Real Music & Real Estate . . .

Yiddishe Cup’s bandleader, Bert Stratton, is Klezmer Guy.

He knows about the band biz and – check this out – the real estate biz, too.

You may not care about the real estate biz. Hey, you may not care about the band biz. (See you.)

This is a blog with a gamy twist. It features tenants with snakes and skunks, and musicians with smoked fish in their pockets.

Stratton has written op-eds for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.



Everybody needs a mentor. Trouble is I’ve only found semi-mentors.

For music, I’ve basically taught myself.  My clarinet teacher showed me the notes and fingerings but he couldn’t improvise.  And he never recommended music to listen to.   He thought clarinet was like typing.

That was OK with me. I liked typing.  I practiced a lot.  My mother had me sign a contract not to practice more than an hour a day.  And I could not throw my clarinet when I hit a wrong note, particularly at my sister.

Here’s the secret to superior musicianship: Lock yourself in a room for years and hope you were born with a good ear.

That’s why pop musicians sometimes disdain singers.  They just sing.  They don’t play anything.  Many of them never locked themselves in rooms to practice.


Vis-a-vis my band, we’ve had some mentors:

(1.) Greg Selker, who reacquainted Cleveland with klezmer in the early 1980s.  Greg learned about klezmer from Hankus Netsky at the New England Conservatory in Boston.  Greg gave me lessons in 1987.

(2.) Jack Saul (1923-2009), a Jewish record collector.  You couldn’t find a seat in his house unless he moved a ton of records for you.

Every time Jack played a record he’d clean it with Windex.  No scratches.  Smooth-h-h.

He didn’t throw anything out — since day one.  He even had a John McGraw baseball card.

A couple years ago I sold my baseball cards — for a few grand — and he said, “Why’d you do that?”  I wasn’t looking at them and my kids didn’t want them.  My kids didn’t know who Harmon Killebrew was. “Why’d you do that?” Jack repeated, semi-stunned.

The Cleveland Jewish music scene was synonymous with Jack Saul. The Kleveland Klezmorim musicians went to Jack’s house in the early 1980s to record 78s.  Those 78s were pristine.  When Boston public radio did a radio show in 2000 about clarinetist/parodist Mickey Katz, they came to Jack for clean recordings.

Jack never let a record out of his house.  You had to sit there for an hour or two, and have him dub the records onto tape.

The first time I went there, in 1988, I recorded cuts from Music For Happy Occasions, Paul Pincus; Jay Chernow and his Hi-Hat Ensemble; Dukes of Freilachland, Max Epstein; Jewish Wedding Dances, Sam Musiker; Twisting the Freilachs; and Casamiento Judio, Sam Lieberman — a freaking klezmer musician from Latin America!


Several months after Jack died, Nathan Tinanoff, the founder of the Judaica Sound Archives at Florida Atlantic University, went into Jack’s basement and came out with 4,000 Jewish LPs in one day.  And he didn’t even get to the 78s.  By comparison, the National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Mass., had 3,000 records, which the center eventually  turned over to Florida Atlantic University.

Jack Saul liked Yiddishe Cup a lot.  (He also liked Steven Greenman, Lori Cahan-Simon, Cantor Kathyrn Wolfe Sebo — all Cleveland Jewish musicians.)  At one community meeting, he said, “We’ve got talent in this town.  We don’t have to always run to New York for entertainers.”

That meant a lot to us locals.  Go Tribe.

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1 comment

1 MARC { 09.09.09 at 3:13 pm }

I took a class at Klezkamp a number of years ago with the late Paul Pincus.
He had trouble carrying his instruments because he limped.
I helped him shlep his instruments to his room. He impressed upon his students to keep their mouthpiece covers on when the horns were not in use.

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