Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chanukah Remixes for Y'all!

Atrocious Yiddish transliteration aside, here's a Hanukah remix project from Tablet. And you thought Orrin Hatch's song was fun!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Confidential to the waiter...

... who spilled the entire box of donuts for desert on the floor while setting up the desert buffet before the party. We saw you!

Friday, November 26, 2010

In Review: Ten Recent Albums

Just in time for the Hanukah gift buying season…

1) Jay Rapoport - "With All Your Heart"

Pianist/vocalist Jay Rapoport calls his style of Jewish music “Ruach Rock!”
Blending rock/gospel style piano and keyboards with educational lyrics, Rapoport sings of the importance of asking questions, exercising your Judaism, Torah study vs. action, and more.

Rapoport teaches at the Religious School of Congregation Rodeph Shalom in NYC, for which he wrote several of these songs, to musically reinforce each year’s educational theme.

I’d describe this set as Hebrew school lessons recast as rock songs; where the venue is a classroom instead of a pub. If my Yeshiva teachers had turned their lessons into rock songs, I’d have paid more attention in class, I’m sure.

Jay’s website is here: here.

Amazon has the album here:

2) Richard Locker - "Masterpieces in Transcription"

Cellist Richard Locker's "Masterpieces in Transcription" is a wonderful set featuring Locker's classical cello playing a nice program of songs. Of special interest is his solo performance of three transcriptions of Yossele Rosenblatt recitatives, “N’kadesh”, “Mimkom’cho”, and “Mi Sheberach.”

On this disc, in addition to the aforementioned Rosenblatt recitatives: Cesar Frank’s “Sonata in A Major”, Tchaikovsky’s “Entra'acte Symphonique Pour M. Leopold Auer” from “The Sleeping Beauty” and “Pas D' Action” from “Swan Lake”, Mozart’s “Rondo in C” (K. 373), Paganini’s “Caprice Op.1, No. 13”, George Perelman’s “Hebraisch” and “Hebrew Chant and Dance”, and Torrie Zito’s “Ballade.”

Locker has a beautiful warm resonant tone and both the cello and piano (there are several pianists on this recording) is wonderful throughout. I particularly enjoyed the performance of the Perelman pieces, which were new to me. (“Hebrew Chant and Dance” is based on the Yiddish melody I know as “Sha Shtil.”)

Richard Locker's website is here.

Amazon has the album here:

3) Three CD's of solo accordion music by Zevy Zions - "Olive Blossoms", "Dizzy Accordion", and "William Tell"

Zevy Zions is a fantastic accordion player. Zions, who plays accordion with Klezmerfest, and was the accordionist on Andy Statman’s “Learn to Play Klezmer” video for Homespun Records, has studied accordion with legendary accordionist Charles Nunzio.

Recently, he recorded a series of albums featuring mainly traditional accordion repertoire, adaptations of Classical music, and some klezmer. These albums are all excellent, and I’m hard put to single one out. There are lots of classic accordion songs by Frosini, Nunzio, and Gart, particularly on the first two albums, and lots of arrangements of classical repertoire too, especially on the third, “William Tell.”

As far as klezmer/Jewish music content, each album includes a Klezmer suite and “Dizzy Accordion” has versions of “Sharon’s Bulgar” and “Firn Di Mekhotinim Aheim”. “Olive Blossoms” has an arrangement of “Keili, Keili.” The klezmer suites consist of a doina, zhok, and freylakhs or --on "William Tell"-- a forshpiel, tekisher, and freylakhs. On Olive Blossoms, the doina is followed by a Jacob Hoffman zhok and then a killing version of “Oy Tate S’iz Gut!” On “Dizzy Accordion”, the suite is a doina, “Nokh A Glezyzl Vayn”, and “Tante’s Bulgar.” On “William Tell”, a forshpiel is followed by “Araber Tants” and then “Kalla’s Freylakh.”

I’ve been a fan of Zions’ accordion work with Klezmerfest. (I reviewed their latest here.)These discs are a nice opportunity to hear him solo.

Incidentally, Zions is looking for opportunities to perform some of this repertoire, so if you have any, please let him know.

Zevy Zions's website is here.

Amazon has “Olive Blossoms” here:

Amazon has “Dizzy Accordion” here:

Amazon has "William Tell" here:

4) Shlock Rock - "A Shabbat in Liverpool"

Here’s a concept. Set texts of Kabbalat Shabbat and Shabbat Zemirot to Beatles melodies. On this recording, Shlock Rock bandleader Lenny Solomon does just that. The result is an album of familiar melodies and familiar texts.

Some of the adaptations are:
“Shalom Aleichem” to “With A Little Help From My Friends”.
“Lo Tevoshi” to “Penny Lane”.
“Yigdal” to “When I’m Sixty-Four”.
“Ein Kelokeinu” to “Let It Be”.
“Askinu Seudoso” to “Come Together”.

