Sunday, December 30, 2007

From the mailbag...

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

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

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

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

Musician's Guide To Playing A Certain Restaurant

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's something for the manager to consider.

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

"Tis The Season for Peeps

"The Reluctant Dancer"

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

"The Its Too Loud Shmuck"

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 17, 2007

12/17/07 Link Dump

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

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

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

CIRCUS TENT comments on Matisyahu's Karlin switcheroo.

Do you eat " Chinese Food On Christmas?"

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

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

Lazer Beams posts "A Breslever Medley."

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

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

Sunday, December 16, 2007

From the mailbag...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It took considerable effort to restrain my laughter.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Peeps for Chanukah

Continuing the series...

"The Ubiquitous Guest"

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

"Super Ubiquitous Guest"

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

"The Shmoozer"

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

The "Do You Come to ________ Gal"

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

Mr. "Play Some Holiday Music"

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

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

12/4/07 Link Dump

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

Time for a DRM Deathwatch?

Teruah writes "Guitar in Synagogue?"

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

Oy Vey, indeed.

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

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

Monday, December 03, 2007

From the mailbag...

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

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

Chanukah Sameach!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some minor nitpicks...

The ending on Ki Lekach Tov sounds rather abrupt.

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

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

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

Friday, November 30, 2007

Quote of the Week

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

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Who Writes This Stuff??? (JM PR)

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

11/28/07 Link Dump

Eric Steiner:Music Snob!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the mailbag...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 26, 2007

From the mailbag...

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

SoundClick artist: Sruli Weinstein - page with MP3 music downloads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To illustrate...

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

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

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

Thursday, November 15, 2007

11/15/07 Link Dump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the mailbag...

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

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

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

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

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

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

שלומות לכם אנשים יקרים

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

In Review: Hamakor - The Source

In the mail... Hamakor - The Source

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 12, 2007

State of the Union

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Name That Band!

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

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

Sunday, November 04, 2007

In Which Dm Goes to Jail

Since I mentioned it...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, to cap the night off...

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

It was quite a night.

Note: Names have been omitted to protect the guilty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 02, 2007

Time Fo' Some Mo' Peeps

It's that time again...

Here are some peeps we met at recent gigs.

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Chanukah Is Coming

What to get the Brooklyn JM producer in your life? This!

Fom the mailbag...

Naftali comments on "Book 'em, Dano - Organizing Your Gig Book":
This computer system already exists....I saw it at Guitar Center. It is a flat screen (surrounded by rubber...I guess to protect it from the rigors of the road) and you mount it on a mic stand.
I assume he's talking about the Music Pad Pro.

It's not the same thing. I had the chance to buy one for $200 and passed. I’ve researched those and it seems that there is a large unsatisfied customer base. They also require you to transfer all of the files into their own proprietary format. Basically, it lets you view documents and add edits. It’s also an MP3 player. The build quality/reliability factor is not good, I’m told. There's a newer version out that may have fixed some of these issues, but I'm not sold.

This system doesn’t allow for transposition on the fly, as I described, and having multiples for each band member would be redundant, from a cost perspective. I envision a system with one computer (the bandleader’s note pad) with linked screens for the musicians. I’m imagining a tablet Mac with linked screens running a software system that is a cross between Sibelius and Adobe Acrobat.

For the moment, it would be more effecient to buy a dedicated tablet computer if one wanted to go that route. I think the technology is almost there, but not quite, and the software hasn’t been written yet. At least, I’m not familiar with a solution.

One of the big hurdles would be navigating transposition issues when transposing an arrangement results in some lines being outside an instruments range. Also, managing the different screen outputs.

There’s also no internet subscription service for sheet music like that available yet. It’d have to be 100% reliable. And, the venues aren’t wired for net access either.

But, while we’re talking technology, I wonder what will happen if the von-man-band set discovers Ableton Live? Instead of keyboardists, we’ll have DJ’s with sophisticated song marker setups enabling them to play a dance medley and jump to any tune, or even part of tune on demand. It’s a lot of work, but it’s definitely doable, I’d think.

Hadassah writes:
why the hell did matis leave chabad????? chabad was HIM ! he did soooo great......
Psachya writes:
Regarding Weber's Flute Sonata - if you haven't already, try Patelson's. They're at 160 West 56 Street, about a block from Carnegie Hall.They've always been my go-to place for classical sheet music. They also have a website at . Good luck!
They didn't have it.

