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

A LOVE SUPREME

The Jazz Temple was a former Packard showroom at Mayfield Road and Euclid Avenue. Coltrane and Dinah Washington  played there. The Jazz Temple was in business from 1960 to 1963. I passed the Jazz Temple weekly on my way to Sunday school at The Temple, the gold-domed Reform temple in University Circle.

Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver was the head rabbi at The Temple. He once spoke at the United Nations, advocating for the founding of the State of Israel. Rabbi Silver’s son, Dan, was the assistant rabbi. Dan  played football at Harvard and occasionally wrote for the Cleveland Edition.

At Sunday school, kids were mostly from Shaker Heights. One kid got a ride in a limo to temple. The driver wore a chauffeur’s cap. The limo wasn’t a Rolls; it was a Buick station wagon.

I couldn’t grasp how temple — the word — fit into the Jazz Temple. Was Jazz a religion too? Many years later, I met former beatniks who had actually gone to shows at the Jazz Temple.

abba-hillel-silverThe Jazz Temple was blown up in 1963. Somebody didn’t like the club or the owner, Winston Willis, a controversial black businessman. At The Temple religious school, we students attended services every Sunday morning to hear Rabbi Silver. (Services were on Sunday, not Saturday, in the 1950s at Silver’s.) Rabbi Silver looked like God. Nowadays, at The Temple East in Beachwood, there is a Abba Hillel Silver memorial study. The rabbi’s desk is laid out like he just stepped out for lunch. He died in 1963, just six days after Kennedy got murdered.

A slightly different version of this appeared 9/5/12. If you need baseball stuff, see my story at City Journal.

 

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November 2, 2016   5 Comments

THE 2016 VULPECK MANIFESTO

1. Theory has nothing to do with Vulfpeck.

2. Vulfpeck takes chances and, yes, they occasionally screw up.

3. Vulfpeck locks, loads and listens.

4. Pyrotechnics are OK with Vulfpeck.

5. Be chatty, then shut up, then be chatty.

6. Feelings are always appropriate.

7. Vulfpeck’s X-axis is tragedy, its Y-axis is comedy. Plot it.

8. and 9. are proprietary. (Hint: “8” involves blood and “9” is about horse-race handicapping.)

10. To get Vulfpeck’s upcoming album on opening day (Oct 16), sign up here:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1461914303/vulfpeck-the-beautiful-game/description

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October 5, 2016   1 Comment

JEWS IN CHURCH

A Protestant church hired Yiddishe Cup. About time. Ninety-eight percent of America isn’t Jewish, so that’s a market. The church music director asked if I wanted the communion table moved. For one, I didn’t know Protestants do communion. But this church did — twice a month. The music director moved the communion table to the narthex. Interesting word. Also, there was a goodwill offering. The minister is called “pastor,” not “minister.”

The basics.

Please check out my essay “Papa Won’t Preach” at City Journal today. It’s about how “a love of music unites a father and son,” and specifically about the Vulfpeck show in Central Park tonight (Wed. Sept 7). Alice Stratton will be at that concert, and will no doubt jump on stage and do the “Funky Duck” with the band, so if you’re in NYC, be at the show!

Alice Stratton w/ Vulfpeck, L.A., June 2016

Alice Stratton w/ Vulfpeck, L.A., June 2016

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September 7, 2016   4 Comments

SHE NEVER HEARD
OF YIDDISHE CUP

We played a 90th birthday party, where the celebrant’s daughter, age 65, sat about a foot from the band and requested tune after tune. She liked Mickey Katz parodies and knew a lot of other Jewish classics. For instance, she knew the “Russian Sher.” She said she had grown up on Hello Solly, an album by Mickey Katz.

And she had never heard of Yiddishe Cup! This daughter had lived in Cleveland her entire adult life. Yiddishe Cup has played everywhere on Cleveland’s East Side — every temple, park, club, every inch. Was she house-bound?

never hoid emShe didn’t look it. She and her 90-year-old mom looked pretty good.

I Googled the daughter. Facebook said she “studied at The Ohio State University, lives in Cleveland, Ohio, and listens to Yiddishe Cup.” I told her to add that last part.  I bet she’ll take it down.

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August 10, 2016   2 Comments

VASE SMASHER

A musician broke a vase at a wedding. He walked right into the vase before the ceremony, before anybody arrived. Many vases lined the wedding aisle. The musician said to the florist, “I’ll pay,” and the florist went to her warehouse and got another vase.