Sacrilegious? To the Beatles? To the texts? Why not check out the album and decide for yourself?

The Shlock Rock website is here.

Amazon has the album here:

5) Asher Hillel Burstein - "Am Kadosh"
Safam meets Billy Joel. Chazan Asher Burstein’s Am Kadosh features his his original music and Hebrew lyrics as well as settings of some liturgical texts. This outing also reminds of Jonathan Rimberg and Jeff Braverman’s Shoresh collaboration.

Much like Safam, Am Kadosh mines the intersection between American pop and traditional Jewish song modalities. Burstein’s voice is in great form here. “Tefilat HaTam” is a pretty waltz. “Shir HaShabbat” is a debka. “Mhayra” is a freylakhs. “HaGevul” is a funky tune with some jazzy brass. “Limdu” is a khosidl. Album closer “Gott Fun Avrohom” is a fifteen-minute through-composed piece.

Lyrical topics include simple faith, Shabbat, redemption, and more.

The album is available at the Am Kadosh website.

6) Yiddish Princess - "Yiddish Princess EP"

If Jon Bon Jovi and Kate Bush had a love child…

On their debut EP, Yiddish Princess features their hard-rocking settings of trad Yiddish songs. Fave tracks include “Ver Vet Blayben” “Oy Avram” and “Az Nisht Keyn Emune”, but the whole thing is great.

Vocalist Sarah Gordon (Yiddish diva Adrienne Cooper’s daughter), is supported by a powerhouse rock band, which includes Avi Fox-Rosen and Yoshie Fruchter on guitars, and Klez clarinet virtuoso Michael Winograd on synths! I wanna sub in this band!

Don’t miss this one!

The band's website is here.

Amazon has the EP here:

7) Eden - "The Knock At The Door"
Eden reinvents themselves for this outing, featuring a harder “alternative” sound. This EP includes five songs: “Yigdal”, “Lo Yisa Goy”, “The One Above”, “Lecha Dodi”, and “Kaddish”.

Eden is: David Ben-Yshay - Vocals, Bass Guitar, Moshe Axelrod – Guitar, Motti Shanet – Drums.

Eden's website is here.

Amazon has the EP here:

8) Julie Silver - "Reunion"

I’d seen Julie Silver’s name around for a while, but first became aware of her music through her beautiful “Sim Shalom” on the Ruach 5761 compilation.

“Reunion” is Silver’s first new release in ten years.

This album features 12 songs, including three settings of liturgical texts, “Dodi Li”, “R’fa-einu”, and “Halleluya (Psalm 150)”, and nine songs with original English lyrics. “Meditation” includes the “Yehiyu L’ratzon” and original English lyrics. The music is soft pop/rock.

On “Step By Step”, Silver sings about entering the “water of creation.”

“Barefoot Sisters” is a song about a meeting with St. Patrick on a mountain. It seems like an odd choice for a Jewish-themed album. One “40 days on the mountain” reference is the only tenuous Jewish connection I see to this song. In the song, Silver asks “What would St. Patrick do?”

“Guide My Steps” is a prayer asking for guidance. Silver duets nicely here with a male vocalist. (The digital album they sent me doesn’t include any liner notes or info about who this singer is.)

“Been To Canaan” features smooth jazz style saxophone. Sample lyric: “Because I’ve been to Canaan and I won’t rest until I go back again.

On “Where Am I”, Silver sings about how she feels about the Torah portion about vows, which tells how men can annul their wives/unmarried daughters vows.

Julie's website is here.

Amazon has the album here:

9) Peter and Ellen Allard - "Little Taste of Torah"

Peter and Ellen Allard write hooky singable songs for children. This album is a great example of their approach. There are songs for Chagim like Tu B’Shvat (“For Trees”), Rosh Hashana (“Shofar Blast”), Yom Kippur (“May You Be Sealed”). There are songs about Lashon Hara, Baby Moses, Torah, Kriyat Yam Suf (“Nachshon” and “Wall of Water”), Tzedaka, and more.

The vocals and music on this are excellent and the songs are both educational and a lot of fun. Well-performed Jewish kiddie rock that parents will enjoy too.

I like this one a lot.

The Allards' website is here.

Amazon has the album here:

10) Prodezra Beats - "Proud to Be" EP

The follow-up to his “Beats L’shem Shomayim” (which I reviewed here), “Proud To Be” sounds more produced. I liked the rougher “street” sound of BLS more. This is a deeply Jewish rap EP.

"Faith" is about emunah. “Faith in the face of a world of drama. The man with emunah, ain’t nobody calmer…”

“Let Me In”, a duet with Nachman, is about coming closer to God.

“Proud to Be” is my fave track on this one. Powerful lyrics and nice synth background. Check this: “cause I’m a Lubab, Litvish, Breslov, shtreiml-wearing Jew….”

“Soul of Moshiach is an instrumental arrangements of the Chabad nigun, best known as “We Want Moshiach Now”.

