I have a closet full of unsold Yiddishe Cup CDs. Maybe I should get Irwin Weinberger from Yiddishe Cup to hand-paint covers for the CDs. I’ll sell them as art. (Irwin is a painter and musico.)
I’ve already sent out some of Irwin’s art-laden CDs for review, and I’ve gotten back these blurbs:
1. Rabbi Albert Trattons: “You nailed it, Yiddishe Cup. This is better than my shalom plaque. However, the music is so-so.”
2. Treb Nottarts, Cleveland Plain Dealer art critic: “This is grand theft–art from the Jewish Museum. I’m talking New York Jewish Museum. Tremendous. Just one quibble, why so few rollicking tunes on this CD?”
3. Albie Sattront, A&R, Capitol Records: “Love the Chagall cover. Music is kind of fun too. Caught half of track 1 — a personal best for me and klez.”
4. Albert Ratnotts, real estate developer: “I’m buying your band! These CDs would make excellent tiles for the kitchen floors at my downtown apartments.”
To order your art-enhanced Yiddishe Cup CD, call 1-888-KLEZART. $49.50. Includes shipping.
February 10, 2016 2 Comments
Bill, the building manager, said a prospect for apartment 24 was a rapist.
“We don’t rent to rapists,” I said.
“Five grand? Wow.”
“He wants something cheap. I guess he has legal fees.”
”What’s his name?”
“That’s the name of a building inspector!”
“Different guy. He has a new car too. Makes his payments.”
“We’re not renting to a rapist. I did that once before. I didn’t know the guy was a rapist, and he got picked up on a parole violation, and I found out he was a murderer, too. We have our standards.”
“Bill” and “Kevin Barrett” are pseudonyms. By the way, I rented to the rapist/murderer back when it was hard to run criminal checks — pre-Internet.
Yiddishe Cup plays The Ark, Ann Arbor, Mich., 8 p.m. Sat. (Feb. 6). Schmotown Revue: klezmer and soul music. $20.
February 3, 2016 3 Comments
“My son has a knack for writing, which he got from me. I’m a tech writer.
“I have a friend my age who cries whenever his computer crashes. I’ve seen him roll on the floor crying. It’s usually a matter of rebooting the damn thing. If I’m not home, I send my son over.
“My first cell phone was a Motorola.”
“I fix computers my dad can’t fix. My customers are old hippies like my dad. They don’t know a web browser from a server. I fix their gear, and then haul their shit to the tree lawn. I have hauled couches and other heavy stuff.
“I got the writing bug from my dad. I need to raise $15,000 on Kickstarter to publish a book. Here are some chapter titles: ‘My Dog Browser,’ ‘I’m Updating Your Mother’ and ‘Router in the Hole.’
“I like going into people’s houses and watching the customers shout with joy when I fix their stupid problems.
“Consider my Kickstarter. I don’t want to live with my dad any longer. This photo from our kitchen says it all.”
This is a fake profile.
Yiddishe Cup plays The Ark, Ann Arbor, Mich., 8 p.m. Sat., Feb. 6. $20. Our Schmotown Revue — mixing klezmer and Motown.
January 27, 2016 4 Comments
I make goodie bags for guys. Most goodie bags are made by women for women. (Goodie bags are handed out at hotel desks to out-of-towners checking into bar mitzvahs and weddings.)
I don’t put in mandarin oranges, Tic Tacs, or sparkling water. I shop at Walmart at Steelyard Commons — next to the steel mill. I load up on Reese’s Cups and Hershey bars in aisle 4 — bagged candy. I sometimes go with gummy bears. Snacks are in aisle 12: rod pretzels, chips.
Walmart has lime green and pink gift bags on display. I ask for dark bags, which aren’t on display.
I deliver the bags to the hotel. I have a following.
January 20, 2016 3 Comments
Tom, a friend, said he got food poisoning at an upscale Mexican restaurant. But maybe he didn’t. I got food poisoning about four times, and always blamed it on Taco Bell. I once called The Bell and asked if other people had gotten sick there. Of course not, the manager said.
What about Chipotle? Who you going blame? You can’t tell your friends, “I have a non-specific 24-hour flu.” That’s not newsworthy. Food poisoning is.
Somebody yanked a shrub from my yard. My wife wondered if I had hit it with the car. No, I hadn’t. Maybe one of our adult kids hit it, I said. But they weren’t even around.
Who you going to blame? Never yourself!
The snowplow guy. Blame him.
I’m thinking of Chipotle stock, but it’s still overpriced. Let’s eat there today, OK?
