a history of Klezmer, artists,
Klezmer sheet music.
Article added on February
The Essential Klezmer by Seth Rogovoy
The Essential Klezmer.
Algonquin Books, Paperback, May 2000,
281 p. Get it from: Amazon.com, Amazon
Canada, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de
Seth Rogovoy's Essential Klezmer is
the best available introduction to klezmer music. The author, born in
1960, has been a music critic and columnist for the Berkshire Eagle
in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, for 12 years. Therefore, it comes as no
surprise that he knows how to write about music in a fluent and easily
Rogovoy admits that he only became really
involved in klezmer in the spring of 1997 when he saw the Klezmatics
perform at the Knitting Factory in New York City. Half a year earlier, he
had interviewed David Krakauer, a founding member of the Klezmatics, who
had recently left the group to pursue a solo career and came to his town
to perform. Krakauer himself only really began listening to klezmer in the
late 1980s, when he started playing with the Klezmatics. Until then, he
had been "a classically trained clarinetist raised on a strict diet
of jazz and European art music." He had no previous knowledge of
Jewish music. But when he started to play klezmer, he immediately had the
feeling that he knew it very well.
Rogovoy had attended the synagogue
throughout his life, was exposed to Jewish prayer melodies and his
grandfather had been a part-time khazn, a cantor, who sang prayers, which,
Rogovoy learned later, were the basis of many klezmer tunes. The
David Krakauer Trio's Klezmer Madness! was the first CD in
Rogovoy's house. When his 3-year old son for the first time managed to put
this very album on the CD player, with no assistance at all, Rogovoy
realized there was something special about this music and the klezmer
craze affected him too.
Klezmer, like folk and classical music, is
"based on rigorous, highly stylized forms, with regular rules
regarding tempo, meter, and mode, or where the notes fall in a particular
scale. But like jazz and rock music, klezmer allows for - if not wholesale
improvisation - an inordinate amount of personal expression. Klezmer, like
jazz, is a performer's music..."
Rabbinical authorities issued strict
regulations about when to play as well as regarding the number of
musicians. The Jewish tradition dating back to the destruction of the
second Herod's temple in Jerusalem "forbade the playing of instrumental music
anywhere but at weddings and on designated holidays".
Klezmer has its roots in Eastern Europe where
Jews had migrated hundreds of years ago. They brought with them the
traditions of Western and Central Europe. Small groups of Jewish folk
musicians were found in France and Germany, inspired by "Teutonic
folk melodies, troubadour songs, and church music." As early as in
the 16th century, a typical wedding scene among wealthy Italian Jews
featured professional singers.
The age of klezmer - basically upbeat
party music which had grown out of religious music - began in the 19th
century. But there were only a few celebrity musicians such as the
virtuouso straw-fiddle (a sort of folk xylophone) player Michael Joseph
Gusikow (1806-37). The vast majority were musicians struggling to feed their families.
Since there are no recordings and very
little musical notation, we don't know much about the Old World klezmer.
Only a few writers of 19th century Yiddish literature such as Sholem
Aleichem and I.L. Peretz give us some information.
Rogovoy distinguishes three vital periods
in American klezmer: The first was a result of the massive immigration
from Europe in the late 19th and early 20th century. One of the first
klezmer recordings was made in 1913 by trumpeter Abe Elenkrig and his
Hebrew Bulgarian Orchestra. From 1917 to 1927, Harry Kandel recorded over
ninety songs for the Victor record label in New Jersey.
Immigrant klezmorim such as Naftule
Brandwein and Dave Tarras, who was one of thousands of Ukrainian Jews who
fled the pogroms and came to New York City in 1921, carved their musical
niches during a phase in which jazz was popular. They resisted and at the same
time integrated American influences into their playing styles. Tarras was
the primary exponent of American klezmer from the 1920s to the 1950s. By
the 1960s, pop and rock 'n' roll had nearly made klezmer extinct.
The second period, the klezmer revival, began in the 1970s and 1980s with performers like Andy Statman and groups
such as the Klezmorim, Kapelye and the Klezmer Conservatory Band, going
along with growing ethnic pride among American Jews. Hank Sapoznik and
other revivalists produced the first issue of klezmer 78s in 1980: Klezmer
The klezmer revival fed into a third
period, which is still going on. The adventurous musicians among the
revivalists began to enrich the tradition by adding their own musical
backgrounds. This klezmer renaissance was nurtured by rock, jazz and
classical influences. By the mid-1990s, klezmer was combined with
everything from jazz to ska to punk rock. Among the groups presented in
this period are Brave Old World, the first klezmer "supergroup"
as well as John Zorn with his Masada quartet including Greg Cohen, Joey
Baron and Dave Douglas.
Among the many other valuable features of
the book, there is information on the instrumentation (violin or fidi,
tsimbi, clarinet, trumpets, trombones, accordion), the klezmer repertoire,
the different musicians and klezmer bands, a glossary and essential
recordings. In short, Rogovoy's book is the best starting point for
anybody interested in klezmer.
Source: Seth Rogovoy:
The Essential Klezmer.
Paperback, May 2000,
281 p. Get it from: Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de
- More Klezmer CDs from Amazon.com.
Klezmer sheet music.
album Mosaic Persuasion, biography, biographies of band members
featuring The Isle of Klezbos:
Rhythm Media, October 2000. 16 classic Yiddish tunes: folk and wedding music,
lullabies, prayers, tango styles and soundtrack material from Yiddish
films. Get it from Amazon.com.
More Klezmer CDs from Amazon.com.
Metropolitan Klezmer. Photo: Joannie M. Chen, copyright. Metropolitan
Klezmer was founded in 1994.
