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.


Category — KlezFiction


This is KlezFiction.  The complete KlezFiction series is here.

These 13 health tips are from my new e-book, The Klezmer Guy Tune Up, (which makes a great Chanukah gift!)

1. Eat your fist at least once a week.

2. Sing the beginning of “The Star-Spangled Banner” every morning.  It’s a major triad, 5-3-1.  It’ll align you.

3. Prick yourself.  If your blood isn’t bright red, immediately eat potato chips.  Any brand.  For the salt.

4. Therapy is always worth it, but don’t pay more than $150/hour.

5. Eat sardines once a week.  Lightly smoked Chicken of the Sea, in oil, is your best bet.

6. You need a gum graft. Get it now!

7. Drink olive oil in a shot glass daily.

8. Don’t knock Miller Lite. It does the job.

9. Visit a pawn shop today and buy a power tool. Get outside your bubble!

10. [For Catholics only: carry a smartphone at all times.  Sainthood is hard to prove if you don’t have good documentation.]

11. Eat a marshmallow with your dark chocolate. This helps your stomach absorb the flavenoids.

12. Gamble.  It fine-tunes the nervous system.  Try craps first.

13. Use Arby’s Horsy Sauce on all your salads, fish and fries.   It’s better for you than even tomato sauce.

There is no Klezmer Guy Tune-up book.  Like I said, this is  KlezFiction.

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November 27, 2013   3 Comments


This is KlezFiction. The complete KlezFiction series is here.

Why is the Klezmer Hall of Fame — aka The Challah Fame — in Cleveland? Here’s why: Do you remember Bob Malaga, the lawyer who brought the Davis Cup to Cleveland in 1964?  Bob Malaga — aka Mr. Tennis — pulled off that Forest Hills-to-Cleveland heist almost single-handedly.

The Challah Fame story is a similar saga, but about another Cleveland monomaniac: Klezmer Guy, aka Mr. Guy.

Mr. Guy wrote record reviews for his college paper, the Michigan Daily, about Muddy Waters, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Mott the Hoople, and The Up.  He also wrote about Buddy Guy (no relation).  Mr. Guy had insights. For instance, he disliked Detroit rock and roll because it was simplistic and too loud. Guy lambasted John Lennon’s “Free John Sinclair” concert at the Michigan basketball arena in 1971.  Face it, Allen Ginsberg’s harmonium was not music.

John Sinclair and his friends at the White Panther Party were not happy with Guy’s review. Those potheads were fuming. What did they want?

Not the truth.

Guy left Ann Arbor in a hurry, returning to his hometown, Cleveland, to open a nightclub.  Cleveland was perfectly situated on the nightclub circuit, halfway between Chicago and New York.  Guy booked quality acts into his club, which he operated out of the basement of a shul on Taylor Road. Guy told the temple gadolim (big shots) he was running a Jewish music coffeehouse, and they were ecstatic.  The rent was free.

Guy rocked the gatkes (underwear) off the shul — Taylor Road Synagogue (TRS) — which was empty even back then.  The shul let Guy use the main sanctuary too.  “Use the sanctuary but keep it Jewish!” the TRS president said.

Guy booked the Electric Prunes, Steve Miller and Quicksilver.  All Jewish acts, according to Guy. Underground radio DJs bellowed, “Go see Steve Miller tonight at TRS!”

TRS’ sanctuary was packed.  So Guy said to himself, “I’m in a shul.  I’m making money.  Why not go for some authentic Jewish music?”  Guy locked onto klezmer.  Dave Tarras  sold out TRS, as did Mickey Katz.

When the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame opened, Guy rode the Rock Hall’s PR coattails and opened The Challah Fame.

Tarras statue (L) w/ a Challah Fame maintenance man

Guy displayed his personal memorabilia: a Corky & Lenny’s T-shirt, Park Synagogue refrigerator magnet and a saxophone reed signed by Hankus Netsky of the Klezmer Conservatory Band — “Love ya!  Hankus.”  Guy also had a flyer from Lethbridge, Alberta, 1966: Beatnik Coffeehouse Tonight / Tim Hortons / Michael Wex.  Guy had violinist Steven Greenman’s fourth grade report card (redacted).

Are you interested in this stuff?

Apparently you are.  You’ve read this far.

The Challah Fame keeps irregular hours. Please call ahead.

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October 16, 2013   5 Comments



Yiddishe Cup has shared the stage with the Hungarian Scouts, Ukrainian Kashtan dancers, and Csardas, a Hungarian troupe. These groups draw fans to local festivals, and the dancers perform in difficult odd meters. Yiddishe Cup doesn’t draw many fans to these multicultural shows. The typical Jew doesn’t want to watch Ukrainians, Poles, or Hungarians dance.

At one festival, some of the folk dances had sappy English titles, like “My Little Cherry Tree” and “I Love You, Shepherd Boy.” I took the printed program home and looked up the real titles:

“Tylko We Lwowie” (Let’s Get Out of Lviv)

“Frogisic Sie Pani” (My Bagpipes are Soggy)

“Jaz Pa Ti” (Dad is Tipsy)

“Pytala Sie Pani” (Pierogis With Butter, Senator)

“Llactosi Nyasa Pilsenioya” (I Hate Milk and Like Beer)

“Jak Szybko Hund Chwile” (Jacko’s Chili Dog Is Outstanding)

“Nasza Jest, Noc Tylko” (Not Tonight, Not Tomorrow.)



I bought a raffle ticket for the St. Mary’s Church (Collinwood) fundraiser, Catholic Order of Foresters, Court #1640.

I bought the ticket from Stan. Stan’s father was Stan too.   Stan — my friend  Stan – got married at St. William’s Church, not St. Stan’s.  (St. Stan’s church is  Polish.  Stan is Slovenian.)

Stan’s wedding reception was at the big Slovenian National Home on  St. Clair Avenue at E. 65th Street. Stan hired his uncle’s polka band.  At the  wedding, we danced Slovenian-style polka — not the same as Polish-style polka.  (If you don’t know the difference, please see Harvey Pekar’s “Polka Wars” American Splendor, issue #16.)

Yiddishe Cup can play Slovenian! We’ve done Yankovic’s “Just Because” and “Blue Skirt Waltz,” and some charts from polka musician Joey Tomsick.

I won $20 in the St. Mary’s raffle.  I haven’t seen the money yet.

Slovenians are tight with a buck.  That’s their in-group reputation. Amongst themselves, Slovenians brag about their frugality, and they like to trash Lithuanians, who are even tighter.  Stan told me all this.

The St. Mary’s Church raffle was three years ago.  Stan, you owe me $23 — that’s $20 plus interest.   Pay up, Stan.  Any Stan.

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September 25, 2013   6 Comments


This is KlezFiction . . .

I dream about klezmer music and Buddy Holly. I want to be Buddy Holly, but I have to settle  for Klezmer Guy.

Animal voices — the sound of cats and fleas.  Significant to my music?  I need to find out.

There are no rules for good music, only examples of it.

