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.


 
 

Category — Klezmer

THE MICKEY KATZ NON-MOVIE

Eric Krasner wanted to make a movie about Mickey Katz, the Cleveland-born klezmer clarinetist and comedian. Eric came to Cleveland from Atlanta to look around. He wanted to see where Mickey was born, and where Mickey’s wife grew up, and where Mickey’s father’s tailor shop had been. I said, “I’m not a filmmaker — and I don’t want to tell you what to do — but if you want another opinion, I don’t think you should show every place Mickey took a shit.”

1959 album

1959 album

Eric and I visited the Euclid Avenue Temple (now Liberty Hill Baptist Church), where Mickey was married in 1930. Eric filmed the men’s room and said, “This is where Mickey urinated after his wedding.” Eric asked me why Katz (1909-1985) wasn’t more acclaimed in Cleveland. For one thing, Mickey is not well-known here. He’s not Bob Feller or Superman, or Pekar.

Eric and I went to Glenville, an East Side neighborhood where Mickey spent his teenage years. We found the Glenville Hall of Fame but no Mickey plaque. At Katz’s birthplace, near East 51st and Woodland, Eric drew a sign, “Birthplace of Mickey Katz 1909,” and hung it on a fence and filmed the sign.

Eric announced on Facebook he is giving up on the Mickey Katz film. Mickey’s son Joel Grey has declined to participate in Eric’s film, and that’s a big neg. The movie is toyt.

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July 17, 2019   3 Comments

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY,
KLEZ-STYLE

I followed klezmer clarinetist Sid Beckerman around KlezKamp — the annual music conference in the Catskills. Sid talked to me. Big deal? Yes. Sid was paid staff, and I was just a paying student. Staff had a lot of demands on their time.

Sid had no ego. Sid was “discovered” by klez revivalists and made his first record at age 70. (He died in 2007 at 88.) Sid had a proprietary book of his own tunes. The book was nicknamed “the sheets,” short for “sheet music.” Sid’s sheets were guarded — quarantined — by pianist Pete Sokolow, who had transcribed the tunes.

Sid Beckerman 1998

Sid Beckerman 1998

I wanted a copy of the sheets, so I gave Pete a xerox of a 1938 magazine article about “Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn,” hoping to get in Pete’s good graces. Pete was not impressed. He said, “The sheets? What sheets? I’m so busy. I’m working up an arrangement for fifteen people. What did Sid say?”

Sid said, “What transcriptions?”

I offered Sid $20 for the sheets, which he turned down.

A year later, 1991, the sheets came out as the Klezmer Plus! Folio by Tara Publications. Everybody could now buy the sheets. Pete and Sid had just been protecting their intellectual property.

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July 3, 2019   1 Comment

THE AGONY STICK

The clarinet can injure your right thumb, which holds a disproportionate amount of weight when you’re standing. I had a pain in my thumb that lasted one and a half years. I drove to Cincinnati to see a specialist. Then I did Alexander Technique and every other technique short of amputation. The clarinet is not only the licorice stick, it’s also the agony stick.

klez maskHere are another couple reasons the clarinet is the agony stick: The fingering patterns for clarinet are harder than sax, and the clarinet has the “break,” the awkward leap from A to B in the middle register. And the clarinet sounds horrible the first year or two you play it. I asked a sax guy in a big band if he played clarinet. He said, “I have a clarinet.”

—–

Theodore "Toby" Stratton, age 67, 1984.

Theodore “Toby” Stratton, age 67, 1984.

Hey, I have something else for you to read. My latest essay in City Journal.
The essay, “Beating My Dad,” is about how I hope to outlive my father.

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June 19, 2019   No Comments

TOWER OF POWER

The bride can ditch her own wedding. She gets the flu, or a headache, or a swollen ankle, and lies down for a few hours. Misses the whole party. Or what if the mom dies during the “Chicken Dance”? That happened. Not at my gig, but at my video guy’s gig. Did he get it on tape? I don’t know. My video guy died.

The video guy had a video rack which I called the Tower of Power. He barely budged from the rack the whole night. That bugged me. For instance, when Yiddishe Cup strolled table-to-table taking requests, the video guy would tell me which tables to go to. Like “Can you do the head table next?”

I thought to myself, “Why should I do the head table next? I’m in charge of this band.” I told him no. The head table was nowhere near us, but it was near the Tower of Power. I said, “Why do you want me to go over there now?”

“Because I want to sit down,” he said.

