Sunday, December 21, 2008
But for our review... read on:
On December 11th, The Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation rocked New York with the sounds that once reverberated everywhere across the city. Many of the artists we have met over the past eight years took the stage one more time at Joe's Pub, playing for a sold out crowd who packed the club even as the heavens opened outside. By the line to get in, you would have thought the Beatles had reformed. Sodden masses clad in North Face, braving the elements to hear Irving Fields, El Avram, Gershon Kingsley, and Sol Zim hit it hard. The gig itself was an eighty-five minute roller coaster through time. 93-year old Irving Fields kicking things off with an animated version of Miami Beach Rhumba segueing into his Hava Nagila, replete with signature finger pyrotechnics which bought the audience to their feet. We could have closed the show right there. Irving felt the love and told the audience that they "could not understand how fulfilling it was to hear the applause of a crowd at his age."
Irving had set the bar high, but Avram Grobard, the mighty El Avram, had no fear, unleashing his ridiculously addictive "El Avram's Theme" on the audience who surely left the show with the chorus rebounding through their minds. A remarkable performance from a master of stagecraft.
Moog pioneer Gershon Kingsley took the audience on a journey into the Hebraic origins of his anthem, "Popcorn" leaving the stage to a flute driven tribute laid down by band leader, Paul Shapiro who was a giant throughout.
The show was closed by Sol Zim, the last in a royal lineage of five generations of Cantors whose career was inextricably changed when he attended a KISS concert at Madison Square Garden in the seventies. Sol toyed with the audience with his thumping rendition of Am Yisrael Chai, gyrating his crotch through the chorus, dragging the audience through the chorus, and yes, knickers were thrown...
The gig was a blast. For the audience, and most importantly, for the performers who rocked so hard, killing in their own way, and challenging the audience to consider both their individual pasts and their sense of collective history. Thanks also to Jessi Klein, Jody Rosen, and Kandia Crazy Horse, who toasted Streisand/Diamond duets, Jewface sheet music, and The Temptations doing Fiddler in that order... Nextbook and Alana Newhouse for hosting the afterparty, and Jackie Hoffman who channeled the spirits of Belle Barth and Ruth Wallis in inimitable fashion. We are planning a much bigger show in New York in Summer '09. But next up, a west coast gig... San Francisco, February 5th....
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
We started with Irving Fields' slow-boiled bongo-peppered take on the Second Avenue chestnut "Belz Mein Shtetele Belz" and then moved to Terry Gibbs' take on "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen" (featuring klezmer legend Sam Musiker on clarinet and Alice Coltrane on piano). Nimoy knew both tunes right away but hadn't heard these versions before, which started a good conversation about authenticity and tradition and about just how flexible musical Jewishness has been, which only intensified when he heard "Bei Mir" done by 30s "vout" jazzers Slim and Slam and a surprisingly cantorial sounding Judy Garland. Nimoy could easily differentiate between the voices of Yossele Rosenblatt, Richard Tucker, and Pierre Pinchik, and had no problem with Aaron Lebedeff's 40s version of "Roumania, Roumania," even if he scoffed at Eartha Kitt's rendering of it. There were tall tales of down-and-out cantors on his childhood streets of Boston ("Tabatchnik is Coming! Tabatchnik is Coming!") and fond memories of singing the staples of the Yiddish stage. Yet his Fiddler experience had him in disbelief when he heard The Temptations doing "If I Were A Rich Man" and he explained his resistance to the songs of Mickey Katz and Leo Fuchs, which he thought-- at one time-- were poor substitutes for the glory days of pre-WWII Yiddish music (we did our best to convince him otherwise).
The night's best moments came when Leo Fuld's "Where Can I Go?" got Nimoy going on the power of Jewish song as a diaspora tool-- longings for home, longings for a place to go-- and when Theodore Bikel's version of "Tumbalalaika" inspired him to lead the audience in a warm, group sing-a-long that somehow managed to feel as old-school as it was brand new.