Yiddishe Cup’s Meshugeneh Mambo is a terrific record.  Klezperanto –- another good choice. (By the group Klezperanto.)

The wrong song in the wrong place can be the right song.

Hope You Like Klezmer, a coffee table book,  has more than 100 color photos of klezmer musicians.  Some tied up, some with instruments in odd places.  I’m in a bathtub with reeds, like Moses.

Half-ended melodies are fun.

I’m here.  Hineni.  Take it or leave it.

Please, don’t go!

Fine, go.

I want to play medium-sized halls — 1,500-seat venues — this summer with my band: the Buddy Holly Klezmer Band.

Check out “Renting the American Dream” in the latest City Journal.  It’s not fiction.  Read the comments too.

Yiddishe Cup plays Wiley Middle Scho0ol lawn, University Heights, Ohio, 7:30 p.m. Thurs. July 25.  Indoors if raining.  Free ice cream.

Here’s a vid from the 2009 Wiley show:

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July 10, 2013   3 Comments


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?

What’s really, really old? Anybody 10 years older than yourself.

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.

Miguel Winograd

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

Pete 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.

Greenman, about to rob a bank

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.

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June 26, 2013   9 Comments


I went to the White House for a Christmas party.  Did you?

My daughter, Lucy, works for a Chicago event-planning company, and she helped decorate the White House for Christmas.  She got me in.

Lucy and I arrived fashionably late, because my daughter has been to the White House before, and she didn’t want to wait in the long line.  We were the last guests — numbers 485 and 486.

I was denied entrance. What?

I sat on a folding chair in a heated tool shed–like room in the White House backyard. My birth date was listed incorrectly on the White House checklist. I thought I might miss the party.

But the guard, constantly checking her smartphone for updates, finally said, “You’re good. Tell the next security booth, you’re a re-clear.”

I was a re-clear at the next security stop — a dog-sniffing station.

A Marine Band jazz quintet played in the main entrance of the White House. Michelle Obama was there. Lincoln’s portrait was up in the State Dining Room.  There were 54 live Christmas trees, according to the Washington Post.  Plus some fake trees — classy fake trees, like out of glass.

I told the Marine Band’s bass player to tell his boss to bring in Yiddishe Cup for the Chanukah party next year.

I did not see Bo the dog.  I did not sleep in the Lincoln bedroom. I did not see any celebs. The food — at grazing stations — was very good.  Spielberg, dressed like Lincoln, was at the White House a couple nights before, to screen Lincoln with the president.  That was the word at the party.  There was a 300-pound gingerbread replica of White House.

This event was a thrill for me — a once in a lifetime experience. No, wait, I’ve got to talk to my rabbi; he once lit the White House Chanukah menorah.  Maybe he’ll know how to get Yiddishe Cup in.

My rabbi called.  He said,  “Somebody from the synagogue got me in. Or a group of people.  No one person from the synagogue took sole credit.  Maybe the White House wanted somebody from Cleveland.”

The Jews of Cuyahoga County.  Work with them.

Lucy Stratton, Bert Stratton, and Claus.
White House, 2012



This year’s KlezKamp theme is anti-NY.

No rush-rush.

The KlezKamp swimming pool has piped-in klezmer music. Don’t do the crawl; your wildly flapping arms will drown out the underwater speakers. (Kapelye’s classic, “Chicken,” is looped.)

New this year: a pretzel bar . . . Rold Gold, Dan Dee, Snyder’s of Berlin, Snyder’s of Hanover. (Trucked in from Cleveland.  Heymish.)

There is a spiritual gathering every morning in the exercise room. Universal love machines. Yarmulkes optional.

You can touch your musical instrument but can’t play it.  Oil keys, apply grease to cork joints, rub valve oil. And calm down.

Dress code?  Only if you insist.  Try the all-cotton plush bathrobes with the KlezKamp logo ($179).  Notice how young klezmer musicians  wear KK bathrobes on stage?

At KlezKamp, director Henry Sapoznik repeats the same spiel every hour, so you don’t miss anything if you skip a lecture. His topic this year: “New York Sucks. I Moved to Wisconsin.”

Also, this year pianist Pete Sokolow blots out — pours Manischewitz on — his classic how-to book, 100 Jewish Music Insults That Really Work.

Before this book disappears forever, here are, for the record, Sokolow’s five favorite putdowns:

1.  What’s your phone number? Junior congregation needs a clarinetist.
2.  You’re slicker than butter on matzo, but there’s no salt.
3.  Tighten your neck strap.  Tighter.
4.  You couldn’t find D freygish with a GPS.
5.  I make desk lamps. Let me see your clarinet.

This is KlezFiction.  KlezKamp is real.  It happens next week.

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December 19, 2012   7 Comments


Klezmer music was popular for a second in the mid-1990s.  I protected talent — the klez stars.  The klezmer scene had stars back then.   Andy Statman, for instance.  Small stars.

For security, I hired Cleveland toughs.   I didn’t import Israelis from New York.  I had Albanians and Ukrainians from Cleveland’s West Side.  One of my guys — a goy from Lvov — had Yiddish tattoos and played tuba in a klezmer band back home.

I’m still at it — security work.  My office is on Mercantile Road in Beachwood.  No sign.  We’re in back of Pella Windows.

I tore down a Royal Castle hamburger stand and had the tiny orange crown tiles (like on the Ontario license plate) inlaid in my company’s lunchroom floor.  I’m putting in an indoor sliding board.  My place is one of the “Top 10 best places to work in Ohio.”   I chose it.

I do collections — rent collections.  Tenants scream at my Ukie boys: “You can’t put my shit out on the street!”  And my boys scream back: “You break law.  You no pay rent.  Now we break law!”

I’ve got ’tude, but I’m also a nice guy.  I’m involved in the community.  I hire summer interns from the Beachwood High wrestling team, like Sam Gross 112, Alec Jacober 130, Ryan Harris 125.  These guys can squeeze through small openings.

“You Want to be a Jewish Cop?” — that’s the title of my annual lecture at Beachwood High career day.  I say: “Be a cop, kids, but don’t be a wussy cop.  Don’t be like that cop at Heinen’s parking lot with the Harpo Marx Jewfro.”

I still listen to klezmer.   I like the music.  I’m friends with Bratton — Steve Bratton — the leader of Klezmer Cup.

I know every yidl by name in Cleveland.

Call me.  I’m in back of Pella Windows.



This one, on the other hand, is real.


Scott Raab, a writer and former Clevelander, carries a ticket from the 1964 Browns-Colts championship game in his wallet.

I have a ticket to that game too.

Retrieved from my attic . . .

Raab’s ticket was part of an story about how Cleveland sports teams haven’t won a championship lately. This story — or a version of it — is recycled regularly. Raab put his ticket on the cover of his new book, The Whore of Akron, about LeBron James ditching Cleveland.  (Read the book.)

The Cleveland Browns beat the Colts 27-0 in 1964. My Uncle Al, my dad, and I went to the championship game. Maybe my dad knew Cleveland would never win another championship. He was just a lukewarm Browns fan.