Two days later, the florist called me and asked for $50. She said, “Your musician didn’t pay.”

I gave the florist the musician’s number and said, “I think the host — the bride’s family — should pay for it. That was one fancy wedding.”

“Really, who do you want to pay for it?” she said. “He walked into it. There were 300 people at that wedding and he was the one who walked into a vase. It’s $50 — my cost.”

The musician called me: “I said I’d pay for it, but what do you think I should do?”

“You said you’d pay for it, so I guess you should pay for it. Or better yet, call the mom of the bride. She loved us. She’ll probably pay.”

The next day I  checked in with the musician. “Did you call the mom?”

“No.”

She would have paid!

vase smasher

 

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June 29, 2016   5 Comments

NOT OUR FAULT

What was the worst Yiddishe Cup concert ever? Hard to say. There have been so many.  (Joke.) What about when we showed up on stage and a PTA-type meeting was on stage too?  The school principal, via the custodian, said no way were we getting on stage for our concert.  The custodian said, “The PhDs and MBAs think they know so much.”

We went on 20 minutes late.

We’re never late. It wasn’t our fault.

pta meeting on stage

I had a story, “Believeland in Cleveland,” in the New York Times online about the Cavaliers winning the NBA championship.

 

 

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June 22, 2016   5 Comments

BAD GIG

I did a background-talking gig. I read blog posts at a real estate convention while guests ate salads and drank, and ignored me. I should have played music. I said to the crowd, “Hi, I’m going to tell you how to manage real estate.”  The crowd listened for about five seconds, but nobody wanted to hear narrative comedy (a la David Sedaris) during cocktails. Also, I wasn’t properly introduced. I had to blurt out over the clanging of silverware, “Hi, everybody!”

That was my one-and-only background-talking gig. I have, however, done a lot of background-music gigs.

background talking gig

My essay “My Son the Sort-of Rock Star” was in the Washington Post, online, on Monday.

All rock stars. (2011 pic)

Which one is the sort-of rock star? (2011 pic)

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June 1, 2016   7 Comments

GIORA FEIDMAN

Klezmer clarinetist Giora Feidman plays well and is a master of special effects. However, “L’Academie Klezmér” shuns him. Feidman’s nickname is Mr. Chalk-Chalk. (In Yiddish that’s Tshok-Tshok.) This onomatopoetic expression refers to Feidman’s guttural-sounding notes. feidmanMembers of L’Academie (like some teachers at KlezKanada and the late KlezKamp) decry Feidman’s frequent clarinet hiccupping, yelping, slurping and grepsing.

Feidman helped start the klezmer revival. He played Carnegie Hall in 1981. I interviewed Feidman in the early 1990s for the Cleveland Jewish News and asked him to take potshots at other klezmer musicians, some of whom were bad-rapping him. Feidman declined. Feidman said klezmer music is “not a particular kind of music. It is a language of the inner soul — a truly universal means of communication.” I tried to get him beyond that feel-good stuff, to trash-talk, but no dice.

Feidman often plays with a string-bass player and an acoustic guitarist. He plays West Side Story tunes, American swing, Meron nigunim and klezmer. Not many clarinets are that versatile. He does 90-minute shows, playing lead the whole time.

Feidman turns 80 on Saturday. He will get into L’Academie Klezmér posthumously.

Giora Feidman, circa 2015. (Photo by Felix Broede)

Giora Feidman, circa 2015. (Photo by Felix Broede)

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March 23, 2016   5 Comments

A DEAL IS A DEAL

At his 90th birthday party, Mort Gross talked about real estate. (Yiddishe Cup played Mort’s party.) Mort sounded like my dad, except Mort was a lot richer, lived a lot longer than my dad, and was more outgoing and more philanthropic than my dad. Mort developed properties; my dad never did that. Mort had a yacht in Florida and a Rolls Royce. My dad never got beyond Buick.

a deal is a deal mort gross

Mort had three favorite expressions: 1) A deal is a deal  2) Wait a minute [to kill a deal], and  3) Don’t do paperwork twice.  I learned this at the party.

I didn’t understand item #3, and I forgot to ask the person who did the roast for an explanation of item #3 — “Don’t do paperwork twice.”  I said to  one of Mort’s son, “Those were very good toasts, and I’ve heard hundreds.”

Maybe the toasts were sappy, and I was just thinking about my dad a lot. A second son toasted, “Our parents instilled in all of us a love of Judaism, and we all married Jewish girls. In fact I did it twice.”