Amazon has it here:

Up next, reviews of Craig Taubman's latest, "How Good" and the forthcoming reissue of Marty Levitt's - "King of the Klezmers". (I'd promised a review of that one, but am holding off until the new distributorship puts the album back in print.)

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

11/9/10 Link Dump

The latest installment of Jeremiah Lockwood's Nigun Project, "Through the Castle at Night", is up at the Forward. This time, a Modzitzer Nigun.

Don Imus: Jewish Music Critic.

This was a great show. Adrienne Cooper's new recording, "Enchanted" is definitely worth checking out. Amazon has it here:

Here are some brief music reviews at Hadassah Magazine.

Rav Shmuel writes about "Jewish Music That Makes Me Laugh Uncomfortably."

Vos Iz Neias posts an "Exclusive Video Interview With Israeli Breslov Hit Singer Yosef Karduner."

iPhone? "There's An App For That!"

Over at J-Post.com... "Fastest Guitar In the West."

Vodkazak re-release with overdubs as "Chassidic Breeze." With,Alicia Svigals, Jeff Warschauer, Marty Confurius, Sy Kushner, and Aaron Alexander.

Amazon has it here:

No comment! Uncle Moishy Vitamins, Cereal and Pizza!

Life in Israel tell MBD to stop bellyaching.

Finally, here's Y-Love with a nice Yechi Hamelech T-shirt.

From the mailbag...

Some reader comments on "One-Man-Band"...

Steven writes:
I appreciate the humor/sarcasm however for the most part they get the job done and save the customer lots of cash. I much prefer the 'real band' experience but most non musicians don't really care one way or another.
This is a common myth. Actually, for the going rate for a good one-man-band plus "Srully Reverb", you can have a good small live band at your affair.

"Jewish Musician" writes:

I regularly follow your blog, and generally enjoy it, but this is my first time commenting, as it just got me so enraged.

Below is your post. Underneath each point is my comments in bold.

I am a regular chassidic one man band in the NY wedding scene.

1) Two women emerge from around the mechitza and approach the "musician" with the following request. "Can you possibly turn down/off the speaker on the women's side. We understand that, for the men, its geshmak like this. By the ladies, its too loud."
The fun part was that the speaker on the women's side was already off. Gives an idea of the volume, though.

My comment - Perhaps the customer requested it "Super loud" - I don't know of any fellow musicians that enjoy playing loud, this is what the crowd wants to hear, this is what we have to do in order to get the gigs, if we don't, someone else will.

2) Carlebach's V'hayu Limshisa as a 4/4 rock song! Arranger technology can make even a one finger player sound way better than he deserves. That said, the musician still does need to be able to tell the difference between counting to three and counting to four.

My comment - You are correct, this is wrong.

3) Who said musicians need to present properly/dress up for simchas? Apparently, there's no need to shave, put on a jacket, tie, or even tuck in your shirt.

My comment - This is not Marina, its Ateres Shlomo, we are generally working for a crowd that doesn't care if we wear a tie. That being said, showing up Mentchlich is definitely the right thing to do.

4) Apparently, disco is the style of choice for "dinner" music. Who knew?

My comment - YES, out of North jersey and the Five Towns, alot of the crowd we work for prefer a slow type of disco during dinner.

5) All Am/C Major, all the time!

My comment - Not necessarily, maybe just the guy you saw. Many of the regulars in the scene are very talented musicians, despite never going to Julliard etc.

My overall comments: You can't paint an entire industry with one brush based on one musician. There are plenty of chassidim that are extremely talented musicians and true professionals. A little ahavas yisrool is in order.
Let's take a look at "Jewish Musician's" assertions.

1) I happen to know, based on past conversations with these baalei simcha, that they don't want music to be too loud at their events. The reality is that people are often busy/involved/distracted at their own affairs, and so they pay less attention to volume, as long as the guests seem to be dancing etc. There's a range between "comfortable" and "I need to stop participating in my own simcha to go over to the band." Obviously it varies from event to event.

3) When I play at Ateres Shlomo, I wear a suit and tie. This is not about whether or not someone wears a tie or not though. It's about a community where people wear their jackets to go to the grocery store, but can't be bothered to show respect to their clients/the guests at a lower budget affair. (Ateres Shlomo is a subsidized hall.) The fact that people have become used to it is a shame, not an argument for why to continue the practice. Wear a tie or not, but dressing respectfully is important.

4) I'm not talking about "lite" disco. I'm talking about busting out the full volume "Ease On Down The Road" "Ben Bag Bag" set right after a dance set. The guests have sat down, peaople are trying to socialize, and this guy is busting out That's The Way, Uh, Huh, Uh, Hu, I Like It "Zoche" at full volume!

5) The post was not meant to be a criticism of all one -man-bands. There are definitely some talented Chassidic musicians. That said, simcha-goers know that the situation I described is not an uncommon occurrence.