I have this ticket too, Scott Raab:

The 1964 Davis Cup finals in Cleveland.

Chuck McKinley was short. Roy Emerson was short. I was short. I was at the Davis Cup tournament. My mother bought me the ticket (which was expensive — in today’s dollars $72), and I went by myself.

In Cleveland Heights, a temporary 7,500-seat tennis stadium appeared next to a junior high in 1964. Fred Stolle and Emerson from Australia played America’s Dennis Ralston and McKinley. (Stolle and Ralston weren’t short.)

The Australians won 3-2. The score was beside the point. The 1964 Davis Cup was the best sporting event ever.


I have  an essay, “And What’s That on Your Head?”, in the current issue of CJ: Voices of Conservative /Masorti Judiasm,  the house mag  of Conservative Judaism.  (A version of the story appeared on this blog 1/5/11, titled “Yid Lids.”)

Yiddishe Cup plays Parade the Circle this Sat. (June 9), noon, University Circle.  Best arts event in Cleveland ever.  Ride your bike down there, locals.

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June 6, 2012   6 Comments


Daniel Ducoff, Yiddishe Cup’s dance leader, is the all-in-one-machine: booking agent, valet and shrink.

Daniel has a social-work master’s degree and does free counseling.  For instance, when the musicians go out — like to CVS for candy bars and clubs for drinking — Ducoff hangs back with me  and says:  “What’s a couple extra bucks for beer and Snickers for the boys to to keep them happy?  Don’t fret. ”

Daniel handles all contract negotiations.   It’s not right for the bandleader to yak on the phone about “wiggle room” for the Oshkosh Opera House contract.  That’s Daniel’s job.

Ducoff handles the press too.  Reporters ask, “Why is this klezmer band different than all other klezmer bands?”  Daniel’s  answer: “Yiddishe Cup plays naked.”   The reporters — shlubs who sit in cubicles all day — buy it.

Daniel, who swam competitively in high school, calls ahead for dimensions on  pools at hotels.  Nobody likes to pull up to an “Olympic pool” that is four raindrops.

Daniel knows his way around snack shops.  Sun-baked chips are popular with the band.  Daniel says, “Sun baked chips are still chips, guys. You think the sun zapped the calories out?”

Daniel Ducoff

Daniel knows how to find exquisite — by Midwest standards — sourdough pretzels at all Pilot and Duke truck stops.

Ducoff is also the enforcer.  For example, Yiddishe Cup’s drummer, Don Friedman, occasionally blasts hard-bop jazz, like Art Blakey, inside the van.   This is borderline acceptable; it gives the band a certain panache when we pull into Bob Evans in Celina, Ohio, with  “Moanin’” blaring.   But, Don, turn the jazz off already!  That’s Ducoff’s job to tell Don.

Daniel Ducoff is the all-in-one machine.

This post, “He Gets Paid Extra,” is 49-percent true. It’s klez fiction.



More klez fiction.  Readers demand it.  Certain readers, that is.  Pete Rushefsky, a NYC klezmer musician, told me, “I don’t read any of your real estate stuff.  I skip that and read the klezmer.”  There are 398 klez fans in the world.  They read this blog.  Enjoy.


I auditioned for Green Man Group at the Cleveland home of klezmer violinist Steve Greenman.

I didn’t play clarinet for Greenman.  I played my eyes.  I looked maniacally Jewish, then playfully Jewish and, finally, soulfully Jewish. I thought “Einstein” the whole time.

I got a callback!   Me and five other guys.

At the callback, Greenman sprayed us green and had us play fiddle patterns in E minor.  This was awkward for me because E minor is a bad key for my axe — clarinet.

But I did OK.

I made it to the final audition.  Me, Pete Rushefsky, tsimbl; and Jeff Warschauer, mandolin.  Greenman knows us all personally.  (That’s show biz.)

We didn’t get sprayed green this time, nor perform. Greenman interviewed us separately.

GREENMAN: A deer jumps on stage while you’re performing.  What do you do?

STRATTON: I play “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” in E minor, then shoot the deer.

GREENMAN: A customer in a wheelchair says, “Stop talking and start playing!”

STRATTON: I say, “I’ll start playing when you stand up.”

GREENMAN: Can you make hot hors d’oeuvres pop out of your instrument?

STRATTON: Yes, and candy apples on Simchat Torah.

GREENMAN: What is the most creative thing you’ve ever done on stage?

STRATTON: I tore up a $100 bill on stage at the Omaha JCC while the audience screamed at me:  “Stop, I’ll take that!”  It was art.

GREENMAN: What if nobody showed up at your gig?

STRATTON: I play hard for zero people just like I play for 6,000, which is what I’m used to.

Jeff Warschauer got the job.  Greenman and Warschauer are both short.  Greenman didn’t want anybody taller than him on stage.  That’s why I didn’t make it.

I have a piece, “For Cleveland Jews, Schvitz is Must,” in The Forward (online) this week.  Check it out, or read an extended version here in a few weeks.   The longer version should be better; it will contain profanity-laced, schvitzian dialogue.

A word from Yiddishe Cup’s bandleader:

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March 14, 2012   8 Comments


It wouldn’t cost much for me to open a klezmer store.  I have several vacant storefronts.

I could put my store — call it the Klezmer Shack — next to the Bass Shop.  The Bass Shop doesn’t sell basses, but string players brake for it anyway.  The Bass Shop is a bait and tackle store.

Some of my  merchandise:

The Jewish Fake Book by Velvet Pasternak. Useful for anybody who wants to pass as a Jew.  You’ll learn your way around seltzer and freylekhs (horas).  Plus you’ll learn the Hebrew lyrics to  “Jerusalem of Gold”  and “Bashana Haba’a.”

Yiddishe Cup latkes.

Dave Tarras’ Freilachs, Bulgars, Horas — 22 clarinet tunes, handwritten by the master himself.  I got my copy in Delray Beach, Florida, from the widow of Harold Branch, the late New York bandleader.

Irwin Weinberger’s autoharp.  Please buy it!  (Irwin is Yiddishe Cup’s singer.)

Harold Branch’s Club Date Handbook.   You’ll learn what to play when the caterer wheels in the Viennese dessert cart at a 1968 New York bar mitzvah party.   For the flaming jubilee, play “Funiculi, Funicula.”   (For the main course — the roast beef — play “I’m an Old Cowhand.”)

Clarinet neck straps.  Hard to find.  We have them.

Clarinet travel bags.  Ours are imported from the Pilot truck stop, Lodi, Ohio.

Two Twistin The Freilach LPs, 1961.  Used.

Seven Kleveland Klezmorim Sound of the World’s Soul LPs, 1985.  Never opened.

Klezmer gum.


Footnote:  There  is a Klezmer Shack website,  run by Ari Davidow, who is allowing me to use the name for my store, I think.

Yiddishe Cup plays First Night Akron (Ohio) 6:15 p.m. Sat., Dec. 31.

