Sunday, December 21, 2008

Trail of Our Vinyl rocks New York City...

New York Times preview here

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

Leonard Nimoy Names That Tune

Last week was a busy, bi-coastal one for us here at Trail of Our Vinyl with two book launch parties on opposite sides of the country. We started West where our friends at the Santa Monica Museum of Art were kind enough to let us stage an amazing night of music and book- signing right in the middle of an exhibition by Martin Kersels. We knew that the one and only Leonard Nimoy was a Jewish music buff-- turns out Spock is also a veteran of Yiddish theater and Fiddler on the Roof-- so we decided to test his skills live on stage with a round of Name That Tune featuring artists and songs from the book.

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.

The Playlist:

"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

Can anyone crack the mystery that is... Benji?

This album was sent to us by Ollie from Los Angeles. We appreciate its design simplicity and the fact that the artist clearyly foresaw the Sleeveface fad. But who is Benji? His music is pop with a Mediterranean inflexion. But that is all we have to go on. If anyone can shed any light on Benji (a dead ringer for Donald Sutherland if ever there was one) and his career or even connect us to the man himself, we would love to hear from you.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Riddle of Marcus Goldman... Uncovered

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.