Screw that.

“I’ll remember this when you want a favor,” he said.

Then he died. I didn’t know he was gravely ill.

Passover, larry david, no cavities

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June 12, 2019   2 Comments

ALMOST PLAYING GERMANY

A Yiddish singer from Massachusetts used to skewer fellow Jewish musicians on the internet for performing in Germany. One of the singer’s lines was “Nobody looks good in brown lipstick.” (Meaning, don’t kiss German tush.) “Heaven forfend that any unpleasantness intrudes upon your pursuit of the deutschmarks.”

college admissionsNevertheless, most American klez bands wanted to play in Germany. Yiddishe Cup wanted toA klez festival in Fuerth, Germany, said the festival committee was looking forward to a Yiddishe Cup appearance. Then the festival switched leaders, and I didn’t hear from the organizers for a long time. I emailed a few more times. No answer. Finally, I phoned Germany and asked the receptionist, “Do you speak English?”

He said, “I’ll give it a try,” in easy-breezy English. His only bad line was the last: “Ve vill not be needing you.”

But let’s not forget, Yidd Cup has played abroad: the Windsor, Ontario JCC.


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May 8, 2019   1 Comment

NOTHING ETHNIC

“Don’t play any klezmer music, nothing ethnic,” the mayor’s assistant said. Why did the city hire Yiddishe Cup?

Our contract rider stipulated a fruit platter, bottled water and diet colas. A good gig, food-wise, but what were we going to play? I said, “You don’t want to alienate anybody with ethnic music?”

Wolf & Hake Soltzberg (with unknown child). Russia. Bert's great-grandparents

Wolf & Hake Soltzberg (with  daughter). Ukraine. Bert’s great-grandparents

“That’s the mayor’s thought,” she said.

“How much non-ethnic music do you want?”

“All or mostly.”

“Can you give me a percentage?”

“Ninety-percent American music,” she said.

It was an Orange Jews crowd. With pulp. About 90-percent Jewish. (Orange, Ohio.)

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April 24, 2019   4 Comments

HECKLERS’ NIGHT OUT

There was fervid heckling at the 2018 Workmen’s Circle concert. The show, at Cain Park in Cleveland Heights, featured Yiddishe Cup / Funk a Deli. The emcee was Michael Wex, author of Born to Kvetch. Wex is a kamikaze raconteur. He takes chances with his monologues, playing with self-immolation. Wex wears elves shoes to bring him luck. The shoes curl up at the tips.

The Yiddish-concert audience can be unforgiving, maybe because the show is free and attracts all types. One year Josh Dolgin, aka Socalled, was heard backstage saying, “Why do they bring freaks like me here!” Maybe Dolgin was having second thoughts about how the AK crowd would respond to his hip-hop klezmer. The Cleveland audience is mostly baby-boom AKs, plus a few genuine WWII types, and some Russians and Orthodox. Every year there are fewer bodies at the show. Six-to-eight hundred is a typical turn out. Used to be around 2,000.

Miguel Wex

Miguel Wex

At last year’s concert, a man interrupted Wex with “When’s the music start!” Wex was discussing hok a tshaynik and how it related to funk (as in Funk a Deli). Wex told the heckler, “This is the music, schemdrick!”

Wex also did a comedic bit about fat Hasidim. (Before the show, Wex had noticed some yarmulkes in the crowd and wondered if his shtick would fly. He told me his humor had gone over well with frum Jews before.) In his monologue, Wex said many Hasidim don’t exercise but do seem to like to push. Wex said the inventor of Roller Derby, the late Leo Seltzer, was a former Hasid. Wex said if four Hasidim gathered in opposite corners of the Cain Park amphitheater, the four Hasidim would eventually meet in the middle of the theater and push each other. Wex said he had been to Japan (not true) and wanted to start a new sport, Frumo. A concertgoer stood up and yelled, “Stop it. Stop it right now!”

Wex said, “This is what I get paid to do. You don’t have to listen to me if you don’t want to.”

We were witnessing a Lenny Bruce reenactment — for free yet.

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April 10, 2019   11 Comments

REMEMBERING KLEZKAMP

I couldn’t get Alice, my wife, to go to KlezKamp. I went without her (1989). I took our kids Teddy and Lucy, and spent a lot of time in the game room and swimming pool that year. The pool was slightly larger than a silver dollar, and you had to coat yourself with skin cream, or get a rash. The kids and I went to New York City afterward. Lucy, then 5, made me carry her everywhere. We weren’t going too far. We ate at Popeye’s on Times Square.