E. forwards a link to a Dudu Fisher profile.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

There's A New Blog In Town...

Say hi to The Studio 54 Rebbe.

But Is It Really Stealing?

THE LIFE-OF-RUBIN BLOG posts about a dispute ongoing on the Yahoo Jewish music board. In short, a musician posted a list of albums he's owned that were lost or damaged and asked for people to send him mp3's. Another music industry member responded that this would be stealing. LoR agrees citing dina d'malchusa.

I don't agree and I also believe L-o-R's assertion of Dina D'malchusa is incorrect. I'm not aware of an actual case, but I'm certain that if the RIAA filed suit against someone for illegaly downloading songs, and the downloader was able to provide proof that he'd purchased all of those songs legally (i.e. he produced a crate of his old cassettes of all of those albums), then the case would be dismissed.

Assuming the original poster has in fact purchased the albums, I think he should be allowed to make copies. Intellectual property is just that, and once it's been paid for, the producers have no right to demand further payment from the same consumer, unless they go to further expense. The fact that the buyer lost it is irrelevant.

Here's a thought experiment. I buy a CD. Can I import it into iTunes w/o paying the producer an additional fee? Ok, now I take the disc out of its case and drop it. It still plays though. Can I still import it into iTunes w/o paying? How about if I step on it and it cracks slightly, but still plays? What if it's broken, but I'd burned a backup copy for my car? (Which, contrary to many JM producer's assertions is clearly legally protected Fair Use.) At what point does the producer "earn" the right to be paid again?

I do think that if a remastered or otherwise (arguably) upgraded version is released, then one should not be allowed to download those files on the premise that he'd paid for an earlier version of the album. (I use the word "arguably" because, IMO, many of the"remastered" JM releases are a step down from the originals.)

L-o-R also presents a false analogy:
If I buy a car and it gets stolen, can I go into the dealership and just take a new one?
This analogy is false because there are costs to the seller in taking another car. In this case though, the artist does not incur any additional costs.

I've posted many times about illegal downloading and why it's wrong. I don't beleive this falls into that category.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

10/23/07 Link Dump

The Klezmershack links to two podcasts about the Strom-a-thon. We'd linked the Forward's coverage, but hadn't seen Nextbook's. Listening to the Nextbook podcast, it sounds like Strom has little respect for the musicians participating. I'm sure he didn't mean to sound that way, but that's how it comes across. At any rate, this event is getting way too much coverage considering what it was, or rather, wasn't.

Speaking of the KlezmerShack, Ari has posted a nice review of the Lituanian Empire's debut disc. We met some of the musicians last year. Sound like it's worth checking this one out!

Still more at KlezmerShack... "Tango controversy !" It's nice that Ari's begun posting more frequently.

Cole Krawitz writes movingly about the cantor from his childhood in "Memory in Song."

Here's a blog for women who perform for women only audiences to share information.

Finally, check out this drummer's strong backbeat!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Book 'em, Dano - Organizing Your Gig Book

I've been meaning to raise this topic for a while.

Years ago, I conceived a system for managing sheet music at gigs. It involved a linked tablet computer system with individual screens for each musician. It would allow the bandleader to call up songs, have the music immediately displayed on each musician's screen in their instruments key, with their parts (if any), and would allow for transposing entire arragements on the fly to accompany guest vocalists. An internet connection and a full libarary/joint partnership with Hal Leonard and other major music publishers would allow bandleaders to fulfill virtually any request.

Due to cost, current technology limitations, and many other reasons (including laziness), I'm not going to develop/use such a system anytime soon.

In the meantime, I've been trying to figure out the best way to organize music books for the band for gigs. I'm interested in hearing how other musicians create their books AND how they manage/update them from season to season. If there is interest, I'll describe my current binder system, but I'm not totally satisfied with it and am interested in hearing other approaches.

For purposes of this discussion, I'd like to mainly focus on Jewish music repertoire, although secular repertoire is also of interest. Beuller?

Sheet Music Needed

Does anyone know where I can get the sheet music for Weber’s Flute Sonata No. 1? I can't seem to find a retailer that carries it. Thanks.

What Your J-Media Advertising Dollar Gets You - UPDATED

Ever wonder what your J-media advertising dollar gets you?

One ad we ran in a local advertising publication netted us the following. (They misspelled our name and address in their database, allowing us to track which mailings were coming from them.)

