Klezmer Podcast Blog

Blog to accompany the Klezmer Podcast website

Review: David Buchbinder’s Odessa/Havana

Posted by keithklez on August 2, 2008

Review: David Buchbinder’s Odessa/Havana

David Buchbinder has been around the muisc scene for a long time as a performer and composer. His newest project, Odessa/Havana, has the tag line “The explosive Jewish/Cuban musical mash-up.” While true, this barely scratches the surface of what this music really is all about. Odessa/Havana breaks new ground, firmly landing in a new musical genre that results in a fresh approach to what we call World Music, though it really is described better by Buchbinder as World Jazz. “This is not traditional music from either side, but original music filtered through Cuban and Jewish sensibilities.Cuban and Jewish elements are used as raw material to create something new,” he says.

Odessa/Havana is a musical adventure unlike any in recent memory. At first listen, the album seems to be Jazz-centric, but when you listen further you cannot help being drawn into a world of multi-cultural influenced music that goes way beyond the boundaries of Jazz. Buchbinder describes it as”a new direction of jazz in the macro sense.”

The opening track, Lailadance, is indicative of this new direction. Familiar Jewish instrumentation of Trumpet, Clarinet, and Violin, is joined by Afro-Cuban Piano, Bass, Drums, and Percussion. Some of the finest musicianship anywhere is on display here and I was immediately drawn in by the rhythms and the melodies. The music is both refreshing and exciting.

Duran’s Impresiones continues this exploration of styles with an introduction from Buchbinder and Duran that I see as a Cuban Doina with Trumpet and Piano, then Bass and Percussion bring us to the main theme where Trumpet and Sax play in octave unison with th Violin puctuating the lines in a Progressive Jazz context. Great solos from Sax, Piano, and Violin round out the action.

My personal favorite and, I feel, most engaging piece is Cadiz, written by Buchbinder. The track starts with slow out of time Piano/Bass with the opening theme, then Trumpet and Violin take turns with Judeo-Spanish styled solos. Then the tempo picks up and starts a progressive Afro-Latin groove, and leaves room for more solos, then finally returns to the slow opening theme to end this, the longest piece on the album. Buchbinder cites a number of cultural influences in writing this piece: Jewish, Arabic, African, Free Jazz, Roma. Cadiz is, according to Buchbinder, not technically Cuban or Jewish, but takes both these sounds and creates a new world from within.

My second favorite is Prayer. If there is such a thing as Jewish-Cuban Blues, Buchbinder has found it here. It is the most melodiacally beautiful piece on the album. The opening Bass solo gives way to a very sesitive Trumpet, followed by a lovely Violin/Oud duet and then Soprano Sax/Trumpet. Buchbinder then gives a great jazz ballad solo before bringing the Violin/Sax/Oud back to the theme. The song ends with an unresolved chord, which corresponds perfectly to an unanswered prayer.

Colaboracion is descriptive of this joint Buchbinder/Duran composition. Piano/Percussion set the tone for a Jewish-styled Violin solo followed by a free-jazz Trumpet solo and a mainstream Sax solo. I like the Piano groove that Duran lays down, and particularly the coda of the last minute of the song, a groovy outro that comes from nowhere. Very inventive stuff that I can’t get enough of.

The closer, a great encore piece, is Freylekhs Tumbao. Buchbinder gave Duran some Klezmer tunes to work with, and the result is a great take on these tunes from a Latin perspective. Nothing corny here, this medley takes on Klezmer head on and presents it in a sizzling flurry of Latin beats and percussion.

I have always loved Jazz, and Afro-Cuban Jazz in particular. To match it with Jewish-Klezmer is a dream come true, and I thank David Buchbinder and Hilario Duran for bringing these two world together and creating something that is truly unique and has the potential to further expand multiculturalism through Jazz. I can’t wait to see what they will come up with next. In the meantime, I will keep listening to Odessa/Havana and enjoying the spirit that infuses their music.

Keith Wolzinger
Klezmer Podcast

David Buchbinder’s Odessa/Havana
2007 Tzadik
TZ 8121

1. Lailadance 5:41
2. Impresiónes 6:41
3. Cadiz 9:34
4. Next One Rising 6:46
5. Rumba Judia 3:38
6. Prayer 4:21
7. Colaboración 8:34
8. Freylekhs Tumbao 4:38

O/H MySpace


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Review: “Borsht with Bread, Brothers” Klezmer

Posted by keithklez on July 8, 2008

Hot Pstromi

Review: “Borsht with Bread, Brothers” Klezmer
Yale Strom & Hot Pstromi

Yale Strom has been on the Klezmer scene for many years and has collected a large repertoire from the Eastern Europe countries that once were the center of Yiddish culture. Strom refers to himself as an Ethnographer, a term I was not familiar with. Strom studies the culture of the people that live in the various towns and regions and analyzes how the Jews interacted with the cultures of their host nations and, by extension, the influences these cultures had on each others’ music.

