Wednesday, June 30, 2010

6/30/10 Link Dump

At Vosi Iz Neis (and many other places) "Jewish-Music Figure Gets Prison in $36K Theft." Naturally, the commentors there show their scorn for... the victim, Nice. [/sarcasm]

DovBear posts "Stuff Jewish kids do in what looks like a dorm room."

Rabbi Lazer Brody: Jewish recording artist.

Yesomim hayinu v'ein Turkish concert.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

6/23/10 Link Dump

Jeremiah Lockwood's latest Nigun-in-Residence at the Forward is Mimitzrayim Ge'altanu.

The WJC reports about a children’s song endorsing martyrdom that is gaining popularity in Arab world. This is sad!

KFAR is giving away free Jewish music by The Sway Machinery * Moshe Skier Band * Tracy Friend * Modern Klezmer Quartet * Golem * Sagol59 * Breslov Bar Band * Shir Yaakov * Stereo Sinai * Sarah Aroeste * Naomi Less * Evan Jacover.

Treppenwitz (happy B-day, BTW) comments on Elvis Costello cancelling his Israel concert.

On the same topic, in the Guardian... "When Musicians Boycott Countries There Are No Clear Winners."

Guess who's cornered the vuvuzela market... that's right!

Tablet writes up and podcasts Yiddish Princess. So does The Arty Semite. YP front-princess Sarah Gordon is one of this years 36 Under 36.

Ben Sheffner says that the "We Are The World" flotilla spoof does not count as legally protected parody. See why here.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Tim Sparks Guitar Seminar in NYC - Monday Night 6/14

Tim Sparks forwards info about his upcoming workshop in NYC. I highly recommend checking this out, especially, but not only if you play guitar.
For Immediate Release:
Tim Sparks Performance/Seminar
Monday. June 14 at 7:00
at The Stone, corner of Avenue C and Second Street
admission 20.00
The Stone
Tim Sparks will play renditions from his Tzadik Records repertoire, including celebrated contributions to Masada Guitars and his most recent CD on Tzadik, Little Princess.

This performance will be followed by an in depth lecture demo explaining and discussing the materials and techniques that comprise his unique approach to world, jazz and Jewish traditional music.
Notated transcriptions of some of the tunes being discussed will be provided.

“An amazing technician with elements of guitarists Leo Kottke, John Fahey, Lenny Breau, Andres Segovia and Doc Watson, Sparks stands alone in his ability to arrange and abstract worldly elements into a cohesive guitar-based approach.” All About Jazz New York

“Sparks is one of those rare players, like Bill Frisell, who transcends the inherited vocabulary of the instrument to create something other than guitar music with it – something both simpler and more complex.” Seth Rogovy, author of The Essential Klezmer: A Music Lover’s Guide
to Jewish Roots and Soul Music.

“Sparks is endlessly inventive and virtuosic in the extreme." George Robinson-The Jewish Week

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Annals of JM PR

It's been a while since we've taken a look at the state of JM PR. Here's an actual unedited text of a promo email sent out by an American PR company on behalf of an Israeli artist.
Sameach music is proud to announce that the eighth album of Sandy Shmuely is finally here and its called “Ki Tov.” The album, one of the best out recently, includes hits like “Sandish” that just has a great feel about  it,  as well as melodic songs and the quiet joys strings Wally’s famous. Sandy Shmueli, an American artist with eight Jewish music albums under his belt, last recorded in an Israeli production, blue and white. Sandy’s songs (numbering in 54) are a mix of folk and popular connect to everyone. Sandy’s Israeli personality reflected in tunes, processing and execution of his many hits. Shmueli While lives in New York, but through performing across the globe lives around the country all the time.

The new album “Ki Tov” includes eleven tracks of diverse original songs all written by Sandy himself. Arrangements and production are a joint venture between Shmueli and Asher Lugasi, an Israeli musician with a recording studio in the NY. Sandy specializes in Jewish poetry, Jewish and traditional variety of the latest music styles, and appears nightly at celebrations and events world wide. Shmueli is considered a prolific creator in the field of Jewish contemporary music.

6/10/10 Link Dump

Lorin Sklamberg has a new blog, YIVOSounds.

Following up on the United Breaks Guitars saga, here's the final video in the trilogy.

Here's an idiotic Vos Iz Neias op-ed about wedding photographers and overtime charges.

In the J-Post... "Gibson... Yamaha... Budagov?"

Finally, a wet tichel contest.

In Review: Albums by Tim Sparks, Craig Taubman, Irving Fields, Music of Putti, Nomi Teplow, and Abraham Inc.

