Tuesday, December 31, 2019

In Honor of the Siyum...

Songs of Shas

Been A While Since I Posted One Of These

Peeps you see at gigs.

"The Bored Guest"
This wild-eyed yeshiva guy with a smashed hat is bored at his friend's engagement party. Socially awkward, he doesn't really feel comfortable eating petit fours and making conversation with other guests. So, he'll come over and nudge you to totally change the pleasant vibe and play a dance set because "the chosson wants to dance". This, despite the fact that the chosson told you they may not even want any dancing at the party and certainly don't want a dance set just then. A quick demurral, with a statement that you can't start a dance set without the express direction of the ba'al simcha scotches his plan and leaves him wandering the party awkwardly.

"Don't Worry We Hired Someone Else"
We've run into a few of these peeps over the years. The most recent one saw us playing a Simchas Beis Hashoeva gig on Sukkos and took our card. "We're always doing events locally and I hadn't realized you did this. We'll definitely call you for the next one." Flash forward to Chanukah and we bump into each other. "We had a last-minute party yesterday afternoon. I'd have called you, but I lost your card. Not to worry we hired "X" instead." Because it's super hard to find someone in your neighborhood who you know personally if you've lost their card. Thanks for the comforting knowledge that we needn't worry because you found someone else.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

It's A Small World!

Interesting to see which community/ies an ex-Lakewooder is mining for material. Matt Dub releases a follow up to Adama V'Shamayim.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Ban All The Things!!!

There's an idiotic post over at YWN. MAILBAG: The Jewish Music Industry Should Never Use Guitarist Avi Singolda Again

I'm pretty sure I know who wrote this. But it really doesn't matter. It's just stupid. And that's coming from someone who has been critical of everyone [not really everyone, but a huge chunk of the recordings made] using the same guitar player. I've written about this in the early days of this blog, including specifics about not being moved by much of the commercial guitar work Avi's done on such recordings. IMO, I hear a ton of talent/chops, but little "soul".

Nevertheless, the notion of boycotting someone because he stands up for his beliefs is troubling to me. The reality is that respect for women, and inclusiveness for women is a big issue in the world at large. And, no matter how the frum community explains Halacha, it is seen and experienced as negative/derogatory by most outside the system. And so, asking people to endorse/participate in something they feel is morally wrong is unjust. This wasn't going to be a concert for the frum community, in which respect is warranted towards their right to observe as they see fit. It was meant to be a broader performance for Israeli society at large. And, in that context, standing up for inclusiveness is a perfectly appropriate action to take. In fact, the frum community needs to have the common sense to understand how it's perceived (rightly or wrongly) by the outside world and choose it battles accordingly. This was a dumb point to take a stand on. The end result. Everyone feels bad. It could all have been avoided with a little bot of common sense and foresight beforehand.

So, by all means, I encourage producers/artists to find a guitarist whose unique expression/sound appeals to them for their recordings, rather than just using the same guy everyone else is. But, don't boycott Avi because he stood up for something important for him. Rather learn from him that when something is important to you, speak up, rather than just go along with it.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

The Music Is Too Damn Loud!

At the NJ Jewish Link... Dangerous Simchas.

I'm conflicted about these kinds of essays which appear periodically in various Jewish media.

I'm conflicted because the essential point is, of course, correct, and blindingly obvious. However, the only effect I ever see from one of these articles is a short-term increase in snide commentary and rudeness from guests at weddings/parties, often before a note is played and even when the volume is perfectly reasonable. And, as a musician who is known for being very volume conscious, I do not see our community valuing that as a priority when choosing musicians for their event.

As well, these articles elide/omit the very real issues contributing to the problem which are out of the band's control.

For example, I recently played a party at one shul in a wealthy MO community. The room felt super loud, and so I measured the volume level with a decibel meter and it was over 95dB before I ever played a note. That's the ambient level of noise with people talking in the room. It's not really possible to be heard in a room with that level of noise without being "loud", certainly for the people standing near the speakers.

Many of the venues our community uses are not sound friendly, with poor acoustics as well as room design and layout issues. If a badekin is held in a loud room with hard reflective surfaces and a noise trap skylight situation, musicians will sound loud even at low volume. A horn section playing Od Yishoma in that room, as is typical at most weddings, will be too loud even without amplification. And the sound will also be muddy/boomy and unclear.

Additionally, we make a lot of huge affairs, which necessitate corresponding accommodations. Playing music to cover a dance floor for 50 people is very different from doing so for 600. More volume is generally needed. Solutions are possible, in theory, like having extensive speaker placement throughout the room, instead of relying on speakers from the bandstand covering the whole room, for example, but these solutions can add thousands to the cost and are not always practical due to dual-use rooms/double-bookings at venues/etc. that don't allow enough time to set up and properly soundcheck such a system.

Sometimes, tables are placed directly in front of the band. No matter how careful the band is about volume, it's not going to be comfortable to sit at those tables during the dance set and try to converse. And that's true even if the band is playing at Rabbi Zahtz's recommended volume level.

The music styles popular in the community make a difference as well. Certain instruments need to be played at volume for those styles to sound correct. For instance, a rock beat played on drum set softly doesn't sound the same as one played hard. The timbre of the drums is different. And so simply playing softer doesn't achieve the desired musical result. It just sounds wrong. Solutions are possible, to an extent, like shielding the drummer behind a plexiglass screen, for instance, but this isn't always possible and it also adds cost.