Since its unclear at this time if they sold the mailing list or only did the mailing on behalf of those listed below, and whether the below listed companies knew how the names on the list were obtained, I'm witholding the names of the private companies whose mailings we received. They may be blameless here and if so, do not deserve bad press.

I am listing the tzedakas because given the state of ethics in the fundraising community, they do not deserve the benefit of the doubt. In addition, some of their fundraising literature is offensive (I wrote about this in "Tzedakah Tatzil M'Advertising Expenses."

Here's a partial listing:

Tzidkas Yosef Naftali - Financial Assistance for Needy Families in Eretz Yisroel. Mainly for the Yomim Tovim. (4 letters from two different local residents)
Diskin Orphan Home of Israel
Gates of Chesed - A Public Service Publication by the Center for Community Resources (Magazine)
Nechomas Yisroel (Newspaper and "Super Raffle" mailing)
Yom Tov Relief Fund - Rabbi matisyahu Solomon (1 letter)
Matanos L'evyonim Gomlei Chesed - Rabbi Matisyahu solomon (1 letter)
A wig maker (2 postcards)
An insurance brokerage (1 postcard)
A Judaica store (1 postcard)
Subscription offer for a Heimish newspaper (1 postcard)
Passover ad for a confectionary store (1 postcard)
Kupat Ha'ir (numerous full-color brochures)
Kupat Aniyei Eretz Yisrael (numerous full-color brochures)

Care to guess if we renewed the ad buy?

UPDATE: Found a few we'd missed!

A flyer from a Kosher supermarket
Another two postcards from a wigmaker.
A fundraising letter from Rav Shmuel Birenbaum for Reavim Gam Tzemaim Argentina
A fundraising letter from an Israeli business man with a very ill wife.
Another Tzidkas Yoseph Naftali letter.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Sisfsosaf Dovevos Bakever

Mo C forwards a link to his new CD release, K'shoshana. The CD features previously unrecorded songs by the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach as performerd by Aaron Razel, Chaim Dovid, and Shlomo Katz.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

J-Music News Roundup

So once again, a survey of J-arts coverage in the Jewish media discovers that only the Forward has any worthy music coverage this week.

Alexander Gelfand writes about "The Anti-Fiddler."

Jon Kalish podcasts from the Strom-a-thon on Eldridge Street. Mark Rubin shares some thoughts on the event here.

Also in the Forward: "Battle Forming Over Jewel of Yiddish Stage."

Lesson of the Day

Always hire a real keyboardist. You won't get away with using backing tracks!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

From the mailbag...

D. writes:
“You know you are playing at a yeshivish wedding when you have more fanfares than songs at the chupa”

Chupa- Pney Lelbon, Bilvovi, Ani Maamin
Fanfares- Crazy Train, Rock you Like a Hurricans, Baker Steet, YEAH By Usher…..
E. forwards a link to Life of Rubin's Yossi Zweig interview.

Craig writes:
I just read your 2005 Review of Finale vs. Sibelius and found it very informative. Have you had a chance to look at the latest versions of each? I teach a course in music technology and, for the moment, I am showing my students both programs. But it's expensive to keep them both updated. Any words of wisdom you can offer are much appreciated.
I have not upgraded Sibelius as yet. The new version adds VST support, which is nice, but I’d prefer if they fixed the issues with slurs, as that’s more important to me. I’ve been monitoring the Sibelius chat page, and it looks like there are some bugs in this version, so I’m waiting until they issue an update or two before deciding to upgrade.

I’m quite happy with Sibelius at this point, so I’m not staying on top of Finale’s updates anymore. They lost me as a user because of bad customer support, and Sibelius’ support is superb.

If you’re teaching about music technology, you might find some of the music tech blogs helpful.

Here are two of my current faves:
Create Digital Music

Aryeh writes:
hi, my name is Aryeh. I'm really a piano player, but the yamaha digital piano i use also plays rhythms and that sort of thing. sometimes I like to fool around using them, but the keyboard doesn't come with any rhythms that can really be used for freilachs or good horahs, and that sort of thing. You can't create rhythms on the keyboard, and I wouldn't be able to anyway. Do you know where I would be able to get a hold of some that I could play with? By the way, I think it would be a really good idea if you would put up some keyboard playing tips in your blog, cuz i don't think there are any on the net. All I know is that you play chords very low using your left hand, and the melody in the right hand. And there are usually 4 different variations within the rhythm. Is there anything else to it other than that? Thanks.
Any von-man-bands want to shoot this guy some pointers?