I’m telling you, they were good toasts.

I had a piece in the New York Times 3/12/16. “I’m not Evil.  I’m a Landlord.”  Check out the comments in the post below, “For NYT Readers.”  The comments are good!

 

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March 16, 2016   1 Comment

BIO NOTE

My mother taught me the cha-cha, not the hora. We were very assimilated. We hung stockings at Christmas. No tree though!

klezmer eggs  easter

I got into klezmer in 1980, when I first heard the record Mickey Katz Plays Music for Weddings, Bar Mitzvahs and Brisses. (Reissued in 1994 as Simcha Time.) My mother was from Yazoo City, Mississippi, but we weren’t blues people — for sure. We didn’t listen to much music around the house. My sister had a handful of 45s. I bought one record growing up: “Small Sad Sam,” a parody of “Big Bad John.” The lyrics were “Here’s a tale of a man who was puny and weak, stood four-foot-six in his stocking feet.” (Phil McLean, 1961).  I’ve always favored comedy.

My freshman year at college, I bought The Greatest Hits of Miles Davis, The Greatest Hits of Thelonius Monk, The Bebop Era, and Bechet of New Orleans. I bought the records from a sewing-machine store owner — a friend of my father. I bought the albums after reading Blues People and Black Music by Leroi Jones.  I wrote music reviews for the Michigan Daily my sophomore year, and I was a macher at the first Ann Arbor Blues Festival.

At college I heard Texas blues man Mance Lipscomb  and was overwhelmed by his  down-home, salt-of-the-earth presence and his music. Mickey Katz became my Jewish Mance Lipscomb. Bonus points for Katz; he was funny. Katz: “My kugel is hot for Xavier Cugat.”

In South Euclid, Ohio, at Jack Saul’s house, I heard many Katz parody records. Jack lent out his recordings to the Kleveland Klezmorim in the early ’80s, when klez recordings were hard to come by. Jack had Lee Tully’s Seltzer on the Rocks, the Barton Brothers, Belle Barth, Leo Fuchs and Eli Basse. Jack had multiple copies of most albums. He even had a record by Sam Liberman, a klezmer musician from Argentina.

Yiddishe Cup started in 1988. Enough.

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December 9, 2015   2 Comments

AN ABOVE-AVERAGE JEW

About 20 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.  “My voice is blown out. I destroyed it at a gig [at Nighttown],” I said. And I had no mic to talk to the kids. I figured they’d be obnoxious, but they weren’t. I explained what a Jew is. (On one foot.)

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. The answer: Billy Crystal.

The kids wanted to know about “the beanie “/ the hat / the yarmulke. I said the beanie (which I don’t wear outside of shul) shows the Jew’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 CDs anyway.”

Was I extremely Jewish? No. But I was above average!

On One Foot

On one foot

 

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October 28, 2015   4 Comments

THE COOLEST GUY
IN YIDDISHE CUP

I’ve had musicians quit Yiddishe Cup. I’ve fired guys from Yiddishe Cup. I’ve never had anybody retire from Yiddishe Cup — until now. Don Friedman, Yiddishe Cup’s drummer, hung it up after 17 years. Thanks for everything, Don!  You showed up on time, were easy to get along with, and played well. What more could a bandleader ask for?

Here’s Don turning in his bass drum heads. (Followed by a Don-is-god post from 2/27/13.)

DON FRIEdman turns in his gear 10_8_15  outside corky and lenny's

Don Friedman turns in his gear 10/8/15.

————–

Yiddishe Cup’s drummer, Don Friedman, also goes by the name Donny Mann (as in “Shelly Manne” and “Herbie Mann” — fellow yids).

“Donny Mann,” the name, started back in pre-history — the 1970s.  “Jan Paderewski gave me the name when we were playing five nights a week at the Blue Fox Restaurant in 1974,” Don said. “Talk about wiseguys.  It was all Mafia guys at the bar.”

“Jan Paderewski?” I said.

“Yes. His parents were musicians. They played a lot in Little Italy.”

Jan Paderewski’s great, great uncle was the Jan Paderewski, the Polish pianist and statesman.  Jan Paderewski of Cleveland was a stand-up comedian, restaurant owner and pianist. He played light classical and standards.

“Donny Mann” 2011

Donny Mann attended Berklee in 1961 — when Berklee was just one building with a couple hundred students. Donny dropped out. That was the idea: drop out and play gigs. (Still is.)

