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

44 comments:

DJM said...

Very interesting story. Where was your East Coast launch held?
I picked up the part about "Mein Shetale Belz" because we've just recorded a new yet authentic version of my 88 year old Father singing it with very traditional accompaniment.
This will be released early 2009 as part of Pioneers For A Cure - Songs To Fight Cancer.

http://www.pioneersforacure.org/

We'd love your feedback as we preview our project and get ready to launch this effort to raise funds for artist selected cancer charities.

Streaming songs available on MySpace.
http://www.myspace.com/pioneersforacure

I saw some vinyl yesterday. It was a Springsteen EP from the early '80's.

Peace.

DJM said...

Just saw your Amazon link for the Barry Sisters' "Our Vay." :-)

What a great album. It was given to me just last week by the founder of Joodayoh Arts, which is the non-profit 501c3 sponsor of the Pioneers For A Cure project.
I'm sure you'll love our collection. We've recorded almost 30 old Israeli pioneer songs by today's top Jewish artists.
Neshama Carlebach, Pharaoh's Daughter, Rashanim, Adrienne Cooper, Noah Solomon, Frank London, David Broza, Tovah Feldshuh, Y-love, Diwon, and many others have all interpreted these songs for a new generation. Some very traditional, some very updated. A little something for everyone.
This week and next we are featuring our Chanukah themed pioneer songs "S'vivon" and "Yeled Kat."

kamagra said...

I firmly believe that this version
trumps the original without question. Anyone who has seen The Big Lebowski will recognize Leonard Nimoy being the reincarnation of "the Dude." If you don't like it,

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