January 13, 2016 2 Comments
A 52-second video about when my dad, Toby, told me to take a business course at Cleveland State:
January 6, 2016 No Comments
I was allergic to everything from buckwheat pancakes to peaches. I went to the Asthma and Hay Fever Clinic for shots with my dad. He got shots too. The treatment for asthma and allergies back then was shots, which didn’t work too well — at least for me.
My mother said, “Sit up. I’ll get your pills.” The pills were red tabs I put under my tongue in the middle of the night. This was before albuterol and steroids. This was when there were leeches and cupping. I had a difficult time breathing. I’m not saying I was going to die, but I had some bad nights as a kid. My mother said, “Stick another pill under your tongue and press it down, and try to keep your mouth closed.” I couldn’t keep my mouth closed; I had to breathe. “Get on your bathrobe and stand up,” my mother said. So I walked around.
I was 13, and I was the wheezer.
The asthma attacks tapered off in my teenage years. Breakthrough: at 31 I participated in a drug trial at the VA hospital and got Cromolyn and started jogging. Everything worked out for the best, except I’m probably more morbid than the average person.
Yiddishe Cup plays First Night Akron tomorrow night, New Year’s Eve, 10-11:30 p.m, John S. Knight Convention Center, Goodyear Ballroom.
December 30, 2015 2 Comments
Stefan Kanfer, a biographer of Humphrey Bogart, wrote an article about the “misery called the Book Tour.” He wrote, “I had planned to have dinner at my hotel, but the plane was three hours late . . .” [City Journal, Summer 2011.] Also a limo driver talked too much.
Where’s my book? Where’s my book? (Friends, don’t bring up my coming-of-age lost manuscripts.)
I saw Jon Fine at a book reading recently. He wrote Your Band Sucks, a memoir about his bands that toured extensively in the 1990s. The book was about the quintessential non-famous band.
I could do that.
My limo is here!
December 23, 2015 3 Comments
Drum roll . . . Here are the best klezmer recordings of 2015:
1. Orlando. Frank London’s Klezmer Brass All-Stars take us on a tour of Disney World. “Mickey’s Philharmonic” features London on electric toothbrush (pulse position). “Whistle While You Work” is about short people — Jewish short people: Billy Crystal, Abe Beame and Menachem Begin, and that’s just the first 30 seconds.
2. I Believe in Cod. Andy Statman flips out. Sample lyrics: “May cod bless you and guide you. Praise cod in the high heaven and in the deep sea. Teeming oceans, fire and hail, snow and mist, storm and wind, obey cod’s will.”
3. The Room Where I Was Born. Steven Greenman recreates the sonic architecture of his Pittsburgh childhood bedroom, complete with Steelers pennants and Fiddler on the Roof LPs. Sweaty and no A/C.
4. This Can’t Be Klezmer by Yiddishe Cup. A musical jail complete with corporal punishment. Perfect for the heartbroken, horny and dead. Yiddishe Cup mixes barely adequate musicianship with a touch of humor. It doesn’t sound like klezmer, but then what did you expect with a title like This Can’t Be Klezmer?
5. Strung Out by Pete Rushefsky. Nothing on the 1 and 3; it’s all off-beats. Drives you crazy, but in a good way. There is an after-party. You have to be in New York.
6. Anti Semit by Michael Wex. Sixty LOL minutes from Wex’s KlezKanada emceeing. Can anybody top Wex’s Walter Brennan-is-a-Jew sketch? No.
7. Odorous by Shtreiml. Jason Rosenblatt spent years in the lab on this one. This smells like sulfur. Le jazz hot — and funky — from Montreal.
8. Without a Net. Vulfpeck’s Jack Stratton uses metal parts from surgeries gone bad — mostly hip replacements — to perform Meron drum licks. Particularly good cuts: “Bodies Thrown Back” and “Clarity.” The rest of the album is pretty conventional.
9. In the Klezmer Aisle by Yiddish Princess. Sarah Gordon does freestyle rapping about Kashi Autumn Wheat and Island Vanilla cereals, which leads to kishke, which leads to ka-ka. Juvenile and fun.
10. Blackout. Henry Sapoznik gives us a wake-up call, smashing his banjo, then picking up a clarinet. Tons of squeaks. Sapoznik whines like a fourth-grader at the end: “I quit! I quit!”
This post first appeared 12/5/12 in slightly different form.
December 16, 2015 8 Comments
My mother taught me the cha-cha, not the hora. We were very assimilated. We hung stockings at Christmas. No tree though!