Donny Mann’s first pro gig was at age 16 in his hometown, Erie, Pennsylvania. Don played with the Stardusters  (piano, accordion, alto, and drums) every Saturday night at the American Legion Hall.  Tunes like “Poinciana” and “Moonlight in Vermont.”

“I heard ‘The House of Blue Lights’ in the late 1950s,” Don said. “That drove me nuts. I loved it.”

Don worked in a hat store in Erie — “My first encounter with retail,” he said.  Don eventually worked in a men’s clothing store in Cleveland.  And he listened to jazz — Gene Krupa through Tony Williams.  “I shied away from rock and roll.  It was primitive to me.”

“I wasn’t crazy about New York,” Don said.  “Cleveland was the big-time, being from Erie. In the 1950s and 1960s, Cleveland was the big-time — look out, Jimmy Brown!  In Erie, I rooted for the Browns, not the Steelers.”

Don worked at Rogers Drums in Cleveland, beginning in 1965.  He sold drums and musical-accessory chazerai to mom-and-pop music stores, and he gigged at night.  “Every other word I said was hip. ‘I’m hip, man.’  I used that too much.  I try not to say it nowadays, but it’s hard.”

Don hung out at the Theatrical Restaurant. “I was never in the section where you ordered the expensive steaks,” Don said.  “I sat at the bar.”  He sat behind the featured drummer, behind the bandstand — the best place to watch the drummers’ hands and feet. He saw Cozy Cole, Papa Jo Jones (“He wore white socks”) and Louie Bellson.

“Bob McKee, the house drummer, played a blue onyx Rogers. All the drummers loved that set. It had Swiv-O-Matic hardware. The Japanese copied it. Bobby still has the set in his basement. He’s in his eighties now.

“Philly Joe Jones was at the Theatrical, too.  He was more modern than Papa Jo. Buddy Rich was there. Gino was there too.  Gino was a bit past his prime —  past his fame.”

“Gino who?” I said.

“Gene Krupa. Everybody called him Gino.”

 . . .Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together and welcome the coolest guy in Yiddishe Cup, the one and only Donny Mann!

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October 21, 2015   9 Comments

SOME BREROS

In Dallas, at a gig, I stopped at a taco shop to check out Mexican drinks. The taco shop had orange, carrot, horchata, mango, guava and sidral (apple) drinks, as well as Mexican Coke, which is sweeter than American Coke. My Spanish was OK until the clerk asked para aqui o llevar? (“For here or to go?”)

In Cleveland, Yiddishe Cup played a wedding for an Ecuadorean family. I was supposed to say in Spanish: “You will probably see people seated in chairs in the wind.” That was for the chair lifting / “Hava Nagila.” We also played a mariachi song, “El Rey,” which had the lyrics “I always do what I want and my word is the law.” Like Dion’s “The Wanderer.” (The couple eventually got divorced.)

Yiddishe Cup’s most Hispanic moment was when we played “La Bamba” for about 2,000 Hispanics at an outdoor concert in a park on the Rio Grande in El Paso, Texas. We put Hebrew lyrics in “La Bamba.”

I wish we played more Hispanic gigs. Last week at a Simchat Torah luncheon, I ran into a Cuban Jew who asked for “Guantanamera.” That’s as good as it gets here, Hispanically speaking. Not good enough! I’ll have to visit Latin America again.

Some breros

Some breros

—-

Read the rave review of Vulfpeck’s new record, Thrill of the Arts, in today’s Wall Street Journal.

Years ago Barry Cik, a local bandleader, talked a lot about his son Yehuda’s music career. I thought, “Barry has a music career of his own, doesn’t he? Why is he talking so much about his son.” My apologies, Barry!

Check out Jim Fusilli, the renowned Wall Street Journal reviewer . . .

liner notes

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October 14, 2015   1 Comment

DELUXE PORT-A-POTTIES

I’ve seen deluxe port-a-potties. One was at a wedding on Fairmount Boulevard, Hunting Valley, and the second was at a wedding on South Park Boulevard, Shaker Heights. At the Fairmount Boulevard wedding, the hired help outnumbered the guests 3-to-1. There were only 30 guests. The port-a-potty had a flush toilet, vanity sink, flowers in a bowl, a roll of paper towels, and extra toilet paper. And this was just for the help. The guests used the bathrooms in the house.

port a pottiesAt the South Park Boulevard wedding, the band shared the port-a-potties with the guests. We played the ceremony, cocktail hour, and a hora. Then a second band took over. We frequently get kicked out for another band, which is usually from New York, Nashville, New Orleans or Detroit. The further away the better, prestige-wise.

Dual flush: 1) Yiddishe Cup. 2) Yiddishe Cup + solid waste (of money) for second band.

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September 16, 2015   4 Comments

NICHE OF NICHES

Bob Berkman lectured on the roll of the player piano roll in Jewish music. Berkman used to work at a player piano company in Buffalo, New York. The company made piano rolls until 2009. The last Jewish piano roll rolled out in 1980. It was “The Theme from Exodus” by Ferrante and Teicher. Berkman said there are about 800 Jewish piano-roll titles out there. He has 256.

Berkman’s mother was at the lecture, in Cleveland at a temple sisterhood. His mother lives in Cleveland. Bob had a power point and had rented a grand piano. He hooked up his Pianola player piano to the grand piano. I bet Bob took a financial bath on that presentation. (I know about sisterhood budgets.) I think he did the presentation just for his mom. Bob played everything from “The Shtiler Bulgar” to “Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn.” He asked me where might he perform next. I wasn’t sure.

Niche of niches.

piano roll  muffins

—-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5KMKuD6b2M

Bob Berkman

(Bob’s website is here. Book him!)

Yiddishe Cup plays the Medina (Ohio) International Fest 2:30 p.m. Saturday (Aug. 22). Free.

best band yiddishe cup

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August 19, 2015   6 Comments

BANK HASSLE No. 100

I got a certified letter saying Yiddishe Cup’s checking account was terminated.

Shutting me down after 19 years? For what?

“Due to continuing regulatory requirements associated with the corresponding bank account, Huntington Bank is closing all checking and saving accounts in the name of YIDDISHE CUP KLEZMER BANK.”

How would my bandmates get paid? Should I move my checking account to PNC? I can’t go to a place that is initials. CVS is bad enough (for aspirin).

I went to the Huntington branch and talked to a senior banker, Dave. I thought he was the head cheese. Dave read my certified letter and sent me over to Sam, the real senior banker, who had a secluded office in the rear of the bank.

Sam was black. I said to him, “I got to tell you, I remember it like yesterday, I started this account and the banker was Ervin Mason, a black guy in his twenties, and he knew what klezmer was. He had heard of Don Byron. Do you know what klezmer is?”

“No,” Sam said.

“Erv knew! Let’s call him right now and see if he remembers me. Is he still at Huntington?” (Sam checked. Erv was gone.) “Back then,” I said, “Huntington misprinted my checks as Yiddishe Cup Klezmer Bank. I kept the Bank as a joke. So maybe that has something to do with this mix up. ”

check BEST2

Sam then called Jared, a commercial portfolio manager in Columbus. Jared said Yiddishe Cup was listed as a “financial institution.”  “That’s the problem,” Sam said. “We thought you were a bank. You’d have more money in your account if you were a real bank!”

“True.”

“We got that squared,” Sam said.

I hope so.

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July 29, 2015   4 Comments

SUNTAN STU

I knew a Cleveland comedian who moved to Florida and did impressions of Joan Rivers and Carol Channing, and even affected a New York accent.  She did OK on the condo circuit.  She and Yiddishe Cup shared the same booker, Suntan Stu, in Florida. The first time Stu phoned me, he said, “Vos machst du, man?” (How’s it going, man?)

“Remind me, Stu, how did you hear about my band?”

“When a band is as good as Yiddishe Cup, the word gets around!”

I lost $900 because of Stu.  He “booked” us at a Florida showcase (a talent show for bands) that never happened. I paid airplane cancellation fees. Stu’s website said he had worked with America’s biggest stars: Dolly Parton, Johnny Mathis and the Bee Gees.

Why did I fall for Stu’s line?  (Probably because I thought Stu would get Yiddishe Cup a lot of gigs.) We got gornisht. “Vos machst du, man?”  Next time somebody says that to you, run.

suntan stu

Check out the Schmotown Revue tonight  (7-9 p.m Wed., June 3) at Gigi’s on Fairmount, Cleveland Heights. Outdoors if the weather is good; indoors if raining. Soul music and klezmer.