It might be great if every event had an acoustic klezmer band playing nigunim at low volume, but the reality is that this is not the music our community listens to. The artists our schools and shuls bring in for special events and concerts are, in the main, contemporary music performers whose music requires this sort of approach/instrumentation to sound right. It's unfair to play Jewish pop music for the kids at our schools when the kids arrive every morning, bring those artists in for concerts and special events, have the school choir sing those songs and then be surprised that that's the music our kids know and want at their simchas. And, there is much value to that music. I'm not trying to criticize it per-se here, just point out that those sounds require specific performance techniques that can result in louder volume/more bass etc.

So although I agree with the main point, and try hard to keep volumes down wherever possible, if the past is any guide, I fear that the only outcome of this article will be more short-term poor behavior directed towards me.  I'm, sadly, not expecting more bookings due to this article. In this case, I hope that I'm wrong.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Xtreme Eitzos And Chaps ft. Dr. Dreizich

He carries all his seforim and never uses a Kovetz.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019


The caterer at a recent wedding I played had a pic of Reb Shaya in his office. I didn't eat anything.

APPALLING: Video At Concert in Jerusalem Makes MASSIVE Bizayon Out Of Reb Shayela Keristerer


The caterer at a recent wedding I played had a pic of Reb Shaya in his office. I didn't eat anything.

APPALLING: Video At Concert in Jerusalem Makes MASSIVE Bizayon Out Of Reb Shayela Keristerer

Friday, October 11, 2019

IP Halakhah

In this piece, "IP Halakha", Rabbis Daniel Z. Feldman presents varied approaches which ought to be applied to unauthotrized music sharing as well. There are several approaches any of which work, but the main point is clear. The fact that so many in the frum world dispute it -- moreso justify it -- represents an astounding educational fail.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

More Wedding Rules

Meant to poast this when I first saw it... NEW WEDDING RULES: Rabbonim Sign Letter About “Goyish Music” at Weddings

Should really be titled "Rabbonim let askanim take the lead again".  It's shameful that they seem not to recognize that they need to talk to people in the business before signing on to and/or promulgating these. [See Bechoros 21b]

V'ein kan makom lha'arich. Vedok.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

BD'E - Velvel Pasternak Z"L

I'm saddened to hear of the passing of Velvel Pasternak, Z"L. His company, Tara Publications, was a gamechanger in the Jewish music world, publishing all sorts of sheet music collections from Chasidic, Israeli, Klezmer, Sephardic and more. Velvel was a teacher and ethnomusicologist who lectured widely about Jewish music. Here's a clip from one such lecture. Yehei zichro baruch.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

My Zaidy - Repost

This cover by Tali Yess of his late father's song should have many more views. Simply a beautiful tribute to his dad ob'm and so appropriate for Yom Hashoah today, so I'm reposting it.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

BDE - Chazzan Sherwood Goffin Z"L

A reader emailed on Thursday that "No tribute in your blog today. Surprised me." Truthfully, I had started to write a quick post when I realized that I didn't have the time do write a proper appreciation and given multiple gigs between then and now, including two last Tursday, it's taken till now to complete this post. As you've probably heard by now, Chazzan Sherwood Goffin was niftar this past week. I first came to know Chazzan Goffin Z"L through the wedding circuit, where I had the opportunity to accompany him at wedding ceremonies a number of times. He was a wonderful singer, but what stood out most to me was his "mentchlichkeit". The Chaz (as he was affecionately known) was a man of impeccable midos and grace. Our interactions -- whether via phone or email before the event, during, or afterwards when he always came over to thank me -- were always positive. The last wedding I accompanied him at fairly recently was one that my band had been hired to play. My clients told me that Sherwood Z"L had said wonderful things about me and my music when they talked to him before hiring me. I believe that every time a client reached out to tell me that Chazzan Goffin would be singing at an upcoming affair, they'd mention that he'd said nice things about me. It certainly happened often. He was a real mentch. I work with a lot of professional singers. Most are nice. But there are (now were) only two who I can say have always been unfailingly polite to every member of the band every single time. I get it. It's easy to get up, sing your feature, perhaps thank the bandleader, and move on. And there's often a lot going on at these events. The musicians, especially the sidemen often get overlooked. Chazan Goffin always made a point of coming over to greet me beforehand and again afterwards to thank me and each of the musicians in the band after the ceremony. Similarly, every request was made in a respectful manner. He asked. Politely. Never demanded. At one of the last affairs I accompanied him at, he was asked to sing Carlebach's Im Eshkacheich. In his email before the dinner to discuss the details, he asked expressed his preference for the entire band to accompany him, but went out of his way to say that he'd be ok if they couldn't for some reason and it was just keyboard alone for that song. In addition to working with Chazzan Goffin at weddings and dinners over the years, I also attended some classes he gave on Nusach and read his articles on the importance of mesorah in Nusach, the responsibilities of the Shaliach Tzibur and more. The Chazzan had a very strong sense of tradition and reverence for mesorah that underlay his teaching about how to daven. This is something that's often overlooked by musicians and singers who want to be fresh and innovative, but it's super important. Chazzan Goffin was a true gentleman. Unfailingly polite, warm and friendly. A true ahuv el habriyos. It was beautiful to see the love and respect that people had for him at events we were both at. His passing is a real loss for Am Yisrael. Yehei zichro baruch. P.S. There is much to be said about Chazzan Goffin's activism on behalf of Russian Jews, his performing career, and his work at the Belz School of Jewish Music, as well as his work with decades of bnei mitzvah students at LSS. Also, his prioritazation of family over career. I leave it to those with firsthand knowledge to talk about all of those aspects of his life.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Kol Hakavod, Shalva Band!

Shalva Band to pull out of Eurovision contention 

This is a beautiful story and if you haven't seen the band's videos from throughout the competition, they are well worth looking for. The Eurovision people ought to have made an exception/accomodation here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019