Apologies to all who have sent in review albums. I've been letting these pile up, and then keep putting off posting the review column, because I'd like to get the latest discs received in to it too. The end result? A very delayed columnn. So, I'm publishing the completed ones now and hope to get to the others soon.

Off the review stack...

Tim Sparks: Little Princess – Tim Sparks Plays Naftule Brandwein

This record features trio arrangements of Naftule Brandwein’s music performed by acoustic guitarist Tim Sparks, with Masada bassist Greg Cohen and percussionist Cyro Baptista.

Sparks is best-known on the Jewish music scene for his solo acoustic guitar releases on Tzadik. I reviewed "Neshama" here.

Sparks says: “It’s not meant to be a klezmer record. I just followed the melodies to the places they took me on the guitar.”

The musicianship on this record is great, but I find that the percussion parts on some of these tunes feel a bit off to me (style-wise, not rhythm-wise.) Cyro Baptista’s musicianship is first-rate, but as I listened to this disc, I find myself wondering what the project would have sounded like with Balkan/Middle-Eastern percussion rather than Brazilian/Latin. Bossa Brandwein, although masterfully executed, feels like a stretch. The main offender in this regard, to my ears, is “Oh Daddy, That’s Good.”

Setting stylistic differences aside, the music is well played, with nice tasteful acoustic guitar stylings by Sparks who blends interesting chord voicings, nice harmonic substitutions, and creative improvisations, into something that I would agree isn’t really Klezmer, as many define the term, but is still very Jewish sounding. The band blends well together, with Cohen’s powerful acoustic bass lines supporting Sparks’ improvisations.

Fave tracks include “Der Yid In Jerusalem,” ‘Turkish Circle Dance,” and “A Begel With Onions,” which Sparks also recorded in a solo arrangement on an earlier release.

Give it a chance and see what you think.

Amazon has it here:

Craig Taubman: Holy Ground

This album is a mix of lightly rocking liturgical settings and simple English spiritual pop. If Taubman’s target audience disc for this disc is the suburban Jewish soccer mom, then he’s likely succeeded with this project.

Consisting of simple hooky settings of texts from Kabbalat Shabbat and spiritual English lite-pop, the set has a little more emphasis on heavier sounds, compared to Taubman’s previous, Friday Night Live. This isn’t exactly my taste, but I could see using L’cha Dodi for my Hebrew school students.

Amazon has it here:

Irving Fields: More Bagels & Bongos

Pianist Irving Field’s “Bagels & Bongos” recordings are legendary as Jewish novelty recordings, but the piano playing is actually quite good.

According to the record label, Roman Midnight Music, this reissue, unlike the recent reissue of “Bagels & Bongos” is being done in collaboration with Fields. This is the first of many planned releases between the label and Irving, including a reissue of the trio‘s “Bikini & Bongos”, a combination of Hawaiian and Latin music, and the forthcoming solo album “Irving Field’s Jewish Comedy Album” of Appalachia style Yiddish comedy.

Definitely worth a spin! Where else are you going to find a Latin arrangement of Dos Pintele Yid or Papirosn?

Amazon has it here:

The Music of Putti: When I Wake Up

This charming disc features the music of the Jewish Village of Putti, Uganda. It is a fundraiser for the village and 100% of the proceeds go to the village. Mike Cohen, who spearheaded the project and plays flute on the recording spent two weeks recording the village singers in Putti last year.

This is a charming set of Jewish African music. Buy this one for the mitzvah and enjoy it for its charm. It’s a happy album.

I can't get "Ehad Mi Yodea" out of my head.

Amazon has it here:

Nomi Teplow: Like A Rushing Spirit

Teplow is a strong singer and the material is strong too. The disc features big production pop/rock with spiritually infused lyrics that include both original lyrics and settings of traditional texts. Nice big production on this one.

The album includes a cover of "Proud" with new Hebrew lyrics titled "Or", and an adapted version of David Foster & Carol Bayer Sager's "The Prayer." There’s a Saint Thomas quote on “Rikdi Rachel”.

(As an aside, I’ve been critical in the past of Israeli session guitarist Avi Singolda’s playing as being sterile, technically perfect, but lacking soul. This album is a good illustration of this. Singolda plays perfectly on most of the tracks, but the guitar playing by Dudu Tassa on two tracks stands out more and sounds much more personal to me.)

I like this one a lot. Fave tracks include "Or", "Rikdi Rachel" "Lo Gava Libi" & Kma'ayan Hamitgaber".

Amazon has it here:

Abraham Inc.

