Thursday, July 2, 2015

(Bossa) Nova on a Bagel



Khevre –

When I think of Brazilian music the first word that pops into my head is “silky.” I know that this is hardly the word that characterizes tropicalia, or Brazilian hip-hop or forro, so maybe I’m dating myself. As Steve and Eydie would say, blame it on the bossa nova.

You are undoubtedly asking yourself, “What does this have to do with Jewish music, purportedly the subject of this blog?”

To answer that question simply, the new CD “Raízes/Roots” by the Brazilian-Jewish singer Nicole Borger (billed by her first name only), is a collection of Yiddish classics re-imagined in a variety of Brazilian forms, and Nicole’s smoky alto is, well, silky. The album, released on the Soundbrush label, is an easy-to-take confection that turns 







“Abi Gezunt” into a bossa nova, “Com Saúde” and “Bulbes” into a funky “Batatas.” The band is first-rate, with such familiar downtowners as Cyro Baptista and Brandon Seabrook, and a lit of guests that will seem even more familiar: Frank London (who produced and arranged the set), Lorin Sklamberg, Michael Winograd, Jake Shulman-Ment and others. 

Nicole herself is a laid-back contemporary version of Gal Costa, perhaps, with an easy loping swing and a nicely judged sense of humor. Her duet with Sklamberg on “Nova Dança” (“Der Nayer Sher” to you), is downright giddy and an excellent close to a very pleasant set. 

Sadly, due to the vagaries of the U.S. mail, I was unable to post this before the CD launch gig last weekend, but you can get the album and hope that Nicole makes it back to NYC very soon.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Sort of Off-Topic, But Great News

Khevre --

No doubt you have read by now about the Supreme Court's decision in the Obergfell case, making same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. Is there a Jewish slant on this issue? Or as my grandma would have said, "But is it good for the Jews?"

Of course.

Read this, and this, and this. And read some of these.


Justice, It's Wonderful 
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)


Aw, heck, I know that this is just another case of what the Irish call "the committed preaching to the converted." They make pretty good music, too.

May you have a joyous post-SCOTUS shabbat. Regular service on this train will resume Sunday.



Thursday, June 25, 2015

What Rude Beast Lurches Towards South Street to Be Rocking the Piers?

Khevre --

Actually, as beasts go, the band Golem is pretty well-mannered. And musically, at least, they skip and strut more than they lurch. But it is towards the South Street Seaport that they are propelled for a gig this weekend. Saturday evening, June 27, Golem will be playing at Fulton and Water Streets as part of  a deliciously global gumbo of music that will run from 5 to 9 p.m. Also appearing Los Crema Paraiso, a power trio from Caracas, Venezuela, who put a psychedelic spin on everything they touch, and Benyoro, a Malian band that mixes traditional and modern moods.


Which is, of course, what Golem has always done, and continues to do. They emerged from hibernation last year with a new album, a modified line-up and new energy. They overcame the death of their record label (JDub, R.I.P.) and bounced back good as new. (For an interview I did with band leader Annette Ezekiel Kogan when Tanz, their most recent album, was released, go here.) The Saturday gig looks like a really clever blend of disparate global sounds, and Golem were always a powerhouse live act, so it's worth a trip downtown (if you're in town).

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Alicia Jo Rabins Makes a (Slightly) Unexpected Appearance

Khevre --

I was sitting down to sort today's mail and there, wedged between one of my wife's textile magazines and the new issue of The Cricketer was a familiar face. I found myself staring at the young woman on the cover of the new issue of The American Poetry Review and thinking, I know her. And indeed, I do, and so will man of you. Alica Jo Rabins, fiddler, band-leader, Torah teacher and published poet (and how!) is smiling out at readers from the cover of the July/August issue of APR, which opens with a selection of eight new poems of hers. The poems are not up on the APR website (ah, the privileges of subscribing), but you can check out the previous issue there.



Alicia Jo Rabins amidst Pacific greenery

I'm assuming from her Twitter feed @ohaliciajo that she is still performing with Girls in Trouble.She's now living in Portland, and recently won the 2015 APR/Honickman First Book Prize for her forthcoming collection Divinity School. Mazal tov! Not to be too demanding, but when can we expect to hear a poetry reading and a new CD from the band?


Monday, June 22, 2015

Jane Makes It Plain -- in Yiddish, Of Course

Khevre --

Just received an e-mail from Jane Peppler (I suspect a lot of you also got it), and there's a lot to chew on quite happily. First, she was the grand prize winner in the second annual "Der Idisher Idol" competition in Mexico City. (Who knew such a thing existed? Okay, a lot of Jews in Mexico City and the vicinity knew.)

She included a link to a presentation she recently gave at the Library of Congress, "Yiddish Songs of the Jazz Age," and noted that her collections of Yiddish songs with English subtitles now number over a hundred on-line videos in two locations, Yiddish Theater Songs and Yiddish Penny Songs.

Yiddish broadsides from the lower East Side 1895-1922
I have to admit, though, that the news that pleased me most was the publication of Jane's new 382-page book,"American Yiddish Penny Songs by Morris Rund and Others," a compilation that includes facsimilies of some 200 Yiddish songsheet broadsides from 1895-1922. You can purchase the book as a PDF download for $7.00 here. You can also buy her book of Yiddish songs from Warsaw in the early 1930s and CDs she has recorded of some of the rarer material from these volumes at the same location. How could you go wrong with Mexico's own Yiddish Idol?

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Sunday at Kulturfest

Khevre --

Kulturfest is going to go out with a big bang. Tomorrow's programs include some exciting farewell goodies. Let me pull your coat to a few of them:

  • Taste of Jewish Culture -- a street fair sponsored by Workmen's Circle, which will include the best of Jewish culture, i.e., live music and food. I can't vouch for the food, although I'm sure it will be fabulous (and I'll eat too much of it), but the music, which will go all day from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., includes not only the cream of NYC, but also some heady out-of-town guests:  Paul Shapiro’s Ribs and Brisket Revue and Frank London’s Klezmer Brass All Stars with Eleanor Reissa and special appearances  by Nikitov (the Netherlands) and Klezmerson (Mexico). 46th Street and 6th Avenue.
  • Alicia Svigals: Violin Mass Appeal --I don't think this means that Svigals is converting to Catholicism. It's a new suite that walks listeners through the history of klezmer forms, and I can't imagine anyone who could do it better. 3 p.m., Joe's Pub block party, Astor Place and Lafayette St.


  • Yiddish Lullabies and Love Songs with Inna Barmash --A live rendering of one of my favorite recordings of the year, with the distinguished lawyer and mommy offering some heartfelt and lovely songs. I'm sure her husband, Ljova, will pitch in ably on viola. (Hey, guys, when are you going to get the kids into the act?) 3 p.m., Museum at Eldridge Street 12 Eldridge St.

Not Dead Yet

Khevre --

I'm sort of on hiatus at Jewish Week for the summer, a combination of a book deadline and belt-tightening at the newspaper. I fully expect to back at that lemonade stand (we serve kosher lemonade; our highly qualified shokhet cuts the lemons himself) in September.

But there is so much going on in the world of Jewish music and I feel both an urge and a responsibility to cover it. Undoubtedly, anyone who is reading this blog already knows about the astounding Kulturfest, which wraps up tomorrow. Thursday night I had the singular pleasure of seeing the Ger Mandolin Orchestra making a rare public appearance. They brought down a nearly full house with exactly the sort of virtuosity you'd expect from eleven of the best mandolinists in the world. (My piece on the group can be read here.) Let me also get in a plug for the Dutch band Nikitov. I saw them do a sort of mini-set before a theater performance at the Abrons Arts Center and was very impressed with their chamber-jazz-cum-tango sound; they are playing at Joe's Pub tonight and are well worth a look.

There is a heck of a lot of great Jewish music on offer both live and recorded. The Jewish community (communities, really) ought to be getting behind its musicians. That's why I'm reviving this blog.

Simple as that.