When we got back to Cleveland, my wife said, “The kids look anemic!” But we ate beans and rice and lemonade at Popeye’s, Alice! (The kids weren’t crazy about the borscht and herring at KlezKamp.) Alice never trusted me with food-and-kids.

The next year Alice came to KlezKamp, and we brought the entire family, including toddler Jack. Alice took folk dancing classes but the sessions weren’t enough exercise for her. She found an indoor tennis court which was dusty and dark, like playing in a parking garage.The balls turned gray in a minute. Also, we went skiing on Christmas. I thought the slopes would be empty. No, a lot of Asians and Jews were there. Also, we sneaked into The Pines resort for ice skating. The Pines was a 1950s Borscht Belt movie. Trivia contests in the lobby.

We kept going back to KlezKamp, and every year Alice would complain, “I can’t believe we’re going to KlezKamp again!” After 12 years, we hung it up. Alice had learned all the dances, the kids were thoroughly brainwashed with klez and Yiddishkeit, and I had met all the old klez guys: Max Epstein, Felix Fibich, Danny Rubenstein, Velvel Pasternak, Paul Pincus, Leon Schwartz, Ray Musiker, Ben Bazyler, Sid Beckerman, German “That’s Herman in Russian” Goldenshteyn, Howie Leess and Elaine Hoffman Watts. KlezKamp was great.

Jack, drums, Lucy, clr, Klezkamp 1993.

Jack, drums, Lucy, clr, KlezKamp 1993.

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April 3, 2019   4 Comments

SHUT UP AND PLAY

Jim Guttmann, the bassist in the Klezmer Conservatory Band, said his biggest thrill is playing nursing homes. Guttmann, who has toured the world, said nursing home residents appreciate him the most.

I don’t know about playing Europe, but I do know about nursing homes. I’ve played a lot of them. If you don’t play “Tumbalalaika” and “Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn,” don’t bother showing up. Humor — at least my brand — doesn’t go over at nursing homes. I once did a comedy number at a nursing home, and an old man in a wheelchair interrupted, “Play music! Sit down!” I was flustered. I blurted out, “I’ll sit down when you stand up!” That quieted him.

When I go to a concert, I often feel like yelling “talk!” at performers. I don’t go for the Bob Dylan no-talk model. Say something between songs, and make it interesting. Don’t just say, “My next tune is . . .” Tell the audience about your favorite candy bar — anything.

I had a Snickers bar recently in Peru. There was this snack shop on a remote mountain trail. I was walking toward a water fall and this Snickers appeared. (Shut up and play.)

candy man john lokar 1981

This is a Snickers from 1981, in Cleveland. Vendor is John Lokar.

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February 27, 2019   3 Comments

WHAT ARE YOU EATING FOR NEW YEAR’S?

Not all musicians have gigs on New Year’s Eve. A lot of would-be partygoers stay home for a quiet evening, or go to the movies. There aren’t that many gigs. The era of the New Year’s Eve fraternal organization dinner dance is long gone.

Sometimes people eat special foods on New Year’s Eve. I know a family that eats lobster. My family often ate oatmeal on New Year’s Eve. We picked up that habit in Akron, Ohio. Yiddishe Cup had a gig at First Night Akron for 22 years, and in the early years my family stayed overnight at the Quaker Square hotel, which was in a remodeled Quaker Oats grain silo.  The hotel served oatmeal at midnight.

Yiddishe Cup missed 2009 in Akron. The event coordinator called and said, “We’re reducing our footprint.”

We aren’t playing this year either. The event reduced its footprint again — to zero. First Night Akron is history. I might go to Peru for New Year’s.

Klezmer musicians lamented the downsizing of First Nights and various other venues. This kvetching started about 2008. First Nights had been the rage in the 1990s but were no big deal in the 2000s. In the 1990s, the director of First Night Akron told me she had just been to a national First Night conference in Boston and the word was out: “Get a klezmer band.”

Yiddishe Cup worked the boonies before playing First Night Akron. First, we played Warren, Ohio, First Night a couple times.

First Night Akron usually consisted of a Beatles tribute band, a blues band, fireworks, a couple generic American acts, and us. It was a good time and good run. Thanks, Akron.