I got into klezmer in 1980, when I first heard the record Mickey Katz Plays Music for Weddings, Bar Mitzvahs and Brisses. (Reissued in 1994 as Simcha Time.) My mother was from Yazoo City, Mississippi, but we weren’t blues people — for sure. We didn’t listen to much music around the house. My sister had a handful of 45s. I bought one record growing up: “Small Sad Sam,” a parody of “Big Bad John.” The lyrics were “Here’s a tale of a man who was puny and weak, stood four-foot-six in his stocking feet.” (Phil McLean, 1961). I’ve always favored comedy.
My freshman year at college, I bought The Greatest Hits of Miles Davis, The Greatest Hits of Thelonius Monk, The Bebop Era, and Bechet of New Orleans. I bought the records from a sewing-machine store owner — a friend of my father. I bought the albums after reading Blues People and Black Music by Leroi Jones. I wrote music reviews for the Michigan Daily my sophomore year, and I was a macher at the first Ann Arbor Blues Festival.
At college I heard Texas blues man Mance Lipscomb and was overwhelmed by his down-home, salt-of-the-earth presence and his music. Mickey Katz became my Jewish Mance Lipscomb. Bonus points for Katz; he was funny. Katz: “My kugel is hot for Xavier Cugat.”
In South Euclid, Ohio, at Jack Saul’s house, I heard many Katz parody records. Jack lent out his recordings to the Kleveland Klezmorim in the early ’80s, when klez recordings were hard to come by. Jack had Lee Tully’s Seltzer on the Rocks, the Barton Brothers, Belle Barth, Leo Fuchs and Eli Basse. Jack had multiple copies of most albums. He even had a record by Sam Liberman, a klezmer musician from Argentina.
Yiddishe Cup started in 1988. Enough.
December 9, 2015 2 Comments
I caught the bank in a $505 error. The bank had debited my account instead of crediting it. I said to the bank clerk, “I’ve never caught the bank in an error before. This is great!” The clerk, on the phone, didn’t react. I’ve been checking my bank balance my whole life, and it paid off at last.
My friend Carl never checks his balance. He says the bank never screws up. How would he know? My adult kids never balance their checkbooks. They laugh that I do. Stop laughing! That was a $1010 swing, kids (-$505 instead of +$505).
I wrote “Punk rock guitarist versus the St. Edward High band” for the Cleveland Plain Dealer Friday (11/27/15). About noise wars.
December 2, 2015 4 Comments
Tom Corrigan, a store tenant, said he wouldn’t pay the rent because his ceiling had been leaking for months. Corrigan, who owned single-family houses, used my storefront as an HQ for his rental biz. He said he wanted out of his lease with me. He had just a couple months to go. He would not pay the rent, he said. “You can sue me,” he said. “I don’t care. The leak has been going on far too long.”
“I’ve had two roofing companies look at it,” I said.
“So what. I’m not paying the rent. That’s how we’re going to part.”
“I hear you, you’re not paying your rent.”
“See you, buddy. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
I was ashamed.
We fixed the leak about a week after he left. We found a couple holes in the porch deck right above the rear door jamb to his store, and nobody could find the leak until a week after the guy moved.
November 25, 2015 2 Comments
A tenant broke a window in the entrance door to the building; maybe he forgot his keys and broke the glass to get in. (It helps to be drunk to do that.) The cops interviewed Larry, a Russian tenant. Maybe he broke the window. Larry, aka Valery, was peeved because I had just raised his rent $35 — a lot. He had asked for a discount: “Mr. Albert, can you lower the rent?” He got a parking space for only $5. I jacked up his rent because he invariably countered with a lowball figure, and I always met him halfway.
I don’t think it was Larry. It might have been Newell, another tenant, also a drunk.
What’s with all this glass breaking? The panes break every couple months. And not always at the same building. It happens late at night, around bar-closing time.
Enter this in the broken glass log.
“Newell” is a pseudonym.
Vulfpeck is on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” Friday (Nov. 20). CBS 11:35 pm ET / 10:35 CT. Vulfpeck will sit in with the house band, Jon Batiste & Stay Human. The musicians will play snippets of Vulfpeck tunes before and after the commercial breaks.
November 18, 2015 2 Comments
I used to play a lot of gigs and nobody listened. I once did a gig where pillows were strewn on the floor, and the audience literally nodded out. They went in and out of consciousness. One guy, awakening after an hour, yelled, “You suck!” That was it.
Now I play for myself. I write a lot of lyrics. The downside to lyric-writing is the English language is so limited — all that moon/spoon/June kind of shit. Another problem: everybody thinks they can write, so everybody is so quick to judge.
I’m amazed how many musicians are still gigging — what, with nobody listening. I used to play weddings. I was in a klezmer wedding band for years. I was embattled, mostly with myself. I made latkes with that band, but “Hava Nagila” every weekend nearly killed me. Throw my instruments on the curb, where tourists can play them — if tourists are around here. Throw my axes out the window. Throw my suitcase out there too.
