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 Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post.



A Cleveland friend, Alan Sherwin, started an avant garde jazz band, which I followed around. Me and about two other people. This was in 1975. The band had zero commercial success; however, one musician ultimately wound up in Tin Huey — a big deal in northeastern Ohio — and another guy, a some-time drummer, wound up in Devo.

Alan Sherwin, circa 2020

Alan’s band was called Jazz Death. “Jazz Death?”– with a question mark — was the name of a jazz tune written by trumpeter Lester Bowie of the Art Ensemble of Chicago.  One couldn’t get more “outside” than Bowie and the Art Ensemble. (“Outside” means playing outside the traditional chord structure.)

Alan outlined Jazz Death’s M.O. to me: “Everybody plays at once but we don’t get in each other’s way.” Besides the Art Ensemble of Chicago and other avant garde groups, Alan also liked bebop: Parker, Monk, Bud Powell. We’re not talking smooth jazz here.

Alan was an electronics teacher at my alma mater, Brush High School. He was pretty much self-taught on sax. He majored in something non-music-y at Miami University of Ohio. He didn’t care what others thought of his musical tastes. He said to me, “I don’t need Downbeat to tell me who to listen to.” He didn’t care who was playing at Slug’s.

Alan was intrigued by my career path. He said I was on “an old Jew trip” because I was going into real estate. No selling out for Alan! He wouldn’t even listen to music while he drove. He needed to sit alone in his apartment and focus hard on the tunes. (He did install a cassette player in my car. He knew electronics.)

Alan eventually moved to Washington, D.C., for a girlfriend, and I didn’t see him for years after that. I looked him up in 2012. Alan told me to learn some jazz licks — “you only need to do it in four keys” — and I’d be decent. Four keys beat 12 keys, but still, I stuck to klezmer for the most part.

A few years ago I sent Alan a comic strip by Harvey Pekar that acknowledged the late, not-lauded Jazz Death. Alan wrote me back, “What is Pekar smoking?” (Pekar was dead but that’s beside the point. The point: Alan was being self-deprecating.) Alan had become more mainstream — less Art Ensemble of Chicago, more Duke Ellington. No more going “outside.”

This link here and this one are all I can find on Alan’s music on the internet.

Wait, I’ll check Spotify . . .

Nothing. Just “Allan Sherman.”

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1 Ken Goldberg { 02.14.24 at 11:37 am }

I see you’re writing consistently longer blurbs, Bert. Could it be old age?

2 Steve Kohn { 02.14.24 at 2:48 pm }

I’m not a musician, have absolutely no talent for making music. But I know what I like, and bebop has never been it. Noise.
I also don’t like metal, punk, modern country or hiphop, but I really don’t like bebop. Maybe because I blame it (unfairly?) for killing off jazz in America.

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