Shalom writes about my konsonans retro: a podolian affair review.
In your blog you wrote:

> Amazon has it here:

They say so, but I looked there, and it seems they don't actually have any to sell. You can, however, get it from , where they also have some samples to download (sounds like good stuff). Price is $20.
MoC forwards a link to an article about the Beit Shemesh music festival.

Monday, October 08, 2007

In Review - konsonans retro: a podolian affair

Berlin-based klezmer uber-clarinetist (or should that be Klarinettist?) Christian Dawid recently gave me his latest disc, konosans retro: a podolian affair. The disc features Dawid's collaboration with the Baranovskys, a family of musicians from Zagnitkiv, a Podolian village near the Moldavian border. Here's the band's website.

Writing a review for this disc has been an irritating experience! Reason is, I keep being distracted by the music, and have to stop working to pay attention. It's my own fault, really, for even trying to get something else done at the same time. (It doesn't help that I've developed the habit of playing along with klezmer recordings lately. Or at least, this recording.)

This is a very nice set! The musicianship is wonderful and the unique repertoire the Baranovskys play -- a blend of Moldovan, Ukranian and Hassidic influences -- is a lot of fun.

Podolia is the birthplace of Hasidism, and those with a Hasidic bent will find deep meaning in the Ukrainian folk song "Oy u hayu pri Dunayu."
In a forest near the Danube, a nightingale is singing. I'm sick with my lonliness and want to fly where my lovely one is now
Naturally, given its origins, the band's repertoire includes Ukranian and Hasidic melodies like "Shabes Nign" as well as tunes with Moldovan, Gypsy, and Russian influences.

The album opening to "Moldovskaya Polka" -- a clarinet doina with warm brass chords behind it -- is sweet! And the set stays up throughout. The horn section is tight, and the musicians who play with the Baranovskys complement them nicely. In addition to Dawid, that would include drummer Guy Schalom and guest clarinetist Gennadiy Fomin.

Favorite tracks include: "Moldovskaya Polka", "Khasitsky Freylekhs", "Podilska" (which features nice interplay between Dawid and guest clarinetist Gennadiy Fomin), "Doina and Sher No 13"(with a gorgeous sax doina), and "Trombon Hora", which features Vitaly Baranovsky on the trombone, but it's hard to pick just a few.

Summing up, "a podolian affair" is a well-played disc of interesting klez repertoire. Great tunes and great musicianship. What else needs to be said?

Amazon has it here:

Monday, October 01, 2007

Choir Wars!

It appears that we have a winner in the ongoing YBC/MBC competition. Technical problems indeed.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

9/25/07 Link Dump

Krum as a Bagel writes "Confusing Our Jewish Youth (In Song!)" (Hat tip, E.)

Shira Salamone doesn't like the musical choices the cantor at her shul has been making. Here is her take on his Rosh Hashana selections.

Here's a taste:
First, there were the usual Broadway tunes. But the "high point" of Kedushah was the cantor's apparent tribute to the recently-deceased Luciano Pavarotti: "Hu Kelokeinu, Hu avinu, Hu malkeinu, hu moshieinu (He is our G-d, He is our father, He is our king, He is our savior)" . . . to the tune of, would you believe, "La Donna é Mobile (Woman is Fickle, " from the Giuseppe Verdi opera "Rigoletto")?!!!
Here's her take on his Yom Kippur selections.

Yitz blogs about "Shlomo Katz's Alt-Neu Niggun."

THE LIFE-OF-RUBIN BLOG has had many of his YouTube videos deleted. A while back, he posted a clip of a guitarist for one of the big wedding bands massacring Niggun Neshoma at an affair. In an unusual coincidence, here's Eric Clapton playing that very solo note for note.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Zinger Not Included

Ever wondered what it would sound like if a "von-man-band" got a film scoring gig?

9/20/07 Link dump

Mordechai Shinefield rounds up Jewsapalooza for those who were gigging and couldn't make the show.

Alexander Gelfand reviews Alex Kontorovich's "Deep Minor" in "Whither Klezmer?"

Ben Jacobson lists his top 10 discs of the year in the Jerusalem Post. Ta Shma's promised review disc never arrived, but Hamaokor's "The Source" is on the review stack.

Hirhurim posts 'Why Rabbis Do Not Like Cantors."

Rabbi Avi Shafran: Yiddish Song Translator.

For those who haven't heard it, here's an audio sample of the banned Yiddish rap album.