In the case of “Borsht with Bread, Brothers” Strom uses the band to transport the listener to those faraway lands where itinerant musicians traveled the countryside and village bands played for every occasion. Of particular interest to Strom is the interaction between the Jews and Rom (Gypsy) people. The music of these two cultures existed side by side for centuries, and musicians learned to play both styles.

The music here represents the material Strom found on his many visits to Eastern Europe. He walks a fine line between faithfulness to the original field recordings he made and his original compositions that push Klezmer music into new sonic realms. The result is a freshness that brings the art form to a new level, the sound of transforming the village band into a modern entity, able to hold the attention of traditionalists as well as lovers of new music.

Hot Pstromi, itself a play on Strom’s name, is easily able to convey the feel of the village band as it would have been heard from Romania to Bessarabia, Russia, Poland, and Germany. Even Strom’s new compositions are in the same style, so one has to listen closely to find where the new sections are.

The album contains four Yiddish vocal selections featuring contralto Elizabeth Schwartz. Schwartz brings emotional depth to the material, and adds a bit of spontaneity to Ver Es ken Keseyder Tseyln, a wedding song from Ukraine embellished with batkhones, traditional singing/talking. I also liked Szol A Kakos Mar, with lyrics in Hungarian and Hebrew. This song is not like anything I’ve heard before. It comes from Hungary, where the Rom musicians still remember the Hebrew lyrics. It gives the feeling of Jewish Mysticism.

Another favorite song was Kalarasher Bulgar. This tune from Moldova changes character, starting as a nice slow bulgar, then changing to a fast freylekhs. I have to particularly mention David Licht on Percussion and Sprocket on Bass who together drive the band with a great style- traditional but with a bit of zip.

I must also mention Ben Avrameni, an original by Strom based on music he heard while traveling in Romania. It has an interesting violin/whistling duet opening, then changes to a sort of extended Gypsy jam with lots of room for solos from the band members and some vocalizing from Strom.

The included booklet is 36 pages with excellent information on the album’s concept, history of the band, musician bios, track descriptions, and song lyrics in Yiddish and English. The booklet is in English, French, German, and Spanish, a nice touch that I have found from ARC Music releases. There are also some great photos of the old-time musicians Strom encountered during his travels.

The sound quality is outstanding. The work by Michael Broby, Tripp Sprague, and Diz Heller brings the band to life. The disc sounds terrific on my home theater as well as on headphones, with deep, crisp bass, light drums, clear vocals, and a nuanced sound on the flutes and pennywhistle. My only criticism would be that the Tenor Sax sounds a bit harsh in a couple of spots. Otherwise, it has a consistent sound overall, which is a great accomplishment since the tracks are from studios in New York and California.

It’s always interesting for me to hear bands like Hot Pstromi, whose music comes from years of research and dedication to preserving this musical language nearly lost in the Holocaust. I admire Strom for his dedication and ability to interpret the material in a way that is both entertaining and truthful.

Keith Wolzinger
Klezmer Podcast

“Borsht with Bread, Brothers” Klezmer
Yale Strom & Hot Pstromi
EUCD 2102
2007 ARC Music Productions Int. Ltd.

Yale Strom
Hot Pstromi MySpace
ARC Music

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Review: Klezmachine

Posted by keithklez on June 10, 2008

Review: Klezmachine

One of the most interesting groups on the scene today is Klezfactor, the Neo-Klezmer band led by composer/Reed player/Producer Mike Anklewicz. Their new release, Klezmachine, continues the klez/jazz/funk sound that first grabbed my attention when I heard their first album, The Golem Of Bathurst Manor. The music is smooth, rich in harmonies and textures, and is unforgettable. All but one of these tracks was penned by Anklewicz, and he has certainly made his mark on the World Music community. The performances are outstanding, giving free reign to the band members to bring their own personalities and experiences to the table with ample time given for improvisation. I loved all the songs on the album, each one making its own statement and contributing to the project as a whole.

The title track, Klezmachine, shows us right from the beginning that Anklewicz’ contemporary vision is rooted in the Klezmer tradition. By starting the song as a thin, scratchy 78 RPM recording sound, we see the beginnings of recorded Klezmer music. Then, they gracefully transition to a clean contemporary-sounding entrance of the rhythm section, followed by the band joining in on the main theme. It’s a gimmick to be sure, but it is not overdone, and I think is a great way of paying homage to the early recordings that we all love while pushing the envelope of today’s music. Well done Klezfactor!

A favorite is Bulgarian Dance (Kopanitsa), a great tune that is lively and has a fabulous bass line that drives the whole way through. The band comes in with the Bulgarian melody, then opens up for solos from Clarinet and Violin. The Piano soon joins in on the bass line, and by the end everyone plays it in unison. The song has a nice additional touch. The band claps the bass line at the beginning and end of the song. It lends a different element to the song, and gets us into the Bulgarian rhythm that keeps looping through our mind long after the song ends.

There are a pair of Waltzes that add some nice colors to the album. Golden Medine is a fast waltz the has a nice flowing melody, with some great harmonies, and nice solos from Guitar and Clarinet. Waltz For Ronit is a slow waltz and is an extended solo vehicle for Anklewicz’ beautiful Alto Sax. I liked the lovely accompaniment from the rhythm section and some nice touches from the Violin and Cello.