"Belz"- The Irving Fields Trio
"Belz Mein Shtetele Belz"- Seymour Rechzeit "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen"- Terry Gibbs Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen"- Judy Garland Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen"- Slim and Slam "Roumania, Roumania"- Aaron Lebedeff ""Roumania, Roumania"- Eartha Kitt "Tikanto Shabbos"- Yossele Rosenblatt "Sim Shalom"- Richard Tucker "Rozo D'Shabbos"- Pierre Pinchik "Fiddler on the Roof Medley"- The Temptations "Where Can I Go?"- Leo Fuld "Bashana Ha'Bah"- Jon Yune "Yiddishe Mambo"- Mickey Katz
"Tumbalalaika"- Theodore Bikel
Monday, December 8, 2008
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Marcus Goldman's album, Marcus Goldman Orchestra has long been an enigma. Marcus Goldman himself stares from the cover, sphinxlike. Secure in the knowledge that his name is etched across both his signature accordion and the large velvet yarmulke he sports, suggesting he is either extremely forgetful or heavily into personalizing his effects. We are indebted to a reader, Barry Mitchell, who enlightened us via email:
"I know Marcus Goldman posing with his accordion is of particular interest to you. The album actually dates back to at least 1972, the summer I played in a dance trio at Schenck’s Hotel in Fallsburg, NY. Marcus (also known as Alex, which probably accounts for the label’s name, Al-Mar) sold his self-pressed albums while leading the Catskill ladies in afternoon poolside dance lessons. He’d show up, set up his sound system, and blast Eydie Gorme’s “Blame It On The Bossa Nova.” If I remember correctly, the album featured the keyboard stylings of Bob Reisenman, who had the house band at Schenk’s.
It’s the same summer I wrote and performed at Schenk’s, the Evans Hotel, and the Homowack Hotel my parody of Sammy Davis’s then-popular hit, “Candy Man.” (“. . .who makes cherry blintzes, tender, light and sweet? Latkes that are flaky and borscht that can’t be beet? The Flonken Man. . .”)"
Our next challenge in researching this material is to hear about how the listeners encountered the music. If you have any stories at all... please be in touch! We would LOVE to hear them. trailofourvinylATgmail.com
Monday, November 24, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
And thanks to Josh Spear, the tastebuds of a generation, for spreading the word about this project. Massive stuff.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Mambo king Perez Prado was onto the same idea but knowing how much Jews loved the mambo, Prado got rid of the "Hava Nagilah" lyrics and turned it into into a Twist, complete with his signature grunts and sparkling brass section. When it was time for the Twist to "go Latin," Prado knew it also had to "go Jewish."
Of course, Jews themselves chimed on The Twist, none better than the Yiddish Fred Astaire himself, Leo Fuchs. Fuchs is best known for his work on the stages of Broadway and the Yiddish Theater, but we're partial to his Shalom Pardner LP on the Tikva label, where he drops "Yiddish Twist," a bi-cultural stomper that, around 1:20, makes Yiddish speakers get twisting to the sound of-- who else?-- "Chubbele Checker."
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Fewer of our finds have been as alluring as the Hannah Ahroni Sings Songs of Israel which we discovered on one of our collecting sorties in the thrift stores of Boca. A beautiful songbird cutting a ripe, exotic, and confident figure, laughing casually against the backdrop of a freshly harvested wheat field. How many young Americans were enticed to move to Israel by this record cover alone when it was released in 1962?
Ahroni (also variously spelled Aharoni and Aroni) was the most succesful of a gaggle of Israeli female solo performers who broke in America at the same time -- Yaffa Yarkoni, Shoshana Damari and Geula Gill were also soulful and stunning -- but there was something about this cover that haunted us and forced us to track her down. When we went round to meet her last week, Uptown in Manhattan, we had the same sense of trepidation as if we were visiting Kathy Ireland or Elle Macpherson.
We are delighted to report, age has dimmed little of her beauty. Her apartment is covered with mementos from a career which saw her play Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and Caesar's Palace which she opened with a month long residence alongside Johnny Mathis. A hallway plastered with album covers was as beautiful to us as anything in the Louvre.
We heard tales of her career which blossomed under the guidance of her manager and husband, the legendary Chaim Tishman, who carefully surrounded her with talent. Tishman persuaded H.B. Barnum, Aretha Franklin's producer, to make A Taste of Hanna (RCA, 1963) the record which made her a household name on American television where she starred in an hour-long special with Paul Anka, and shared a bill for a month with Harry Belafonte at the Hilton Plaza in Miami. Rock out to these two tracks soaked in sobbing vocals and heart-tugging horn arrangements, her version of A Taste of Honey, a song made famous by Herb Alpert, and a haunting version of Hava Nagila.
Hanna's real fame came in South America where her show "An Hour With Hanna Ahroni" made her a legend in Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil. The song which put her over the top, Viva Espana, which she originally recorded as a throwaway during a recording session in Germany, was faintly audible all over Europe in the early '70s. Enjoy it here on German TV and marvel, as the German producers do, in her polyglot abilities...
