THE KLEZMER BLINDFOLD TEST
Yiddishe Cup‘s Bert Stratton tries to identify musicians and songs from selected recordings. Stratton received no prior information. Ratings are 1 to 5.
1. “Oy Avram” Yiddish Princess
This recording reminds me of Daniel Kahn, the young Jew in Berlin. Maybe he’s not so young. Let’s call him 35.
Middle age is a long slog, isn’t it? What about 63, is that still middle age?
The lead singer on this is Sarah Cooper — or whatever her name is. She has a leaf blower in her right lung. Sing, baby, sing! I give it a 5.
Sarah Mina Gordon, vocals; Michael Winograd, synths; Avi Fox-Rosen, guitar; Yoshie Fruchter, guitar; Ari Folman-Cohen, bass; Chris Berry drums.
2. “Blooz” Michael Winograd’s Infection
My philosophy is do something new every day, but always in relationship to the past and tradition. If I have Kashi Island Vanilla today, I go with Kashi Autumn Wheat tomorrow. Sugar Pops, no thanks. Corn Pops, double no thanks. Call them what you will. Joe’s O’s or Cheerios? Depends. I’ll go with Joe’s on Mondays and Cherrios on Tuesdays. And don’t forget Ralston’s Tasteoos.
This tune? This is the Wino, Michael Winograd, on clarinet. He constructs his tunes with great care: one note, then silence, then another note. Give it a 5.
Michael Winograd, clarinet; Frank London, trumpet; Daniel Blackberg, trombone; Brandon Seabrook guitar; Michael McLaughlin, accordion; Jason Nazary, drums.
3. “Sher 199” Bessarabian Hop. Michael Winograd
Again with the Wino? He’s sucking up all the klezmer oxygen. Is he living in Barcelona? New York? L.A.? He probably has three houses. He’s big.
His clarinet is Canadian, that much I know.
I have no idea who his sidemen are, but they are very, very flexible. They play with time and stretch out the composition. The accordion is a little choppy. It’s a 4.
Winograd, clarinet; Joey Weisenberg, mandolin; Patrick Farrell, accordion; Pete Rushefsky, tsimbl; Daniel Blacksberg, trombone; Nick Cudahy, bass; Richie Barshay, drums.
4. “Epstein” Poykler’s Shloft Lied. Matt Temkin’s Yiddishe Jam Band
That’s got to be Temkin. He wears his hat backwards and hangs out in Brooklyn.
I know another backwards hat-wearing drummer, but in Cleveland. My guy is Greek and does apartment cleanups after fires. Married to a Jewish girl. Plays some Jewish.
Frank London is on trumpet. That’s a no-brainer. He’s on every klezmer record.
Clarinet and keys? I have no idea.
Temkin hires sidemen from the same Brooklyn Home Depot parking lot as Winograd. I wish the Home Depot in Cleveland had this kind of talent. Give it a 4.
Temkin, drums; Mike Cohen, reeds; Binyomin Ginzberg, keys; Brian Glassman, bass; Rachel Lemisch, trombone; Allen Watsky guitar: Frank London. trumpet.
5. “Baladi” Balada. Bulgarian Wedding Music. Yuri Yunakov
This is Slavic Soul Party. Heavy brass and breakneck tempos. These guys drink slivovitz by the gallon. I have one word for them: slow down. Give it a 3.
Yunakov, alto sax; Neshko Neshev, accordion; Lauren Brody, synth; Seido Salifoski, dumbek; Catherine Foster, clarinet; Carol Silverman, vocals.
6. “Shake Hands with your Uncle Max” The Jewish Songbook. Jason Alexander
Who is the singer? He bears a strong resemblance to an incompetent. Give it a 3. No, a 2. I’m seeing ghosts, I’m fainting. Give it a 1.
Alexander, vocals; Mike Garson, piano; Chuck Berghofer, bass; Don Heffington, drums; Marc Ellis, guitar.
7. “Mazl Tov Dances” You Should Be So Lucky! Maxwell Street Klezmer Band
A Mickey Katz tune, yes! This is KCB [Klezmer Conservatory Band].
Yes, I know the Mickey Katz reboot is over, but not for me. I knew Mickey’s cousin. She was in a nursing home in Cleveland. She was about 100. My hobby is Mickey’s geo-hagiography. I walk by his [former] apartment in Cleveland Heights all the time.
The music is harmonically deep and soulful. Give it a 5. Thank you, KCB!
Ralph Wilder, clarinet; Alex Koffman, violin; Ivo Braun, trumpet; Sam Margolis, trombone; Gail Mangurten, piano; David Rothstein, bass; Steve Hawk, percussion.
8. “Meshugge ’bout my Myed’l” Klezmerfats! Peter Sokolow
Sokolow is — forgive me — an animal. A rhythmically complex animal. Not only can he bang out chords, he can play — and can he talk; he’ll drey you a kup for three straight hours at KlezKamp, and all good stuff. Read his interview with professor Phil Brown. That’s the best musician interview ever.
Pete combines earthiness, gravity and buoyancy. What’s his weight these days?
I like to guess ages and weights. I’m taking this blindfold off.
Oh jeez, why didn’t you tell me you’re 500 pounds!
Pete, he’s ancient. He’s 73.
A 4 rating.
Sokolow, piano, vocals.
9. “Ko Riboyn Olam” Stempenyu’s Dream. Steven Greenman.
I cheated. I should put my blindfold back on. This is Greenman, the LeBron of klezmer violin. But Steve didn’t take his talents to South Beach. He stayed here [Cleveland]. Give Greenie a 5, on that alone.
Greenman, violin, vocals; Michael Alpert, violin, vocals; Pete Rushefsky, tsimbl; Mark Rubin, bass.
10. “Rumenye” Homesick Songs. Golem
This is Reverend Gary Davis singing in Yiddish. Joking, man. Really out there, but good. It’s Ezekiel’s Wheels.
This is meaty. I’m guessing the band weighs 1423 pounds, total. I’m close. What’s for lunch? Give it a 4.7.
Annette Ezekiel, vocals, accordion; Aaron Diskin, vocals; Alicia Jo Rabins, violin; Curtis Hasselbring, trombone; Taylor Bergren-Chrisman, bass; Laura Cromwell, drums.