YCKB 1998

YCKB 1998

 

 


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December 26, 2018   4 Comments

NEW YORK CUTTING SESSION

I always wanted to cut another musician in a jam session. I wanted to draw blood! Problem: I’m a mediocre musician. I attended a wedding in New York, and the mother of the bride asked me to play some clarinet. I said, “You already have a good band.” But she insisted I play. The orchestra was a 10-piece wedding unit of NYC pros. I agreed to sit in only if my  son Jack backed me up on drums. (This was before Jack got known with Vulfpeck, so “I want my son on drums” was simply a crutch for me, not leverage to sit in.)

The bandleader and I exchanged emails prior. This was serious biz. In Cleveland, at my band’s gigs, I always let any  wedding guest sit in. Any . . . body!  It’s a wedding, not a concert. This NYC bandleader was choosy. He said the groom’s mom didn’t want anybody to ruin the “flow” of the party.

At the New York party, I stashed my axe in the synagogue front office near the social hall, and had a good time as a guest. The band had three singers, a saxophonist, trumpeter, guitarist, etc. No clarinet. They played Black Eyed Peas, Beatles,”YMCA,” Chuck Berry.

jack and bert stratton 10_22_11

Jack (L) and Bert Stratton, 2011

Toward the end of the party, the bandleader hadn’t yet called me up, so I went into the synagogue office, got my axe, and played along — from the office. I got into a solid groove. The band was back to Jewish music, playing a tune I knew really well. I strolled into the reception and took the melody from the saxophonist. My son hopped on drums. We played old-school klezmer, which hadn’t been heard all night. Success.

Next stop, Minton’s Playhouse, Harlem!

Funk A Deli, aka Yidd Cup, is at Cain Park, Cleveland, 7 pm Sun. June 24. Free. No tix necessary. Special guests are Michael Wex, Kathy Sebo, Steve Greenman, Greg Selker and Shawn Fink.

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June 13, 2018   4 Comments

AT THE PAWN SHOP

The pawn shop had a lot of flat-screen TVs, fishing poles, amps, guitars and power drills. The store was a man cave, basically, and it was in the inner city. I went there to pick up my band’s sound equipment. I gave the cashier $774.25 cash. No credit cards or checks accepted. The cashier was behind a bulletproof window. I wore a tie and jacket to impress the shop owner, who I ran into. I said, “I knew your brother. Sorry to hear he passed away.”

“My brother is alive,” the owner said. Oops.

I said, “Could you make it so I don’t have to pay interest on my band equipment? It was brought here without my permission.” The owner said no.

The owner disappeared into the backroom but then waved me back to the counter. Reconsidering? “I just read your blog,” he said. “I want that shit down in three hours or I’m fucking suing you.”

moneyHe had read my blog? In a pawn shop in inner-city Cleveland! Apparently he was doing due diligence on his fellow Jew — me. I had written about pawnshops and cops a couple years ago and said some pawn shops kept sloppy records. This pawn shop owner was thorough. Maybe he would sue me. I deleted the pawn-shop reference as soon as I got home.

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January 10, 2018   1 Comment

YIDDISHE CUP AND ROUTE 66

A Yiddishe cup fan called and said he had gotten my phone number off a Yiddishe Cup CD.

I asked, “Which album do you have?”

Yiddfellas.”

yiddfellas CD cover

“Where’d you get the CD?”

“At a swap meet in Kingman.”

“A swap meet where?

“A swap meet in Kingman, Arizona. I like the record. It’s kind of cool.”

“You like klezmer?”

“This is my first record.”

“How much did you pay?”

“Twenty-five cents.”

“Nice. Fifty cents would have been too much.”

If this is too short for you, read my essay in Belt Mag. “On Being ‘In Real Estate’ in Cleveland, OH”

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December 13, 2017   5 Comments

FLORIDA CONDO CIRCUIT

Yiddishe Cup played four Century Village retirement communities in Florida in 2002. Each Century Village had a theater about the size of a basketball arena. Other acts on the boards were Debby Boone, Dr. Ruth, Jack Jones, “Jim Bailey as Judy Garland,” Joel Grey, and Larry Storch — “the lovable Corporal Agarn from F-Troop.”

One emcee told us he had opened, as a comedian, for the Righteous Brothers, and had worked in Las Vegas, on the cruise ships, and been married nine times. He said, “Only Mickey Rooney has me beat.” He told us two “inside” Century Village jokes:

What’s 25-feet long and smells like urine?

The conga line at Century Village.

century village conga line

What’s an 80-year-old man smell like?

Depends.