Rumanian Rhythm is a jazzy Latin-influenced Rumanian tune that is a nice blend of sounds and textures, and features a Piano solo by Ali Berkok.

Klezfactor has always done well with the Jazz/Funk side of their personality, and again they do not disappoint. The band really cranks it up a notch with The Jewce (Manischewitz) and Gonif. I really like the heavier rhythm section combined with a light Piano and the great Clarinet/Sax/Violin work.

A nod to Sephardic/Yemenite tradition comes from Dundah Meditation and Dror Yikra, starting out with Dumbek and layers of long tone rich harmonies from the band as Anklewicz soars above with a beautiful sax solo that serves as a prelude to Limore Twena’s distinctive vocal, accompanied so well by Oud, Strings, and Sax.

Those of you who like mainstream jazz will certainly go for Greenhouse Effect with a nice 5/4 swing feel, Electric Bass, and some outstanding solo Piano again from Berkok. The ending is cool, as the band drops out leaving only the Sax and Violin. Wonderful!

New Age fans will want to check out Chalom and the triplet background that moves around the rhythm section in this interesting waltz. Then we are treated to a nice Bass solo from Michael Smith, as well as a Violin solo from Ben Plotnick.

The last track, Shepping Nakhes, brings us ful circle back to the more traditional Klezmer melodies (but keeping the Electric Bass and Electric Guitar). Anklewicz on Clarinet and Plotnick on Violin make a great duo and show that they have a firm grasp of Klezmer.

The album sounds terrific. The engineering and mixing by Jim Morgan are great. The instruments are nicely balanced and even the smallest cymbal hits can be heard clearly.

My preview copy had no liner notes to speak of, only a two-page CD insert that lists the tracks and credits. I am told that the full release will have more complete liner notes and artwork.

A very exciting extra from the Klezfactor website is the Making of Klezmachine Podcast. What a great idea! Anklewicz and Ali Berkok take us behind the scenes of the recording, mixing, and editing that was used to make the album. I especially enjoyed the way that they deconstructed Dror Yikra to show how a song is built up from the basic tracks with overdubs and alternate takes. This is fascinating listening. Nice job Mike!

Anklewicz pours his soul into this music and the album. He has surrounded himself with sidemen who share his vision and passion. It is a great gift to us, the listeners. I highly recommend Klezmachine. I’ll be keeping it in my music rotation for a long time.

Keith Wolzinger
Klezmer Podcast

2008 Mike Anklewicz

Track listing:

1 Klezmachine
2 Goldene Medine
3 Bulgarian Dance (Kopanitsa)
4 Waltz for Ronit
5 The Jewce (Manischewitz)
6 Dunash Meditation
7 Dror Yikra
8 Chalom
9 Greenhouse Effect
10 Rumanian Rhythm
11 Gonif
12 Shepping Nakhes

Play time: 58 min.

CBC Radio
Making Of Klezmachine Podcast

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Review: Chanukah Is Freylekh

Posted by keithklez on May 28, 2008

Review: Chanukah is Freylekh! A Yiddish Chanukah Celebration. Songs My Bubbe Should Have Taught Me: Volume Two
The Lori Cahan-Simon Ensemble

The title says it all. Chanukah Is Freylekh is full of songs I’ve never heard.  These songs are set in a true Klezmer style, which brings a wealth of emotion and authenticity that you can’t get with the “traditional” Hebrew Chanukah repertoire.

Lori Cahan-Simon has researched the songs presented here and provides a wealth of information along with outstanding performances and arrangements. The ensemble performance is spot-on and contributes a richness to the album that is a perfect complement to Cahan-Simon’s vocals. The ensemble gets plenty of time between song verses to showcase their considerable talent with a perfect interpretation of this eastern-European Klezmer material.

While I like the melodies and lyrics of these songs, one stands out for me. Take a look at the English lyrics for Borekh Ate- Blessed Art Thou:

“Blessed art Thou,” sings father 
And he lights the candles. 
And their light falls softly 
On his pale countenance.
And a fire, holy and dear 
Shines in his eyes. 
And his weary limbs stand
Tall and strong.
And it seems and it appears: 
There is still something here. 
Something has remained to love, 
Holy is this hour.
Old sounds long gone… 
No, I hear them still. 
Sing for me, Father, “Blessed art Thou”
And I remain your child.

This is clearly not a children’s Chanukah song, but speaks of the sacred moment of  “Father” lighting the candles and singing the blessings.

One familiar song is Ver Ken Dertseyln, the Hebrew Mi Yimalel. This song gets the full Klezmer treatment, with a lovely Doina introduction, and the newly composed Katshke’s Khanike Freylekhs by Adrienne Greenbaum to complement the Yiddish lyrics. I enjoy this combination of old and new material very much. It gives this album a uniqueness that never becomes tiring.

