Sunday, July 26, 2009
We read this book over the weekend and it was impossible to put down. Popular Music and National Culture in Israel by the amazing Motti Regev. It tells the story of the evolution of Israeli ideology via the development of the nation's music scene. Enjoy this classic from the High Windows, pioneers of Israel's pyschedelic scene. If any one has any albums from this era, we would love to hear about them.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Jo Amar, Genre-Bending Jewish Singer, Dies at 79
Jo Amar, a Moroccan-born Jewish singer whose melding of Andalusian and Israeli musical influences made him a star in Israel and a popular performer in Jewish communities around the world, died on June 29 at the home of his son Ouri in Woodmere, N.Y. He was 79 and lived in Jerusalem.
The cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease, his son David said. Mr. Amar had been in failing health for several months, and he came to the United States in February to be with his children and grandchildren, all of whom live in the New York metropolitan area.
Mr. Amar’s music was a hybrid, fusing Sephardic and North African-Arab songs, Jewish liturgical vocal styles and even Western-style harmonies into a kind of Middle Eastern pop. He sang in a bright, engaging tenor, recording about 20 albums, and with his crowd-pleasing manner, he performed not only in large performance halls with full orchestras but also in cabarets and at weddings and other private functions. He was often asked to be the guest cantor on Jewish High Holy Days, invitations he accepted selectively, in cities including Paris and Casablanca.
A composer of songs as well, he performed for Jewish audiences throughout the diaspora, in places like Brazil and South Africa; in 1963 he even toured in Iran, performing before mixed Jewish and Muslim audiences and appearing on Iranian television.
Yosef Amar, who was known as Jo from an early age, was born on June 1, 1930, in Settat, Morocco, where his grandfather had been the chief rabbi. He studied at a yeshiva in Meknes, Morocco, and planned to become a Hebrew language teacher, but his affinity for music directed his life. During a visit to Israel, before moving there in 1956, he persuaded a radio station to listen to his music by gathering an impromptu choir on the street outside to perform one of his songs. He became popular in Israel, especially among immigrants from northern Africa and the Middle East, his hybrid music helping to open European Jewish ears to new, exotic sounds.
Mr. Amar came to the United States in 1965 to perform at Carnegie Hall, in a well-received concert that eventually persuaded him to move to New York with his family in 1970.
“In a variety of Oriental-flavored popular songs he displayed a broad range of feeling, a penetrating projection, regionally nasalized intonation and strong rhythmic sense that communicated warmly with the audience,” the music critic Robert Shelton wrote in The New York Times.
In the late 1980s Mr. Amar returned to Israel with his wife, Raymonde. She died in 1997.
Besides his sons David, of Fresh Meadows, Queens, and Ouri, Mr. Amar is survived by two daughters, Esther Umanoff of Tenafly, N.J., and Madeleine Labovitz of Highland Park, N.J.; 11 grandchildren; 5 great-grandchildren; and 7 siblings, who live in Belgium and Israel.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Thanks to Connie Wolf and the board and staff at the CJM in San Francisco for giving them the opportunity to take the stage again, so a young audience can rock out to their sound and appreciate their legacy. Next stop, the Lincoln Center on August 23rd.
Sold Out crowd at the CJMIdelsohn Society co-founder David Katznelson welcomes Lynn Burton of the Burton Sisters onto the stage for the first time in 50 years.
The sell-out audience mobs Irving Fields, Lynn Burton, and Jonny Yune. Scenes not enacted since Beatlemania.
Irving Fields, 93, rocks the kids.
Jonny Yune closes the show with a sterling version of Ose Shalom.
Monday, May 4, 2009
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Lionel Ziprin, Mystic of the Lower East Side, Dies at 84
“We are not after all intended to be consumed.”
So begins Lionel Ziprin’s “Sentential Metaphrastic,” a “poem in progress” of more than a thousand pages. “I reduced it to 785 pages,” Mr. Ziprin told The Jewish Quarterly in 2006. “I call it the longest and most boring poem since Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost.’ ”
Many more poems by Mr. Ziprin remain to be discovered, inscribed on spiral-bound notebooks and stuffed into a closet in his apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. And that is nowhere near the half of it. Also in the apartment are the Jewish liturgical chants intoned by Mr. Ziprin’s grandfather, untold hours of sacred music that Mr. Ziprin tried for more than half a century to bring to the wider world.