The band wasn’t allowed to mingle with the audience. That was a Century Village rule. Another rule was Do not walk off stage for an encore because the audience will leave. Also, don’t take an intermission because the lines at the restroom will be so long the intermission will never end. Also, do not sell CDs. Why not sell CDs? I don’t know.

We broke some rules. And we never got asked back — and the crowd liked our comedy stuff! I would like to return to Florida, but I don’t think it’s going to happen unless I buy a condo at Century Village.


Rerun

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November 15, 2017   3 Comments

FOR YOUNG KLEZMERS ONLY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVqxjhb2iCU


This 1-minute video is geared toward klezmers under 40. And if you don’t fit into that category, it’s still worth watching. Not everything is about you.

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August 23, 2017   4 Comments

AN ABOVE-AVERAGE JEW

Some Geauga County kids put on “I Never Saw Another Butterfly,” a play about the Theresienstadt concentration camp. I spoke to the actors at their theater in Chardon, Ohio. I figured they’d be obnoxious, but they weren’t. I explained what a Jew is. They sang a Theresienstadt-based song for me. I asked them who, in their world, was the most famous Jew. I thought they would say Jesus. They said Billy Crystal.

The kids wanted to know about “the beanie ” — the yarmulke. (Note: I don’t where a yarmulke.) I said it shows one’s humbleness, vis a vis God. Was I right? I gave the actors a couple Yiddishe Cup CDs and said, “The people at Terezin didn’t listen to klezmer music but enjoy these.” Was I Jewish enough? Was I above average?

On One Foot

On one foot


A version of this post appeared here 10/28/15.

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July 19, 2017   4 Comments

THE YIDDISHE CUP FIGHT SONG

Yiddishe Cup’s singer, Irwin Weinberger, wrote a song about attending baseball games with his father. Irwin even mentioned The Rock in the song — Rocky Colavito. Guys are supposed to talk about sports, and drink when they get together.  I know this isn’t always a fact.  One Yiddishe Cup musician calls sports a “cult.”

The town is going ape-wire over the Cleveland Cavaliers again. Some of the guys don’t care.

Some of the guys do.

In 1997, when the Indians were in the World Series, Yiddishe Cup was playing Simchat Torah gigs, and we hid in the temple cloak room and caught bits of the action on a small portable TV.

Yiddishe Cup is not sports adverse. We play fight songs. Here are the fight songs you need to know in our part of the Midwest:

1. Ohio State’s  “Hang On Sloopy” and “Fight The Team Across the Field.”  Sometimes we hold off on “Hang On Sloopy” until the Buckeyes score.  That’s the protocol. If you play “Hang on Sloopy” before the Bucks score, it’s bad luck.

2. Michigan’s “The Victors” is a biggie. Also, Michigan State, “On Wisconsin,” and the Pitt fight song, which is not the same as the Steelers’ song. Forget about Notre Dame –for a klez band.

Yiddishe Cup knows “Are You From Wooster?”:

If you’re from Oberlin or Denison or Wesleyan U.,

The Scots will take good care of you before they’re through.

Beisbol! 1957

Beisbol! 1957

A version of this first appeared 6/3/09.

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May 31, 2017   3 Comments

THE KLEZMER BLINDFOLD TEST

Blindfold test. I received no prior information. Ratings are on a 1-to-5 scale.

***

1. “Oy Avram” Yiddish Princess

This one reminds me of Daniel Kahn, the young Jew in Berlin. Maybe he’s not that young. Let’s call him late-30s. Middle age is a long slog. When does it start? What about 66 — is that still middle age? What’s old?

The lead singer on this is Sarah Cooper. 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: do something new every day. If I have Kashi Island Vanilla for breakfast today, I go with Kashi Autumn Wheat tomorrow. Joe’s O’s or Cheerios?  Depends.

Michael Winograd

This is Wino, Michael Winograd, on clarinet. He constructs his tunes with great care. Give him 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 Winograd? He’s big-time. His clarinet is Canadian, that much I know.

Winograd plays with time and stretches out the composition. It’s a 5.

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 Temkin. He wears his hat backwards and hangs out in Brooklyn. I know a backward hat-wearing drummer 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 here. He’s on every klezmer record. Give it a 5.

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

Heavy brass and breakneck tempos. These guys drink slivovitz by the gallon. I have one word for them: slow down. Give it a 5.

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 this? I’m seeing ghosts. I’m fainting. Give it a 3.