Two songs that I find fascinating are Di Khanike Likht and O, Ir Kleyne Likhtelekh. Both have the same lyrics, but are set to different Russian melodies. The former is a a two-part slow/fast Russian cafe song, while the latter is a lovely Russian waltz. I like them both, and find the contrast to be a highlight of the album. It reminds me that many of our Jewish liturgical songs  have several melodies for the same lyrics. It appears that the same applies to Yiddish song as well.

One last song I must mention is the slow waltz Akht Likhtelekh, a delicate piece featuring a flute/guitar duet backing Cahan-Simon’s lovely vocal. The song is about the Chanukah candles, but sounds more like a love song. But don’t we all love our Chaukah candles?

The album sounds amazing. The mix is done right, with every instrument clear and distinct, without a lot of the annoying reverb on the vocal that seems commonplace today. A simple and pure sound that doesn’t get in the way of the music, thanks to Henry Shapiro (who also appears on the album).

The included 28-page booklet is a mini-compendium of Yiddish song. Cahan-Simon provides an introduction, extensive notes and translations of the songs, as well as detailed descriptions of the many dances that accompany the music. A lot of effort went into compiling this material, and it is a great supplement to the music.

Cahan-Simon states: “My mission is to encourage the revitalization and renewal of Yiddish in American Jewish life, educating through the arts and introducing Yiddish to a new generation through enjoyable activities such as song, story, dance, games, theater, and cooking; and to disseminate the material, instilling a love for the culture in young children, families, and the larger community.”

She plans to release a dozen more albums in the series, and I hope she reaches her goal. The Yiddish revival seems to be in high gear and the Lori Cahan-Simon Ensemble is in a perfect place to spread the joy. I highly recommend this album to anyone who has an interest in keeping the Yiddish culture alive.

Keith Wolzinger
Klezmer Podcast

Chanukah is Freylekh! A Yiddish Chanukah Celebration. Songs My Bubbe Should Have Taught Me: Volume Two

Lori Cahan-Simon Ensemble
LCS 003

1.    Khanike    iz    freylekh/ Chanukah is Happy       1:50
2. Tsindt    on    likhtlekh        (A    khanike    lid)/    Khanike-marsh    (Tsindt    on    di    likhtlekh)
  Light the Candles (A Chanukah Song) / Chanukah-March (Light the Candles)       3:01 
3. Kinder    haynt    iz    khanike    /    Mir    zenen    khanike    likhtlekh    /    Naftule,    shpil    es    nokh    a    mol 
  Children, Today is Chanukah / We are Chanukah Candles / Naftule, Play it Again    4:27
4. Borekh    ate  –  Blessed art Thou    3:23   
5. Di    khanike    likht – The Chanukah Candles    3:06
6. Drey    zikh,    dreydele – Spin, Little Dreydl    3:00 
7. Ver    ken    dertseyln    (Mi    Yimalel)/Katshkes    khanike    freylekhs
  Who Can Retell/Katshke’s Chanukah Freylekhs    5:18
8.    O,    ir    kleyne    likhtelekh – Oh, You Little Candles    3:49
9.  A    lid    fun    khanike –  A Song of Chanukah     6:00
10. Ven    kh’tsindt    on    di    likhtlekh    on,    di    akht –
  When I Light the Eight Candles    3:05 
11. Zogt    nor,    zogt    /    Ikh    bin    a    latke    /    Ikh    hob    a    kleyn    dreydl    (Dos    Dreydl) 
  Just Tell Me, Tell / I am a Latke / I Have a Little Dreydl (The Dreydl)    2:39
12. Sheoso    nisim – He Who Performed Miracles     2:51
13. Ikh    bin    a    kleyner    dreydl – I am a Little Dreydl / Sirba in C    2:20  
14.  Akht    Likhtlekh    – Eight Little Candles    2:57
15. Di    khanike    teg    akht – The Eight Days of Chanukah    3:52  
16.   Al    hanisim – For the Miracles    4:43
17. Oy    khanike,    oy    khanike – Oh Chanukah, Oh Chanukah     3:28

Lori Cahan-Simon

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A Klezmer Funk Remix Saturday, May 3, 2008 at 8pm

Posted by keithklez on April 30, 2008

SAT MAY 3 2008 @ 8PM
Celebrate James Brown’s birthday with a special weekend of FUNK!
The Apollo Theater Art & Soul Series presents
Featuring David Krakauer, Fred Wesley and Socalled
A Klezmer Funk Remix
Saturday, May 3, 2008 at 8pm | Tickets $35
Abraham, Inc. is a head-on musical collison!
Fusing the geniuses of klezmer champion and clarinet virtuoso, David Krakauer, funk/jazz legend,
trombonist, Fred Wesley, and hip-hop renegade, Socalled – Abraham, Inc. ushers in a new musical
era.  Featuring a killin’ band with a three-piece horn section led by Wesley and special performance by
rapper C-Rayz Walz, this world-premiere concert promises to sweep audiences away with its ecstatic
wailings, bold-face funk, and pulsating hip-hop beats.
  Don’t miss the free Abraham Inc. events leading up to the big show!
May 1, 2008 at 7:30pm, the Apollo Theater Foundation, Inc. and the Jewish Community Center will present, The
Collaborative Spirit: The Soul Music of Abraham, Inc., a conversation with David Krakauer, Fred Wesley and
Socalled with WNYC’s Leonard Lopate.   JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Avenue at 76th Street.
May 2, 2008 at 7:00pm, the Apollo Theater Foundation, Inc. and the Museum of African American Cinema honors
funk superstar, James Brown, with a special screening of Remembering James Brown.  The Apollo Theater Sound-
       Free programs – limited seating.  For more details visit www.apollotheater.org