Over at Jewschool, Rav Shmuel writes "Ortho-punk High Holy Days!"

Yoshie Fruchter was interviewed about his Beyond the Book project on The Book of Life.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

From the mailbag...

Naftali writes:
You always suspected this... Click here.
Psachya writes:
Selections from the "request list" at a recent gig:

Ma Ma Ma
Ya Ma Mai
Yo Ya
Ai Didi Dai
Sha La La
Bag Bag
Numa Numa

Some recent verbal requests:
- During a Sephardic set: "Could you please play some Sephardic music?"
- During a "Yeshivish disco" set: "Could you please play some Jewish music?"
- During a yeshivish freilach set (requested by a Sephardic lady): "Would you please stop playing that JUMPING-UP-AND-DOWN music?"
- Before the beginning of a gig (asked by a teenager): "Will you guys play anything good tonight?" (Only possible response: "Nope. We only play bad music.")

Like you often say - you can't make this stuff up.
E. emails a link to JE's Pruzansky/Bald interview and notes that the album features "custom made arrangements."

He also forwards a link to Gershon Veroba's blog, American Jewish Music.

Speaking of JE...

D. wants to know why we haven't fisked a recent deceitful JE cover story containing a host of blatant lies, misleading statements, disingenuities, deceptions, misprepresentations, falsehoods and fabrications, inventions, prevarications, and whoppers. Chaim Rubin will be interviewing the editor after Yom Tov and has invited readers to submit questions. Why not use the opportunity to ask him?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

High Holiday Musi(ci)ngs

On the plus side... no trifecta. Only Ein Aroch.

I believe I suffered through the worst setting of a Rosh Hashana piyut ever. That would be "Atah Hu Elokeinu...Dagul Mervavah etc." set to Shwekey's "Shomati." Four words per section. Ouch!

Passed the Conservative shul the next morning. They were singing "Ohr Chadash" to Carlebach's "Oseh Shalom". With live music. Me? I was on my way to hear the Shomati reprise. Shoulda bailed. Hashem woulda understood, right?

The Torah portion we read mentions the big party Avraham made when Yitzchok was weaned. We should bring those back! And have live music at them. It'd be a new niche. Talk about growing the market.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Synthetic Shofar

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.

The Old Man and the Peeps

"Too Much Personal Information Guy"

"Too Much Personal Information Guy" gets a Mazal Tov. His daughter had her first child this past December after nine years of trying to conceive. It's nice to meet you too! Oif simchas!

"The Pregnant Bride"
'nuff said!

"Take Your Religion and Shove It Gal"

This non-observant peep is having a traditional ceremony to honor her very Orthodox parents. Dinner will be mixed dancing with an American band. So, naturally, to walk down the aisle to the chupa, (for which Daddy has hired a klezmer duo), she wants the band to... DJ a recording of a breathy female singing "Time After Time." The Chassidic relatives are sure to love this one.

"The Salesman"

"The Salesman" is an ad rep for a local Jewish paper. He tries to sell the band an ad during the wedding. Did we mention that he's also the groom?

Cognitive Dissonance

Played a few heavy chassidic gigs recently...

At one affair, we had the volume significantly louder than we prefer; this was necessary to fill the room and accomodate the size of the crowd. At the event, we had several people come over at various points to say how annoying it is that the music at simchos these days is so painfully loud... and what a pleasure it is to hear low-volume music that allows them to talk and isn't headache-inducing.

At another, we had two people come over and compliment the music, especially the classical music. Interesting praise, considering we hadn't played any classical music all night; just chassidic nigunim, some klezmer, and one ballad each by Shalsheles and Lev Tahor.

These vignettes demonstrate that the affair you play may not have been the event the guests attended. Go figure!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Ban First, Censor Afterwards UPDATED

Emes V'emunah tells the truth!

The Rabbi Teitelbaum article we linked to earlier has been edited. Here's the expunged bit:
Things haven’t changed much since ancient times. Today, too, we have self proclaimed agitators and charlatans who have nothing to do with their time but to go around to our leading Torah sages and try to convince them that separate-seating concerts are a threat to our Yiddishkeit and to ban them. They falsely claim that there is pritzus in the hallways plus other fabrications. Exaggeration is a blood relative to falsehood, and almost as bad. A gossip is one who can give you all the details without knowing all the facts. Unfortunately, they often succeed in their mission. All it took was one Korach to convince the 250 heads of Sanhedrin of the holiness and purity of his mission.
Now, Yeshivah World has removed the post entirely.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Things We've Heard About Our Music

One divorced woman told an acquaintance of ours: "The only nice memory I have of my entire first wedding experience was the music played by the band my ex-husband hired." A nice reference we'll never be able to use.