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
When Lena Horne-- a veteran of plenty Hadassah benefits in the States-- went to Israel in 1952, she sang some Israeli tunes she had learned phonetically over the years. Israel was in the midst of independence fever and Horne was taken by what she called "history-in-the-making in a brand-new country." She visited kibbutzes and a camp for Yemenite children, "terribly oppressed people of color, people just emerging from the kind of bondage Negroes have been struggling so long to emerge from." Nearly a decade later, in the midst of U.S. civil rights upheavals and inspired by the folk protest scene, Horne went through a career transformation and decided she needed to start singing political songs. Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg wrote her "Silent Spring" (based on Rachel Carson's influential book on environmental destruction) and Broadway vets Adolph Green, Betty Comden, and Jules Styne wrote her "Now!," an incisive rant against civil rights abuses that Styne cpmposed, believe it or not, to the cheery tune of "Hava Nagilah." Horne performed them both at a SNCC rally at Carnegie Hall. Then as film scholar Michael Renov thankfully revealed to us-- in 1965, "Now!" became the soundtrack to a pioneering experimental documentary about the civil rights movement by Cuban filmmaker Santiago Alvarez. Must be seen and heard to be believed.
Nina Simone played Israel in the 70s and was shocked to find that when her El Al fight landed at the Tel Aviv airport, there were throngs waiting to see her. "They had been waiting for me to come for ten years," she wrote in her autobiography. Simone left Israel in 1979 and claimed that her visit put her back in touch with herself and with God and put her career back on track. She should have seen it coming-- Nina already had Israel on her mind in the 60s. She sang the circle-dancing ode to the Land of Milk and Honey, "Eretz Zavat Chalav," when she played Carnegie Hall in 1963. You can hear it on her incredible live LP Folksy Nina, or just be awed by this:
Friday, October 24, 2008
Thanks to Ari Kelman for sending in this beauty.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Fiddler on the Roof by Motown's favorites, The Temptations
Belz by our hero, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
Orthodox, Conservative, or Reformed, the only song of lust to involve religious denominations by Bernie Knee
The infectious Dunkin' Bagel by the ever innovative Slim Galliard
The deliciously named, Dance of the Semites, by the sexiest man in the world, Herbie Mann
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
We just received this work of beauty from Samuel Shep in Cleveland and after unpacking it and giving it a spin, are intrigued. The album is a thumping funk cocktail. Taste it yourself with Side two's kick off adrenalin shot, Illusions. And the liner notes tell a cryptic and unbelievable tale of Hedva, a Yemenite Israeli who met David in the Israeli army and went on to represent Israel in an "International Popular Song Contest" which they won with a rendition of the Hebrew song Naomi. The song went on to become Nippon's number one, going gold and selling over a million records. We would love the story to be true, but it is undercut a little by the album itself. Make no mistake. Each track is a roller coaster that plays with your emotions, but it is self-produced and the liner notes are written on a type writer. But no sooner were we tempted to dismiss the whole story as some publicists creative license, we found this on the You Tube. Hedva and David singing Naomi in Japanese, and then the below. Two of the cream of Japanese crop performing their version of the track on Japanese television as if the song is a national treasure... If anyone knows where Hedva and Ron are now... we would LOVE to learn more...
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Monday, October 6, 2008
Boogie: I like Presley
-- Diner, Barry Levinson, 1982
The Jewish Day of Atonement -- Yom Kippur -- has always been one of our favorite holidays and not just because we have more to repent for than the average gent. Our unfettered delight comes from our ownership of this seven inch masterpiece by "Mr. When A Child Is Born" Johnny Mathis himself, who recorded the Kol Nidre melody —the nullification of personal promises that cannot be fulfilled—on his 1958 LP, Good Night, Dear Lord. On the album itself, Mathis' versions of Eli Eli and Where Can I Go? nestled alongside renditions of Ave Maria and Sweet Rosary but even more staggering than the tracks cropping up on an album sung by the universally acclaimed King of Romance, is that Mathis devoted the time to mastering Aramaic, Hebrew and Yiddish so he could record them fluently. Savor the track and appreciate the awe of the liturgical melody and Mathis' velvet virtuosity. And if you find it sub-consciously putting you in the mood for romance as opposed to reverential atonement, click here and calm yourself down.
We wish all of readers happiness and health for the year ahead. In the Hebrew calendar this is 5769... the end of the Sixties era... so rock on.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
"Before I knew it I knew so many Hebrew and Yiddish songs and I had fallen in love with the music," he said. "Almost every Jewish song is in a minor key. There is a sadness to life. Koreans went through almost the same situation with 60 years under Japanese occupation and they treated Korean people like animals, just like the Jewish people were treated so badly. So I could feel that. Im not Jewish but I feel the same oppressions from when I was a kid under occupation." Which is why to this day, Yune still closes his Vegas act with his rousing version of "Exodus," putting his own spin on "walking without fear" across a "land that is mine."