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Review: Traveling Show

Posted by keithklez on April 4, 2008

Review: Traveling Show
Metropolitan Klezmer

An exciting facet of today’s Klezmer scene for is the mix of genre-bending sounds that are being created by an increasing number of very talented groups. This is a welcome trend and shows a worldwide acceptance of Jewish musical traditions. One of the most important discoveries I’ve made is Metropolitan Klezmer and their latest release, Traveling Show, a live recording that encompasses a wide range of musical tastes that truly has something for everybody. The band’s energy and interaction with a very appreciative audience put this at the top of my list of live Klezmer recordings.

Traveling Show really has two meanings: The band as it is heard “on the road” while touring, as well as the global roots of the repertoire, North American, Eastern European, Balkan, Latin, and Soviet Yiddish Theater. All are represented with truth, originality, and musicality.

Metropolitan Klezmer does a marvelous job of taking medleys of well-known Klezmer songs and piecing together the best parts in stylistically creative ways, making mini-suites of these musical treasures.

My favorite track on the album is Baltic Blue, an original composition by reed player Debra Kreisberg. It is a Jazz-influenced Terkisher that opens up for solos from Accordion, Sax, Muted Trumpet, and Trombone, and backed by delicate Percussion, Accordion, and some very tasty Acoustic Bass. Kreisberg is a versatile performer, with a great Clarinet sound on the Klezmer tunes and some free flowing Sax on the Swing/Jazz tunes.

The focal point for the group is Vocalist Deborah Karpel, who leads the musical journey with great style. From Yiddish swing favorites like Ot Azoy Neyt a Shnayder and Abi Gezunt to the Balkan-backed Pick A Pocket Or Two to the traditional A Yid, A Kaptsn, the melancholy Mayn Rue Platz, and the distinctive Musikalisher Tango, she gives a nuanced performance that is among the best of today’s interpreters of Yiddish song.

More fun breaks out on Klezmerengue, a latin-flavored rendition of Yosl, Yosl; a “klezmographied” rendition of Guys & Dolls & Bagels, and the Dixieland- flavored version of Ikh Bin A Kleyner Dreydl.

Pam Fleming gives us a soulful Flugelhorn on Kalarash Khupe & Frolic, Mayn Rue Plats, and An Alter Nign. The rest of the time she leads the horns with some very spirited trumpet playing, and fills in nicely on the jazz numbers.

Ismail Butera plays the role of the energetic Accordionist with masterful solos on Mostly Rumanian Finale and Encore, some short solos on other tracks, and restrained accompaniment throughout the album (as there is no keyboard). I think Accordionists are generally underappreciated, but Butera makes you take notice of his inspired performance.

Michael Hess is a great violoinist, but really makes his mark here with his Ney Flutes on S’vivon, Terk In Amerike, Ney Taxim, and Striver’s Sher.

Reut Regev is teriffic at pumping out the Trombone accompaniment throughout the album, but gets limited exposure. She has some great solo work, however, on Baltic Blue, Grandma’s Dance, and Abi Gezunt.

Dave Hofstra is a very talentd Bass player, laying a perfect foundation for the band across all the musical styles on the album, especially on Baltic Blue, and a beautiful solo on Abi Gezunt. But the surprise comes from his doubling on Tuba on C Minor Bulgar and Ken O’Hara Freylekhs, Pick A Pocket Or Two, Striver’s Sher, and Kalarash Khupe and Freylekh.

Finally, we meet the unsung heroine of the group, Drummer Eve Sicular, who lays a perfect groove, whether Klezmer, Balkan, or Swing. She is among the best on the scene today. But let’s not stop there. She also had a hand in arranging all but one of the nineteen songs on the album, and was involved in mixing and editing, plus serving as the Producer, and writing the liner notes and Yiddish translations. It’s a daunting task to take on so much of the behind-the-scenes work on a project like this, and she has pulled it off with a very clean, crisp recording that will sound great on anything you play it on. Live recordings are difficult to get right, but this is one of the best-engineered live albums I’ve heard.

Speaking of liner notes, the cleverly-packaged insert is an 8-page foldout booklet that gives a good introduction to the album, as well as notes about each of the songs and some of the English/Yiddish lyrics.

One last thing to mention is the bonus track, Comes Love, a beautiful studio recording made by Sicular’s smaller group, Isle Of Klezbos. It’s flowing lyric is set to a Tango/Yiddish Waltz and leaves some room for some more solos from the band members.

