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. So maybe he’s really Klezmer Landlord.

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.



My apologies for not reviewing klezmer CDs more frequently.  I’m swamped with freebies.  (Not true.)  And my computer keyboard needs de-icing. There’s bad weather here; my keys don’t work for “cutting edge,” “retro” or “horrible.”

But no more excuses.  Here are the best — and worst — Jewish recordings of 2010.

1. Jews with Bagels. The Klezmatics cruise down the Middle of the Road here, looking for the big paycheck– the one with six bagels after the “1.” Sure hit singles: “Tiny Bagels in the Wine,” “Raisins and Maudlin” and “Shmear Me, Pearl.” A long shot: “Little Jew’s Coupe.” Vroom. Chanukah looks very good for the ‘Matics.

2. Aretha Franklin Sings Jewish Classics.  Aretha does “Avinu Malkeinu” better than Barbra.  Nice horns too.

3. We Can’t Hear You. Klezmer Conservatory Band.  This 30-year-old group still pops, babbles and spits like a newborn.  Check out “Jammies,” the band’s take on Dave Tarras’ “Silkene Pajamas.”  Recorded in a nursing home, in beds, in PJs.   Hef feel.  Swings.


Notso Kosher Records

4. A Hip Hop ChanukahSocalled/Josh Dolgin. A black rapper giggles at the end of this CD.  No doubt he is laughing at the yolds (fools) who bought this recording.   You can play this one on Chanukah, Yom Kippur and shabbes.  Nothing here.

5. Music for Young Lovers from Northern OH, Western PA and Western NY. This Yiddishe Cup recording — funded by NELFTY (Northeast Lakes Federation of Temple Youth) — is mostly lively waltzes and ballads for teens to cruise Lake Erie to.  Not sure if this recording will keep the kinder (children) from moving to Chicago and the East Coast, but it’s worth a try.

6. Ladder Me UpAndy Statman‘s homage to the New York Fire Department and The Chief.  If you buy this one, you can skip shul for six weeks. The Chief says so.

7. The Great Hang. Steven Greenman‘s triple CD.  All originals, recorded in a single weekend (i.e., the Great Hang) with Alan Bern, piano, and Alex Fedoriouk, cimbalom. Violinist Greenman stretches out by singing on five tracks and wind sprinting on two with heavy breathing.  Sexy.

8. Lee Tully vs. Billy Hodes. Reboot label.  Two obscure 1950s Jewish comedians come out swinging.  Tully’s version of “Essen” versus Hodes’ take.  Two Jewish fighters in the same ring.  You don’t see that every day unless you’re at an Orthodox shmorg (pre-wedding buffet).   Hodes wins in a TKO.

9.  Twelve new albums by John Zorn.   Why no Band-Aids with this boxed set, John?  These CDs are serrated!  Except the last one, which is a baggie of German beer bottle shards.

10. Chicago Fire Dept. Kurt Bjorling.  [Again with the fire department?]  Bjorling plugs in his clarinet and his wife, harpist Annette Bjorling.  “Hatikvah” like Hendrix at Woodstock, but on harp.

jason-rosenblatt11. I’m the Good Guy in the Black Hat. Shtreiml.  How many harp players – kippah wearers or not — can blow like Shtreiml’s Jason Rosenblatt?  Anyone care to challenge Li’l Jase for Master of Jewish Harmonica?  Larry Adler is dead, and Howard Levy doesn’t hang out on K Corner.  Long live Jasonele Rosenblatt!

12. Jerzy Kosinski’s Ketchup. Daniel Kahn.   What’s the difference between blood and ketchup?  What about pourability? What’s fiction, what’s friction? Are Heinz and Hunt’s the same thing? Where did green ketchup go? Glug. This recording is viscous and turgid. In four languages: German, Polish, Yiddish and English.

13. It’s All Greek. A Renaissance bootleg from England. This double CD has 56 never-released Mickey Katz songs recorded for the Greek market. Includes “We’re Now Open a Half Day on Sunday,” “Yo, Gert!” and “My Gyro is Dripping.”

14. Readings on the Klezmer Generation. Bert Stratton’s “Driving Mr. Klezmer” show, recorded live.  Stratton, on “spoken word,” sounds like he swallowed a bag of plastic Passover plagues.  Painful on first listening.  After four cups of wine, atrocious. 

15. The Jewish People are Mio.  From percussionist Roberto Rodriquez, who grew up playing bar mitzvah parties in Miami.  R-Rod is 100 percent Jewish here: all freylekhs all the time, with “olé” shout-outs every quarter hour.  This is the perfect gift for the person who has everything: a Latin Jewish alarm clock.  (Larry Harlow, El Judio Maravilloso, has bought a dozen.)

Please see the post below too.  It’s a travel video about England. Sort of.
Yiddishe Cup is in Columbus, Ohio this Sun. (Dec. 5) for a Chanukah bash/concert/dance at Cong. Tifereth Israel.  6 p.m.
Illustration by Ralph Solonitz.

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1 Alan Douglass { 12.01.10 at 9:39 am }

Passover plagues?

2 Bert { 12.01.10 at 9:48 am }

To Alan Douglass:

You aren’t Jewish, are you? Fake Passover plagues (locusts, bugs, lice, blood, etc.) come in bags now. $14.99 at

3 Ellen { 12.01.10 at 11:23 am }

so…Larry Adler’s brother, Jerry – aka Uncle Jerry — played at my wedding in Wooster, Ohio. Ha!
and — CHAPPY CHANUKAH to all and to all a good yontif.

4 Ellen { 12.01.10 at 11:26 am }

p.s. Mickey Katz gone Greek?? My feet would never stop dancing. Hopah! Kippah!

5 Susan Greene { 12.02.10 at 10:17 am }

Great illustrator…love your blog. I am still longing to hear Mambo Moishe.

6 Alan Douglass { 12.02.10 at 2:17 pm }

[re: fake Passover plagues]

That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard!

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