This legacy now passes to his family — whether to delight or puzzle posterity, no one knows. Mr. Ziprin, a brilliant, baffling, beguiling voice of the Lower East Side and the East Village in all its phases — Jewish, hipster and hippie — died last Sunday in Manhattan. He was 84. The cause was chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, his daughter Zia Ziprin said.
For decades, Mr. Ziprin, a self-created planet, exerted a powerful gravitational attraction for poets, artists, experimental filmmakers, would-be philosophers and spiritual seekers.
He ran his apartment, on Seventh Street in the East Village, as a bohemian salon, attracting a loose collective that included the ethnomusicologist Harry Smith, the photographer Robert Frank and the jazz musicia Thelonius Monk, who would drop by for meals between sets at the Five Spot. Bob Dylan paid the occasional visit.
There the art of conversation took a backseat to the art of listening to Mr. Ziprin hold forth for hours at a stretch on magic, interplanetary rhythms, angels, apparitions and Jewish history.
“He was larger than life and so far beyond a certain kind of description that I am bamboozled,” said Ira Cohen, a longtime friend. “He was much larger than a poet, though that’s hard for me to say, as a poet. He was one of the big secret heroes of the time.”
Often categorized as a beatnik, he created an artistic circle that overlapped with the worlds of jazz and beat poetry but remained distinct and apart. A poet prey to visions and hallucinations, a philosopher, a Jewish mystic with a deep understanding of the kabbalah, an enthusiastic consumer of amphetamines (legal at the time) and peyote (also legal) — he was all of these, and something else besides.
“He combined Old World mysticism and New World craziness,” said the poet Janine Vega. “He really was one of the great white magicians of the era.”
Mr. Ziprin was born on the Lower East Side and, after his parents separated when he was a small child, lived with his mother and her parents. The decisive influence on his life was his maternal grandfather, the rabbi Naftali Zvi Margolies Abulafia, an immigrant from Galilee who founded the Home of the Sages of Israel, a yeshiva on the Lower East Side.
The home atmosphere was devout.
“I thought I was living in the Bible,” Mr. Ziprin said in a documentary produced by Jon Kalish for public radio in 2006. “ My grandparents were like biblical people. The only problem I had as a child, I looked outside, and there were automobiles. There’s a big contradiction.”
While undergoing a tonsillectomy, young Lionel — called Leibel or Leibele by his family — was badly overanesthetized. After emerging from a 10-day coma he developed St. Vitus’s Dance and epilepsy. He was seized by fits of uncontrollable laughter and experienced hallucinations. For the rest of his life, he saw visions and conversed with the spirit world.
Physically unfit for military duty, Mr. Ziprin began writing poetry after attending Brooklyn College and worked at an assortment of extremely odd jobs. He helped create a short-lived puppet show called “Kabbalah the Cook” for television. For $10 apiece, he wrote the text for a series of war comic books published by Dell.
In 1950 he married Joanna Eashe, a dancer who made a living as a hand and foot model. In the early 1950s the couple started a totally unsuccessful greeting card company, Ink Weed Arts. She died in 1994.
In addition to his daughter Zia, of Manhattan, he is survived by a brother, Jordan, of Phoenix; another daughter, Dana Ziprin of Richmond, Calif.; two sons, Leigh and Noah, both of Berkeley, Calif; and three grandchildren.
Mr. Ziprin’s poems, including “Math Glass” and “What This Abacus Was,” appeared here and there in magazines like Zero, but he barely bothered to pursue a career. A poet in the prophetic tradition, he did not so much write as open himself up to otherworldly voices.
“He would read the stuff we published and would have no idea that he’d written it,” said Judy Upjohn, who, with Sandy Rower, published a selection of Mr. Ziprin’s verse in “Almost All Lies Are Pocket Size” (Flockaphobic Press, 1990).
Clayton Patterson, who is writing a history of the Lower East Side, filmed Mr. Ziprin reading his “Book of Logic ” and organized a screening of 10 two-hour installments at Anthology Film Archives in 1989. “The first night there was a full house,” he said. “By the third night there were three people, besides Lionel and myself. That ended the series.”
Mr. Smith, the ethnomusicologist who produced the seminal Anthology of American Folk Music for Folkways Records, heard Mr. Ziprin’s grandfather chanting at a public celebration and became obsessed. Setting up sound equipment in the rabbi’s yeshiva, he spent two years recording hundreds of hours of Hebrew liturgical chants, along with Arabic songs and Yiddish stories, which were distilled into 15 long-playing records.
Shortly before his death in 1955, the rabbi begged his grandson to bring the records to a wider audience, inspiring a half-century quest whose end remains uncertain. Folkways released one album from the set, but for religious reasons, family members objected to further distribution of the material.