Traveling Show is at the top of my list for albums to recommend. It has every Jewish style and would be a great first album to buy if you are just starting to get into Klezmer/Jewish music. It’s got a home on my playlist for a long time to come. And who knows, maybe Traveling Show might be coming to your town.

Keith Wolzinger
Klezmer Podcast

Traveling Show
Metropolitan Klezmer
Rhythm Media Records
RMR 005

Uncle Moses’ Wedding
2. Ot Azoy Neyt a Shnayder
3. Miracle Melody: A Nigun & The Poor Man’s Tune
4. Shpil du Fidl, Shpil
5. Guys & Dolls & Bagels (Adelaide’s Khazones, Lucky Freylekh, Bublichki/Beygelekh)
6. Traveling Dreydls (S’vivon & Spinning Mojo)
7. C Minor Bulgar & Ken O’Hara Freylekhs (Dance Medley)
8. Mayn Rue Plats
9. Pick a Pocket or Two
10. Baltic Blue
11. Kalarash (Parts 1 & 2)
12. Uskudar Taxim & Terk in Amerike
13. Ney Taxim & Tailor’s Sher (Soviet Yiddish Theater)
14. Striver’s Sher (Soviet Yiddish Theater)
15. Grandma’s Dance/Mikhoels’ Tune/Lebedik un Freylekh
16. Muzikalisher Tango
17. Mainly Rumanian Finale (Doyna, Hora, Sirba, Volokh)
18. Encore: Abi Gezunt Medley & Klezmerengue
19. Klezbonus Track: Comes Love

Metropolitan Klezmer
MK MySpace

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Review: Eyn Velt

Posted by keithklez on March 7, 2008



Review: Eyn Velt

               Brian Bender and Little Shop Of Horas




Brian Bender has an adventurous musical spirit that is reflected in the tracks of Eyn Velt, his latest CD release. Combining his gift for mixing melodies and rhythms from different cultures with his multi-instrumental abilities creates a distinctive sound that can be readily identified as his own. While it is not uncommon these days to find Jewish melodies mixed with other cultures, Bender has collaborated with some of the best known Jewish musicians and added an outstanding cast of backing musicians that combine to give a compelling listening experience. The CD booklet describes the music as “Original and traditional Jewish melodies blended with Latin, Caribbean, African, and Middle Eastern rhythms.”


Bender has composed four original songs for Eyn Velt and arranged all of the songs. He performs on Trombone, Trumpet, Baritone Horn, Melodica, Keyboards, Percussion, and Vocals. Quite an impressive range of abilities. He also has some of the best-known guest artists appearing on the album, such as Alicia Svigals- Fiddle, Frank London- Trumpet, and Stu Brotman- Bass. I must also mention the outstanding Flute/Sax performances by Lise Brown. 


What we find on these tracks is a blending of Jewish melodies with rhythms and backgrounds from many different cultural traditions. We end up with a style of world fusion music that has Bender’s signature sound on each track. Yet, each song’s arrangement lives up to the tradition of the particular culture. While each song stands on its own, as you listen through the album there is a common thread woven by Bender that ties the album together nicely as a suite.


I cannot single out just one song as my favorite. I like them all, and find myself humming along without even thinking about it. However, if I were pressed for a response, I would pick El Judio as the most representative of the music on the album. An original by Bender, it combines a Klezmer theme with a Latin Jazz groove. Latin Jazz happens to be another favorite genre of mine, so it plays to my taste quite nicely. 


The disc sounds quite good, with all the instruments, vocals, and exotic percussion clear and distinct. The CD booklet does not credit the recording engineer, but lists that the album was mastered by Jim Hemingway. 


The CD booklet is a 8-page foldout with good song information, a page by Bender detailing his motivation for the album, and a bio page.


I enjoyed this album very much. Jewish music does blend well with other cultures, and this is an excellent example of how to do it right. The title Eyn Velt says it all, and should appeal to a broad range of listeners. 


Keith Wolzinger

Klezmer Podcast


Eyn Velt

Brian Bender and Little Shop Of Horas


Face The Music- FTM-2008




Brian Bender
Little Shop Of Horas

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Review: Hilda Bronstein

Posted by keithklez on February 24, 2008




  Hilda Bronstein Sings Yiddish Songs Old And New   Hilda Bronstein 


I frequently write about new, young artists and their approach to Yiddish song. The case with Hilda Bronstein is quite different. While Yiddish Songs seems to be her first release, she has a lifetime of experience with the language as the daugher of Polish immigrants. She devoted much of her life to family and career, only recently returning to Yiddish song after meeting Merlin and Polina Shepherd and collaborating to make this album. On this album she shows her command of Yiddish by using both the Polish and Litvish dialects.


The liner notes state “The songs on this album form a vibrant and colourful patchwork, each piece capturing some facet of the lives of East European Jewry- they are the expression of the very soul of a people from its darkest hours to moments of ecstatic joy.” That aptly sums up what this recording has to offer. Everything from joyous freylekhs, waltzes, and tangos to mournful songs of loss and yearning.


My favorite song on the album is Zingt Oyf Yidish, by Arkady Gendler. Written after the breakup of the Soviet Union, it celebrates the joy of being able to freely sing in Yiddish. 


Other notable songs are Mayn Shtetele Belz and Dos Kleyne Tsigaynerl, both familiar, yet get a fresh, heartfelt treatment here.


A word about the musical accompaniment by the Merlin Shepherd Quartet. They are a perfect fit for Hilda’s voice on this album. The Quartet has the ability to blend perfectly into whatever style is called for on each song. Merlin has been one of my favorite Clarinetists for a long time, and he lends his signature sound here in a very tasteful way. The Quartet plays with delicacy and understatement on the slower songs, but then breaks out with unabashed joy on the faster ones. It seems as though Shepherd and Bronstein have found  a framework for their music that showw both in their best light.


The engineering quality on this recording is outstanding, thanks to the Production/Engineering/Mixing efforts of Pablo Carcamo. The mix sounded great on everything from my home theater to earbuds to computer speakers. The instruments and vocals are clear and distinct, with a good sound stage and depth of tonal quality.


The CD insert booklet is very well done, and at 32 pages, covers a lot of ground. The liner notes are printed in English, German, French, and Spanish, and there are full song lyrics in both Yiddish and English.


If you’re a fan of Yiddish song, you will no doubt enjoy this album. I’ve been listening to a number of Yiddish albums recently, and this rates as one of the best. 


Keith Wolzinger

Klezmer Podcast



Hilda Bronstein Sings Yiddish Songs Old And New

Hilda Bronstein

ARC Music EUCD 2054




1. Bialystok (words & music: unknown) – 3:16

2. Oyfn Veg Shteyt a Boym (words: Itsik Manger, music: sometimes credited to P. Laskovski) – 4:00

3. S’iz Finster in Gas (words: Meir Harats, music: Efim Chorny) – 2:26

4. Avreml der Marvikher (words & music: Mordecai Gebirtig) – 4:45

5. Melokhe – Melukhe (words & music: Zelig Berdichever) – 5:27

6. Ven Der Regn Zipt in Droysn (words: Mendl Lifshits, music: Efim Chorny) – 2:44

7. Gelibte (words: unknown, music: Egan) – 3:45

8. Dos Lidl Fun Goldenem Land (words & music: Mordecai Gebirtig) – 3:16

9. Zingt Oyf Yidish (words & music: Arkady Gendler) – 3:39

10. Di Sapozhkelekh (trad.) – 3:27

11. Praven Veln Mir a Khasene (words & music: Aaron Lebedeff) – 3:01

12. Dos Kleyne Tsigaynerl (words: Itsik Manger, music: Herts Rubin) – 3:40

13. Ikh Vel Dikh Keyn Mol Nisht Farbaytn (words & music: unknown) – 2:10

14. Mayn Shtetele Belz (words: Jacob Jacobs, music: Alexander Olshanetsky) – 4:34

15. A Vogn Shikh (words: Avrom Sutzkever, music: Tomà? Novotn?) – 2:37

16. Zing Brider Zing (words & music: unknown) – 5:06


Playing Time: 58:39 min



Hilda Bronstein
ARC Music

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Review: Hodu

Posted by keithklez on January 31, 2008


Review: Hodu


There seems to be a growing number of Jewish bands these days, and I find that to be very encouraging. One of these new groups is PHP, who has released their debut album, Hodu. PHP has a contemporary sound and a good range of material in both Hebrew and English. Their music is enjoyable and inspirational.

The opening song is Hema, a Hebrew song that has a great groove, slightly Reggae. The lyrics and vocal harmonies are great, and they bring in some very nice touches, such as flute, a horn section, a ripping guitar solo, and a very cool keyboard sound. 

Malchus is another great song, featuring a horn section break, and a trombone solo at the end. As a trumpet player, I really enjoy the blend of the horns with the guitars and keyboard. A good arranger can use this to great effect, and it shows here.

Waiting is my favorite track on the album. Beyond the nice vocals and English lyrics, the musicianship of the band really shows with some tasty acoustic guitar at the beginning and end, acoustic piano in a jazz style that reminds me of Dave Grusin, a nice synth string section, and innovative percussion. The chorus has a nice hook. I found myself unable to resist singing along. 

I was, however, a bit disappointed with the title track, Hodu. Another Reggae-influenced song, I found it repetitive, with a lack of excitement in the vocals. There is some nice electric guitar, though. I’m just not sure why this was selected as the title track. 

PHP gets back in the groove, though, with a very good song, Shiru Lo. I found it to be the best vocal arrangement on the album with a nice backing vocal harmony. Nice instrumental work, too, especially the Keyboard solo. And the wind sound at the beginning and end adds a feeling of lonely desolation. 

A-minor Nigun is unique among these songs. I haven’t heard a nigun that grooves as well as this. The vocal harmonies and horn arrangement add a  sense of joy to the great melody. And there are some great guitar solos. 