Here’s a video by Kasumi,  who teaches at the Cleveland Institute of Art.  She won a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship for her vid work.  This video is Yiddishe Cup.

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December 21, 2011   4 Comments


Have you read any good klezmer liner notes lately?

Probably not.

How about some bad notes? . . .

“The drummer has appeared in duo and trip [sic] settings.”

“This is what happens when Rumshinsky’s Theatre Bulgar is feed [sic] through Quincy Jones talking about Count Basie.”

“One[sic] the other side of the hall, a zedeh and bobe will spin in skeletal outlines the remembered steps of a tantz (dance) that their parents taught them …”


Here is the solution.  Hire Klezmer Guy Ink to write your liner notes.

If you submit to Klezmer Guy Ink, please follow these guidelines:

1. Don’t name your tunes.  We’ll do that.   Your first cut will be “Klezmer Lovin’,” “Hymie’s Town,” or “Romanian Shock #1.”  We’ll decide.

2. Don’t name your album.  We do that.  The choices: Intravenous Klezmer, 13 Jewish Hummingbirds and Black Curly Hair.  We pick.

3. We hire world-class musicians to punch up your sound. Our stable includes Frank London, Lorin Sklamberg and Eric Carmen (of the Raspberries).

4. We’ll come up with a pseudonym for a musician in your band.  This makes your album mysterious and more marketable.   Choices: M. Rogue Gemini, Hy Lowe and Jewboy Fuller.  We pick.

5. Your bio is tweaked.  Even if you’re a nebbish from Long Island, you visited your grandmother in Brooklyn at least once, right?  You’re from Brooklyn.

6. We’ll get you impressive music-school credentials.  We work with the Broadway School of Music.*

For your CD cover, we use red.  Why not?

Give Klezmer Guy Ink a call.  Some of our clients have been somewhat satisfied.
*Broadway School of Music, 5415 Broadway Avenue, Cleveland.

A version of this post appeared in Zeek, the online “Jewish journal of thought and culture,” on December 21, 2010.

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November 2, 2011   2 Comments


The Challah Fame announced its lecture series today:  The Art of Klezmer . . . How to Make it Hypnotic, Bruising and Revelatory.

Klez Mezzrow

Klez Mezzrow, lecture series curator

The lectures are free, but attendees must bring doctors’ permission slips. Some lectures might be dangerous, according to the brochure.

The first lecture is June 15, featuring Hankus Netsky, bandleader of the Klezmer Conservatory Band.

6/15  Hankus Netsky HOW DO I STOP THIS THING?

Should a klezmer song end with a “squirt” (quarter note) or a “pop” (eighth note)?   Or how about a simple  I-V-I chord tag?  Or  should the bandleader just scream, “It was all a mistake!”

Netsky is clear and emotive.  Expect audience participation, including hummus-smearing and firearms.

6/22  Sarah Gordon WEATHER THAT KILLS

Sarah, a singer and third-grade teacher in New York, will talk about corporal punishment.  Gordon’s punk-klez band, Yiddish Princess, is best known for “Painkiller” and “Weather That Kills.”   Gordon gives us an insider’s look at the combative multivalent New York klezmer scene.  Bring knives.  Sarah  is going to recreate the West Side Story switchblade scene in Yiddish.  Volunteers needed.

7/9  Don Friedman PRAISED BE KLEZMER!

Yiddishe Cup’s drummer, Don Friedman,  is the spiritual leader of The Churchagogue in Twinsburg, Ohio.  Donny invented the Jewish freewill offering; it isn’t free.  Donny was the recipient of Sweden’s “Little Drummer Boy” prize ($753,000) last year and invested much of that in upgrading The Churchagogue, tick-talk1which attracts more than 2,000 worshippers on a typical shabbes morning.  Free refills on the Mogen David through “Eyn Keloheynu.”  Donny delivers his most famous sermon tonight: “Time. Sometimes it passes slowly. Sometimes it flies by.”

7/29  Alice Stratton OLD-SCHOOL MATH

Alice talks about pacing and musical symmetry.  She takes us back to the days when hora tempos were T-120 (120 beats/minute) and veteran pianist Pete Sokolow‘s blood pressure was under 120.  Alice, a dance leader with Yiddishe Cup, makes her second Challah Fame appearance tonight.  In 2000 she debuted her dance “Some Kind of Cheesy Orgy” at The Challah Fame grand opening.

8/6  Daniel Kahn SLACKIN’ WITH DANNY K

Daniel Kahn, a.k.a. Danny K, chants the trope of recuperative klezmer here.  No worries, it’s all good.  How to enjoy life by playing music, singing, or just listening.  Kahn, from Berlin, does mixed-genre exploring, using ketchup, sauerkraut and clarinets.  Samples afterward.

9/15  Michael Winograd THE 2011 KLEZMER MANIFESTO

Wino, the 28-year-old klez clarinet phenom, delivers the first klez manifesto since Alicia Svigals wailed her “Against Nostalgia” rant at the 1996 Wesleyan University Klezmer Conference.

Here are some of Winograd’s key points:

1. It’s a lonely world.  Hi, everybody.
2. I’ve done many things wrong.  Sorry about that.
3. I get paid to eat at weddings. Why?
4. A scrap of paper in my wallet says I owe you.  Shut up, scrap!

10/3 Ted Stratton MUSIC THAT REPELS

Stratton focuses on life’s basics: dirt, worms, aphids, flies and klezmer music. What’s real, what’s not? What’s fake, what’s authentic? What’s cool, what’s dumb?rear-view-bert3 Stratton looks at the avant-garde in his rearview mirror; he’s way ahead of you. His latest book is The Limbo: Still Rockin’ at 50. How Long Can It Go?


Rubin leads us on a virtual eating tour deep into Europe, a la Borat.  Rubin focuses primarily on risk-taking in eating.

Rubin will be barbecuing ribs throughout the lecture and not washing his hands.  Some spitting too. Samples afterward.

11/2 Daniel Ducoff AQUA-KLEZMER

Daniel Ducoff, a swimmer and Yiddishe Cup dance leader, talks about the awe-inspiring aspects of the Jewish water experience.

What is “difficult” will be “not difficult” after Daniel’s lecture.  You will not be afraid of  the 10-meter board or the mikvah.

Mystical, glorious and powerful mayim (water). Heartbreaking too.  Bring a suit.  There will be a baby pool and high board. Expect some broken bones.


Walt‘s lecture is a split-perception event.  Half the audience wears “I ♥Yiddish” buttons, and the other half  gets
“I ♥ Roma”  badges.  Challah Fame staffers are the U.N. observers.  Let’s see what happens.  Situation report to follow.


Israeli clarinetist Moshe Berlin lectures in Hebrew on the differences between Israeli and American klezmer music.  Free Holy Land yarmulkes to all who attend. Also, Moshe will pass out learsi refrigerator magnets afterwards. “Learsi”  is “Israel” spelled backwards. The Learsi Project encourages you to read everything — even English —

Footnote: 1.3 percent of the words in this post are stolen from the Poetry Project Newsletter #226.