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

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 a rhythmically complex animal. Not only can he play, he 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. A 5.

Sokolow, piano, vocals.

***

9. “Ko Riboyn Olam” Stempenyu’s Dream.   Steven Greenman.

Greenman

This is Greenman, the LeBron of klezmer violin. Greenie sinks a 5-pointer.

Greenman, violin, vocals; Michael Alpert, violin, vocals; Pete Rushefsky, tsimbl; Mark Rubin, bass.

***

 

 

10. “Rumenye”  Homesick Songs Golem

Golem

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Ezekiel’s Wheels. This is so meaty. What’s for lunch?  Give it a 6.

Annette Ezekiel, vocals, accordion; Aaron Diskin, vocals; Alicia Jo Rabins, violin; Curtis Hasselbring, trombone; Taylor Bergren-Chrisman, bass; Laura Cromwell, drums.


A version of this post first appeared here 6/26/13.

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January 18, 2017   2 Comments

SHARP SALAMI

There’s no money in the arts. My old clarinet teacher told me that.  He used to eat salami sandwiches while I took lessons. That stunk. Mr. Golub. He bought a building across from his music store; named the building after his daughter, The Joyce Manor; and sold it years later. He said he regretted he didn’t move with his brother to D.C. and make an even bigger killing there in a real boom town.

Golub’s Music Center. He had a neon saxophone on the sign. That, alone, drew the customers.  Inside, there were bongos and guitars.

Mr. Golub couldn’t play by ear. That mystified him. Mystifies me — playing by ear. But I can do it —  somewhat.

I’m the klezmer guy. I go to shivas and tell the mourners that, and, yeah, they recognize me. They say, “Oh, you’re the klezmer guy.”

Everybody needs to be some kind of “guy” (or “gal”). I became the klezmer guy because I put together the longest-lasting Jewish band between Chicago and D.C.  Yiddishe Cup.

No mega money in this but it keeps me from going nuts.

A version of this post first appeared 5/12/09. Klezmer Guy post numero-uno.


Yiddishe Cup is at Akron First Night 10-11:30 p.m. Sat. (Dec 31.)

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December 28, 2016   2 Comments

THANKSGIVING WEDDING . . . SICK

I negotiated a Thanksgiving Day wedding. The mom thought Thanksgiving was the perfect wedding day because nobody would come. The groom’s side was from New York, so flights to Cleveland would be expensive. Beautiful. And the locals would skip the wedding to eat Thanksgiving dinner at home with their kids, who wouldn’t be invited to the wedding. Again, beautiful.

I listened to this craziness for three phone calls. Then the mom hired Yiddishe Cup. Yes! The band members rescheduled their own Thanksgiving dinners. Not an easy task.

t-day-wedding22121The mom called a fourth time and said the bride wanted a different band. I didn’t ask who. I was so mad. I usually ask who is the other band, but I was so mad, mostly at myself because I had forgotten rule number-one: it’s all about the bride. [Exception: A mom once booked us for a wedding, and the bride, from Seattle, ran up to the bandstand and said, “I hate klezmer music! How could my mother do this to me!”]

After the Thanksgiving turkey hung up, I called a second customer — a bat mitzvah mom — who was late with her contract and deposit. She said she wanted to talk more. I had already talked enough. I dislike phones. I said, “Yiddishe Cup has been around over twenty years. You’ve seen us. Everybody has seen us.”

She said her husband was sick. Pause. Sick could mean very ill. It sometimes even means dying. I’ve played simchas where dads roll down the aisle in wheelchairs. Dads who can’t talk because of strokes. Guys with half a brain left.

Yiddishe Cup has even played for dead people; we played a bat mitzvah luncheon where the bat mitzvah girl’s mom died the day before. We played in the family room instead of at the party center. Two or three people tried a hora.

Anyway, the customer with the sick husband came to my house for further discussion. I asked what her husband’s illness was. She said he was depressed. She said her husband, a doctor, had lost a patient that week. Doctors lose patients all the time, right? It turns out she wanted to change the date, the number of musicians, and a few other things. Which she did. The gig — on a new date, with fewer musicians — was surprisingly decent; everybody was upbeat and nobody bugged the band, except for Grandpa, who said to our pianist, “Do you know your fly is down?”

Our pianist — who has been around — answered, “No, can you hum a few bars?”

And nobody was sick.

Happy TG.

A version of this post first appeared 11/24/10.

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November 23, 2016   3 Comments