Alan Douglass (L), Bert Stratton and Tamar Gray

Alan Douglass (L), Bert Stratton and Tamar Gray

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June 3, 2015   5 Comments

A SHORT KLEZMER BIOGRAPHY

The book Dave Tarras: The King of Klezmer is 37 pages. Big pages: 8 ½” X 14″. Tarras played clarinet in the Catskills and brought his wife to the “mountains.” He owned a house in Brooklyn. He wore a suit a lot. He was very talented. Here are two representative sentences from the book: 1) “’I admired my grandfather and loved to spend some time in the mountains [with him],’ said Marc Tarras, grandson and doctor.”  2) “Dave was a very funny guy and had a great sense of humor.”

tarras bio book

Naftule Brandwein — another great klezmer clarinetist — drank heavily, hung around mobsters, and supposedly almost electrocuted himself with a lightbulb-festooned suit. I think a bio of Brandwein would be longer than 37 pages.

Check out the Schmotown Revue next Wednesday (7-9 p.m, June 3) at Gigi’s on Fairmount, Cleveland Heights. Outdoors if the weather is good; indoors if raining. Soul music and klezmer.

Alan Douglass (L), Bert Stratton and Tamar Gray

Alan Douglass (L), Bert Stratton and Tamar Gray

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May 27, 2015   6 Comments

THE YIDDISHE CUP FORMULA

1. Theory has nothing to do with Yiddishe Cup.

2.  Yiddishe Cup does not play it safe. We take chances and, yes, we occasionally screw up. Do you know how hard it is to make semi-decent music?

3. Musicians need encouragement, not criticism.

4. We don’t use fake books.

5. We listen, then lock in.

6. Pyrotechnics are OK with us.

8. Feelings are always appropriate. The down side is we often feel hurt and abused.

9. We are chatty.

10. Our X-axis is comedy; our Y, tragedy. Plot it.

yidd cup formula

Yiddishe Cup plays the community-wide Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) celebration 5:30-7:30 p.m. tomorrow (Thurs. April 23) at Park Synagogue, Cleveland Hts.

yiddishe cup photo by shane wynn BEST

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April 22, 2015   3 Comments

THE RUSSIANS WERE COMING

1.
I met
Yury, a Russian, only four days after he landed in Cleveland.  I met him at a park bench, 1990.  I sold him my 1978 Buick Regal for $500, and I suggested he change his name from Yury to Yuri.  Yury would be a hindrance to his assimilation, I said.  Yuri — as in “Yuri Gagarin” — worked better, at least for me.

Yury is now an engineer and lives in Beachwood.  Still with the y, 25 years later.

Yury lived in a subsidized apartment two blocks from my house. I helped him light the burners on his stove and lent him an old TV.  When he got the Buick Regal, I told him to check it out with the Russian mechanic down on Mayfield Road.  Yury said, “I do not trust Russians.”

2.
Yiddishe Cup had a Russian drummer, Misha from Tashkent.  He was “the stinger man” because he put a stinger (a klezmer ending) on every tune. Which was annoying.  I went to Misha’s mother’s funeral — the smallest funeral of all time. There were maybe 10 people at the funeral home.  I can’t imagine what that woman lived through, what with the Nazis and Communists.  Misha was a pro drummer. That’s all he did in the Soviet Union.  Shelly Manne came through Tashkent in the 1950s and left a lot of drumsticks behind, which everybody prized.  (Might have been Buddy Rich.  I’m not sure now.)

Misha used to hit his wife and daughter, and admit it.  Misha would say, “Here the police listen to the children. In Russian, the parents.”

Misha moved to Boston to drive a cab.

3.
Moishe, the owner of Davis Caterers, said food at Russian gigs is “out of control.”  He said, “The Russians eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner all at once. Fish and cold cuts. Then soup. Then blintzes. Then prime and salmon and desserts. Plus vodka.”

Yiddishe Cup played a few Russian weddings, but not lately.  I miss the food.  Russian immigrant musicians cornered the Russian wedding market.  Immigrant musicians know what the crowd wants and it’s not us.  Yiddishe Cup’s Russian skill-set is  “7-40,” “Hava Nagila,” and some waltzes like “Ershter Waltz” and “Tumbalalaika.”   Also, anything from Fiddler on the Roof  is a winner.

What if my grandparents hadn’t left Russia?

4.
Yiddishe Cup had a second Russian drummer, Vladimir, who forgot his sticks and used dowel rods fashioned from a windowshade. That was his only gig with us.

russians

5.
Irwin Weinberger and I occasionally play gigs at a Russian senior drop-in center.  The Russians seem to like us.   We’ve learned “Kalinka” and “Katyusha.”

6.
Russians, they remind me of what I could have been: dead (via Nazis, etc.) or a bigger partier.

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March 11, 2015   6 Comments