Enjoy the “Klezmer Guy” blog, accompanied by beer, food
and music . . .

Tues. (June 14)
7:30 p.m.

Spoken word, klezmer, rock, pop, Tin Pan Alley and alley.

Bert Stratton, clarinet, spoken word
Alan Douglass, piano, vocals
Jack Stratton, drums, beat-box

Lots of new material in this show. Your name might pop up in the script.

12387 Cedar Rd., Cleveland Hts.

Yiddishe Cup — the whole band — is at Parade The Circle, Cleveland, 11 a.m. Sat. (June 11). We’re playing a pre-parade concert.

We’ll also be at Temple Israel (Akron, Ohio) Sat. night (June 11), 8 p.m., for a concert. 330-762-8617.

Check out this funny and good 1970 Kickstarter video by Yiddishe Cup’s alternate drummer, Jack Stratton.

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June 8, 2011   5 Comments


Larry Morrow, a retired Cleveland DJ, has a memoir out, This is Larry Morrow . . . My Life On and Off the Air: Stories from Four Decades in Cleveland Radio.

Is there a market for that sort of thing?

If so, I’m typing.  I’ve changed a couple facts but the rest here is true . . .

band-of-7Every Sunday the Stratton family gathered around the piano and jammed.  They had a seven-piece band.  Neighbors stood on the sidewalk and listened.  The Strattons played klezmer, which wasn’t called klezmer in the 1960s. It was called “playing Jewish.”  Nobody listened for too long, because the neighbors wanted to get in their cars and cruise to Chubby Checker, The Ventures or Paul Anka.

By age 10, Bert was supporting the family, playing clarinet and sax at the Roxy Burlesque, where he saw naked women before he was even bar mitzvah age.  Like Tarzana and Morganna — who, by the way, were at Stratton’s bar mitzvah party at the Shaker House Motel.  Stratton’s buddies crammed into the gals’ motel room like it was the Ringling Brothers’ clown car.  (At Stratton’s twentieth high school reunion, his bar mitzvah was voted the best of all time.)


While working the Roxy, Stratton met mobsters.  He became a regular at the Theatrical Grill, at the table of Shondor Birns.  Shon particularly liked Hungarian Rhapsody #3, which wasn’t that easy to play on clarinet.

As most Cleveland history buffs know, Shon was blown up by a car bomb on the West Side.  Then Danny Greene, another mobster, was blown up by a car bomb at the Cedar-Brainard medical building parking lot.

After those explosions, Stratton became head of The Mob in Cleveland.  That, plus his music gigs, was a living.  Every Friday morning Stratton baked casatta cakes for his Italian friends and challahs for his Jewish buddies.  A mentsh.

The big question:  Are readers in, say, Peoria, Illinois, ready for a book — or film? — about Cleveland mobsters, strippers and klezmers?

Mobsters, yes. (Kill the Irishman, opening tonight.) Strippers, of course.  Klezmers?

Note: The Roxy Burlesque ad is from the Plain Dealer, Feb. 27, 1966.
Text: “Continuous 11 A.M. to 11 P.M. 2 Shows in 1 — Live Burlesque Plus Adult Movie — Midnite Show Sat. Nite . . . Also Scarlette Dare . . . Minette Darcel . . . Michelle Starr. On Screen . . . Very “Adult” . . . A Drama of Violent Passions.”

And one more illustration by Ralph Solonitz . . .

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March 11, 2011   1 Comment



Go to a restaurant — in this case, Corky & Lenny’s in Cleveland. And listen to a klezmer history lecture while eating.

It’s only $45.

We will celebrate the Cleveland klezmer sound.  Legend has it, this sound came together at I-271 and Chagrin Boulevard, to become one of the most combustible klezmer sounds the world has ever seen.  alices-restaurantsAlice Stratton (née Shustick), author of Alice’s Restaurants (1981), will share her recipes and Cleveland food discoveries. This could be an amazing Cleveland klezmer meal.

March 10.   The Supper-charged Klezmer Dinner

Don Hermann’s Pickles from Garrettsville, Ohio.
Gefilte fish pâté
Falafel balls from the Falafel Queen, Alice Stratton

Challah from the Park Synagogue preschool

Precision matzo ball soup.  Cleveland Punch & Die Co.

Smokin’ salmon.  Pot Sauce Williams

Alice’s farfel (egg barley) and mushrooms

Star of David lollipops from the Chocolate Emporium

Mr. Meltzer’s line of Seltzer Boy! products

–Make reservations now for this fictional March 10 event–


Future Klezmer Dinner Project events:

4/16    Klezmer Goy

Alan Douglass — an original member of both the Kleveland Klezmorim and Yiddishe Cup — talks about his life as Klezmer Goy.  He’ll recite the bruchas (blessings) over both the wine and cheese to show he knows some Hebrew (like Italians on the Lower East Side used to know a bisl Yiddish).

The meal: rugelach, mandelbroit, hamentashen, honey cake and Cinnebuns.

5/3  Fear in Loadin’

Irwin Weinberger, Mr. Jewish Music Ohio, talks about eating at gigs.  He shows how a pro musician loads a plate. eating-utensils Trick number one: Put lettuce on top of everything, so the host thinks you’re eating only salad.

The meal: tschav (cream of sorrel soup), creamed herring on shmura (handmade) matzo, turkey pot pie, and a wedding cake made from real butter, real vanilla extract and real waiter’s eggs.

6/13  Die Kleveland

Greg Selker, founder of the Kleveland Klezmorim, speaks about the early days of the group.  He’ll show 1985 videos from Booksellers, Pavilion Mall, Beachwood, Ohio.

Flyer, circa 1985, designed by Alan Douglass

Flyer, circa 1985, designed by Alan Douglass

Booksellers was probably the first suburban mall bookstore in America with a café.

The meal: pickled herring with mustard sauce; Jewish fried chicken; butter beans and gelato.

7/17  Pies

Jack Stratton, 2008.  (Photo by Shay Spaniola)

Jack Stratton, 2008. (Photo by Shay Spaniola)

Jack Stratton, Yiddishe Cup’s alternate drummer, demonstrates the Jewish rhythm method.  Think “in the pocket.” In the groove.  Be down with the knish, the Jewish pie. Wear one on shabbes.  Also, be down with the empanada pie (Latin music).  And appreciate the pasty, the miner’s pie from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  It’s all music.

The meal: cold borscht, tsimmes (fruit stew), Mr. Brisket soaked in Coke, albondigas (Sephardic meatballs) and butter kuchen.

8/15  The Happy Bagel

Daniel Ducoff, a.k.a. Sir Dancelot, talks about happy times — how to make money from dancing at bar mitzvah parties and weddings.  Ducoff shows us the Happy Bagel, his latest dance.  And we eat bagels. happy-bagel Not hole-less, soulless bagels. We’ll munch authentic Chew-ish bagels (crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside) with holes big enough to stick shabbes candles in and light.

The meal: Tractor-size bagels from Russia; chicken liver with gribens (cracklings); and fruit tarts.

9/16  The Crazy Mom

The late Barbara Shlensky, party planner, talks about the “Crazy Mom” phenomenon.  How much Valium is too much for Mom’s cocktail?  What if Mom jumps on the bandstand and screams, “Stop right now!  The floor is collapsing!” valium What about Mom’s 45-minute cocktail hour that runs two hours, and the now-drunk guests are accidentally breaking wine glasses and dripping blood onto the white vinyl dance floor?  Finally, has there ever been a $100,000 bar mitzvah party in Cleveland?  Whose?  Barbara answers that.

The meal: Thai kreplach; cauliflower kugel; stuffed cabbage with cranberry sauce; and pistachio macaroons.

See the next post, too, please.  More food references . . .

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March 2, 2011   7 Comments


[If you came here because of the Cleveland Jewish News, to read about the Fed man’s mega-salary, please click  here for the relevant post.  If you’re here for other reasons — like you madly love this blog — simply go to the next line.]

Michael Winograd, 28, is one of the best klezmer clarinetists.  He plays a handcrafted, custom-ordered clarinet from Canada. The axe looks like a howitzer, sounds tres robust and weighs a ton. It should be in Cooperstown next to Babe’s bat.  Winograd‘s clarinet has extra keys to hit extra notes.   For instance, the octave key controls two tone holes — not just one — to get perfect intonation.

Miguel Winograd

Miguel Winograd

I saw Winograd’s instrument in Cleveland across a living room.  I could almost feel its emanations. Yes! A clarinetist and I were about 15 feet from Winograd, and my friend asked what kind of horn Winograd had.  I erroneously guessed it was an Albert system horn, like New Orleans jazz musicians used.

There are only about 15 Win-O-Grads in the world, according to Winograd.  (Stephen Fox Clarinets, Canada, makes the Win-O-Grad.  Fox typically calls the product an “extended-range C clarinet.”)

How does one compete against the Win-O-Grad?

Good question.

stratHere’s how: The Strat. The Strat clarinet. (Similar to a Strad violin, but several thousand dollars cheaper.)  The keys are molybdenum.  The pads are horsehair.  The bore – the inside of the horn – is swimming pool liner.   The axe is titanium and weighs nothing.

The Strat is excellent for jazz, klezmer or classical. The end of the clarinet (the bell) has a touch pad; press “1” and a music stand appears; press “2,” you get a pre-licked reed; press “3,” your choice of Heineken’s or Coors.

The Win-O-Grad is a shtik pipe cleaner compared to The Strat.


[Shtik means “piece.”]

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December 31, 2010   4 Comments

OF 2019

My apologies for not reviewing klezmer albums more frequently. My computer keyboard needs de-icing. There’s bad weather here. But no more excuses. Here are the best Jewish recordings of 2019.

1. Jews with Bagels. The Klezmatics cruise down the MOR (middle of the road) here, looking for the big paycheck– the one with six bagels after the “1.” Sure hit: “Tiny Bagels in the Wine.”

2. We Can’t Hear You. Klezmer Conservatory Band. This beloved group still pops, babbles and spits like a newborn.  Recorded in a nursing home, in bed, in PJs. Hef feel. Swings.

3. Music for Young Lovers from Northern OH, Western PA and Western NY. Funded by NELFTY (Northeast Lakes Federation of Temple Youth). The record is lively waltzes and ballads for teens to cruise to.  Not sure if this recording will keep the kinder from moving to Chicago and the East Coast, but it’s worth a try.

4. Ladder Me Up. Andy Statman’s homage to The Chief.  If you buy this one, you can skip shul for six weeks.

5. The Great Hang. Steven Greenman’s triple CD.  All originals, recorded in a single weekend (i.e. the great hang). Violinist Greenman sings on several tracks. Heavy breathing. Sexy. Not bad violin, either.

6. Lee Tully vs. Billy Hodes. Reboot. These 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.

7. Jerzy Kosinski’s Ketchup. Daniel Kahn. What’s the difference between blood and ketchup? Are Heinz and Hunt’s the same thing? How’s the pourability? Where did green ketchup go? This recording is viscous . Check it out.

8. It’s All Greek. A bootleg from England. This double CD has 56 never-released Mickey Katz songs recorded for the Greek market. Includes “Open Half a Day on Sunday” and “My Gyro is Dripping.”

9. Readings on the Klezmer Generation. Bert Stratton’s cabaret show, recorded live at Nighttown in Cleveland. Stratton has a strange voice, as if he swallowed a bag of plastic Passover plagues. Painful on first listening, but after  four cups of wine atrociously on-target.

10. The Jewish People are Mio. Roberto Rodriquez is 100 percent Jewish here: all freylekhs all the time. This is the perfect gift for the person who has everything but a Latin-Jewish alarm clock.

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December 1, 2010   6 Comments


The Irish rank musicians with fiddle contests.  So do bluegrass players.  There is now even a $50,000 Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass.

Jews established rankings at the Safed (Israel) Klezmer Festival, then stopped for some reason.  Former Klezmatics violinist Alicia Svigals won first prize.  This was more than a decade ago.

Nowadays the Jewish plucking order is out of order.  Is one’s Jewish music ranking determined by where one sits at klezmer conventions?  If you eat with the students, does that mean you’re amhoretz? (commoner/person of the earth).  If you sit with the German long-hairs, are you going on tour in Europe soon?  If you’re dining with the dentists, doctors and conference board members, do you have ulterior — biz! — motives?

At KlezKanada, one staff instructor kvetched she wasn’t paid enough for the walk-by consultations from the amhoretz in the dining hall — students asking for musical pointers and xeroxes of transcribed music.

I knew about that — pestering the staff.  I bothered virtuoso clarinetist and teacher Kurt Bjorling at KlezKamp on Christmas morning.  He was assembling a model train on his hotel room floor.  I asked about krechts (klezmer groan/sob) technique.  I wanted to be the klezmer king.  The Christian king’s birthday could wait a few minutes.


I am a klezmer king now.  (One of a few. I make the rankings.)

Here are the latest King of Klezmer rankings from The Challah Fame, Cleveland.  The ratings change daily, except Saturday.

#1.  Martin van de Ven.  Clarinet.  Canada.  Van Da Man.

#2.  Alan Douglass.  Keyboards.  Ohio.  His smash hit was “Gentile on My Mind”, 2004. [Listen.]

#3.  Ari Davidow.  Klez cyberczar.  Massachusetts.  Operates the KlezmerShack in the basement of the Brandeis student union by the Foosball tables.

#4.  Steven Greenman.  Violin.  Ohio.  Born Steven Chemlawn.

#5.  Annette Ezekiel Kogan.  Accordion.  New York.   Her name is longer than her skirt.  She donates letters from her skirt while playing.


#6.  Michael Alpert.  Violin/mustache. New York.

#7.  Gary Gould.  Clarinet.  California.  Bandleader to the stars’ sons’ bar mitzvah parties near, but not in, Santa Monica.

#8.  Cookie Segelstein.  Violin.  California.  Rugelach Queen.

#9.  Christian Dawid.  Clarinet.  Germany. In the States, Christian says, “Call me Dave.”

#10.  Cookie Lavagetto.  Third base.  Washington Senators.

#11.  Bert Stratton.  Clarinet.  Ohio.   Klez merch mogul.  Worldwide distributer of Yiddishe Cup mugs, baseball caps and T-shirts.

#12.  Margot Leverett.  Clarinet picker.  New York.  Former Miss Jewish Indiana.

#13.  Lori Cahan-Simon.  Vocals.  Ohio.  Produced Der Yiddisher Soul Train, KYW-TV, Philadelphia, 1967-1971.

#14.  Marc Adler.  Clarinet.  Rhode Island.  Invented the clarinet suck vac, available only at Adler’s Hardware, Providence, R.I.

#15.  Yale Strom.  Violin.  California.  Born University of Pennsylvania Strom.


1 of 2 posts for 10/6/10.  Please see the post below too.

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October 6, 2010   4 Comments


The last Midwest klezmer conference was in Chicago in 1998.  The Challah Fame in Cleveland wants to restart the Midwest klez conference. Not in Chicago, thank you.  And not in some bubble-tea town like Madison, Wisc., either.

KlezKleveland.  Check it out.  This year.  Or maybe in 2018.  (To be announced.)

KlezKleveland will be like KlezKamp and KlezKanada, but with more letters and more heymish — with a Midwestern “hi!” attitude.

Where: my house.

Accommodations: tent camping on my neighbor’s front lawn.  Or you can camp inside his house.  There’s no plumbing; his copper pipes are gone.  Nobody lives there.

There will be shower trucks and port-a-potties in the driveway.  Don Johns — only the best.

Kosher food available. (Queen Alice’s falafel truck.)

Gentiles welcome, of course.

Do I need to play an instrument to attend?

No, we’ll supply drumpets (combination trumpet and drums) made from leftover McDonald’s packaging.  Drumpets, by the way, were invented by Dr. Craig Woodson, a former Yiddishe Cup drummer.

Do I need to know Yiddish?

No, but be familiar with at least five Yiddish words besides bagel, schmuck, meshuge, chutzpah and putz.


Yes.  Eco-friendly Midwestern teachers like Steven Greenman, violin; Adrianne Greenbaum (originally from Akron, Ohio), flute; and Yosef Greenberger, a Cleveland keyboardist.

“Klezmer Guy,” the KlezKleveland director, will lecture on klezmer biz — for instance, how to deal with bar mitzvah moms.  He will participate in a mock-u-drama with a real mom, Alice Stratton . . .

Alice:  I’m worried about my son’s bar mitzvah party.  His friends, will they like klezmer?

Klezmer Guy:  Of course they’ll like it.  Kids love klezmer! They’re sick of rap.

There will be daily aerobics and spinning sessions on the deck next door with music by KnishKnash, a NYC klez-fusion band and eatery.  Free kikhl (cookies) and wine coolers for all.

In the evening, teens perform an experimental Yiddish-inflected drama about scrap and Midwest Jews, adapted from Leonard Tennenbaum’s memoir Junk Is Not a Four-Letter Word. The teens wear turtlenecks, Speedo trunks and Groucho glasses.

Students in the fencing class wear uniforms reminiscent of prewar German Jewish sports clubs.  The outfits are black Yiddishe Cup T-shirts, provided.  Bring your own trousers.  White, please.  Not cream-colored.  White, meine Herren!

KlezKleveland fencing instructors Daniel Ducoff (L.) and Alan Douglass.

KlezKleveland fencing instructors Daniel Ducoff (L.) and Alan Douglass.

Yosef Greenberger, Cleveland’s Ortho one-man-band keyboard wizard, will demonstrate proprietary synth settings that emit odors, such as latke smells for Chanukah songs and cinnamon for Christmas carols. (Gotta eat.)

Local experts will lecture on “co-territorial” music.  Polka DJ Tony Petkovsek speaks on “Johnny Pecon and Molly Picon: Mishpocha?”  [Family.]

Cleveland accordionist Walt Mahovlich leads the hands-on Gypsy music workshop: “Doin’ the Continental.”

Yiddishe Cup plays during lunch breaks.  Attendees leave knowing at least one Mickey Katz tune, “16 Tons.”  (“You load 16 tons of hard salami, rolled beef, corned beef, and hot pastrami . . .”)

KlezKleveland ends with a fireworks display over Shaker Lakes.  Look for Chagall-like goats and Hasidic violinists in the sky.

And look for the KlezKleveland flyer in your mailbox.  Please look regularly for the next eight years.

1 of 2 posts for 8/11/10.  Please see the post below too.
KlezKanada — a good time — is Aug. 16-22 in Lantier, Quebec, near Montreal.
Thurs. Aug 19, Yiddishe Cup plays on the lawn at Wiley Middle School, University Hts., Ohio.  The concert is  free. Not only that, you get a free Klondike ice cream bar from the city just for showing up.  You’re ahead, even if you don’t like klezmer.   7 p.m.  Indoors if raining.

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August 11, 2010   6 Comments


A handful of klezmer musicians have PhDs and do klezmer-related research.  Hankus Netsky, Walter Zev Feldman, Joel Rubin, Jeffrey Wollock, and probably a few others I’m not aware of.

These men have put in time at the library as well as in the practice studio.  Some speak Yiddish and other foreign languages.  They know  obscure facts.  For instance, there was a close link between klezmer musicians and barbers, “considered one of the lower [professions] among the Jews . . . The barber was considered slightly below the server — the professional baker at weddings — and equal to the midwife.”  (Walter Zev Feldman, “Klezmer Musicians of Galicia,” Polin, Studies in Polish Jewry, Vol. 16, 2003)

These klez researchers often interview old people.  Hankus Netsky — he is so good at interviewing old people he should run a nursing home.  His PhD thesis was on the culture of old-school, 20th-century Philadelphia Jewish wedding musicians.

Interestingly, Netsky and the other PhDs are now kind of old themselves.  Fifties and up.  (Hankus is The Sage.)

For my research (non-academic), I focused on these new klez docs and their peers.  I bought recordings from nearly every klezmer band at the end of the 20th century.  I have CDs and tapes from Di Gojim, a Dutch goy band; Aufwind, a kraut klez band; and even the Alaska Klezmer Band.

Then I gave up. Too much product.  Every Beryl, Meryl and Shmeryl klezmer band was putting out recordings.  Yiddishe Cup — four CDs from them alone.

However, I did keep up with klezmer literature.  Real easy.  Not much product.  There hasn’t been a book on klezmer in at least eight years. The book-buying market spoke and said “No market.”

Here, for example, are some manuscripts looking for publishers:

Call Me Henry . . . No, Hank.  An in-depth look at American Jewish identity by Henry “Hank” Sapoznik, a klezmer and old time banjo player.