Are you listening?
No, I didn’t think so.
This is a fake profile. Yiddishe Cup is around — in its 28th year! (Nineteen percent of this post is stolen from a Clark Coolidge interview from the Poetry Project Newsletter, Feb/March 2013.)
November 11, 2015 5 Comments
Rob, a tenant, owed me $1872 for the water bill, which he hadn’t paid in seven months. He ran a bar in one of my buildings. I called, I wrote, I didn’t get paid. Rob knew my dad. Rob and I went way back.
I went to small claims on Rob. Did I have any choice? Rob got the letter from court, and called me: “The check is in the mail.”
“Don’t mail it, Rob!” I said. “Hand it to me.”
“What’s so funny, Rob? I’m not a bank. I don’t charge interest on the money you owe.”
“What about the security deposit you’ve had for 33 years?” Rob said. “What was it — $700? It’s probably worth a fortune now.”
Good point. (I didn’t pay interest to Rob on the security deposit.) Nevertheless, “Don’t mail it.”
“It’s in the mail.”
“Rob” is a pseudonym.
November 4, 2015 2 Comments
About 20 Geauga County kids put on “I Never Saw Another Butterfly,” a play about the Theresienstadt concentration camp. I spoke to the actors at their theater in Chardon, Ohio. “My voice is blown out. I destroyed it at a gig [at Nighttown],” I said. And I had no mic to talk to the kids. I figured they’d be obnoxious, but they weren’t. I explained what a Jew is. (On one foot.)
They sang a Theresienstadt-based song for me. I asked them who, in their world, was the most famous Jew. I thought they would say Jesus. The answer: Billy Crystal.
The kids wanted to know about “the beanie “/ the hat / the yarmulke. I said the beanie (which I don’t wear outside of shul) shows the Jew’s humbleness, vis a vis God. Was I right? I gave the actors a couple Yiddishe Cup CDs and said, “The people at Terezin didn’t listen to klezmer music but enjoy these CDs anyway.”
Was I extremely Jewish? No. But I was above average!
October 28, 2015 4 Comments
I’ve had musicians quit Yiddishe Cup. I’ve fired guys from Yiddishe Cup. I’ve never had anybody retire from Yiddishe Cup — until now. Don Friedman, Yiddishe Cup’s drummer, hung it up after 17 years. Thanks for everything, Don! You showed up on time, were easy to get along with, and played well. What more could a bandleader ask for?
Here’s Don turning in his bass drum heads. (Followed by a Don-is-god post from 2/27/13.)
Yiddishe Cup’s drummer, Don Friedman, also goes by the name Donny Mann (as in “Shelly Manne” and “Herbie Mann” — fellow yids).
“Donny Mann,” the name, started back in pre-history — the 1970s. “Jan Paderewski gave me the name when we were playing five nights a week at the Blue Fox Restaurant in 1974,” Don said. “Talk about wiseguys. It was all Mafia guys at the bar.”
“Jan Paderewski?” I said.
“Yes. His parents were musicians. They played a lot in Little Italy.”
Jan Paderewski’s great, great uncle was the Jan Paderewski, the Polish pianist and statesman. Jan Paderewski of Cleveland was a stand-up comedian, restaurant owner and pianist. He played light classical and standards.
Donny Mann attended Berklee in 1961 — when Berklee was just one building with a couple hundred students. Donny dropped out. That was the idea: drop out and play gigs. (Still is.)
Donny Mann’s first pro gig was at age 16 in his hometown, Erie, Pennsylvania. Don played with the Stardusters (piano, accordion, alto, and drums) every Saturday night at the American Legion Hall. Tunes like “Poinciana” and “Moonlight in Vermont.”
“I heard ‘The House of Blue Lights’ in the late 1950s,” Don said. “That drove me nuts. I loved it.”
Don worked in a hat store in Erie — “My first encounter with retail,” he said. Don eventually worked in a men’s clothing store in Cleveland. And he listened to jazz — Gene Krupa through Tony Williams. “I shied away from rock and roll. It was primitive to me.”
“I wasn’t crazy about New York,” Don said. “Cleveland was the big-time, being from Erie. In the 1950s and 1960s, Cleveland was the big-time — look out, Jimmy Brown! In Erie, I rooted for the Browns, not the Steelers.”
Don worked at Rogers Drums in Cleveland, beginning in 1965. He sold drums and musical-accessory chazerai to mom-and-pop music stores, and he gigged at night. “Every other word I said was hip. ‘I’m hip, man.’ I used that too much. I try not to say it nowadays, but it’s hard.”