Another bride told a relative of ours that she loved the music on our demo (which she'd gotten from a friend) so much that she was planning to walk down to one of the songs at her wedding. Ironically, she never contacted us to inquire about having our band play the affair. Talk about missing the point of a demo CD.

Another client hired us to be the simcha music specialists for the one Jewish dance set at his wedding because he "loves our music and wants to have some updated repertoire instead of the same old hokey songs". After hiring us, he informs us that he wants to respect the American band's hora set. Instead of having us call the tunes, he wanted us to simply enhance the other band's Hava Nagilah set. So, we wind up sitting in with the American band for their set.

Here's their set list:
Hava Nagila
David Melech Yisrael (yes, the one you learned in kindergarten)
Bashana Haba'a
Am Yisrael Chai
Hava Nagilah reprise.

Musn't forget the reprise!!!

While You Were Out...

So, the KlezmerShack calls Blog in Dm a daily read, and we turn out to be on hiatus. Talk about timing. Thanks for the kind words, Ari.

Meanwhile, the other J-music blog he recommends, Teruah - Jewish Music, has been on a roll. Go check it out. Lots of great links. I'm digging Israeli band Boom Pam. Two electric guitars, drums, and tuba. SCHWEEEEEET!

9/5/07 Link Dump (fixed BlogThis! edition)

Cleaning out accumulated links...

Now they're banning Yiddish rap! Emes Ve-Emunah comments.

Catch the fat man in Bass Player! Nice piece!

It's Elul, and Pete Singer is doing teshuvah.

The Right Coast has more .

Amy Winehouse's shver: "Boycott Winehouse Albums!" Ah, tough love!

Gruntig posts "MBD Talks About The Song Yidden."

Yitz is "Respecting our Sages and Their Teachings."

Dixie Yid - Thoughts on life and Chassidus: R' Lazer Brody with Yosef Karduner at Yad Binyamin

Greatest line about Sen. Craig: "Guilty Feet Have Got No Rhythm"

Here's a nice tribute to Max Roach. Comes complete with sound clips.

Ben J.' is giving the ladies some attention.

You can't make this stuff up.

Turnabout is fair play!

PT on GV.

Keith Richards feelings are hurt!

Finally, here's a little Humoresque for y'all.

From the mailbag...

E. forwards a link to the new Pruzbomb release.

A Simple Jew forwards An Elul Message From SRV.

Psachya and PT forward "A Kosher Alternative", an article by Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum.

The bit about "Jewish Rock" at the end is weak, but in general, more people need to speak out on this.

Following up on "The Song Remains The Same?"...

An anonymous source close to Chanale emails that she never heard the original song, only knew the lyrics, and did not know where they came from. She'd seen the lyrics as a poem somewhere. She has updated her website and has contacted the original composers in order to pay any royalties and offer credit in future printings of the booklet. The Stone brothers have given permission and say that the original original source of the lyrics are from a poem written by Mrs. Kahn of Camp Hasc.


Some miscellaneous thoughts...

Blogger's "Blog This!" tool is fixed, so more links soon. It hasn't been working for me lately and made link posting a nuisance.

Is it just me, or is there something incredibly ironic about an office telling me to play standards because the client has unique musical needs?

Been having some fun with the whole Kutz brouhaha. Sunday night, I did the simcha specialist thing with a clarinetist on an American gig. They opened the ballroom for dinner with some smooth jazz. I told the clarinetist it made me feel like rushing to the bathroom and starting a maariv minyan.

Been discussing the smooth jazz maariv concept with some musician friends. The consensus appears to be coalescing around a punk maariv service as a better choice.

In the no good deed goes unpunished category...

Picked some beer with a hechsher up at a recent gig. Only thing in town with a hechsher. Turns out the hechsher is good, but the beer is a fundraiser for missionizing.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Klezmer Shack Goes Political - Gets Results

Over at the Klezmer Shack, Ari Davidow goes political and gets results. I'd been planning to link to his post in support, but before I'd managed to, the J-Post reports on ADL head Foxman's change of heart.

They must be kvelling at KlezKanada.

Who appointed Foxman anyway?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Watts Up!

Alexander Gelfand writes about drummer Elaine Hoffman-Watts in "She's Still Got the Beat."