This is an awesomely funky collab between Klezmer clarinetist David Krakauer, Funk trombone legend Fred Wesley, and Hip-Hop producer SoCalled. Backed by a stellar band, the group plays awesomely funky arrangements. The melodies are largely klezmer or Yiddish, but the music is pure funk. This is a great dance record.

Fave tracks include “Tweet-Tweet,” an arrangement of “Zhokul Rezeshilor” from German Goldensteyn’s book, and a re-imagining of “Balebuste Zisinke.” “Heise Balebuste” indeed. There’s even a non-lame cover of Hava Nagila aka “The H Tune.”

Amazon has it here:

Stay tuned for reviews of Peter & Ellen Allard's "Little Taste of Torah", Prodezra Beats "Proud to Be" EP, Julie Silver's "Reunion", and a lovely disc by cellist Richard Locker entitled "Masterpieces in Transcription" and more.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

John Zorn Collaborates with Charlie Daniels

Audio here. Best version of "The Devil Went Down To Georgia" ever!

Friday, June 04, 2010

The Flotilla Choir

Caroline Glick and friends have recorded a song about the Gaza flotilla.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

From the mailbag...

Michael S. writes:
I just saw this "Torah is not hefker" brochure in a shul and searched a web to check some of his assumptions. Your post was very helpful.
However I can't say I personally disagree with an idea of some sensorship of music and a hashgacha.
After all there was a time when food was checked by ingredients. Now we have heksherim. Different heksherim have different levels.
So why not the same in music. Even if some music is approved by MO heksher, that's also good. I am sure there is plenty out there that can not meet even triangle K standard.
Last time I was at a wedding, the music was terribly noisy. If this was hard for me to bear, what do you think older people assume? And some of it did sound kind of strong, I would prefer something like dveikus.
Look, if the music is too mild, the people who like strong music can still listen and "bare" it.
But if it is too strong, those who can't bare it get very sick.
Please let me know what you think.
By the way, I liked your referrence to an article against racism. Thank you again.
I disagree. It is patently obvious that those involved with the idea of a music hashgacha have neither the musical nor halachik acumen to be legislating on these matters. So, on practical grounds alone, this is a very bad idea. I'm strongly opposed on idealogical grounds as well.

The issue of loud volume at simchas is a separate one. I anticipate having more about "volume police" shortly.

Wolf Krakowski forwards a link to a concert video.

Moshe forwards a link to Hava Nagilah, What Is It?

Shalom comments on the too loud one-man-band:
Hey, at least he had an equalizer and knew how it worked.

A couple years ago, I bought a cheap digital SPL meter at Radio Shack, and I started taking it to chassenes in my camera bag. If the music painfully loud even though earplugs, I haul it out and check; if it consistently registers over 96 dB, I'll go over and say something. Not that anyone listens. If they can even hear.

Shortly thereafter, I started, when going to a simcha, to make a stop at a drug store on the way and buy a bulk pack (50 pair) of ear plugs. I don't usually have too many of them left by the end of the evening...
I actually thought about supplying free dispenser of pre-packaged earplugs in the lobby of various simcha venues. The packages would have my band info and the tag line "If we were playing tonight, you wouldn't need these!" As I mention above, I anticipate having more on this topic soon.

Finally, Shmuel forwards a link to Zevy Zions' latest solo CD, "Dizzy Accordion."

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Top Ten Ways To Tell That the Caterer At That High-End Event Is Chassidish

A recent experience at a simcha I played has prompted the following. I'll start it off.

Top Ten Ways To Tell That the Caterer At That High-End Event Is Chassidish

1) The hot stations at the buffet table near the band contain Carciofi alla giudia, grilled duck wraps, and potato kugel.

2) The dark sauce in a bowl at the sushi station --next to the wasabi and ginger-- is teriyaki, not soy.

3) The Perrier at the bar is actually Mayim Chayim.

Send in yours!

6/1/10 Link Dump

Best mouse ever: Boss DS-1 Pedal Mouse.

This is interesting. Recorded in 1942, here's Mr. Hitler by Leadbelly.

G: "I Learn Alone..."

Tablet Magazine has a nice write-up on Mike Cohen's collaboration with the Jews of Putti, Uganda.

Amazon has that recording here:

100% of the proceeds goes directly to the village of Putti.

Oy. Loca indeed.

Rabos Machshavos with Michoel Schnitzler , Lipa & Shloime Taussig.

"Formal Punk", a review of the Shondes latest.

Jeremiah Lockwood plays "Mama Bin Ich Farlieb."

I found בין דין לדין when they linked Blog in Dm in the post "Cognitive Dissonance."

They have a nice post on "Trash-Talking Poets, From the Golden Age To the Ghetto" which includes links to some worthwhile YouTube performances.

Hey look! It's the Shaya and Perry Ringtone!

The election is over, and Joe Lazar lost. But this Joe Lazar Music Video is still noteworthy.

I think someone should start a tribute band to cover these YouTube songs. Tentative set list...

Shaya and Perry
Ikh Vi Zein A Rebbe
Joe Lazaar Music video
Lipa's La Vida Loca (see link above).
and more...

Holiday Fun at Guitar Center

I rarely shop at Guitar Center these days. I used to stop in to the local store periodically a few years back, and spent a decent amount of money there. The direction the chain has gone in the past few years has made it unappealing to shop there. The prices are not competitive, generally speaking, and the service is not good. I've read on a bunch of forums about how GC's management decisions are the proximate cause of this, as they result in virtually no long-term employees at these stores, making it difficult to develop a personal relationship with a sales rep.

In my experience, the reps that they do have are quite ill-informed about the product lines GC carries, and are unaware of significant product lines that their store doesn't carry. For instance, the local keyboard rep had never heard of Nord. It's hard to have an intelligent gear discussion with someone who doesn't even know what's on the market.

GC does have a price match policy, but given that they provide no tech support and no returns on "special order" items, it seems silly to ask them to price match an online retailer, especially one that offers tech support.

As well, I've gone to a few of their holiday "list" sales over the years, but found that even being the first one in the door, didn't mean that you'd get any deals. Several times, the items I wanted off the list (which is handed to you as you enter) were not available/allegedly sold out, despite the fact that I was first into the store. Incompetence or dishonesty? Either way, not appealing.

That said, sometimes, a last minute gear requirement means I have to pick something up there. So, Monday morning, I headed over to buy a pair of speaker poles and a direct box. One of my poles had acted up the day before, and I needed a quick solution. Before heading over, I checked the price for a pair online. A quick search on the GC website showed a pair of Ultimate Support TS 90B speaker stands for $159. At my GC, they had these in stock, so I told the salesman that I'd like a pair. The pair rang up as $200. When I told the salesman that they were $159 on the GC website, he and his manager made skeptical noises, assuring me that $100 per pole was a good "sale" price, and that they'd never seen them on sale for less. The salesman then went into their in-store system and showed me how a search didn't turn up this price. The experience reminded me of this Best Buy story.

I told the clerk to cancel the stands and that I'd order them online. He made some some sarcastic comments about how he'd love to know where I'm ordering them from, etc. So, I took the direct box I'd already paid for and left. When I got home, I went back to the GC website, where I easily found the same $159 price for the pair. I was tempted to order them online, but the online store is backordered and I needed them ASAP. So, I printed out the page and went back in to the local GC where the rep matched their own price. Neither he nor his manager (who needed to approve the price match) apologized for essentially accusing me of lying about the price earlier. They also didn't apologize for the inconvenience of making two trips to buy the poles. In short, a customer service fail! I'm not likely to be back.

This is the second customer service fail I've experienced with GC over Memorial Day.

Two years ago, I had an issue with them as well.

That Memorial Day, I was looking for an SKB case for an 88 key keyboard. The GC website announced a sale, so I checked the SKB case pricing out. The page listed the case at $300 (it's usually closer to $500) with the annotation "new lower price" prominently featured. In contrast, the sale pages all had flags that said "sale" on them. I called around a few local stores to find one that had the size I needed in stock. One did. Since I was heading out to play two gigs that day and two the next and couldn't easily make it to the store over the weekend, I asked if the price was good that weekend only. If it was, I'd have asked a friend to pick one up for me. The salesperson assured me that they'd honor that price afterwards too, as the website says "new lower price" not "sale." Given the assurance that they'd honor that price, I went into that GC on Wednesday, at which time I was informed that they would not honor the quote, because the website no longer had them listed at $300. That was a change that must have happened that day, as the website had showed the $300 price on Tuesday. Despite finding the $300 price on Google, and the verbal assurance I'd be given, the store refused to honor the salesman's commitment. I left without buying the case.

Instead, I turned to craigslist, buying a mint Roland digital piano in mint SKB flight case for less then GC wanted just for the case. The piano had been purchased by an elderly gentleman who used the case to take it home from the store. The case had been used exactly twice and was in perfect condition. I sold the Roland on eBay and wound up with a brand new SKB case plus cash in my pocket.

Prediction. If Guitar Center doesn't drastically change their business model soon, specifically with regard to pricing and customer service. they will soon be out of business.