Don hung out at the Theatrical Restaurant. “I was never in the section where you ordered the expensive steaks,” Don said. “I sat at the bar.” He sat behind the featured drummer, behind the bandstand — the best place to watch the drummers’ hands and feet. He saw Cozy Cole, Papa Jo Jones (“He wore white socks”) and Louie Bellson.
“Bob McKee, the house drummer, played a blue onyx Rogers. All the drummers loved that set. It had Swiv-O-Matic hardware. The Japanese copied it. Bobby still has the set in his basement. He’s in his eighties now.
“Philly Joe Jones was at the Theatrical, too. He was more modern than Papa Jo. Buddy Rich was there. Gino was there too. Gino was a bit past his prime — past his fame.”
“Gino who?” I said.
“Gene Krupa. Everybody called him Gino.”
. . .Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together and welcome the coolest guy in Yiddishe Cup, the one and only Donny Mann!
October 21, 2015 9 Comments
In Dallas, at a gig, I stopped at a taco shop to check out Mexican drinks. The taco shop had orange, carrot, horchata, mango, guava and sidral (apple) drinks, as well as Mexican Coke, which is sweeter than American Coke. My Spanish was OK until the clerk asked para aqui o llevar? (“For here or to go?”)
In Cleveland, Yiddishe Cup played a wedding for an Ecuadorean family. I was supposed to say in Spanish: “You will probably see people seated in chairs in the wind.” That was for the chair lifting / “Hava Nagila.” We also played a mariachi song, “El Rey,” which had the lyrics “I always do what I want and my word is the law.” Like Dion’s “The Wanderer.” (The couple eventually got divorced.)
Yiddishe Cup’s most Hispanic moment was when we played “La Bamba” for about 2,000 Hispanics at an outdoor concert in a park on the Rio Grande in El Paso, Texas. We put Hebrew lyrics in “La Bamba.”
I wish we played more Hispanic gigs. Last week at a Simchat Torah luncheon, I ran into a Cuban Jew who asked for “Guantanamera.” That’s as good as it gets here, Hispanically speaking. Not good enough! I’ll have to visit Latin America again.
Years ago Barry Cik, a local bandleader, talked a lot about his son Yehuda’s music career. I thought, “Barry has a music career of his own, doesn’t he? Why is he talking so much about his son.” My apologies, Barry!
Check out Jim Fusilli, the renowned Wall Street Journal reviewer . . .
October 14, 2015 1 Comment
My mother lived in suite 105 at Stone Gardens Assisted Living. My cousin George’s mother, Natalie Becker, moved in right after my mother died in 2004. Natalie lived there until January 2013.
In March 2013 I had a gig at Stone Gardens; I called up an elderly relative, Shony Long, to invite her to the gig. She was my mom’s cousin and had recently moved to Stone Gardens.
“You don’t live in 105, do you?”
What — did 105 have my name on it? I remember I told the ambulance driver in 2004, “Can I just have a few minutes with my mom.” The driver said no problem. My mom was dead.
I said to Shony, “I don’t want to go into your apartment.”
“So you’re going to be that way?” she said.
Shony died in May. I wonder who’s in suite 105 now.
Last chance to pre-order Vulfpeck’s album Thrill of the Arts, which comes out Friday. Buy here and get a download, T-shirt, LP and Reuben sandwich. (Vulfpeck is Jack Stratton’s band.)
October 7, 2015 2 Comments
Mr. Cleveland, a tenant, said he had bedbugs and couldn’t sleep at night. The exterminator sprayed Mr. Cleveland’s apartment and set up insect monitors – sticky paper. In a few days, the exterminator had found one spider, a flea, a nymph, and no bedbugs.
I told Mr.Cleveland, but he was not placated. I said, “You want out of the lease? Because if you do, you can move.” (I didn’t want a complainer.) He said he wanted to stay. He said he had a used mattress and bed spring.
“What! “I said. “Don’t you read the papers or watch TV?”
He bought a new mattress and bed spring. And then saw a new bug on his insect monitor.
“Get over it,” I said. “You have a bug. So do I. So does everybody else, except maybe the ER at the Cleveland Clinic, which they scrub every hour.”
“Get over it sounds condescending,” he said.
“Get over it! Do you want me to send the exterminator again — a third time — for a bug? You have a bug in your apartment. I have a bug in my house.”
“You are very condescending.”
“You don’t have bedbugs. You don’t have cockroaches. We’re crazy to be talking about this – a bug.”
“Can I move out?” he said.
“No, that deal is off. That was before I spent $205 on exterminators, with another $100 coming up.”
September 30, 2015 3 Comments