This Post Is Banned!

ADDeRabbi satirizes the Jerusalem concert ban envisioning Uncle Moishy's last recording session.

The underlying point of how bans affect performers and musicians who have not done anything wrong, and are finding their parnassah opportunities taken away, is one that the Rabbis sigining these bans need to publicly address.

It's not just about concerts. The Agudah did the same thing with its takanos on wedding band sizes. The notion that someone can take away a person's legitimate parnassah, let alone an entire industry, without addressing said loss of income and their responsibilities to those affected is bizarre, and creates a huge chilul Hashem.

What did these people expect would happen when they suddenly banned a show (that followed their previously established guidelines) just days before. Who is supposed to assume the financial loss that would have resulted had the ban worked? Simply put, it's rishus, and I don't say this lightly. The people who instigate or support these bans have an obligation to those financially affected by them.

The Bandleader Makes All The Difference

I recently had the experience of playing two gigs with the same band. Only thing was, the sign on the bandstand (and the drummer) was different. It was one freelance gig apiece for two different offices.

It was interesting to see how the musicians responded to the featured vocalists who were leading each gig. The affairs were similiar MO weddings with similar repertoire. One affair was unpleasant to play (from when the singer arrived after the cocktail hour) while the other was a lot of fun the whole time. The other musicians kept contrasting the two gigs. I think the difference comes down to respect. On the first gig, many of the musicians felt the singer didn't respect them. On the second gig, they felt respected and appreciated and it came across in their playing.

Personally, I didn't have issues with with either singer, but I felt the other musicians sentiments were affecting their playing. Obviouly, it's more fun to play a gig here everyone is into it, rather than one where some people are feling disrespected.

Thing is, I'm pretty sure the first vocalist is pleased with how the gig came off and has no idea of how many of the musicians perceive him and his behavior towards them.

Surprise! Its A Machlokes!

In a recent post, we presented Rav Ovadyah Yosef's approach to the issue of using romantic melodies for davening.

Now, the rest of the story...

The Tzitz Eliezer (Vol. 13:12) rules that it's forbidden to sing kaddish/kedusha to shirei agavim. He says its a toevah to put divrei kedusha in begadim tzo'im. He says it's a ma'aseh Satan to get people to sing tunes which bring a loss in the purity of one's kavana both knowingly and unknowingly.

He argues that the melody is the essence of the song (re'ach hashir) and many times conveys the meaning independently of the lyrics. He dismisses the argument some make that it won't affect them as "just words". And, he writes, it certainly causes the hamon am to have improper thoughts.

He explains his ruling: The Rif writes that a shat"z who is meranen b'shirei arev (it doesn't have to be during tefilah) is given a warning. If he doesn't stop, he is removed from his position.

he cites the Rema who rules like the Rif. There is a question as to whether the text of the Rema reads "Shirei Agavim" (romantic songs) or "Shirei Nochrim" (secular songs). The Magen Avraham reads "shirei nochrim." The MA quotes the Sefer Chassidim (238) re:teaching a priest and says the Rema is referring to tunes that are used for Avodah Zara.

The Tzitz Eliezer takes issue with this and says that this is not the Rema's reason. Rather, the Rema holds like the Rif that shirei agavim are always assur and the Sefer Chassidim is adding that shirei avodah zara are assur. He then quotes the Sefer Chassidim (768) re: one who has a good voice, and points out that it doesn't say anything about avodah zara there because 9he claims) it refers to shirei agavim.

He brings the Radvaz says that the Rif (when he writes shirei arev) means shirei agavim and since the Rema is based on the Rif... (this works better if you're gores "shirei agavim" in the Rema.)

He argues that even the Bach and Magen Avraham, who interpret the Rema as referring to shirei avodah zara, would agree that shirei agavim are assur. It's a kal vachomer. (This is Rav Waldenberg's interpretation of the Bach. The pashtus is otherwise.)

He brings the Ma'aseh Rokeach says it's assur and may also be a violation of u'vechukoseyhem lo seyleychu.

Ra Waldenberg then points out that although the Chida critiqued the Ma'aseh Rokeach (re: Maharam Lunzano) he didn't take issue with his psak.

He argues that the chachamim who sang nigunei nochrim didn't know the source so it didn't affect them. (I find this assertion hard to believe. Also, it seems to conflict with his idea of the melody being the "re'ach of the song.) He writes that those who know where the melodies come from are affected by them.