100 Jewish Music Insults by Pete Sokolow, pianist.  Putdowns that really work. Culled from the first 10 minutes of a five-hour interview with Sokolow.  Try these the next time you’re at a klezmer jam session:

1. What’s your phone number? Junior congregation needs a clarinetist.
2. You’re slicker than butter on matzo, but there’s no salt.
3. Tighten your neck strap.  Tighter.
4. You couldn’t find freygish with a GPS.  [Freygish is a mode.]
5. I make desk lamps. Let me see your clarinet.

Where Klezmer Meets Corn, a memoir by “Klezmer Guy,” about a klez band’s one-night stands (concerts primarily) in the Midwest.  Some senior sex.

My Tsimbl is in Tune, a mystery by Pete Rushefsky, tsimblist.

Tattoo Jews by Mark Rubin, bass player.  A true-life account of large drawn-on Texas Jews taking on Los Tigres del Norte for bar mitzvah share in Ciudad Juarez.

Where’s Mincha, Helmut? funded by the German National Tourist Board’s “Deutschland ♥ Jews” initiative.  Subtitled “A Jewish Musician’s Guide to Germany.”  By Joel Ruben with Rita Ottens.   [Mincha is the afternoon service.]

Friends of Molly.  A steamy romance about a chick minyan — Friends of Molly — that reconnoiters annually at a Catskill hotel sauna.  By Eve Sicular, bandleader of the Isle of Klezbos.  [A minyan is 10 Jews.]

Just Say “You?” by Michael Wex, Canadian Yiddishist and writer.  Includes  dining-room seating charts from historic klez conferences.  Who sat with whom, why, and what happened post–mandelbroit and coffee. [Mandelbroit is Jewish biscotti.]

Old is the New Thin by Hankus Netsky.  How to improve your love life by looking and acting 10 years older than you really are.  Comes with a CD, Music to Suffer By, from the New Thin Department, New England Conservatory.

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April 7, 2010   8 Comments


Yiddishe Cup is not a klezmer band.  Our recordings — and our stage shows — are dark and light, funny and serious.  Check us out.  We stretch out.  Every tune is different.

Klezmer is a clichéd marketing term, and we aren’t a party to it.

We aren’t even Jewish.  I’m not.  I gave it up for Lent.

Y Cup — formerly Yiddishe Cup, formerly Yiddishe Cup Klezmer Band — fits perfectly into the world music/jazz scene.

I admire musicians who, when you hear their recordings, you immediately know who is playing.  Like “Hey, that’s Arnie!”  You know it’s Arnie by the hogs snorting in the background.

Y Cup has a new signature piece: “Mayor of West 83rd Street.”  You can smell natural gas when the tune starts.  Y Cup is a band with a very, very volatile — and totally unique — sound: intricate arrangements and constant shiftings of the lead.  We bring out different colors, different dynamics, different brews.  At a six-hour wedding, an open bar is imperative.

We write so many tunes, we can’t even name them. We gave up trying. Our newest tunes are 10-56, 10-57, 10-58.  Then ’10’ stands for 2010.

Our album in progress is titled No Name, but that is so lame.  Maybe we’ll call it 10-10-10 and release it that day.  October 10 is going to be a huge wedding date.  If we don’t have a gig that day, we’ll disband and call the album Thank You for Your Kindnesses.

Y Cup is not a star show. It’s not about one musician standing above.  The rest of the band — the sidemen — I could replace them with one quick phone call — and I’d probably have a better group too — but I don’t.  The whole is less than the sum of the parts.  Add it up.

My musicians have skills.  One guy can belch whole notes.  Doesn’t feel academic either.

Non-Jews love our music.  Non-Christians too . . . Jewish people.

When I told my wife I was leaving Judaism, she said, “Then why are you saying a brocha over the wine?”  I told her, “It’s Friday night, that’s why.  TGIF.”

Klezmer is a niche I refuse to get boxed into.

We used to do klezmer, I’ll admit.  We played it on occasion.  Even Charlie Parker played klezmer at bar mitzvahs.  In his later days he didn’t.  Granted, he died at 34.

Y Cup plays what Parker would if he were playing bar mitzvahs today. That’s our esthetic.

1 of 2 posts for 3/3/10.  Please see the next post too.

Readers’ advisory:  This post, “Our Esthetic: We are not a Klezmer Band,” is fiction.   Made up. 

See “Driving Mr. Klezmer” at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage, Beachwood, Ohio, Wed. March 24, 7 p.m.  Stratton, clarinet and spoken word (i.e. this blog), and Douglass, chauffeur and fuel-injected keyboards, plus vocals.  Jewish and American music.  DUO.

Yiddishe Cup at the College of Wooster (Ohio).  Sat. March 27, 9 p.m.
Yiddishe Cup / Klezmer Guy has a  Facebook fan page.

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March 3, 2010   5 Comments


Last month, when Oakwood Club, a Cleveland Heights yekkie (German Jewish) country club, went under, the powers-that-be (charitable foundations, city government, the club’s board of trustees) came to Yiddishe Cup for ideas to reinvent the place.  The machers were considering a Jewish theme park.

Yiddishe Cup said no thanks.  We weren’t going to participate in a Yiddishland Epcot.  Not our thing.  We won’t even play Fiddler on the Roof unless the audience begs.  And they do.  (And we play it.)

The Oakwood Club machers begged Yiddishe Cup to take a second look at the theme park idea.  We did.

The Yiddishland theme vied with the steering committee’s Plan B, called “Oakwood Park, an Oasis for People and Wildlife.”  That plan was just a front for owls, hawks, woodpeckers, songbirds, foxes, flying squirrels and dragonflies.  The old golf course would become a meadow.

Songbirds don’t pay the bills.

A Friday night klezmer shabbat would work.  It would feature a very lite, ecumenical Yiddishe Cup. Yiddishe Cup has a piece — “Friday Night Service-able” — with no words, like a jazz mass.

We’ve done the number a few times.  It’s basically a D-minor drone with a lot of modal improvising on top.  The composition is 45 minutes to an hour.  We’ve had a few listeners/worshippers “fall out,” or faint.

A Yiddishe Cup klezmer shabbat would draw visitors from Columbus, Pittsburgh and Detroit.  And they would want to stay over.  So we would put them up at Oakwood. We would find space.

Beat this: For $450 per person, the out-of-towner gets a Friday night klezmer shabbat (with brisket and fries), the hotel room, and a Saturday morning round-robin tennis tournament with kiddush (sanctification/vino) and coconut bars. Followed by a nap, followed by golf and swimming.

Need an extra day? Take a hike on the Tribute to Reform Rabbis exercise trail.

Sunday afternoon would be Jewish wedding central, featuring the house band, the one and only . . .

Readers’ advisory: This post is made up.  Fiction. Based on the fact Oakwood Club is closing and is for sale.

1 of 2 posts for 2/10/10.  Please see the post below too.

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February 10, 2010   8 Comments