Biographies of Metropolitan Klezmer members
Ismail Butera is an accordionist who plays a range of styles including Balkan, Greek,
Turkish, Arabic, Albanian and Persian as well as klezmer and other Jewish music, such as Sephardic and Israeli. He has performed with Smyrneiki Kompania (playing various traditional Greek
instruments), with The Klezmatics, Andy Statman, Michael Alpert, Song of the
Shtetl, Klezmeydlekh & Friends, Klezmerfest, The Noga Group and Yale Strom's Hot P'Stromi, appearing on soundtracks of
The Last Klezmer and A Life Apart: Hasidim in
America. He has taught on staff at Buffalo Gap Balkan Folk Arts Camp. He is leader of Sharqija, a new ensemble playing music of the Silk Road.
Trombonist Rick Faulkner has strong roots in jazz and Afro-Caribbean music, playing everything from
salsa to Dixieland to classical and avant-garde. A veteran of famed
ska band the Toasters and co-founder of NY Ska Jazz Ensemble, he has performed with
Salsa bandleaders Orlando Marin, Raulin Rosendo and Ramon Rodriguez (Conjunto Classico), jazz legends Max Roach and Charli
Persip, Cuban guitarist/songwriter Juan Carlos Formell, Haitian stars Tabou
Combo and Joe Gallant & Illuminati. He recorded with Sloan Wainwright, Skah Shah #1 and the 1930s revivalist Paul
Lindemeyer Orchestra. His arrangements have been played by Michael Brecker and John Scofield. His compositions appear on his solo project
Waiting for Rain as well as CDs by Latin jazz band Los Mas Valientes. A BME from Indiana University and an MM in Jazz Performance from Manhattan School of Music, he is on faculty at Mount Hood Jazz Festival and Hunter College.
Trumpet/flugelhorn artist Pam Fleming, featured on Yiddish For
Travelers, toured with Natalie
Merchant in Lilith Fair, where she played nationally as guest soloist with the Indigo Girls as well. She
appeared in Bonnie Raitt's recent VH1 video and has performed internationally with the
all-women's big band Diva. A composer and leader of the jazz project Fearless
Dreamer, playing styles from Salsa to Swing to Funk, she is a graduate of the
Eastman School of Music. In addition to extensive work with
Reggae star Burning Spear, she has been a guest artist with "Little" Jimmy Scott (Sessions at 54th St. on PBS), Cab
Calloway, Bruce Springsteen, Robert Palmer, Arrow, Queen Latifah, Sarah
McLachlan and The
Multi-instrumentalist Michael Hess has studied classical violin and viola at the Manhattan School of
Music and learned kanun
(Middle Eastern zither) from the late Egyptian master Mohammed El Akkad. He is also an accomplished player of Arabic ney flutes and frame
drums and a performer of Sephardic music, touring throughout North America, Turkey and Lithuania with Alhambra. He has recorded
and/or performed with The Mogador Ensemble, Song of the Shtetl, Klezmeydlekh &
Friends, Smyrneiki Kompania and New York Jewish String Ensemble.
Bassist/tuba artist Dave Hofstra has played, toured, and recorded extensively in jazz, rock, blues, klezmer, and new music. He has performed with Marshall Crenshaw, Bobby Previte, Lou Grassi, Bobby Radcliff, Grady Gaines, John Zorn, Wayne
Horvitz, Robin Holcomb, Debbie Davies, Elliot Sharp, Tom Cora, Guy Klucevsek, Bill Frisell, Toshi Reagon, Luka
Bloom, Philip Johnston's Big Trouble, Microscopic Septet, Transparent
Rachelle Garniez's Fortunate Few & Twilight Time, Casselberry &
DuPre, The Waitresses and The Klezmatics.
Vocalist Deborah Karpel's eclectic background brings together musical theater, jazz standards, cabaret, Bel Canto
opera and Yiddish repertoire from her grandfather. Featured as a soloist in the Obie
award-winning Hot Keys at PS 122, she was a regular member of the improvisational group Shock of the Funny. She appeared at the 92nd St. Y Opera Lab and on WNET's City Arts. In addition to art song recitals at New York's Donnell Library, Karpel recently participated in an intensive summer opera workshop in Graz, Austria. She also sings with Intercambio Musicale & Chameleon.
Clarinet/saxophone/flutist Debra Kreisberg plays swing, funk, Latin jazz,
classical and makes musical
theater. After graduating from the Eastman School of Music, she received her master's degree in jazz studies from Manhattan School of Music. She has performed,
recorded and written original compositions as a
member of D'Tripp and Los Mas Valientes among many other
projects, as well as playing with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, the Rochester Philharmonic with Natalie
Cole and Joe Gallant &
Illuminati. She is also featured as guest clarinet and alto sax artist on Metropolitan Klezmer's new release.
Drummer/bandleader Eve Sicular has performed klezmer, rock, rhythm & blues, and cajun/zydeco with Vilde
Khaye, David Krakauer, Klezmerfest, The Voodoobillies, Pink Noise, Mediterraneo and The Mazeltones.
She is also playing samba, jazz, swing, and Middle Eastern styles. On staff at Buffalo on the Roof, MameLoshn and KlezKamp, she has taught percussion and Yiddish film
history. She has accompanied Tigresa, Rhythm Method, Laura Wetzler, Susan Arrow & the
Quivers and Terry Dame's Sax Appeal. She recently led the seven-piece Isle of Klezbos project at Michigan Womyn's Music
Festival as well as the all-female Anna & The
Tevka's. Eve Sicular played for myriad theater and soundtrack pieces. A former curator of Film & Photo Archives at YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, she received an honors degree in History & Literature of Russia from