered with the government and he said, “Our community, baruch hashem, is not lacking in smart experienced lawyers and accountants that are willing to teach the tzibur [community], how to conduct their communal affairs in a manner that is in compliance with the law in all respects.”

I've checked out the video of the Spinka Rebbe's speech and I'm on the fence about this one. I'm leaning towards Tzig's characterization of it. I'm not sure there was a point.

In following up, I've seen people raise two other issues that are relevant to this discussion. These are: 1) the choice of venue and 2) one of the methods for publicizing the event.

With regard to the venue, there is an ongoing battle between the Visnitz Yeshivah's management and the neighbors. (For more on this, see here, for example.) In my opinion, Agudah choose poorly in this regard. Remember, the event took place during the Nine Days, when there are no weddings in the community. There was no shortage of other venue options. The message sent, presumably inadvertently, is unfortunate and undermined the theme of the asifah.

With regard to the illegal posting of flyers on streetlamps... I've commented in the past on this and it's just wrong. Again, the message sent is that laws do not need to be obeyed, which again undermined the ideas the asifah was meant to convey.

In short, Agudah took a worthwhile concept, and through poor handling, turned it into a caricature. For an organization that claims to be politically savvy, this was a huge misjudgment and yet another self-inflicted black-eye.

Friday, July 24, 2009

What Is "Reasonable"?

So the Belz Chasidim have announced new takanos restricting wedding expenditures. I like this one:
For instance, the parents of the groom are instructed to choose between a bracelet and a mixer as a gift for the bride during the engagement period.
This part is troubling, though.
Luckily, the new plan includes not only restrictions, but also some benefits. The document's authors have taken a number of steps to help families lower the cost of the wedding by getting entertainers, photographers and wedding bands to agree to charging reasonable prices for their services.
What is a reasonable price? How is that different from market rates?

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Musician's Revenge

United Breaks Guitars! Awesome!

Art inspires art. Here's "United Breaks Guitars - Northwest Breaks Dulcimers."

From the mailbag...

E. forwards a link to "Michael Jackson sings "Bei Mir Bist Du Shein" with the Jackson 5 and Carol Burnett.

He also emails a link to Gershon Veroba's blog post, "Michael Jackson and us..." Worth reading.

Finally, Bobo Bubalinsky writes:
Apparently I live a sheltered life, having never heard a Disco Hora.  So I did what any modern person does and googled it.  Found many an amusing clip YouTube - Jewish Drumming demo #3 Disco Hora variations so thanks for enlivening my life.

I was however well aware that a large portion of the early NY Punk scene were jews.  Watch End Of The Century  the Ramones biopic. All not so nice jewish boys from queens.  

Like Lenny Kaye I also have kept that cantorial sound somewhere in my world.  For most of the past 25 years I have been involved in instrumental music, and a few years ago I began adding Klezmer tunes to our sets (but in a n almost Ska like way).  We have recently recorded a song written by my great grandfather Israel Isaac Axelrod/Shamfrof/Shaw "Oif Der Fater" .  He wrote it at the end of the 19th century, or the very beginning of the 20th, and I changed it a bit.  Give it a spin if you care to.
That last link doesn't work, but you can hear the song in the player on the right hand side of Bobo's Blog.

7/13/09 Link Dump

Frank London and Lorin Sklamberg's latest Nigun project album is out. Titled Tsuker-Zis, it replaces Uri Caine/Rob Schwimmer's piano with Oud/Guitar/and Indian drums.

Check it out here:

Here's a YouTube clip that gives a good "on the bandstand" perspective of what a musican on the Brookly JM circuit might be sitting next to.

While we're on YouTube, check out the middle of this clip for a Lipa Schmeltzer Yiddish rap badkhones.

Vos Iz neais posts" Acapella Music and the Three Weeks."

Tzig takes on Yehuda Green. He's very wrong about Rabbi Citron.

Here's a J-Post article "Eliyahu: Prefer Jail Over Women Singing."

Finaly, the Jewish Music Report reviews Yisroel Srully Williger's "The Rebbe's Nigun."

This part is odd:
My first reaction after listening to The Rebbe’s Nigun was to pull out my copy of Hakadosh Baruch Hu… Chesed and give a listen. A few of the songs on that CD really blew me away. Pinky Weber’s Yashov is just gorgeous. Williger’s kids join him on Neiros Shabbos. Wow! Where has he been hiding those kids? I would have loved to hear even more of the Williger boys. And Niggun Nevo? It’s worth buying Hakadosh Baruch Hu…Chesed for this song alone. All these years we thought Srully Williger’s trademark song would be Hu Klal, but maybe not. The only fault I can find with this Shlomo Katz composition is that it inspired too many singers to try to come up with a signature niggun of their own. With the possible exception of Eitan Katz’s The Dmin Niggun, none have managed to even come close to emulating Williger’s success with Niggun Nevo.
The author gives Williger credit for Niggun Nevo, which was a dance hit before Williger released the album. The inclusion of that song on that disc is a classic example of a Yeshivish singer jumping on the bandwagon (ouch) of a song that's already a hit on the NCSY MO circuit and is already making inroads into the black hat circuit, and quickly releasing a version of it.

In other words, Williger had nothing to do with the song becoming popular. He chose it because it was one of the new hits on their way in at the time of the album's release.

Over at JMR, a reader pointed out to the review author that the song was written and being publicly performed by Shlomo Katz, and the author demonstrates exactly the lack of knowledge that some artists count on when they pull this sort of unauthorized cover/bandwagon jump. As well, obviously, there is no accounting for taste, and "Kol Isha" is entitled to her opinion that the Williger version took a good song and "blew it out of the water," but personally, I think his cover was lame, and did not do the song justice. I'm also reliably informed that the use of that song was unauthorized and that no royalties have been paid to Shlomo, which is simply not right.

Klezmer Dollars

I've been thinking that there needs to be a term to describe the difference between a low-paying gig that is desirable and one that is not.

In other words, I've been looking for a way to describe the difference in pay necessary to tempt me to accept, for example, a six hour loud Chassidic disco gig with a "banger" drummer and shred guitarist from a local "Bands R' Us" office vs. an acoustic klez gig, or a creative collaboration that is four hours away by car. Typically, I'm more willing to be accommodating in the latter scenario, when the pay is on the low side, compared to the former.

The term I'd use to describe this is "Klezmer Dollars." Think of it as being similar to dog years. Klezmer dollars are worth more than US dollars. So, an appealing gig, say playing with some world-class klezmorim, for instance, although it might not pay the same as hauling a sound system/sub-leading Hassidisco at "Ateres Whatever", would still be comparable, because the pay is effectively equal.

This concept doesn't negate the need for musicians to maximize income, so I wouldn't turn down a Hassidisco gig on the off chance that I'd pick up one of equivalent pay in klezmer dollars. Obviously, I do have to make a living. It does explain why some offers that might not be appealing on a purely financial level, nevertheless are.

The artist buildings in Hell's Kitchen effectively do honor klezmer dollars, BTW, with rent being a percentage of income. I know quite a few musicians who live there. If only I could convince my mortgage holder to accept payment in klezmer dollars!