He cites Krach Shel Romi and vehemently disagrees.

He brings the Divrei Chayim, who writes about those who use shirei agavim for tefilah: "oy lahem lepsaim halalu areyley lev, eyn tevunah bahem."

The Tzitz Eliezer quotes Shu'T Ziknei Yehuda (R' Yehuda Aryeh of Modena) who praises professional quality singing by chazzanim and say repeating words during tefilah is permissible. He says to ignore him because he was a kofer and a gambler.

This concludes the summary of the Tzitz Eliezer's responsa.

In a related note, the Yosef Ometz (quoted in Minhag Yisroel Torah) says it's forbidden to use secular tunes for davening, and says we shouldn't try to be smart and say that they stole the tunes from us in the times of the Beis Hamikdash. That's an approach I've seen some in the J-blogosphere take and it strains credulity. At any rate, here's a Chassidic source that doesn't accept that approach.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

You Can't Make This Stuff Up!!!

Today's Hamodia had an article about a convention of "Kiruv activists". Here's a photo of one of the roshei yeshiva addressing the attendees.

Note the text on the banner. Its a pasuk from Yeshaya made popular by Avraham Fried's hit song, "Chazak." The literal translation: Every man would help his friend and tell his brother "be strong". Although this is the literal translation of the text, in context, it clearly refers to Jews helping their fellows worship idols; an odd choice of lyric for a Hassidic dance song. The Artscroll translation includes "worship idols" in brackets, since that's the clear implication.

An ironic choice of banner for a kiruv gathering, dontcha think? Unless missionaries to other faiths were also participating.

This Link Dump Is Also Banned!!!

Mah Rabu goes sleuthing and discovers who the soft jazz musician at Kutz was. I knew it was Bloom. It was either him or else Kenny G, which isn't likely. We'd mentioned Bloom's Shabbat Jazz service back in 2003. Listen to the Barchu clip. I'd never have tried to make that work with teens. Again, what was the Kutz administration thinking?

I learned one of Bloom's tunes, "Standing On The Shoulders" from another musician I took over for on an outreach program. I later found his Tikkun Olam cassette, which has the song on it, in a cutout bin in Chinatown for 25 cents. They had two Jewish cassettes, Bloom's and the HASC musical at Radio City Music Hall. The rest were all heavy metal albums by bands with names like Rigor Mortis.

Sameach Music is looking for composers to submit songs for consideration.

Life of Rubin posts a video of someone, apparently in a church, covering Matisyahu's "King Without A Crown."

He also has more on the recent concert ban in Jerusalem.

Here's a Ha'aretz article on the subject.

The Jewish Worker posts a Hebrew article about the ban. Also some English articles from Chareidi media.

R' Harry Maryles comments.

Greg zings!

Larry Gordon weighs in. The implications for the singers and their families is troubling. This has been a massive chilul Hashem. And, the attempt by some to interfere with the singers family lives --i.e. getting their children expelled from school because their father "doesn't listen to Gedolei Yisroel" is outrageous and should be vigorously condemned by rabbinic leaders. The public silence is troubling!

Cross Currents posts a bizarre guest post attempting to explain the ban. We're not buying it.

R' Harry is also criticizing a Jewish children's educational CD. The state of Jewish children's entertainment...

Go to Hebrew School and learn about Jewish Blues: Out of the Woods.

Over at Orthodox Anarchist, there's a discussion of DJ Handler's Y-Love mixtape and the ethichs, or lack therof, of sampling without permission.

You know, Sweet Home Alabama really needed balalaika.

So now there's another way for some JM entertainers to ride the tzedakah gravy train. Nice!

The Klezmer Shack posts about konosans retro. Christian Dawid recently gave me a copy and a review is forthcoming. The short version. Buy it.

Amazon has it here:

Ari also posts a link to photos from Yiddish Summer Weimar.

Here's some good music news out of Pakistan.

Here's a ample track off of MoC's latest project, featuring previously unrecorded Carlebach tunes.

Khevre reunite for a good cause. If you're in or near Boston, check them out. Tell Garf we sent you!

Here's a great 404 page. Via Music Thing.

No one sets out to be a smooth jazz musician. Except at Kutz.

George Robinson reviews disc by Frank London, Basya Schecther, and more.

Powerline writes about Idan Raichel.

Finally, Soundbrush records is offering a free download of a track from Frank London's "A Night in the Old Marketplace."

Amazon has that album here: