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. So maybe he’s really Klezmer Landlord.
 

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 is an occasional contributor to the New York Times, the Times of Israel, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and City Journal. He won two Hopwood Awards.


 
 

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

WORD PLAY

“Ali” is a favorite word in crossword puzzles. So are “Mel” and “Ott.” So is “Esai” — as in “Esai Morales,” an actor. Abba “Eban” is big too. A mountain in Italy . . . “Etna”  or “Etta”?  The first name of  Finnish architect Saarinen: Eero or Erno? “Una” Thurman or “Uma?” . . . Judge “Ito.”mr 1939 crossroad

New York klezmer trumpeter Jordan Hirsch posted on Facebook that he successfully completed the Friday New York Times puzzle. Mazel tov. My friend Brit Stenson gets the whole week. He’s been doing crosswords for decades.

If I get the Wednesday puzzle, I’m doing good. I started crosswords in 2006, after the documentary movie Word Play. When I started, I didn’t know you could use run-together words, such as “Leerat,” which is to “eye lustfully.” Leer at. Sometimes the crosswords clues are off-kilter and unfair. Clue: “Anonymous one, in court.” Answer “Jane Roe.” Doh.

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May 24, 2017   No Comments

“BAY MIR BISTU SHEYN,”
A CROSSOVER CLASSIC

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsUsO1g0pJQ

Watch this video if you want to know too much about “Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn.”

—-

If you want to read, read this (from the Los Angeles Times). On Mother’s Day I wrote about buying my mother, Julia, a pre-need funeral package.

Julia Zalk Stratton (L) and sister Celeste Zalk Kent. Mississsippi, 1928.

Julia Zalk Stratton (L) and sister Celeste Zalk Kent. Mississipppi, 1928.

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May 17, 2017   1 Comment

DEATH AND FACEBOOK

 

Facebook goes like this: cat pic, dog pic, anti-Trump stuff, then a death notice.

For the death notice, I wrote in the comments section: “Rick was the first person to tell me to take a baby aspirin every day. He was always looking out for everybody. ” Rick was a doctor. I knew him from Camp Michigania, where we used to  vacation together.

From now on, every death will be on Facebook — or whatever Facebook becomes. Rick was always friendly. Who wouldn’t be on vacation? Rick was into sailing. I played tennis. For some reason, Rick’s baby-aspirin advice stuck with me, not the sailing tips. Nowadays a lot of doctors swear by the old 81 mg/day. Rick was on that case years ago.

Cat pic, dog pic, anti-Trump stuff, death notices on Facebook. Rest in peace, Rick.

facebook and death color

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May 10, 2017   4 Comments

THE WEIGHT OF PAPER

I have three file cabinets. That’s more than you. A 24-year-old man told me, “The whole history of twentieth century Cleveland real estate is in these file cabinets.” I cull the files periodically, like I recently threw out several 1974 W-2 forms and a 1980 old records filing cabinetsboiler manual. I have a particularly hard time throwing out stuff my dad scribbled on.

I have kept some of my father’s old financial statements. He used to inflate his car and furniture values  — and add some stocks he didn’t own — to look richer than he  actually was. He noted he had $17,000 in Emerson Electric, GTE, GM, and IBM, and a life insurance policy worth $78,000. He needed to look richer on paper to get more mortgages from banks. He leveraged a lot.

I use a computer, but I’m partial to paper. My dad died in 1986. He’s still going strong on paper. That says something. He’s not up to Shakespeare’s 400 years but my dad is making progress.

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May 3, 2017   3 Comments

SOMEWHAT DISREPUTABLE

Martin Amis said being in his father’s business (writing) was somewhat disreputable. Martin Amis said, “Being a hereditary novelist is a freaky thing, and people do find it a bit creepy.”

Here are some other hereditary artists and/or public figures: Ravi Coltrane, Ben Cheever, Katie Roiphe, Ben Stiller,   Dweezil Zappa, George W. Bush, A.G. Sulzberger. All schmucks! Yes, that’s an extreme reaction, but I’m a bit envious.

A friend said to me about my family business: “I wish I had a business to pass on to my son.”

unemployed father and son

A family business which is real world (like carpet sales, real estate, or law) is nothing to get envious about, so don’t get envious. But show biz and politics, that’s a different mammal.

One exception to the above rules: If a father is a regional musician, and his son becomes a nationally known musician, that’s called roots and is very acceptable. Joe Lovano’s father was a sax player in Cleveland. Joel Grey’s father (Mickey Katz) was a clarinetist in Cleveland. Ken Peplowski’s father played in a polka band in Cleveland. That’s all very admirable.

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April 26, 2017   5 Comments

THE PROPER-SIZE MEAT PORTION

Dr. Michael Roizen, the longevity guru, spoke at my temple men’s club. He said take 6-to-8 supplements a day. He said he hadn’t eaten ice cream since 1993. A good-natured heckler said, “And that’s when you stopped growing!” Roizen is about 5-5. Roizen gave the heckler a fist-bump, acknowledging the man’s comment was the best moment of the lecture.

Roizen says eat more turmeric, fish oil and vitamin D. And here are few more tips:

Meat portion . . . the size of two fists and a ping-pong ball.

caduciousGet a flu shot unless you’re allergic to “wool.”

Waffles for breakfast every day. But no maple syrup.

Avoid fad diets.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid apples from Washington State. Bad chemicals up there.

People over 70: exercise more. Run or walk 25,000 steps a day. You can break that up.

Fight for the little guy — anybody under 5-7.

Play the lottery. Bet daily — and a lot. You’ll feel better.

Say “yes” to wine and beer, but no more than four drinks a day, ladies, and no more than eight drinks a day, gents. And don’t knock Miller Lite and other “piss waters,” to quote Roizen.

Chocolate is good for you. We know that, but here’s the latest: eat a marshmallow before and after your chocolate intake. The mallow triggers many good enzymes.

The first two paragraphs are true. The rest isn’t.

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April 19, 2017   3 Comments

THE BIRDS

Two nights, two swallows. They were coming in through the chimney. I hate that – birds in the house. My wife hates it worse.

Some people are good with birds in their house, but I run around with a towel and swing at the birds, and they dive-bomb at me.

Everything in the house started to go bad that night. The kitchen sink trap leaked, and there was a rug in Jack’s old bedroom that got stinky mildewy. Rain came in the window onto the rug. We had to put a big fan in there for days. And  the washing machine broke; I overstuffed it and broke the motor.

But the worst was the birds.

bird in house color

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April 12, 2017   4 Comments

I’M AS GOOD AS DANNY KAYE

Danny Kaye liked to hang around doctors and operating rooms. My parents admired Danny Kaye because he could dance, sing, and do impersonations — plus the medical stuff.  My parents wanted me to be Danny Kaye — the medical part.

But I didn’t go to med school. I became a journalist. I once researched and wrote an article on open-heart surgery. I watched surgery for that article, and I tried surgery. The docs let me. It took two years for the patient to regain her health. Plus, I suffered significant financial losses. A lawyer called me a “kidnapper” as if I took the patient – call her Karen – into the operating room and held her against her wishes for eight hours. (The surgery was nine hours, actually.)

Afterward, I told Karen, “The good news is you’re alive, and I have your aortas – two of them – 90-percent clearer. The bad news is your other aortas are controversial. Also, any sudden outburst by you, and you might die.”

Karen screamed but she didn’t die. She sued me.

Danny Kaye featured Herman’s Hermits on the Danny Kaye Show in 1965 to get more baby-boomer viewers. The regular viewers preferred Imogene Coca and Jim Nabors. Danny Kaye was a terrific dancer, comedian, mimic, singer and medical enthusiast. My parents liked him more than me. I operated on Karen so I wouldn’t have to endure any more of my folks’ diatribes about my suspect career path. They said,  “Son, you write for a suburban weekly. That’s not a living to support a family.” So I took up the knife. The cold rejection of my parents. Walk in my bloody booties for a second. I’m decent at surgery — maybe not Cleveland Clinic level — but I’m OK. I’m as good as Danny Kaye.

doc

fiction. A version of this first appeared here 10/30/13.

 

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April 5, 2017   4 Comments

DIE IN THIS BUILDING

When you have a dead body in the real estate biz, go in with the cops. The tip-off is the smell. One time a tenant died without heirs, and the tenant’s estate lawyer practically begged me to take a few months’ extra rent. It was free money. But that’s the exception. Usually there is no money involved. In fact there’s often a loss — hauling stuff away.

I once put an ad on Craigslist captioned “50-year lease available. Die here.”  Craigslist spiked that one pronto. My point was the building had three residents who liked living there so much they had each clocked more than 50 years on site.

Reality: a third of tenants move out in a year, a third stay 2 years, and a third stay 3-to-8 years — and a minuscule fraction stay longer than that. Doesn’t matter what you do.

50 years of stuff

Hauling stuff away

A version of this first appeared on this blog 6/25/09.

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March 29, 2017   1 Comment

SELTZER POPPIN’

My wife says I like to pop cans. She says, “Guys like to pop cans.” I’ve been popping soda pop cans a lifetime, but I now mostly pop seltzer water. We have SodaStream, but I’ve also discovered L’Croix, and then Klarbrunn (at Costco). Alice says popping cans is not sustainable.

SodaStream is better-tasting — more carbonated — than canned seltzer.

I told my kids not to drink real pop. I said, “If you need to drink pop, drink diet pop.” But some of my kids refuse to drink diet pop. They think it has bad chemicals. We’re all chemicals. For years my wife preferred Diet Coke to Diet Pepsi and made stinks at restaurants about cola choices.

With canned seltzer, I drift toward lemon- and lime-flavored choices. At a gig I saw every L’Croix flavor, but I was too shy to pop eight, or so, cans to sample everything.

My parents didn’t have seltzer home-delivery.

Do kids like seltzer?  I’d guess no.

Alice’s brand:

Seltzer Boy's friend

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March 22, 2017   1 Comment

MONTEGO BAY

Stewart, a tenant, skipped and went to Jamaica. I saw a picture of him on Facebook with a long beard, drinking Red Stripe, and sitting on the Jamaican beach. Was I going to file — spend $36 in small-claims costs — on a guy who was on a beach?

Before skipping, Stewart had written: “I’ll have my legal team on standby if you oppose my actions. I’ve already sent the contract to them, and it has been looked over and deemed inappropriate and audacious in demands. Have a great day. The keys have been left inside the premises.”

I wrote back: “Is your legal team going to move the furniture and clean the refrigerator too?”

No, his legal team wasn’t going to do that. Stewart left the apartment a mess. He worked (or had worked) for the Veterans Administration and was 36. Might be collectable. I called his parents but they didn’t answer.

Maybe I’ll sue him when he gets back. Maybe I won’t. Have a great day.

montego bay


“Stewart” is a pseudonym.

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March 15, 2017   3 Comments

ALASKAN WONDER BREAD
The Harold Richards Mini-Story

The first time I ate Wonder Bread I was 14. I didn’t see TV until I was 14. I didn’t drink pop until I was 14. My mother had a bottle of 7-Up in our freezer, which was not a freezer, just a hole — a slat — below the floor in our “living room.”

alaska even better

[This space is snow.]

I grew up in Holy Cross, Alaska. The Jesuits had a mission there, and they sent me to Glenallen, Alaska, for high school — 460 miles away. I was out there nine months a year.

Harold Richards, 2016

Harold Richards, 2016

I joined the Navy at 17, went to Nam, and launched jets from aircraft carriers for three years. I liked the Navy; I had grown up on two things: moose and salmon. The Navy’s macaroni and cheese was something different.

My dad was a beaver trapper. There were 12 of us in one room. I’m not telling you this to impress you, I’m telling you because you seem interested (seeing as you’ve read this far).

I worked the pipeline as a surveyor and was really good at 40-degrees-below zero. I’m retired now and live in Anchorage. I miss some of the “attaboys” — compliments — from management and fellow tradesmen. My team could put up 100 vertical posts in a day and do it right.

I go fishing every morning during the season, particularly when the kings are running. I have plenty salmon and halibut in my freezer.  You need any?

And I should mention my favorite klezmer band is Yiddishe Cup.

Yiddishe Cup plays for Purim 7:30 Sat. (March 11) at Park Synagogue, Pepper Pike, Ohio.

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March 8, 2017   4 Comments

THE YIDDISHE CUP TOUR

Yiddishe Cup did a month tour in June ’13. We had a touring bus, and a ton of guys, like a lighting guy, sound guy and tour manager. You know, the usual. We never had to set up anything. We had a masseuse. We had hot meals.

We had screaming fans. It wasn’t about Yiddishe Cup. We weren’t even “Yiddishe Cup.” We were “Cup,” which happened to be a very competent band of predominantly old Jews.

I jogged a lot to keep my sanity. The screaming teenage fans could drive you nuts. We sold 10 Yiddishe Cup CDs, total. Not our crowd, I’ll admit. But we were the “support” band, and we ably supported the star, who sold $30,000 in merch a night. (The star wants to remain anonymous.) The idea of a pop icon touring with a bunch of old Jews was novel, and it worked. But I wouldn’t do it again.

phoenix sweatin'

Jogging on an off-day in Oklahoma City

fiction

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March 1, 2017   8 Comments

LEGALLY BLIND

I’ve been blind for about three years. Put wax paper in front of your eyes and that’s me. I see shapes but not details. I see the clock face but not the hands.