In the late 1960s Mr. Ziprin’s wife took the children and moved to Berkeley, Calif., plunging Mr. Ziprin into a spiritual crisis. It was resolved when, acting on instructions from his grandfather in a dream, he returned to the Judaism of his youth and to the Lower East Side, moving into his mother’s apartment on East Broadway to care for her until her death in the late 1980s.
From the mid-1970s until his death, Mr. Ziprin spent his days studying the Torah and other texts at what was once his grandfather’s yeshiva. He held court at his apartment. He scribbled thoughts on postcards and sent them to just about anyone.
He also searched for someone willing to produce his grandfather’s records. As the years went on, and some of the tapes were lost to fire, flood and theft, the mercurial and often cantankerous Mr. Ziprin often seemed to be sabotaging his own cause, eager to disseminate his grandfather’s legacy but reluctant to let it go.
Briefly it looked as if the composer John Zorn had secured the rights to release the records, but Mr. Ziprin could not let go. At his death, the Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation had made a compilation CD from the material that seemed to please Mr. Ziprin, clearing the way for the production of a full boxed set.
A man of many words, he managed to write his self-portrait in just a few:
I have never been arrested. I
have never been institutionalized.
I have four children. I am in
receipt of social security benefits.
I am not an artist. I am not an
outsider. I am a citizen of the
republic and I have remainedanonymous all the time by choice.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
We were delighted to receive this definitive history of the Burton Sisters by a man in the know, Jim Shipley. His email began with the declarative statement, "O.K., I married one." And if you read the below, Mr. Shipley became the Burton Sisters equivalent of a Yoko Ono. It is a riveting read. If anyone has more images, albums, memories, or ephemera, we would LOVE to see/hear them...
The Burton Sisters are from
From this background, the eldest sister, Rae became a singer and a local star in
This took them from
During one of their nightclub appearances they were heard by song writer Bob Merrill who wrote among other things, the show "Funny Girl" and "How Much is that Doggie in the Window". He signed them to a contract along with his partner, Murray Kaufman, known as "
Bob got them a contract with RCA Victor. They had been recorded on Banner Records, the all Yiddish label founded by Yiddish star Seymour Reichseit.
With RCA they recorded "French Can-Can", "Divided Love," "Please Don't Touch" and "Let Me Go Lover". Rose, nee Carol, met the RCA Distributor in
Sister Evelyn continued in show business, touring with the show "Fiorello" and making night club appearances until she married Dr. Manny Fertman and moved to
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Excellent article here in the San Francisco Chronicle. Delfin Vigil is an amazing gent.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
We have had a blast curating this exhibit which will be housed in a reconstructed 1950's living room, showcasing hundreds of album covers and playing a couple of handpicked playlists which are absolutely swinging. If you are in town, we would LOVE to hear what you think...
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
"She would have leaped into the fire
and water for her children.
Not cherishing her is certainly the greatest sin."
Every Jewish stereotype of the Jewish mother-child stereotype succinctly captured in just three lines. Brilliant craftsmanship that perhaps has contributed to its longevity. It has been recorded by everyone from Itzhak Perlman to the Barry Sisters... and here are four of our favorites. The original and arguably still the best, by Sophie Tucker. Yossele Rosenblatt, the greatest cantor of his generation lending his signature sobbing sound to the Yiddish. Tom Jones leading Australian singing sensation John Farnham in a duet. Jones was want to introduce the song in concert by saying, "This is a song I learned, from my father, when I was a boy." And then romantic balladeer, the late, great Spaniard Nino Bravo takes it to a new level with his version, My Querida Mama, My Beloved Mama. If you have a favorite, we would love to hear about it.
Tom Jones and John Farnham
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Our project has garnered some gorgeous coverage over the past few weeks. In the wake of our All Things Considered feature, the amazing Michael Raphael did this piece on the (deeply lamented) Weekend America focusing on the magical and evolving world of cantorial sound.
Very Short List gave us a great hit -- as well as placed the great Sol Zim on their banner, which is where he surely belongs.
The iconic Irving Fields took news of our project to the salacious territory of New York Post's Page Six.
And WNYC's Soundcheck did a great piece here. The kicker to this feature was that Soundcheck invited Conrad Keely of the band whose name inspired us, And You Will Know Us by the Trail of our Dead on the show the next week for an interview and live performance and Joel Meyer, the show's brilliant producer, sent us the above snap, which kind of brings the whole project together in a rather surreal way. Conrad. You rock.