Yedid Nefesh and  Yik’raini round out the vocal tunes. Both are nice songs that give us more of that great PHP sound.

There are two instrumental tracks, Hallway Jam and Cabin Jam (& Hidden Track).  Hallway Jam is a fine interlude between the vocals and is a change of pace for PHP. It has an acoustic folk song quality with some talented guitar and percussion work, as well as a rainstick (always a nice touch). Cabin Jam, on the other hand, has a real open jam feel to it, and is very listrenable. I love this sort of thing, and wish it could have gone on longer. Hidden Track is a short, fun bit. I won’t give it away, but it’s definitely worth listening to. 

On the technical side, I was very impressed with the engineering and production quality of Hodu. The mix is great, with the vocals nicely balanced and the instrumentals clean and distinct. It sounded great on my home theater setup as well as on headphones, earbuds, and small speakers. 

As I have only the AAC files and album cover art, I don’t have the full album credits or song details. And I couldn’t find these on the PHP website. Only the band members are listed there-


Pinny Farkas ~ Drums; Payis

Doni Joszef ~ Rhythm Guitar; artwork

Aryeh Kunstler ~ Bass; Vocals

Ahron Rosenthal ~ Guitar; Lead Vocals


I like PHP very much and highly recommend Hodu to anyone with an interest in their Jewish Jam style. It’s a wonderful debut for them and I look forward to hearing more from these rising stars.


Keith Wolzinger

Klezmer Podcast




Sameach Records







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Review: Trafik

Posted by keithklez on January 14, 2008


Review: Trafik

               Veretski Pass

There are times when a musical performance completely transcends our notions of what we think of as “good” music, regardless of the genre. Such is the case with Trafik, the new release from the trio Veretski Pass. When you are presented with such distinctive material, virtuosic musicianship, and excellent engineering, you have the ingredients for an amazing album. 


The music originates from Eastern Europe in the Carpathian region, where the real Veretski Pass is located. The traffic referred to in the album title is the transiting of various peoples through the area. Musical styles from the neighboring cultures in the region are blended together and transformed into a sound that is unique to this group. 


Trafik consists of nine suites, each with its own thematic idea. Some of the suite or track titles are slang phrases from the cultures represented; others are more descriptive. One of my favorites is Zero Dark Hundred, a beautiful Violin doina. Others, such as the suite Full Bow of Horse have the titles Dov the Cow Swimmer and Noisy Dog. There is also the lovely Tango Under the Influence, an accordion feature, with a steady rhythmic Bass line underneath. If you are curious about these titles go to the Veretski Pass website and Klezmer Podcast 18


The trio consists of  highly talented musicians Cookie Segelstein (Violin); Joshua Horowitz (Button Accordion, Tsimbl); and Stuart Brotman (Cello, Tilinca, Baraban). They have a communal approach to arranging their music, combining traditional melodies with original compositions in such a way that the line is blurred between the two. They have a way of making original works sound just like a traditional village melody. And it works the other way around, too. As Segelstein says: “We decided to just play music we like, and if we didn’t like it we’d rewrite it.” They also blend their own compositions with improvisations to come up with some very interesting musical forms. 


One of the suites that I like a lot is The Pass, consisting of Red Mist and Risen Ground, with Brotman playing the Tilinca, or Carpathian Flute, a simple village instrument that seems to have a life of its own. We hear a Tilinca doina, followed by a lively dance. The last section, Klyucharkier Kolomeyke and Hutzulka is a fast dance with Brotman switching to Balaban (or Poik, a drum/cymbal setup) and Horowitz on Tsimbl. 


But the music is more that just dances. The slower songs, like the Hora tracks are moving, but not in a sentimental way. They simply reflect the feeling of the music from this region.  And the folk fiddle style is in high gear on Three Wheels Czardas. Segelstein is just as much a master of the folk fiddle as she is of the doina, and everything in between. 


Now, just a bit about the engineering of Trafik. From a technical point of view, this album is a finely crafted work of art. The album was recorded “live” with very little editing. There are no overdubs or reverb. It was recorded in a recital hall with great natural acoustics. The only editing was to combine the best “takes” together. In fact, only 15 edits were made on the album. For a more in-depth look at the recording process look at Recording Trafik with Veretski Pass by Yves Feder, recording master for Tiny Radio

Productions  on the Veretski Pass website. 


The CD package has a minimum of information. Only track title information, credits, and special thanks are included. The group’s website has some additional information, such as a Glossary for both the Suite and Track Titles, bios, instrument information, photos, and the aforementioned look at the recording process. 


I find Trafik to be a great look into the world of Eastern European village music. I highly recommend this album to anyone who has an interest in the Carpathian klezmer style, or who just appreciates a masterful performance of this deep and meaningful music. It is a celebration fit for the young and old alike. Don’t “Pass” this album up!


Keith Wolzinger

Klezmer Podcast



Veretski Pass

Golden Horn Records





Veretski Pass
Golden Horn Records
VP At Sacramento
VP On Focus580

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