A med-tech rubbed gel on my eyeballs, and sound waves bounced off my eyes. It was all vibrations.

I miss reading. I miss the lowercase g — so sexy.

I don’t look blind — no cane or shades — so I thought I’d tell you.

blindfold test

fiction

I had an essay, “Sue Me,” at City Journal last week. A tenant sued me. Not fiction.

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February 22, 2017   No Comments

FREE PIZZA

I used to give Kelly, a tenant, an eviction notice every month and file on him in court. Then he would always pay the day before the court hearing. He’d pay an extra $120 — to cover my filing costs.

I got tired of it. When his lease was up, I gave him a non-renewal.

I wasn’t sure he would  move, so to protect myself I filed an eviction. He moved. But he left some pizza . . .

pizza steve kelly b 202 1_30_17.

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February 15, 2017   2 Comments

I NEED MONEY

I think a lot about money. I never used to. Today I sketched a $100 bill. If I had a bag of real $100s, I’d be happy, but not completely happy. I need $1,000,000. I have expenses.

My rabbi talked about fire and ash — the fire was the animal sacrifice at the Temple,  and the ash was the charred sacrificial remains. Conclusion: the fire is the fun part of life — such as music, art, and dining at Tommy’s. And the ash is the workaday stuff.  For instance, you’re a doctor and you’re filling out forms instead of healing people, or you’re a teacher doing student assessments instead of teaching. There is a lot of ash-hauling in life, and I’m sick of it. I want to have fun. Have any extra $100s?

money


This is neither fiction nor non-fiction.

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February 8, 2017   4 Comments

TIL (Today I Learned): SARDINES

Oliver Sacks practically lived on sardines until he found a partner who liked to cook. Sacks said he ate sardines on the run. (For sardine eating, seating is optional. So is a plate.)

My wife, Alice, invented an odd sardine recipe, because she doesn’t like sardines. She pan-fries the sardines, then mixes in pickle relish, mayonnaise and a dab of soy sauce. She spreads this concoction on bread.

I buy sardines at Discount Drug Mart. A can of Chicken of the Sea, lightly smoked with bones, is 68 cents. Texture, size and nationality (of the sardine) vary.

sardines

Some sardine advice: don’t buy sardines in water. They’re tasteless. Also, don’t go with “skinless and boneless.” That is not a true sardine experience. You need the calcium, the crunch from the bones.

Here is some sardine lingo: “Good source of calcium . . . Source of omega-3 fatty acids . . . All natural wild caught . . . Sustainably harvested . . . MLHB Parasite Free — Rabbi Shneur Z. Revach.”

I don’t bulk-shop for  sardines (like six-packs at Costco). Sardine shopping should be more spontaneous, like buying a Snickers or Hershey bar. (Confession: Alice went to Costco on Sunday and I asked her to get me a six-pack.)

Some respected brands: Ocean Prince, Prince Oscar, Roland, Season, Trader Joe’s.

The Season box reads: “After opening, refrigerate and store in a covered glass or plastic container and consume within 3 days.” No problem — for me. How about you?  (Maybe you don’t like sardines. Get out of here!)

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February 1, 2017   8 Comments

Q & A WITH DON FRIEDMAN, DRUMMER

Don Friedman is Yiddishe Cup’s former drummer.

—–
What’s the best part of retirement, Don?

Not schlepping my drums to gigs.

You were with Yiddishe Cup about 20 years. What was the worst part of being in a klezmer band?

Nothing.

Don Friedman, 2011

Don Friedman, 2011

What were some of your highlights with the band?

Playing outdoor gigs – you know, festivals. But I didn’t like the druggie stuff at the outdoor festivals. I think the kids call it mollys – ecstasy. And bearded mountain-men dudes — I don’t like them. They got ugly with us a couple times and called us anti-Semitic names, but we just ignored them.

The band clashed internally. A little or a lot?

Not that I’m aware of you. But I do want to say I was totally gutted every time Bert belittled my hometown, Erie, Pennsylvania, on the bandstand. I finally told him to shut up about it.

What kind of music moves you the most?

Klezmer, jazz. You know, I grew up with jazz. Saw Philly Jo Jones and Trane in the 1950s. I went off to Berklee for a while. It was just one building.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Drink more at gigs. I only had a beer per gig. It was all free. I should have had two per gig.

Who are your heroes?

Buddy Rich, Stan Levey, Teddy Charles — any Jewish jazz drummer.

—–
This interview is fiction.

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January 25, 2017   4 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